Michelle Marcos has finally reconciled herself with being thought eccentric. She lives with an unlucky number of cats and struggles with a debilitating Starbucks addiction. How a child of Cuban parents living in Miami could become such an Anglophile is still anybody’s guess. She graduated several centuries ago from the University of Miami with degrees in English and Education. Afterward, she spent several years being one of the “cool” teachers in a middle school, and had a brief but illustrious acting career playing roles like Lusty Housekeeper, Death, and (perhaps prophetically) Author.
Q & A
How did you get interested in romance novels?
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I used to hold romance novels in disdain. As a student of Shakespeare and English literature, I thought it beneath my dignity to pick up one of “those books.” My sister, Mabel, was such a fan of them; I never saw her without one. Finally, I decided to give them a chance. I asked Mabel to recommend one for me, the best she’d read up to then. She handed me a copy of Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love. I was stunned. Not only was the story wonderful and engaging, but the writing challenged me: I actually had to read it with a dictionary in hand because there were words I didn’t know. The next one I read, The Passionate Prude by Elizabeth Thornton, was just as delightful. I’ve been hooked ever since. Come to think of it, I never gave those books back to Mabel!
Your heroines are very different from the typical sort found in romance novels. Why is that?
I love to read other authors’ novels about Society folk. But Regency England was not populated exclusively by lords and ladies. There’s a whole demographic that is entirely underserved in historical novels. I like to read about people who may not have had it so easy in life, and find out how they deal with their challenges. Some of my heroines even start out on the wrong side of the law. I just love to watch their lives unfold – and meet the hero who will turn their world upside-down.
I suppose that’s why there is so much conflict throughout your novels.
Conflict is the backbone of great drama. Romance is most exciting to read when you get two people who were meant to be together but the obstacles between them seem insurmountable. In When a Lady Misbehaves, the conflict between April, a scullery maid at the bordello who fleeces money out of men, and Riley, a judge with no patience for liars, is already setting up our main characters for battle. But add to that the differences in their class, position, and even their level of refinement, and you have great conflict. It’s so much fun to fall in love with an adversary.
That’s a theme that’s repeated in Gentlemen Behaving Badly.
Yes. Mina isn’t a beauty like the courtesans at the bordello. Her job is to write erotic letters (under the names of the courtesans) to well-placed, wealthy men in order to entice them into patronizing the establishment. But when one of her steamy S&M letters is found in the pocket of a dead nobleman, Chief Constable Salter Lambrick goes undercover to find its author, who has now become the prime suspect. Mina, who is a reader of erotica but has no experience of it, is shocked to learn that the handsome but mean-looking man at the bordello door is equipped with a leather tawse – and is looking for her!
Athena McAllister, the heroine of Wickedly Ever After, is also not a typical beauty.
That’s right. I wanted to explore a character who is regarded as less marriageable because of her weight. Being a bit “round” myself, I really identified with Athena. I rooted for her and her decision to establish a school for spinsters, where she discovers what sort of a man she truly deserves. And when Captain Marshall Hawkesworth starts to fall for her, plumpness and all, I cheered!
Congratulations on winning four nominations and two awards for Best Historical Romance with Wickedly Ever After!
Thank you! It sounds cliche, but it really is an honor just to be nominated, especially for such prestigious awards as those! There were fine novels also selected for these awards, and I’m truly flattered to be among them.
What’s your writing process? Do you have a set routine?
I seem to write best when the sun isn’t out. I usually get up at four in the morning; the brain is really creative and fertile at that hour, so it’s an ideal time to plot story lines or untangle problems. Unfortunately, it’s not a very productive time, so I use evenings to flesh out the stories and edit my work. The discipline of writing was the hardest to learn. Having to write every day, even when there’s something really good on TV or there’s a new movie out, is a struggle. But the characters themselves should convince you that it’s more fun in their world than in any other.
Tell us more about your work with Habitat for Humanity. How did you get started in it?
I come from a large family – we’re five sisters and a brother – and we were relatively poor. There were eight of us living in a house with only one bathroom, so you can imagine the chaos in the mornings. The house was old and we could never get rid of the cockroaches, and I hated growing up like that. So when the opportunity came along to work in a Christian ministry that helps to provide decent, affordable homes for families just like mine, I jumped at it. I worked at Habitat for almost five years, most of it as Communications Director. I loved what I did and the families we served. It was a hard decision to leave Habitat, but I wanted to give more attention to my writing career.
You dedicated your first book to Jesus. Does your faith have a place in your writing?
Absolutely. I learned what true love is from Jesus Christ. His was a great model for the love a man can have for a woman. He befriended prostitutes and people of questionable moral character because he knew they weren’t evil, only misguided. And the sacrifices he made…have you ever met a man who would give up everything he owned – even his own life – for the woman he loved? Not just rescue the damsel in distress, but actually take her place? That’s a hero in my book. It’s that pure love – that level of sacrifice – that inspires the love in the romances I write.
What can readers expect from you next?
I’m working on an exciting new series called the Highland Knaves. It’s about an outcast kinship who’s had their lands, heritage, and honor stripped from them. Branded as slaighteur – knaves – they are despised by the Scots and forsaken by the English. The first book is Secrets to Seducing a Scot. It’s a delicious story involving Malcolm Slayter, a fugitive hunter from the Highlands who has been hired to protect the daughter of an English ambassador. Uprooted from her cosmopolitan London lifestyle and her famous Society column, Serena Marsh is annoyed at having to spend any time at all in Scotland, where her father has been sent to quell a rebellion. But she really bristles under the control of her brutish protector, who is having a hard time fulfilling his duty without indulging his desire. Provoking Malcolm is tantamount to playing with fire, and in the end, she discovers that the only thing more intriguing than a man in a kilt is a man out of one. Secrets to Seducing a Scot will be out on August 2, 2011.
How may readers contact you?
My favorite activity of the whole day is reading emails from readers and other writers. We romance enthusiasts are a cozy sisterhood, aren’t we, and sharing our pastime with one another is a joy. Anyone can write me by sending an email through my contact page (I answer every email personally) or chat with me on Facebook.
A Day in the Life of Michelle Marcos ;)