Joanna Chambers’ fabulous Enlightenment trilogy is one of my favourite historical romance series, so I was delighted when I saw the author announce on her blog that the first book, Provoked, would shortly receive an audio make-over. She also mentioned that she had taken great care to select the right narrator – something which always makes me sit up and take notice! – so I invited her over to AudioGals for a chat about her first foray into audiobooks and other projects. Plus, two lucky winners will get Audible.com codes to get their very own copy of Provoked. Be sure to enter the Giveaway at the end of the interview!
Caz: Joanna, thanks for stopping by.
JC: Thanks for having me over! :-)
Caz: I know this is your first time visiting us here at AudioGals, so tell our readers a bit about yourself and your books.
JC: I’m probably best known for writing male/male historical romance, however, I’ve also written male/female historicals and some m/m contemporary – in fact, my next release is my first full length m/m contemporary novel. Fundamentally though, historical is my happy place. After finishing that contemp novel, I was itching to get back to writing historical and the current project is set in the 18th century (albeit with werewolves thrown in).
Caz: It’s no secret that I’m a BIG – huge – fan of historical romance. What attracted you specifically to the genre and to male/male historicals especially?
JC: I’m a major romance fan and a major glom/mer too. When I go into a glom, I can get a bit tunnel-visioned with it. (I once listened to almost nothing but Bob Dylan for a year).
When my kids were very little, I went through a pretty intense glom of historical romance that lasted quite a few years – during that period, I read pretty much nothing but m/f historicals. Since that coincided with me starting to seriously try to write, my first couple of novels were, naturally enough, m/f historicals. My first published novel features a classic cross-dressing heroine trope and my second the long-lost wife in disguise trope. Both are big favourites with me.
I started planning for my next book and decided I wanted to set it in Edinburgh in the legal world. At this point, the m/f historical glom had come to an end – by this time, I’d started reading, well glomming, LGBTQ romance (mostly contemps since there really weren’t many LGBTQ historicals around). And that was when I looked at the notes for that next book and thought “This might work a lot better with two male leads…”
That book became Provoked.
Caz: Provoked was one of the very first m/m romances I read; prior to that I’d worried that it would be difficult to accurately portray a same sex relationship in an historical romance given all the obstacles – legal, familial etc. – that were in the way. But now I’ve read more of them, I’ve started thinking that perhaps the need to find a way to convincingly surmount those difficulties and arrive at a believable HEA is what makes any of the m/m historicals I’ve read more complex than so many of the others I’ve read. Do you think m/m authors (specifically of historicals) have to be more inventive in order to make their romances work?
JC: That’s such an interesting question. As I said above, I already had the book that became Provoked outlined as a m/f historical; the thing that made me write it as m/m instead was me thinking it might work better with two male leads. And why was that? Well, I’d been wrangling over how to get my heroine into the places and situations I wanted to write about (the legal world, all-male spaces). That was probably going to involve resorting to classic m/f historical work-arounds: the daughter of a professional man who is allowed to help out, even though she could not ordinarily be a [*insert profession here]. The cross-dressing heroine (oops – already did that one!). Or I could just satisfy myself with making my hero be in the profession/spaces I wanted to write about and allow my heroine to encounter him as a client/ supplicant/ woman in need of help. Only none of those appealed to me.
With two male heroes, I didn’t have to do any of that. I could give them any professions, put them in any places, any situation. So actually, that part was easier.
The truth is, both m/f and LGBTQ historicals hold challenges of accuracy. Readers aren’t stupid. They know that things were different in the past and they adjust for it. They know that the majority of people didn’t hold particularly enlightened views but provided there is a generally authentic feel to the story (e.g. the author manages to get across, perhaps, that a more modern-thinking character is more the exception than the rule) they can deal with that. They deal with it in the same way that they know that large numbers of woman died in childbirth or had their health destroyed by endless pregnancies and pregnancy complications… just not this heroine in her hard-won HEA, right? The fact is, readers are adept at making adjustments as they read – it’s part of the romance reader’s skillset and the architecture of genre – and one of the reasons I love the genre.
In short – to answer your question – no I don’t think you have to be more inventive with m/m historicals – it’s more just being inventive about different things.
Caz: That’s a good point. The lives of young women in the 19th century – young women of the upper classes, that is – was so restrictive, that it’s quite a challenge to get the heroine out of the drawing room and away from all those watchful eyes in a believable way.
What prompted you to turn Provoked into an audiobook?
JC: Quite a few readers let me know they’d welcome it, which helped me decide, but mostly, it’s because I’m a huge audiobook fan and I wanted to see how one of my books would turn out :-)
Caz: Excellent – I always love meeting a fellow audiobook enthusiast! So, you’re obviously well aware of how important it is to get the right narrator. I’m someone who always looks at the narrator’s name before the author’s!; can you tell us a bit about how you went about finding yours? [Hamish McKinlay narrates Provoked.]
JC: It was pretty hard because almost all the characters are Scottish and also I’m Scottish so I was super-pernickety about the accents. I realised pretty quickly the narrator was going to have to be a fellow native Scot for me to be happy with the final product but then discovered that there are very few Scottish narrators out there who narrate LGBTQ romance. So, I ended up looking at other genres and approaching people direct.
As soon as I heard Hamish’s audition I knew I’d found my narrator. He had both the perfect accents and amazing performance skills – though I must admit, hearing just how well he performed the – ahem – intimate scenes was kind of toe-curling… It’s soooo much harder to listen to when it’s your own words! Seriously, I’m in awe as to how he approached those scenes, because I write sex scenes that are quite physically frank and also they tend to be quite emotional – I feel like the combination of those factors must make them pretty challenging from a performance perspective.
Caz: I’m glad to hear you say that, because sex scenes are so important in a romance and not all narrators are capable of delivering them in the right way. Some narrators seem to have an instinctual understanding of what romance listeners want to hear, as well – having listened to Provoked, it seems to me that Hamish most definitely has that instinct.
This is book one in a trilogy… may we hope for the other books to follow soon?
Caz: Do you have any other projects on the go that you can tell us about?
JC: Audio-wise, it will be Beguiled next. My next novel release will be the m/m contemporary I mentioned – Tribute Act. That’s part of Riptide Publishing’s Porthkennack series set in Cornwall. As for what I’m writing now, I’m supposed to be working on a Christmas novella sequel for two characters I wrote about before (in a story called Introducing Mr. Winterbourne,) but the new ‘big’ project – my historical werewolves – may scupper that as I can’t leave those characters alone!
Caz: When you’re not writing (if that ever happens!) what do you like to do? If you get time to read, what genres do you enjoy?
JC: Between the real life job, my family (I have two kids) and writing there isn’t much free time but I adore reading (a recent highlight was the amazing Peter Darling by Austin Chant – wonderful), audiobooks (I’m currently listening to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, which is superb), cooking (well, eating…) and cinema (Last Train to Busan was my last 5 star view).
Caz: Well, it certainly sounds as though you have plenty to keep you busy! Thanks for chatting to me for AudioGals, and best of luck with everything you’ve got coming up.
JC: Thank you so much for having me over – always a pleasure, Caz!
And now for the GIVEAWAY! Two lucky winners will get Audible.com codes for their very own download of PROVOKED by Joanna Chambers! Just click below to enter – ends midnight Sunday October 1 Central Daylight Time.
No purchase is necessary. The giveaway is open from 12 am CDT Monday 25 September 2017 through 12:00 am CDT Monday 2 October 2017 (which is midnight Sunday).
Two winners will be chosen. The prize is an Audible.com code for Provoked by Joanna Chambers (value: US$13.97), therefore, winners will need to have or create an Audible.com account to use the code. The codes have been provided by the author, Joanna Chambers. Anyone for whom this audiobook title is not geo-restricted is eligible to enter, with the exception that the reviewers at AudioGals and their immediate family members are not eligible. :)
One entry per person, please. Winners will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter software. Winners will be notified by email used for entry by 11:59 pm Monday 2 October 2017, and will have 48 hours to respond. If no response is received, another winner will be chosen.