Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jenn LeBlanc: Victorian Romance Plus the Kitchen Sink (and ménage)

(from usatoday.com
by Joyce Lamb)

(Photo: Jenn LeBlanc)

Jenn LeBlanc, author of Absolute Surrender, shares how her new release drove her into absolute surrender

Jenn: When I started writing the novel formerly known as #Twitchy, I had no idea it would end up the way it has. The fact is, I started writing it as a novella for an anthology. The anthology fell apart, so I decided I would turn the story into a full-length, mainstream novel to be published by New York.

My first novel, The Rake and the Recluse, was doing well, but I also knew that I needed to find a wider audience. I believed that being a hybrid author was the way to do that.

I believed #Twitchy would be a throwaway novel in the sense that I wasn't going to make a livable wage from it. It was an investment, a way of finding my audience. The problem was, my heroine wouldn't behave herself. Amelia, aka #Twitchy, wouldn't stick to any mainstream tropes, and she was driving me absolutely crazy. When she managed to get her heroes (yes, heroes) involved in the misbehavior and none of the characters would listen to me, I knew I was in trouble.

My writing stalled, because I was fighting the people in my head. I tried to write, but my characters wouldn't listen and kept driving the story exactly where it shouldn't go. I almost gave up.

But I couldn't forget Amelia — or the two men who change her life. So, last year, after being busy with shooting covers for other incredibly talented authors and being poked and prodded by my über-assistant, Kati, I pulled #Twitchy out of the dusty old file and started looking at her again.

The manuscript was a hot mess. Between the four of us — Amelia, Charles, Hugh and myself — the direction was confusing, and nobody knew what they wanted anymore. Amelia had no personality. Charles was more of a spectator, and Hugh just wanted to kill everyone. It wasn't merely a disaster; it didn't even have a genre. At that point the manuscript was at 75,000 words and was going nowhere. So I cut it back more than 50%, to where I believed it was all going awry, and started over.

With the help of a few beta readers and a content editor, I got back on track and then finished her off. Once we (Charles, Amelia, Hugh and myself) were all headed in the same direction, I kicked all unnecessary persons out of my head, and the four of us went full steam ahead on our own and finished their story.

What remains is so far from mainstream I can't even describe it in 10 words. Because it is a mainstream historical, except for the ménage. And it is a ménage, but definitely not a typical one. Along with that, it isn't really erotica, even though ménage typically falls into that subgenre. Still, it is steamy. There's also a definitive reason beyond "because we like it," for the ménage.

Wait there's more. Amelia isn't a typical heroine. She has a mental illness. In Victorian England. Something that could see her easily committed to an asylum without intervention.

It honestly feels like the kitchen sink novel, but that isn't how it happened. This wasn't the plan. It's as if once I decided to let the characters tell their story their way, they went completely haywire and left me with this crazy mash-up of a tale.

The thing is … it works. In the most amazing way, it works. I'm so incredibly proud of this story, and I'm so proud that it was given to me to tell. I love these characters so very much that I can't even begin to explain it.

Did I mention the book is an Illustrated Romance? It is. The people on the cover? They appear throughout the book, in a not-at-all-erotic-but-illustrative-and-sometimes-super-sexy way. Just something else that makes my novels a little different.

I told you it felt like a kitchen sink.

I know this book is beyond the usual, but I hope that readers who wouldn't ordinarily choose a historical romance ménage story with a mentally ill heroine will give it a chance. I can guarantee it isn't at all what you expect when you hear it's a historical. Or when you hear it's a ménage. Or when you hear it deals with mental illness.

This is a groundbreaking novel, and I am blessed to say it's mine.

If you'd like to continue the conversation, come find me!

You can connect with Jenn through her website, jennleblanc.com, Facebook and Twitter (@jennleblanc).

Here's the blurb about Absolute Surrender:

Happiness was always too much for Lady Amelia to hope for.

Now all she expects is to secure her future and marry Charles, Duke of Castleberry, as arranged. But Amelia has a dangerous secret that could not only destroy her in Charles's eyes and the eyes of society, but could also very well condemn her to Bedlam.

Baron Endsleigh, Amelia's oldest friend, has other ideas. Ender has loved Amelia all his life. He knows her secrets, and they don't frighten him. He plans to come between Amelia and Charles in any way he can to prevent the marriage and finally claim Amelia for his own. Though her father forbade the match years ago, Ender is determined to have her as his wife and nothing can stop him. Not even a duke as powerful as Castleberry.

That duke has hated Baron Endsleigh and wanted Amelia for, what seems to him, forever. Charles will stop at nothing to make her his, and his alone, even if that means destroying the one thing he knows she loves most in this world—Endsleigh.

Will Amelia be able to choose when one man speaks to her head and the other her heart?

None of them will find happiness until they all three learn to embrace absolute surrender.