Hi friends! Birthday month is almost over And not a single present! But that’s okay, because you know what? I have presents for you! And you know what’s a great gift? A fun visit from author Julie Anne Long! She’s answered some questions, and is also sharing an exclusive excerpt of A Notorious Countess Confesses which isn’t out until October 30! Whee!!!
Ms. Long is also a sneaky one, so keep an eye out for her! Anyway, let’s start out with those questions!
2. As a child, did you ever imagine your stuffed animals came to life?
“Imagine”? What do you mean? Didn’t…yours? I suspect my Breyer horses of galloping all over the place while I was sleeping.
3. What do you think about clowns?
I try not to think about clowns.
4. What author promo has been most effective for you?
It’s so difficult to meaningfully quantify the impact (though it’s tempting for anyone who likes to analyze things, and boy do I) of any particular promo. I think I’ll instead offer a bit of advice: think the smartest (and it sounds simple) thing any author can do is to make sure the readers who love her books know when she has a new one coming, however that works best for you—newsletter, Facebook, Twitter or so forth. Maintain a consistent, ongoing connection with your readers. It’s such a pleasure.
5. What was your favorite book as a child? Which character in it did you most want to be?
I loved so many books as a child it’s nearly impossible to choose one. But when we were little, my sister and I went through a phase where we were obsessed with all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. We played “Little House on the Prairie” every day. We baked mud pies on baking day and pretended to milk our poor Malamute (she was the stand-in for a cow) and churned fake butter. If I could have been Laura Ingalls Wilder riding Black Beauty, that would have been SWEET.
6. What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste is on your bathroom counter right now? What about your toothbrush? Are there brands for either you prefer?
My toothbrush, huh? It’s pink. And has bristles at all different heights. The toothpaste is Crest and apparently it does an awful lot of things—whitens, brightens, scrubs, freshens my breath—and the tube is huge, about the size of a forearm, maybe because I bought it at Costco.
7. If you were to become a bear, which type would you choose?
I think I might like to be a Giant Panda. I quite like the idea of the word “Giant” in front of my name. Their scientific name, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, translates to “black and white cat-foot,” and I’m for anything to do with cats. They’re omnivorous, and so am I. Black and white as a color combination never goes out of style. And they look unbearably (unbearably. Ha!) puffy and adorable, but they’re still BEARS, and they might just attack anyone who irritates them.
8. What is your secret plan for world domination?
Little do you all know, but I’ve been dominating the world for some time now. You are all puppet s in my intricate master plan. But I’m a benign (and subtle) despot. But you have nothing to fear: unlike Chase Eversea in Since the Surrender, I don’t have any issues with puppets.
9. Do you collect anything? If no, have you ever collected anything? What did you do with it?
I don’t collect anything with real conviction. Unless you count, of course, books (then again, I’m sure most of the people reading this blog have prodigious libraries). I love very old books, but I don’t have a lot because I like to come across them serendipitously—I love thrift stores and rummage sales and the huge Friends of the Library sale at Fort Mason for that sort of thing. I have several books with lovely worn Art Nouveau covers. I have a few special Art Deco objects. The older I get the less stuff I seem to want, and I’m particular about what I acquire.
10. What five deceased authors would you invite to a dinner party?
Deceased authors?!? That’s an alarming notion! Are they zombies? Will I need to serve brains??
If I may resurrect five authors, let’s see…if I don’t do this completely off the top of my head I’ll be mulling forever, so I’ll do this completely off the top of my head. I want to laugh, think and flirt during my dinner party, and I want my guests to get along with each other and have a wonderful time, and you didn’t specific fiction authors (and I love wriggling through a loophole), so I’ll invite Jane Austen, Benjamin Franklin (a thinker and a flirter if ever there was one), Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize winning Physicist; I read his book “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”, many times—he was a kick. I wish I knew him), and George Gordon, Lord Byron. I think they’ll all hit it off.
Exclusive excerpt from A Notorious Countess Confesses, coming October 2012
copyright 2012 Julie Anne Long (It’s so exclusive and early Avon hasn’t even posted the cover on Amazon yet! Eee!)
A little bit of set-up here: Shortly before this excerpt takes place, the Countess of Wareham and Reverend Sylvaine had an inauspicious and very brief first encounter, right after morning services at the church in Pennyroyal Green. They’re coolly polite to each other, but our jaded countess is unmoved by the admittedly handsome vicar, and Adam privately thinks the countess, though beautiful, seems remote and untouchable, “as sealed and gleaming as a jar of preserves,” and therefore not terribly interesting to him. When Lady Wareham and her maid run into a little carriage trouble on the Sussex downs and the countess steps out of her carriage while her maid goes in search of help, they have another little encounter when he accidentally startles her. Do impressions change? Let’s see…
She leaped back with a stifled shriek, clapping her hand to her heart.
“Sweet Merciful Mary Mother of God, ye shouldna sneak up like that! Ye creep like a cat ye bloody big …”
A very ripe Irish accent, long dormant but apparently healthy and whole and frisky and unleashed by shock, echoed across the countryside. Bloody big bloody big bloody big …
Ohhhh. The shame of it.
She wanted to close her eyes and sink deep, deep into the earth.
Instead, she forced herself to look up—very up—at who proved to be the Reverend Adam Sylvaine, the vicar.
He appeared entirely unruffled. Apart from his eyes, that was. They fair danced like flames with wicked, wicked, downright un-Christian mirth.
One of her horses whickered into what threatened to be a never-ending silence.
Be a gentleman, she silently willed him. Leave it lie. Pretend you heard nothing at all.
Up his eyebrows went.
“Biiiig …” he prompted.
She eyed him stonily. Bastard, she was tempted to complete. Why not? In for a penny, in for a pound.
He waited. Patient as Job. Wicked as Lucifer. Amused as hell.
“Vicar,” she completed inanely, finally, on a mumble.
His head went back as though this was almost too good to be true, then came down on a nod.
“I suppose I am,” he agreed thoughtfully, though his voice held a suspicious tremble. Stifled laughter. “I suppose I am a big …vicar …. Though no one has ever before accused me before of creeping like a cat. Something to do with being … well, big, I suppose.”
The vicar was taking the piss out of her, as her brother Seamus would say, and quite effectively, too.
She looked full into his face then. His eyes were such a disarming blue—the color of deep, still water, of Lough Leane in Killarney—they made her strangely restless. It was if the weather inside him was always clear and temperate. Like his conscience and unblemished soul, no doubt, she thought sardonically. An unprepossessing black wool coat—Weston hadn’t stitched up that one, she knew this for certain—whipped behind him in the stiffening wind, which was also doing its best to pluck a carelessly knotted cravat from the confines of a gray, striped waistcoat of no discernible pedigree.
And as though it they were was a beckoning road, her eyes followed the line of longer, finer, harder thighs than a vicar had any business possessing down to the dusty, creased toes of his boots. Which most definitely had not been made by Hoby.
Her eyes stayed safely on the ground. She took advantage of a moment of unexpectedly necessary composure gathering in the wake of the revelation about his thighs.
“I thought vicars were supposed to wear dresses.” She said this almost testily. At least she had gotten control of her accent.
“Oh, a dress is optional.”
Ping! Insults bounced from him, it seemed.
“And by ‘dress,’ I suppose you mean ‘cassock’?” he added helpfully. “Difficult to creep like a cat in a cassock, you see, Lady Wareham. It swirls about one’s ankles, flaps noisily in the breeze. One needs stealth to stop iniquity in its tracks.”
In … iquity?
The word was a slap.
But … perhaps he was jesting? Surely he was? Did he know about her? Was the whole of this horrid village going to take turns plaguing her in turns? Would they turn out with boiling oil?
“Is that why you’ve suddenly appeared? Did you scent iniquity on the wind then, Reverend Sylvaine? Do you roam the Sussex countryside sniffing for it, like a truffle-hunting pig?”
He didn’t reply for so long she finally turned to look at him.
To find he’d gone as rigid as if he’d been driven into the ground.
Something about that stillness made her think that angering him would be very unwise, indeed. Which seemed a peculiar thought to have about a vicar. But despite the fact that he wasn’t blinking, he didn’t seem angry. He was studying her the way one might study a lock about to be picked. The only movement was his hair. The breeze lifted it, let it fall, lifted it, let it fall. Hidden in the dark blond were dark gold or copper threads and strands sun-bleached to silvery fairness. In the silence and stillness it was absurdly fascinating.
“I’ve dozens of cousins and a number of siblings, Lady Wareham. If you’ve siblings, you won’t be surprised to learn that my hide is quite callused. It’s nearly impossible to offend me.”
He said it evenly. As if he hadn’t just seen right through her, and neatly incinerated her defenses, as surely as if she were a petulant child.
“Some might interpret that as a challenge, Reverend.”
He went quiet again. And then he smiled. Very, very faintly. Just enough, it seemed, for her to notice the elegant shape of his mouth. To tease out one dimple at the corner of it. And when at last he spoke, again she felt his voice more than she heard it, like fingers brushed along the short hairs at her nape. It had gone soft, so soft. But somehow it wasn’t gentle.
“Oh? Did you come to Pennyroyal Green for challenge, then, Lady Wareham?”
She stared at him.
He stared back.
And to her astonishment, heat slowly washed the back of her neck, the backs of her arms, and tightened the bands of her stomach. It was suddenly more difficult to breathe. It occurred to her that she’d never seen a man who was so … contained. Yes: That that was precisely the right word. As though something in him, some potential, required control. And whatever it was, whatever he was, pulled at her. The way earth pulled water into it. It felt stronger than she was, and her entire life had depended upon her being stronger than anyone.
She turned abruptly away. She inhaled in the hopes of clearing her head, but the traitorous air had turned to wine or some such; her thoughts staggered like foxed heirs at a gaming hell.
He was only a vicar, she reminded herself. The man had caught her in a rare moment of weakness amidst a particularly vulnerable episode in her life. That was all. And she was very weary, of course. After all, the church nap had hardly been the restorative kind.
She tugged her pelisse about her more snugly and stared toward her halted carriage with a little frown. Where the devil was Henny?
“It seems one of our horses threw a shoe,” she said finally. Her voice was fainter than she would have preferred.
She wondered if she’d disappointed him.
He’d been watching her. She half suspected he knew the number of her eyelashes now.
“I see,” he said easily enough, after a moment. “I was on my way to visit a parishioner when I saw your stopped carriage. And as since there’s no worry about brigands on this road since One-Eyed William haunted these parts a few decades ago, and as this isn’t precisely one of the more scenic parts of Sussex, I feared something might be amiss.”
One-eyed William? Was he jesting?
She said nothing.
“I’ll just have a word with your driver then, shall I?”
When she didn’t reply—for she couldn’t seem to find her voice—he turned. She listened to him take one step, then two steps away, and somehow the sound of his footsteps seemed like the sound of failure.
“Reverend Sylvaine …”
He stopped, turned back toward her, his brows raised in a query.
The surest way to regain her power was to deploy what made her powerful.
“I must ask your forgiveness. I fear you startled me from my manners, and … I’ve never before met a vicar, you see, and it seems like such an interesting, important role. Pray, how does one become a vicar?”
She, possibly better than any other woman in England, knew the way beneath any man’s ramparts—whether he was the Home Secretary or the King of England or a coal monger: It was flattery, served up with flirtation and innuendo.
She was startled when Reverend Sylvaine drew up visibly, instantly almost comically wary.
“One of the best ways, I’ve learned, to become one is to be related to the family who owns the living,” he living.” He said shortly. With just a hint of irony.
And said nothing more.
“Must one be faultless of character? Entirely … free of vices?” She folded her hands before her and aimed her gaze up at him through her lashes with the precision of a rifleman.
The vicar glanced down at her demurely folded hands as though she’d unlocked a pistol. And then he slowly looked back up into her face.
“I suppose it depends on how one interprets the word.”
A masterpiece of circumspection, that sentence.
His eyes were now unreadable as an empty sky, shuttered. Hers, she was fairly certain, thanks thank to some collusion between her thick black lashes and the color of her eyes and the angle of sunlight and the sheer intent to charm, were sparkling.
“Have you any vices, Mr. Sylvaine?” Her tone implied that she sincerely hoped he did, that she would be understanding and forgiving, would indeed find them fascinating, and that her own would nicely complement his.
The vicar was now as tense as a bunched fist.
And then a faint dent appeared between his eyes.
Alas, by no stretch of the imagination could she interpret this expression as “bewitched.”
“None, I’m certain, that would interest you.” He said it gently, and turned his head just slightly back toward the road, where his duties apparently awaited. As though, of all things …
… he was bored.
She was speechless.
“I should think it’s safe enough to walk alone along this part of the green, Lady Wareham, but perhaps you oughtn’t go far until you know the country better. Perhaps you’d prefer to wait inside your carriage out of the cold?”
She knew when she’d been dismissed. Pride—and astonishment—prevented her from flailing.
“Seeing to the safety of your flock, are you?” she managed almost lightly. Her voice was faint from the jostling her pride had taken.
He smiled politely. “And to my duty as a gentleman.” More of that peculiar, distancing gentleness. “I apologize for startling you. It wasn’t my intention.”
To her horror, heat bloomed in her cheeks again.
“My maid is very nearby,” she said shortly, struggling to hide her embarrassment. “And I don’t mind the cold.”
“I’ll just see if I can be of some assistance to your driver then, shall I?”
When she said nothing, he made a very elegant bow and turned away from her. She stood still as a stone, watching as he hailed the driver and her footman, who greeted him cheerily. All those male heads gathered together, the wigged one and her stocky, hatless driver and Mr. Sylvaine’s fair one, conferring in low voices. While the driver gently held the horse’s head by the harness, the vicar bent and lifted up the glossy animal’s hoof and inspected it. Evie watched in astonishment as he tugged his cravat free of his waistcoat and carefully, almost tenderly, wrapped the horse’s hoof to the evident approval of her staff.
And then he turned and waved a farewell, striding up the road, no doubt toward his original destination. Cravatless.
She watched him go.
At last she heard the huffing of Henny’s breathing before she saw Henny, and then Henny crested the hill, skirts lifted in her hands, exposing a few inches of thick, sturdy ankle decorously covered in thick, sagging, thick woolen stockings. “I fear no one answered me knock at the door, m’lady.”
She dropped her skirts and froze in place when she saw her mistress’s face.
Her eyes went wide.
Then she narrowed them shrewdly and swiveled her great head about and raised a hand to shade her eyes when she saw Adam Sylvaine walking away, posture like a soldier’s, stride long and easy.
Silently, they both watched him.
They in fact watched long enough for it to become ridiculous.
He never once looked back.
“Now that one is a man,” Henny pronounced finally. As though they’d been debating the topic.
Evie snorted. “The country air has curdled your brain.” She tossed her head and strode toward the carriage. Henny followed on her heels, still huffing.
So what do you think of the excerpt? Are you sold? Gonna preorder it right now? [Getting my hints? ;D] So you know the drill – ask Julie Anne Long any question you want! And one lucky commenter gets any two Pennyroyal Green series books of his/her choice! Fantastic!