Interview with NY Times Bestselling Romance Author Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh grew up in Wales and, after graduating from university, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, on a two-year contract to teach high school English. She stayed to marry and raise a family. She was first published in 1985 and quit her teaching job three years later to write full time. A Precious Jewel, first published in 1993, has recently been republished by Bantam Dell as part of a commitment to make her backlist available to her current readership.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Mary. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I have been writing all my life. Whenever I was asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say that I wanted to be an author. One of the highlights if my writing life was winning a short story competition when I was about ten. The prize was a box full of Cadbury's and Fry's chocolate bars. This was during the post-war years of food rationing in Britain. I was first published in 1985. Sine then I have written more than 70 novels and 30 novellas.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A PRECIOUS JEWEL, first published in 1993, is a Regency-era romance with a difference. The hero, Sir Gerald Stapleton, is a beta male whose self-esteem was taken from him during childhood by a cold, insensitive father and a stepmother who betrayed his love and trust. He is afraid of relationships and so satisfies his needs with frequent visits to a high-class brothel. The heroine, Priscilla Wentworth, well-born but forced by circumstances into prostitution, becomes his "regular" and later his mistress. It is not an auspicious beginning for a love story, but that is exactly what their story becomes. I love to take on a challenge as a writer, and there was none greater that this.

Gerald was a minor character in THE IDEAL WIFE (Bantam Dell, 2008), best friend of the hero. In that book he was struggling with the loss of his long-term mistress (Priscilla), who had left him to marry a former beau. My mind played with the usual what-ifs as I wrote THE IDEAL WIFE. What if Gerald really loved Priscilla? What if she really loved him? What if the former beau and impending marriage were fictitious, an excuse to get away from a liaison that had become intolerable to her? What if…

Gerald intrigued me to such an extent that I had to tell his story. Actually, it became an obsession with me. I knew I could not write it. He was not the alpha male readers expect their heroes to be. Priscilla was a working prostitute. It was all quite impossible. A few fellow writers on whom I tried the idea agreed with me. I did not even ask my editor about it. But those two characters would not let me alone. Finally I wrote their story during a hectic two-week period and put the manuscript up on a shelf in my office for a long time before deciding to send it in just to see what the reaction would be. When I phoned about it some time later, I discovered that the book was in copyediting!

Now Bantam Dell is making A PRECIOUS JEWEL available to readers again.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

I was writing traditional Regency romances at the time. They were expected to be rather sweet comedies of manners. Yet my heroine was a prostitute working in a brothel, and the hero was a beta male, unlike the more usual dashing Regency hero. I had not run the idea by my editor. I was quite convinced that the book would never be published.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

My agent is Maria Carvainis of the Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc. in New York.

Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

One innovation with this book is the organizing of an interview/blog tour for November, the month of the book's publication. It is an exciting way to reach out to large numbers of readers and invite some interaction.

Do you plan subsequent books?

A PRECIOUS JEWEL had a prequel, THE IDEAL WIFE. There is also a sequel, A CHRISTMAS BRIDE, the story of Gerald's stepmother. It is set for republication in the fall of 2011. My next new Bantam Dell books are to be the paperback release of SEDUCING AN ANGEL in June, 2010, and the hardcover edition of A SECRET AFFAIR in July, 2010. They are books 4 and 5 of the Huxtable quintet (FIRST COMES MARRIAGE, THEN COMES SEDUCTION, AT LAST COMES LOVE).

Thank you for your interview, Mary. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is at There is a page there that will take readers to various on-line bookstores in several countries. The book should be found wherever books are on sale.

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