I knew about halfway through writing The Summer of You that I wanted Jason to have his own story. But he was terribly irresponsible in that book, so I had to let him mature (like cheese) a little bit before he was ready to meet his own heroine. Thus, Follow My Lead is set 5 years after the events of The Summer of You. In that span of time, Jason has inherited his title, and all the responsibilities therein – responsibilities he feels he must try to live up to. There was a learning curve, but he’s got it pretty much down now. Not only that, but in the intervening years, he’s watched all of his rapscallion friends settle down and get married. So he feels like that’s “what’s next” for him.
2. I loved that the book was a road trip novel, but written as a historical romance. I loved that it gave the characters a chance to really get to know each other, and to see each other in so many different roles and scenarios. Where did this idea come from?
The ‘getting to know each other’ stage of a relationship is always my favorite – I often felt cheated when it is skipped over or truncated in a book I’m reading. And a road trip is the perfect place to get to know someone. Taking someone out of their comfort zone will reveal their character very quickly. A duke that is used to fine carriages and multi-coursed meals learns he can improvise if he has to – and a woman who has never been outside of her hometown shows that bargaining is a universal language.
Besides, I love a good road trip story, especially a road trip romance. One of my all time favorite movies is It Happened One Night. I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in southern Germany and Austria over the past few years, and it’s jammed with so much history from the early 1800s that I knew I wanted to set a story there.
3. I feel that your books are not only so very good--so deep and so layered-- but often do things I haven't seen very much of across my years of reading in this genre. For example, in this book, Jason and Winn meet and... do not immediately fall head over heels in love. Or even lust! Instead, you drew out their interest in each other, letting it slowly simmer. What made you choose this approach to the central relationship?
For Jason and Winn, they had to take the time to get to know each other, because their focuses are so divergent: Jason is intent on marrying the proper society miss, and Winn is intent on being recognized as a historian. Neither of them are primed to fall for each other, so it takes them a little time to realize that they are.
But when they open up their eyes…
4. What happens to Sarah?! I liked her--and though I knew Jason was going to end up with Winn, part of me was so upset that Sarah's hopes and dreams were going to be dashed!
Never fear – Sarah is getting her own story next! I felt so bad crushing her, but it was sadly necessary. But don’t worry. She’ll rally.
5. I just loved Winn. Smart, focused, and not at all afraid to make her own way in the world if she had to. This is hard enough to do and be in 2011. What was it like to write a character like Winn in 1822, with so fewer options and so many more limitations? (And feel free to discuss that awful almost-fiance of hers. I loathed him.)
The education Winn had was nearly impossible for a woman back in the early 1800s. She only managed it because she was taught at the knee of her father, an Oxford professor. She was raised very much in a man’s world. The reason she is so determined, so headstrong, is because the only way to achieve what she dreams of is to put her head down and barrel through. Men, matrimony – hell, needlepoint – would be a distraction from that goal.
George, her awful almost-fiancé, as you put it, is just counting on the fact that as a woman, she will not have the respect necessary to pursue her career. He sees himself as her best option. At least with him, she’ll get to stay in Oxford, near what she knows and loves, and assist him in his work, the way she assisted her father, doing what she loves. It’s a scenario that grates Winn to the core but one that someone less focused and sure might not be willing to pass up.