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Friday, February 14, 2014

Taking Tea with...Maggi Andersen (excerpt and giveaway!)

It is always a pleasure to welcome a writer of gentility and refinement such as today’s guest, MAGGI ANDERSEN. Maggi is a fellow writer of cross-genre historical romance novels. If you like your Regency stories with a good dose of adventure, then Maggi is the writer for you. 

GIVEAWAY:  Maggi is giving away an e-book copy: A Baron in Her Bed –The Spies of Mayfair Series (Book One) for a commenter who can answer this question:  WHO IS LADY SIBELLA'S SISTER? (hint - the answer is in the excerpt!)

My dear Ms. Andersen come in, and let me pour you a cup of tea.  Do you have a favourite blend that I can provide for you?

Thank you so much for inviting me, to tea, Ms. Stuart. We drank nothing but tea in our house. My mother’s parents were both English. Tea is one thing I could never give up. English or Irish Breakfast tea is my usual fare. I like a good strong brew, with a dash of milk. I’m fussy about the cup too, no mugs for me. It has to be fine china. (AS:  Of course... George - the Wedgwood please!)

Today is Valentine’s Day… What does this day mean to you and do you have anything planned?

Celebrating the print release of Taming a Gentleman Spy with a glass of bubbly I expect. (AS:  I would join you but I am enduring Febfast at the moment... George - the sparkling grape juice!)

You are primarily known for your Victorian/Regency set Historical romances (some with suspense and mystery) but there is more to you than that. You also write contemporary mysteries/suspense set across the world and some Young Adult as well.  
Following on from my recent discussion with Anna Lee Huber about writing cross genre fiction?  Would you describe yourself as a ‘cross genre author’ and if so how would you define the genre and what are the pros and cons of writing across the genres (and sometimes all in the same book)?

Being a ‘cross genre author’, used to make it hard for an author to be published in the past. Not so today. I find it impossible to define my genre. Historical romantic suspense, or contemporary young adult romantic suspense, or contemporary romantic suspense with a dash of mystery? J Publishers are growing more accepting of books which aren’t sharply defined by genre, because they can often be fresh, exciting and innovative. In the end, I write what fires my interest, because if I don’t, it’s dull.

You now write full time… what did you do in your life before writing?

When I left school, I worked in a bank, which I didn’t enjoy much because it wasn’t a creative pursuit. Although I did learn to add up huge columns of figures. After I married, I did a course in home decorating, worked in a decorating shop, which I found uninspiring because most of the customers were very conservative, and I suspect I am not. I later worked as a secretary in my husband’s law office, renovated homes and created gardens while raising three children. I also went to university and studied two degrees as an adult student.

Who or what sparked your interest in history and what was the inspiration behind your “Spies of Mayfair” series?

I was a great reader as a child and young adult. I read all the Georgette Heyer novels and still return to them. She paints a fascinating Regency world inhabited with great characters. Victoria Holt did the same with her Gothic Victorian novels. I also read crime and mystery novels. And the first book I wrote was murder mystery with a touch of romance. I was writing adventure tales when I was in primary school. Who knows where that came from? Writing is a mysterious process.

 I love to discover quirky historical facts and learn more about the way people lived back in the past. At a time which wasn’t so far removed from our own to be unrecognizable. So much change took place in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. It is reflected in the art, architecture and fashion too, which are my interests.

John le Carré is a favorite author of mine and I love James Bond movies. It was during the Regency period that Britain’s spy network moved closer to the MI5 of today. The first of these spies was a diplomat, Lord Stuart de Rothesay. He served during George IVs rein. I wanted to write a blend of romance and intrigue incorporating the social mores of the Regency era. The Regency was a brief, elegant period in history, full of colour, danger, and inhabited by men and women who are almost larger than life. So I wrote the Spies of Mayfair. 

Maggi and her kookaburra friends!
You are a great supporter of the RSPCA and live with your own private menagerie (including a lawyer husband).  Tell us a little about the animals in your life?

We recently lost our beloved cat to cancer. At present, I’m feeding the local wildlife and the birds. We plan to rescue another pet or two when we return from holidays. I also belong to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Australia. Last year it celebrated 30 years of finding ways to help rescue and protect animals. They do terrific work.

John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve. A spy should never marry. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then, weak fool that he is, he kissed her... Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago -- when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella's many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, has approved Lord Coombe's suit. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn't feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss...

TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY is available on AMAZON and all reputable on line ebook stores.

Maggi Andersen lives in the countryside outside Sydney, Australia, with her lawyer husband. Her study overlooks the creek at the bottom of the garden where wild ducks gather. In spring, motorists have to stop to allow mother duck and ducklings cross the road. Kookaburras, currawongs and a variety of other birds visit for a feed. After gaining a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing, and raising three children, Maggi now indulges her passion for writing.

She writes in several genres, contemporary and historical romances, mysteries and young adult novels. You’ll find adventure and elements of danger in everyone.

More information on her website, blogTwitter (@maggiandersen) and Facebook (Maggi Andersen Author)

Linden Hall Yorkshire, 1818

            “I trust we’ll bag a few birds on the moor tomorrow, Chaloner.” John Haldane, the 4th Earl of Strathairn, glanced at the guests enjoying the Hunt Ball in his ballroom. Bright chatter rose in the warm smoky air as decorative ladies mingled with the more soberly dressed gentlemen. “My chef plans a grouse dish flavored with juniper berries for our dinner.”
            “Excellent.” The Marquess of Brandreth raised his glass. “We will be out at the crack of dawn, I daresay.” He took Strathairn’s arm and drew him into a quiet corner. “I don’t wish to strain a friendship I value, John, but I must offer a word of advice.”
            “Oh?” Strathairn eyed him warily. He had liked Chaloner better before his father died. The man seemed to lose his sense of humor after inheriting the title.
            “You are often seen in Sibella’s company. Don’t get too fond of her.”
            Strathairn moved his shoulders in a shrug of anger. He glanced over at Sibella in her white muslin, talking earnestly to Mrs. Bickerstaff. “Your sister is intelligent and good company. I enjoy our conversations. Nothing strange about that.”
            “I struggle to believe it is just that. I may not be privy to the details of the work you perform for the military, but rumors do float about the House of Lords. You must admit that due to those circumstances alone, you would not make her a good husband.”
            Chaloner’s determination put him in mind of a robin with a worm. Useless to argue. With a sigh, Strathairn acknowledged that he only strove to protect his sister from possible hurt. “No need for concern,” he said. “I have no wish to marry your sister, or anyone else for that matter. I do intend to ask Lady Sibella to dance, though. Unless you think my waltzing with her will ruin her reputation.”
            Chaloner huffed out a laugh and rubbed the back of his neck. “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t enjoy having to say this to you, John, but it befalls me as head of the family. Sib has a love of home and hearth. She looks for a husband who will sit by the fire with her at night. That isn’t you, is it?”
            “She deserves the best, and no, it isn’t me, Chaloner.”
            After a fruitful day in the fields shooting grouse, Strathairn and his guests made their way over the lawns to the Hall.
            The gamekeeper, beaters and handlers departed for the stables with the hounds while servants came to take the birds to the kitchen.
            On the terrace, Lady Sibella, in a gown the color of lilacs, sat playing cards and drinking tea with the other women in the late afternoon sun. Strathairn mounted the steps, carrying his shotgun over his shoulder, intent on returning it to the gunroom. “I trust you ladies enjoyed your day?”
            “We did, my lord.” Lady Sibella’s sister, Viscountess Bathe, smiled. “Or at least those of us who have not lost our pin money at whist.”
            “I see you had a successful day, my lord.” Lady Sibella eyed his gun with a faint shudder. “I saw your kill on its way to the kitchens.”
He smiled. “I hope you’ll enjoy our efforts once served in a tasty sauce.”
            “I expect I shall. It’s contrary of me, isn’t it?” Lady Sibella frowned up at him. “But please don’t suggest that all women are so.”
            He eyed the expectant faces of the other ladies and held up his hands with a laugh. “I wouldn’t be so bold.”
            “Perhaps you would like a cup of tea, Lord Strathairn.” Lady Sibella gestured to the teapot a servant was refilling with hot water. “You must be thirsty after your arduous day.”
            She well knew how much he hated tea, for he’d been forced to drink it at a morning call at their house in Eaton Place. She had naughtily offered to pour it into a potted plant when her mother was distracted by another guest.
            Her playful smile was delicious, and he couldn’t help grinning back. Aware of the sharp-eyes on him from around the table, he shook his head. “I’m afraid I must decline for I’m not fit for company. But, thank you.” He bowed and entered the house leaving them to resume their card game.

            Strathairn cleaned his gun and left it on the rack in the gunroom. He’d enjoyed Lady Sibella’s friendship like no other lady of his acquaintance. Her humor seemed so in tune with his and he often found she understood his thoughts before he expressed them. Damn Chaloner, he was such a stickler for convention.

Just a reminder:  Maggi is giving away an e-book copy: A Baron in Her Bed –The Spies of Mayfair Series (Book One) for a commenter who can answer this question:  WHO IS LADY SIBELLA'S SISTER?