Today it is my pleasure to welcome historical romance author Meredith Duran to HJ!
Hi Meredith, Welcome 🙂
Thanks for having me!
What would you say are the defining characteristic of your novels?
The greatest compliment I hear from readers is that my books are emotionally intense. I try to capture the visceral emotional experience of falling in love — *especially* when one least expects or wants to do so.
5 best things about being a writer?
Oh, man. Tough to narrow it down to five perks! First, I’ve wanted to be a novelist since my mother first read Charlotte’s Web to me. To realize a dream you’ve held since early childhood is staggeringly fulfilling. I also think it’s a tremendous privilege to design your own work—and while we’re at it, setting your own hours and dress code is nice! I also get a thrill out of knowing I can kick back with a good novel and other people will think I’m “researching the competition.” If only I could figure out a way to make my pizza and chocolate consumption appear similarly industrious…
Let’s talk about your newest release: Fool Me Twice
If you had to summarize the book for the readers here…
A lady on the run, Olivia takes a position as housekeeper in the home of a notorious duke whose files might hold the key to her salvation. The only catch in her plan is the duke himself. Powerful, beautiful, and ruthless, the Duke of Marwick has been blindsided and betrayed by those closest to him. He’s a man bent on revenge, with no time for love—until his interfering, busybody housekeeper forces him back into the light. As an unlikely friendship explodes into an irresistible attraction, Olivia will be forced to make a terrible choice between her heart or her safety. For saving herself means betraying Marwick… and he won’t endure being fooled again.
Please tell us about the characters in your book
Olivia is a bluestocking with a sense of humor: a self-made woman who is tremendously proud of her own accomplishments but also wryly aware of her own shortcomings (such as her tendency to try to manage everything because surely nobody else could do any of it as well as she could!).
The Duke of Marwick, on the other hand, is a classic dark and tortured Alpha—he’ll use cold rage to mask his deeper emotions. At the start of the book, his sanity is hanging by a thread. He hasn’t smiled in months, much less laughed—and he didn’t even notice that, until Olivia burst into his life.
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Olivia’s sense of humor quite surprised me. It veers from dry to off-the-wall quirky. I particularly like the moment when she decides to “bark” at Alastair. When writing that passage, I startled myself into laughing.
What scene did you have the most enjoy writing? Why?
I’ll follow up my last answer with an excerpt of the passage in question! The context: for weeks now, Alastair has locked himself in his private suite, his mood too black to venture out. However, Olivia desperately needs to get him out of the bedroom so she can search it for his private files. Hearing that he requested a newspaper, she has brought it to the door of his suite—but she refuses to carry it inside. Believing that once he steps out of the room, he will feel able to remain outside, Olivia has told him that he will have to come out and take the newspaper from her hand. He does not take kindly to this!
“How do you dare?”
The deadness in his voice was chilling. But there was no choice for her. Olivia had to get him out of that bedroom. She forced herself to reply brightly. “Was that a rhetorical question, your grace? With your tone so level, it is hard to tell—”
“If I step over this threshold, you will regret it. You do understand that, Miss Johnson?”
That was the longest threat he’d ever issued, syllabically speaking. It also, somehow, seemed the most convincing of them.
Olivia realized she was crumpling the newsprint, and forced herself to let go. So much for the ironing. Her fingertips were smudged.
“It is a short distance to this table,” she said encouragingly.
His reply came very softly: “That should trouble you.”
She dragged in a long breath. If she bent to him now, handed over the newspapers, then he would withdraw and slam the door. And she might as well book her passage to France, for she would never get a look at the files he kept there. Not if his improvements did not lead to him leaving his bedroom.
“If you would . . . if you would only come fetch these papers, you might learn yourself of all the marvelous developments—”
“Fetch them?” He made some abortive movement and she clapped her hand over her mouth to contain her squeak. “I am not your damned dog!” he roared.
She pressed her lips until they hurt. What a mortifying sound to have made. He had reduced her to a mouse.
But what of it? He squirreled files in his den like a dog with old bones. This was all his fault, really—wasn’t it? If he only left his rooms like any normal man, she would have no need to harass him.
Yes, there was the dudgeon she required. It straightened her spine. She nudged up her spectacles and narrowed her eyes at him.
“No, you are not a dog. I have it on very good authority that you are a man, a peer of the realm, a duke no less. But a very curious species of man, I must say—looking so shaggy at present that one could be forgiven for mistaking you for a sheepdog.” She blew out a breath. “How can you see through all that hair?”
Marwick bared his teeth at her, then retreated out of sight. Panicked, she wracked her brain for some goad to lure him back. But none came to mind that she dared to speak. The point was to lure him out—not to lure him into murdering her.
He filled the doorway again, a book in his hand—the illuminated manuscript she had tried to rescue from him before. “Do you know,” he said pleasantly, “what distinguishes man from beast?”
A very good question. “I should think . . . a haircut.”
He made a contemptuous noise. “The ability to make fire, you tart.”
“Tart!” Aghast, she crossed her arms. “Termagant, perhaps, but tart, I think not!” Suddenly it dawned on her what he was threatening. “You can’t mean—”
“Say good-bye to this book.”
“You heathen,” she cried. “You shaggy mongrel!”
“Mongrel I am not,” he snarled. “And so help me God”—he smirked—“or shall I say, the Devil”—she gasped—“but if you do not bring me those goddamned newspapers this minute—”
“Woof!” she cried. “Woof woof, yap away!”
What scene was the hardest to write? Why?
The most difficult scene is also now my favorite scene in the book. It was difficult to write because it encompasses a huge emotional shift—a prolonged moment of companionable intimacy shifts to lust, then to anger, then to lust again, and finally ends in something very much like fear and wonder.
I’ve included a lengthy excerpt from this scene at the end of this interview!
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your book was optioned for a movie?
For Olivia, it’s a toss-up between Emma Stone and Felicia Day. For Alastair, a younger Daniel Craig, please!
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Don’t be afraid to trust – so long as your trust has been earned.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned in 2014?
Fool Me Twice is my only planned release in 2014, but I’ve been toying with ideas for some shorts to be published online. Currently I’m working at the follow-up to Fool Me Twice, which concerns a reformed pickpocket who desperately wants to be a lady but can’t quite shake her taste for danger, and the hardened government agent who has a need for a talented thief…
Where can readers get in touch with you?
Numerous places! I’m on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMeredithDuran), Twitter (@meredithduran), and you can also email me through my website, www.meredithduran.com.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
GIVEAWAY: 2 print copies of FOOL ME TWICE
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: Have you ever been blindsided by a betrayal (be it from a friend, lover, colleague, etc.)? Did it affect your ability to trust? How did you (and the relationship in question) eventually recover?
“You have every advantage,” Olivia said, her voice fervent. “There is no reason you can’t go back into the world, have everything you feel you’ve been denied. I tell you–if I had your advantages, I would remake myself!”
The taunt in her voice speared Alastair like a hook in the chest. Yes, she probably goddamned well would remake herself. She had no notions of respect, of boundaries, of her own place. She had no idea of limitations. He looked over his shoulder to sneer, to deliver her the acidic set-down she so badly needed.
But the sight of her silenced him. She stood with the novel hugged to her chest, a tall, slight girl with coloring like the autumn, hair as red as turning leaves, and there was no taunt in her face. Her expression, rather, was pale, fearful, resolute, hopeful. This slip of a girl, daring him to be as brave as she was. Constantly daring him, as though it were not the most galling, impudent, presumptuous business—
“Can you imagine,” he said, and did not recognize his own voice, the animal viciousness in it. “Is it possible you have lived long enough, hard enough, to guess—that I would devour you in a bite, I would use you, discard you, if it meant I could experience, for a single moment, that idiotic naiveté in your face? A fool’s bliss: that is what it is, Olivia. And life will break you of it. And I would break you of it, right here, if I could have it back for myself, for only a moment, God help me. Your stupid faith in something better.”
Her lips parted. He had shocked her. Good. She believed in happy endings. She thought fairytales had some connection to reality. He wanted to do more than shock her.
He realized he’d stepped toward her when she leapt back. He made himself stop. Fisted his hands at his sides. This leaping flaming need that wracked him so suddenly was not lust: it was far darker, a more ravaging consumption. His nails bit into his palms.
But hope was a drug, was it not? And yes, he was a fiend in withdrawal. No drug would ever feel more exotic to him, or cause him to shake harder for the want of it, than hope. What a false and desperate appetite! Else why would the poor squander their coin on lotteries, and rally to the rumors of tears appearing on the cheeks of wooden idols? How did they profit from such delusions?
But if he tasted her, he might have a moment’s fix. He might.
“A good thing Jones is seeking out a replacement.” His voice came out as a growl. He did not believe in fairytales. He was not going to ravish this naïf. To hell with her. “You will not find a happy ending in this house, I promise you.”
“Nor will you,” she whispered.
“You are baiting the wrong man, little girl.”
“Will you never go out again?”
He lunged at her. She remained stock-still, staring up at him, wide-eyed, unflinching. It infuriated him. “Do you fancy yourself a do-gooder?” The words tore from him in venomous chunks. “Have you conceived, somehow, that you might help me?”
“No,” she whispered. “Or—I don’t know; I only mean to say that you—”
“You are my servant. You do understand that, Mrs. Johnson? It is possible I will not give you a reference. You are insolent and unmindful of your station; in good conscience, I could not recommend you.”
Her expression darkened. He wondered why he had wanted so much to put a shadow in it. The look did not suit her better than hope.
“That is unfair,” she said flatly. “And you are not an unfair man.”
“Am I not?” His laughter burned his throat. “Are you really such a fool?”
“No. I am not.” Her shoulders squared. God damn her, she was rallying; that bloody light was entering her face again. “Even at your darkest, you did nobody evil. And at your best, the good you did the poor, the—the authority with which you guided your party, and the nation no less, through troubled times—and the noble example of your statecraft—you could have all that again, and I don’t understand—”
He grabbed her by the shoulders. Slammed his mouth onto hers. He drank her gasp of surprise and bit her soft lower lip, though some shred of sanity kept him from drawing blood. He wanted her to squeak, and she did.