Saturday, June 14, 2008

by Suzanne Welsh

I first met Lorraine Heath through her book TEXAS DESTINY. The story of Houston and Amelia won my heart and had me looking for anything and everything by Ms. Heath. When I moved to Texas, imagine my surprise to discover she was a member of my local chapter. Over the years we've become friends, and I've gotten to enjoy more and more of her wonderful books.

Lorraine, welcome back to the Lair. We're always delighted when you come visit us. Pull up a chair and tell us about your newest book, IN BED WITH THE DEVIL, book one of The Scoundrels of St. James series.

Thanks so much. I'm thrilled to be here again. Love you Bandits.

"The Devil Earl", as Lucian Langdon is known, came into his title in a rather odd manner. Can you give us some details?

I'm not sure I can explain it better than Lucian does himself.

"They say my parents were murdered in the London streets by a gang of ruffians. I have no memory of it, yet it has always seemed to me that I should. After all, I was supposedly there, but only if I truly am who the world recognizes me to be. The Earl of Claybourne.

It's my eyes that convinced the old gent who called himself my grandfather that I was indeed his grandson. "You've got the Claybourne eyes," he'd said with conviction.

And I readily admit that looking into his was very much like looking into a mirror at my own, but still it seemed a rather trite thing upon which to base so grand a decision. I was fourteen at the time. Awaiting trial for committing murder. I must confess it was a rather fortuitous moment to be declared a future lord of the realm, as the judicial system was not opposed to hanging young lads who were considered troublesome."

Lucian is released into the old gent's care and his life changes dramatically, even though he doesn't believe he's the true heir.

You know I love gutsy heroines and Lady Catherine Mabry was such a strong foil against Lucian. She approaches Lucian with an unusual request. How does this surprise him, and how does he respond?

She is the only lady among the aristocracy who ever had the courage to hold his gaze, so when she shows up in his library, he's convinced she's come to seduce him. When he discovers she wants him to do away with someone, he's angry. He's spent years struggling with what he did at 14, and her request brings all his self-loathing to the forefront. He tells her, "Nothing that would cause me to kill a man simply because you wish him dead." Of course, when he discovers he needs help acquiring the one thing he wants most-Frannie Darling's hand in marriage-and Catherine can help him acquire it, a bargain is struck and Lady Catherine finds herself in bed with the devil on several levels. It's the reason I loved the title for this book. It works on different levels.

This book had many unique secondary characters, some of which may be familiar to readers from the Dickens novel, OLIVER TWIST. What made you decide to base IN BED WITH THE DEVIL on this classic?

I woke up one morning at 4 with these street scamps in my head wanting me to tell their stories. I went to my computer and wrote the prologue, very little of which has changed from the initial writing. As I began researching children and crime, I discovered that Charles Dickens lived near the rookeries and is believed to have spied on a Fagan-type character and his child thieves. I thought it would be fun to make my characters the ones upon whom Oliver Twist was based. I did a timeline to put them in the rookeries at the time that Dickens was working on Oliver Twist. His work is an incredible documentary of the rookery and criminal life.

Don't you just hate it when characters disturb a good night's sleep? (grinning) Are there plans to show more of these characters' stories to your readers?

Oh absolutely. BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE, the second in The Scoundrels of St. James series, which will hit the stores in late December, is Jack Dodger's story. And Jack, of course, would be the Artful Dodger. During this time period, it was very easy to change identities. If you were caught for a crime, you just moved over to the next neighborhood and changed your name, so I had fun naming my characters. Jack's story is an Oliver Twist/Great Expectations combo in that he has an anonymous benefactor who is largely responsible for his success. The story I'm writing now is Frannie Darling's.

I'll be watching for BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND DESIRE. (Must remind kids to stuff my stocking with gift cards!) Jack will be a difficult hero to redeem, but as a good friend pointed out to me, if anyone can redeem the unredeemable, it's you. Was it difficult to find a heroine for him?

Bless your good friend! It was hard to find the right heroine for Jack. His story actually went through about three phases. Originally I thought the woman for him was someone down on her luck who came to his Gentlemen's Club willing to sell herself-and I saw him teaching her the ways of men and falling in love with her, determined to keep her for himself. Then I saw her as a reformer set on exposing his establishment and him for his wicked ways. But then as things go, I started writing his prologue-and when I got to the end of it, I realized money motivates Jack and he will do anything to acquire it. And the proper lady for him has never sinned in her life-but when fate has him moving into her house much to her objection, she'll discover that between the devil and desire the only choice is surrender.

You mentioned Dickens and his affinity for accurately displaying the rookeries and crime element in his writing. (lifting eyebrows in a questioning manner) Will he make an appearance in one of these books?

I won't promise, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised. ?

You also write young adult and have a new release hitting the stores June 10. Can you tell us about it?

Under the name Rachel Hawthorne, I write romances for young adults. LABOR OF LOVE is the story of some teenagers who go to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding efforts. Our heroine, Dawn, had her heart broken by her cheating boyfriend and she wants a summer without boys. She and her friends go to see a psychic and her reading is:

"I hear hammering. You're trying to rebuild something. But be careful with the tools. You might get distracted and hurt yourself-more than hitting your thumb with a hammer. You could get very badly hurt. And worse, you could hurt others. Lots of people are around. It's hot and dirty. There's a guy . . . a red and white baseball cap. The cap has a logo on it. Chiefs. Kansas City Chiefs. I don't get a name, but he has a nice smile."

Of interest about this reading is that I was struggling with the story, thought it was boring, it wasn't going anywhere. I contacted my friend Nancy Haddock, author of La Vida Vampire, and said, "I'm thinking of sending my character to a psychic. How would a psychic reading go?" And Nancy said, "Just snatches of images, something like this," and she gave me the above. Suddenly everything fell into place. I chunked the whole story, opened it with the psychic reading and it pretty much wrote itself. It's wonderful to have friends who are writers and don't think any question is too odd to ask. But I also realized that it's important for writers to experience as much as possible. The past couple of years, I've thought more than once about getting a psychic reading, just for the fun of it. Who knew I'd ever want to use it in a book?

Oh, that sounds intriguing. Those glimpses can be interpreted in more than one way. Does your heroine end up questioning her actions throughout the story?

Absolutely. Her two friends also got a psychic reading and as things happen in the story, they're trying to determine if that was what the cryptic messages meant. And when things happen, it's like "Oh, no! That's what the psychic predicted." It was just fun to write.

Okay, this question is purely for my own nosiness. You write fairly different genres under different names, and have contracts with tight deadlines. Do you ever sleep? (I know you're often awake at the same middle-of-the-night hours I am.)

Sleep? What is this thing you call sleep? Seriously, butt in chair. If I write at least 10 pages a day, I can make my deadlines. Also, the boys are no longer at home; hubby works long hours plus he takes care of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping (amazing how the hint of possible early retirement will motivate a man). Besides, right now there isn't anything I'd rather be doing. When I get into the story I get a little obsessed with finishing it.