Friday, March 27, 2009

Savas' Defiant Mistress -- the back story

Every month on the Harlequin Presents site we have a feature called "Behind the Book" in which one or more authors of the current Presents on the shelves talk about the story behind the book -- one aspect or another of what brought this book out of the ether and onto the shelves of a bookstore, hopefully, near you.

I just finished my contribution by discussing a little about how Savas' Defiant Mistress, aka Seb and Neely's book, came to be. And I thought since I wrote it, I wouldn't just stick it up there, I'd post it here, too, so you have an idea of some of the bits and pieces that came together to make up Seb and Neely's story.

When Sebastian Savas and Neely Robson first turned up in my head a couple of years ago, they were working in San Francisco, not Seattle. Neely was living on a houseboat in Sausalito when Sebastian snapped it out from under her because he needed a bolt hole -- a place to live for a month while his own place was taken over by aliens (well, no actually, they were his sisters, but as far he was concerned they might as well have been from another planet).

But if he thought his sisters were trouble, he soon found he'd jumped from the frying pan into the fire when he began sharing a houseboat with Neely.

In typical Presents fashion, editorial called it Savas' Defiant Mistress. Er, well, don't tell, but she's not really his mistress and she's more opinionated and spiky than defiant. I suggested Savas' Annoying Roommate would be more accurate, but obviously that was a no-go.

I am philosophical about these things. I tell myself that sometimes indeed marketing does know best.

And it didn't matter because I had great fun writing the book because it had lots of things in it that I like:
  • a drop-dead gorgeous hero who is honorable, responsible, competent, successful, sexy and strong (not to mention stubborn and maybe just a tiny bit judgmental, as well as more than a little bit wounded) -- but still long-sufferingly kind to his family even when they drive him round the bend;
  • a heroine who can both nurture and take charge as needed and who doesn't play doormat for anyone;
  • a big noisy family who can't quite keep their noses out of anyone's business;
  • a chance to learn about a profession that interests me in a city I'm fascinated by (those would be architecture and Seattle);
  • a wedding;
  • a houseboat;
  • a bloodhound, five kittens, a guinea pig and some rabbits.
I think it was the bloodhound, the kittens, the guinea pig and the rabbits that had my editor blinking rapidly. Or maybe it was the houseboat. It might have been San Francisco, but I doubt it. "Are you sure?" she said.

I thought about it. I wrote Antonides' Forbidden Wife while I was thinking.

I was pretty sure. The setting was the only thing I changed when, a few months later, I came back to the book.

By that time Sebastian and Neely were clear and sharp in my head. So were the multitude of sisters. So were Sebastian's father and Neely's. (Yes, I know it sounds like a cast of thousands, but it really isn't).

The setting was wonderfully refreshing (never did a Seattle book before), and the houseboat became real when my son's in-laws took me to visit friends who actually live on a Lake Union houseboat and who have kindly 'lent' it to me for the book.

Trust me, I offered the bloodhound and the other assorted livestock the chance to decamp. But they declined. They chose to stay because they spoke to Neely's character. And over the course of the book, they gave Sebastian a chance to learn more about his.

Such as it is, it's Seb and Neely's story, and I'm sticking to it.

But the fact that the livestock and the houseboat and the nosey, noisy family exist to provide a context for Sebastian and Neely as they battle their way to their very own happily ever after proves again what I've known for the past twenty-odd years -- that one of the great joys of writing for Harlequin Presents is that in the end, they let me be me and my books my books.

This may be another way of saying they are always willing to give me enough rope to hang myself. But it doesn't matter. I'm eternally grateful for their faith and their trust, and I loved being able to tell Seb and Neely's story the way I understand it.

If you want a taste of Savas's Defiant Mistress, please check out the excerpt
on my website.

You can find the book at online booksellers and in stores across North America now. It's a May release as a Mills & Boon Modern.

And if you have any more behind the book questions that I haven't already answered, just ask.

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Blogger Sierra Donovan said...

Hi Anne,

Just ran across your blog for the first time today! The new book sounds absolutely charming -- I plan on hunting it down ASAP.

I know what you mean about those Presents titles ... Antonides' Forbidden Wife sounded like your heroine was being imprisoned by some domineering alpha male, and that was SO not the case. I really loved all the warmth and heart in that book.

Congratulations on your RITA final -- you deserve it!

29 March, 2009  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Sierra!

So nice to have you visit -- and comment. I'm delighted you've stopped by.

Titles are strange and in recent years I have simply given up even suggesting them. My working titles these days tend to be the hero's and heroine's names and what the company calls it after that is generally a mystery to me.

I never understood the title Antonides' Forbidden Wife at all, and still don't. But my best guess is that they wanted to convey a "hands off" notion.

Thanks for saying it had warmth and heart. I'm glad you think so!

Come back and visit any time!


29 March, 2009  

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