Small town girl Jane Porter spent her childhood daydreaming about far away lands and white knights in shining armor. Today, she's an award-winning novelist of chick lit and romance with over 3 million books in print and loves traveling to foreign lands and meeting interesting people. In fact, it's partly in thanks to her traveling experiences and cosmopolitan upbringing that Jane's writing career has thrived, allowing her to enthrall readers with domineering and sexy alpha heroes and sophisticated, independent heroines.
Join us as we talk to Jane about her February release for Harlequin Presents release, The Sicilian's Defiant Mistress.
Popular opinion is that your books push the envelope and you've earned a reputation as an author for being a gutsy pioneer, bravely forging ahead into directions some would not easily choose to go in. Take The Sicilian's Defiant Mistress for example. This is an intense book with a highly emotional and deeply moving, difficult plot. What was your inspiration for this novel? What did you personally love most about this story?
I suppose you could say I'm gutsy with my stories. Romance readers are intelligent women, often well educated, and they work hard. I want to give romance readers a rich story that completely engages them, sweeping the reader into explosive passion, or an almost terrible tenderness. That's what a love story is to me. It's intense and fiery, hopeful and heartbreaking and sometimes very sexy, and other times bittersweet. That's how I perceive love, and falling in love, and trying to make a new relationship work. I might not be the author for everyone, but I know there are thousands of readers who love intense and emotional novels, and those are the readers I write for.
I also know that if a certain story has been done a lot by Harlequin Presents, I want to do something else. If Greek Tycoons and sheikhs are the rage, then I have to do a Greek tycoon that isn't a typical tycoon, or a powerful desert sheikh, that actually lives in the desert not in a palace in the city. There are plenty of wonderful authors who do traditional heroes, so I'm comfortable taking some risks and trying something different. Will every hero or story be universally beloved? No. But maybe the slightly jaded, but still ravenous reader will get something slightly unusual between the white glossy Harlequin Presents cover and sit up and take notice. And that's really what The Sicilian's Defiant Mistress is about. Giving the reader something that maybe hasn't been done since the 70's and 80's. This story really pushes the edge of that proverbial envelope and it might make some readers throw the book against the wall, but its also made other readers keeper shelf. And that's the reaction I want. Books are meant to entertain and engage one, and stories are a dance between author and reader. All the time as I write, there are questions going through my head, questions for the reader, a silent conversation of sorts that goes something like this, "Do you like...? What do you think...? What if I do this...? What do you think of the hero? What do you think of the hero if he does that...?"
The inspiration for this book was my shelf of old Presents by some of my favorite authors like Violet Winspear, Charlotte Lamb, and Anne Mather. I loved the older books before everyone was so politically correct, and stories took place in varied settings. I loved the unique author voices and the edgy, emotional style. Those stories were extremely sexy not because there was explicit sex, but because there was so much on the line emotionally, physically. Seduction scenes really did seduce the heroine, and the reader at the same time. My goal is to write big sweeping stories like the authors mentioned above, but because I'm not Violet, or Charlotte or Anne, and I'm a modern woman raising young kids, I can only be me and put my twist on great and classic themes.
The first scene opens with Cass arriving at Maximos' house for an event on the arm of another man, Emilio Sobato. Besides the facts that there's bad blood between Maximos and Emilio and that it was Maximos' decision to end things with Cass and walk away from what they shared, he still feels a sense of betrayal over seeing her with someone else. All that is macho and alpha about him is brought to the forefront. What convinced you Cass and Maximos would be truly ideal for each other?
Cassandra is an American heroine. She's become one of the top advertising executives in Europe, handling the creative and financial logistics for some of the world's top companies. She's fearless, brilliant, and beautiful. Unlike some of my heroines in other books, Cass feels good inside her skin, with her body, and she enjoys the physical aspect of a mature relationship. Maximos is very much like Cass, in that he's also in his prime, and he's smart, driven, successful. He's very male, very alpha, and very physical, too. These two people together don't talk. They don't need to. They understand each other in a way that has nothing to do with language. It's an intense and deep comfort--attraction--and I wanted their connection to be so powerful, so intense, that it would be nearly impossible for either of them to leave the other. But obviously this is a love story with a plot and ups and downs, and twists to entertain the reader. So as a writer, I had to step back and analyze this powerful attraction. If two people are so attracted, and so happy together, what would be the only thing that would tear them apart? And then that's what I did. I threw at them the worst possible problem I could, upping the ante, and heightening the stakes, and challenging their love to see if they could find a way through and end up together again on the other side. Was it nice of me? No. Will I upset some readers? Possibly. But Maximos and Cass' love was so real to me, I couldn't write the book differently, and I couldn't let these two be with anyone else. Rightly or wrongly, they did love each other and they wanted to be with the other and that's what makes The Sicilian's Defiant Mistress unique from my other books.
Maximos is a different type of hero, not one we commonly find in series romance. Was it difficult to get into his head to learn his story?
No, it wasn't difficult to get in his head because I believe a man can be human, and heroic, without having to be perfect. I don't think one has to be perfect to love, or to never make a bad decision to be worthy of real love. Maximos is extremely flawed, and he's created a nightmare for himself. Maybe he shouldn't be forgiven, and maybe he shouldn't be redeemed, but I don't believe anyone should ever be punished endlessly for their mistakes. One should only be made to suffer so far, for so long, and sometimes in our romance genre, we expect characters to be above everyone else, more perfect, more beautiful, more lovable, and I disagree. I want my characters to be as real as they can, as complex as people really are, and as hungry for love as everyone really is. Maybe this is what makes me gutsy as a writer, but it's also why I write. I don't write to just humor people, I write because I truly, deeply believe we all desperately need to love, and be loved, and to be given second and third and fourth chances.
What are some of the aspects you had to keep in mind when creating his character?
I had to remember that Maximos had been through hell and back. He's spent ten years suffering and he continues to suffer and no man--or woman--should hurt so, for so long. And that was really it. I'm not a judgmental person, I don't see everything as black or white, I see human beings with hearts and hopes and needs and dreams, and write from there.
And Cass? What has shaped her into the woman she is at the beginning of this book?
She's a tough cookie now. Cass has been through hell and back and she's made the journey on her own, and instead of laying down to die, she's just come back fighting. She can't accept the pain, or the heartbreak, and she's fighting to survive--the only way she knows how.
What are you currently working on?
I've just finished a Presents for Harlequin, and am working on a proposal for Warner even as I start a new Harlequin manuscript featuring a Greek tycoon and a young woman in a marriage of convenience. Again, the story has elements of the classic Presents but some fun twists--nothing too dark--and lots of passion.
Reading your blog it sounds like 2005 was a really hectic but fun year for you. When you think back on it, what would you say are one or two of the most unforgettable memories you've retained about the year?
I had a wonderful year with my first mainstream novel, The Frog Prince, out in May '05. I did a book tour over the summer that ended up taking me to twenty-five plus cities and meeting lots of readers and booksellers. But I also spent a considerable amount of time in Hawaii where I got a new idea for a book, as well as learned a lot of new things about myself--like an old dog can learn new tricks, and attitude is the only thing that limits us. I work with amazing editors at two publishers, have an extremely supportive agent, a fantastic assistant, wonderful readers who stay in contact with me--really, life's good. I'm extremely blessed and I'm just anxious to keep writing more books!