by Cathy Sova
Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet debut romance authors and find out about their books. This time we're visiting with Rose Lerner, whose first release is the historical romance In For a Penny from Leisure Books.
Rose, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1982. (I was born on the day Sir Thomas
More was beheaded, which I think is pretty cool.) We moved to Eugene,
Oregon when I was about 8, so I grew up in the Northwest. I went to
Swarthmore, a little liberal arts college outside Philadelphia,
Swarthmore. I had a great time in college (I majored in Math and
minored in Russian--if you ever want to talk to me about theories of
Dostoevskian discourse, go for it! I love that guy) but I really
missed the Northwest. So after college I moved to Seattle. I really,
really love it here, especially all the water everywhere, lakes and
bays and whatnot. It's beautiful. I live with a couple of friends
and their four cats--I have the big basement all to myself. A friend
nicknamed it my underground lair and it stuck. The lighting is
surprisingly good, though! It has nice-sized windows for a basement.
Are you coming to romance writing from another job?
I've had a few different jobs. I tutored math for years. I was a
union organizer for eight months, too. It was the most intense job
I've ever had and I loved a lot of things about it, but it didn't give
me time to write, plus it required a lot of travel and long hours and
my mom's health wasn't so great at the time, so I didn't last. I've
worked at my local natural foods co-op for three years now. I'm a
cook in the deli, and I love it (although I cook a lot less at home
now that I do it eight hours a day at work!).
What led you to write romance?
I've been writing since I was a tiny child--after a certain age it was
fanfiction for classic British lit, mostly. My first attempt at a
novel was a sequel to Ivanhoe when I was ten. I wanted Rebecca to
marry Brian. I got into romance when I was twelve. My middle school
had a little career internship thing in seventh grade, and they paired
me up with a local writer. She in turn introduced me to Carola Dunn,
another local author who was writing traditional Regencies at the time
(she's doing mysteries now). I read everything by Dunn in the local
library, some of it more than once. The following year a friend
loaned me my first Georgette Heyer, and it was all over.
All through high school we made trips to the mass-market paperback
bookstore together (they had an entire wall of Regencies, which I
still remember with awe) and wrote each other in-character letters as
Regency debutantes, like the ones in Sorcery and Cecilia. From there
it was a small step to "I could write a book!" In college I took a
writing workshop and tried doing more "serious" literary writing, but
luckily it didn't take. Romance is just a natural fit for me, and I
wouldn't trade that for anything.
Tell us about your road to publication.
I wrote my first completed romance manuscript as a high school senior.
It had potential and some good dialogue, but I'm mortified now to
realize I actually submitted it to agents and editors. Gulp! I
didn't get much done besides research in college, but within a year
and a half of graduating I'd finished my second manuscript. I
submitted and pitched it energetically with no results. (I still love
that story and with major reworking it will become my second published
book, Lily Among Thorns.) But I'd learned a lot about writing from
the process of writing and revising it with the help of my fabulous
critique group, the Demimonde. I started my third book, In for a
Writing Penny was a really hard process for me. The first quarter of
the book went swimmingly--and then my mom died of cancer. We had been
very close, and she loved romance and was always my most important
reader. I didn't write for six months and I never got back the
chemistry I'd had with the book--at least, not during the first draft.
I forced myself to finish the book, but I couldn't force myself to
I pitched the book to Leah Hultenschmidt from Dorchester at the
Emerald City Writers' Conference and sent her a partial, but by then I
was feeling so pessimistic about my writing and my career that I
didn't expect anything to come of it. Luckily, when Leah requested
the full, the promise of a potential contract was enough to get me
working again. I reread the manuscript, realized I did actually love
this book, and revised it in a mad month-long dash. And the rest is
What kind of research was involved for your first book?
I did a lot of research for In for a Penny. I'd never written a story
set in the country before, I'd never written a story set so late in
the Regency before (the book takes place in 1819, and my previous two
books were set during the Napoleonic Wars), I'd never...the list goes
on. I researched farming, country life in general, the poaching wars,
the 1816 uprisings, the Peterloo massacre, estate management and
accounting, cross-class marriage, entails and marriage settlements,
justices of the peace, contemporary opera, you name it.
Research is really important to me because it sparks a lot of my ideas
(I'm a pantser, and I usually pause for a research binge a third to
half of the way through a book) and also gives me a general feeling of
comfort and confidence when I write. Plus, it's a lot of fun for me.
I have a partial research bibliography for Penny up on my site if
Tell us about your debut book.
Nev, the hero, is a young man who's never had to take care of anyone
but himself--until his father dies bankrupt and leaves Nev in charge
of the family and an impoverished estate. He marries the daughter of
a self-made man for her money and accounting skills, but when they
show up at the estate they realize money is the least of their
problems, which include but are not limited to: hungry, resentful
tenants, Nev's family's propensity for scandal, an incompetent
steward, a menacing neighbor, local poaching wars, recent crop
failures--and their growing love for each other.
I love stories where the hero and heroine have come to an
understanding about what their relationship is supposed to be--this is
just a fling, this is a business partnership, this is a friendship,
or, in the case of Penny, this is a marriage of convenience--and then
because that understanding is important to them, they struggle not to
fall in love. But of course they can't help it!
Who are your influences as a writer?
Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen are two of the biggies--they're both
authors I strive to emulate but also have arguments in my head with on
a regular basis. Then there are all the brilliant traditional Regency
authors I read growing up. And--okay, this is going to sound nuts,
but Dostoevsky taught me a lot about being brave enough to let my own
weird self onto the page and trust that readers will respond to it.
My role model is probably Loretta Chase. She is such a powerful
writer, and she writes such reliably, deeply satisfying romances while
doing innovative and exciting things with the genre. Plus she has a
fabulous website and a great blog. Someday I hope to be half as
amazing as she is.
What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?
I think they're proud. My uncle is making all his friends read it,
which is adorable.
Tell us about plans for future books.
My next book, Lily Among Thorns, is coming out in January 2011. Lady
Serena is the owner of a prosperous inn and a force to be reckoned
with in the London underworld. But she has never forgotten the
miserable year she spent as a prostitute after her noble father
disowned her--in fact, she has spent her life since then keeping
everyone at arm's length, determined never to be powerless or
dependent again. She also hasn't forgotten the drunk young man who,
five years before, gave her the money she needed to buy back her
contract at the brothel. So when Solomon shows up at her inn, asking
for help in locating a stolen family heirloom, she recognizes him
immediately. Serena jumps at the chance to repay the one debt she
still owes. She believes the biggest threat to her independence will
be the sparks that fly between them. But when disaster threatens, she
finds they must work together to fight for their freedom, their
lives--and England itself.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My website, www.roselerner.com. has a contact page with a couple
different ways to get in touch with me. Hearing from readers is one
of my favorite parts of being published!
Rose, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with your future releases!
April 24, 2010
Please tell us what you think!