When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk…and gamble on love?
While I love reading historical pieces I am so relieved where we are today. I’m always fascinated by the amount of research authors expend in order to portray a period piece. The Marker by Meggan Connors is one such work. I started following Meggan’s blog There’s a Bee in my Bodice long before I purchased the book. Witty, creative, open and honest, Meggan has it going on. So I asked Meggan if she could share a few details with us.
Meggan, I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. Congratulations on the success of this book and your upcoming works. Mother of two, wife, and a professional, my first question is where do you find the time?
This question cracks me up, because I still wonder about this. I have a super supportive husband, and I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without him. But for finding time, I’m on the go from 6 AM until about 11 PM. Every day. I write a lot after 8 PM and on the weekends. I plot in the car, and I answer emails while watching t-ball or the kids are in swimming lessons or I’m cooking (and I thank the Apple Gods for Siri. The chick can’t spell for a hill of beans, but if I can feed the kids and shoot off a quick email or a text, there are worse things). I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, either.
Also, I write like a demon when the muse strikes. I’ll write for three straight months, finish a story, and then hit a wall. The muse will start singing Barry Manilow when I sit down to write something new. I’ve learned to simply accept it as the muse telling me that I need to take a break, and so I’ll spend the next three to six months tinkering with revisions.
And my (literally) dirty little secret? I hate housework and it hates me. So…sh…I’ll leave dirty dishes in the sink. I’ve learned to look at the house and say, “I have a deadline, so, uh, we’re eating off the paper plates.”
Paper Plates? Are there any other kind? Okay, Meggan what drew you to historical romances?
Well, History was one of many minors I had in college (I collected majors and minors like others collected beer bongs—I was an English Lit, Linguistics and German major, with minors in Education, History, and Political Science). I’ve always been interested in history, particularly the American Revolutionary War and Civil Wars (though, granted, I have a soft spot for Regencies). So historical fiction was a natural fit.
As a self-professed “lit nerd,” I’ve read a lot of tortured literary fiction, and I loved it. I love the dark stuff. But when life got hard, I found that I yearned for the escapism and guaranteed HEA that comes with romances. Life is dark and twisty enough. If I’m going to escape it, I need a happy ending, darn it!
Character development: The period and setting portrayed in your book intrigued me because of the ‘melting pot’ representing a broad spectrum of lives during that time. Did you plot your characters to reflect those many flavors or did it just happen?
The funny thing about The Marker is that I set it when and where I did strictly so my secondary characters could show up. When I came up with the idea for The Marker, I knew I had to have the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. In order to for the other characters to come into play, I knew Nicholas would have to be in shipping. The secondary characters, having originated in a different story, were already fully developed!
I know many of us are compelled to find a HEA as a means of a short mental vacation and normally these follow a pattern of X+Y=Z as a formula. I found here that the formula was more of X+Y (-AxB)/EFG=Z regarding the various stumbling blocks in the road to Lexie’s and Nicholas’ happiness. Many would probably have had to accomplish this feat in at least two books, kudos for being able to brilliantly weave all of these elements in to this one story. So I have to ask did you write it all in a straight line. Meaning did you start writing the story from start to end; Boxers or briefs; plot or wing it?
The Marker was a plot and wing, boxers and briefs kind of story. When I go to plot a story, I’ll have a loose outline, with bullet points for major events. In fact, I will usually write the chapters of those major events first. So I have those events solid in my head. How my characters get to those events is kind of up to them. I have to say, I like it when they surprise me.
Knowing how many elements you draw into this book (gambling, setting, clothing, politics, mannerisms, courting habits), how did you go about researching all the facets of your book?
Well, I’m from a gambling town, and my husband loves poker, so the gambling wasn’t a huge stretch for me. Because I write Victorian Era historicals, I used Victorian Costume for Ladies 1860-1900 by Linda Setnik and Men’s Clothing and Fabrics to help me out with the clothing when I got in a bind. Also, I spent a lot of time in various Railroad museums. There’s a wealth of information there regarding the time period. I have a fondness for museums, even the little Podunk ones in the middle of nowhere. They’ll all tell you something you didn’t know. I once found prices for everything you could possibly want, along with average yearly wages for various professions, listed in the most obscure museum in the middle of nowhere. It was outrageously helpful when it came to writing The Marker, actually.
Your lead characters seem to be given an equal amount of talking time in your book. Do you recall which character first came to you?
Of the major characters in the book, Nicholas definitely came first! (I usually have to fall in love with my male lead before I can be bothered to write a girl for him)
How do you think you personally would have coped during this same time period of arranged marriages and women being considered more of property than partners to their husbands?
* Snicker * Probably not well. I’m too opinionated. The husband is very much an alpha male, and I think he’d be bored if he had a weaker partner. He needs someone who gets his snark and can throw it back at him. That’s what I tell myself anyway, so don’t burst my bubble. And after fifteen years of wedded…something, I think we know each other pretty well. J (Actually, he’s great and amazing and all of that. And those aren’t just words. I’m a lucky girl.)
I know at least one of your characters you have spun into another story. Claire O’Connor and her history seemed to intrigue me as well. Will there be more out of this story to have their own book?
Funny you should mention Claire. Claire and Michael’s story was actually the first book I ever wrote, and I set The Marker when and where I did strictly so they could be in it. One day, hopefully soon, I’ll go back and revise that manuscript and send it in. Then everyone can know Claire the way I do. I loved her as a heroine, and have a certain fondness for her brother, James. I have a book plotted out for James, and I’ve started writing it. Let’s just say, James has quite an adventure ahead of him.
Husband finds it very entertaining when I say things like: “Oh, James,” and then sigh. Sometimes the people in my head are so much more interesting than the people I meet in real life. I like them more, anyway.
I was having a conversation with my middle child yesterday and asked him to define “steampunk” to me. What is your definition on this term /genre and what drew you to it?
Wow, you really pay attention! LOL
My definition of steampunk is a Victorian era science fiction, a la 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It can be an alternate history, or set on a different planet, but the mannerisms should be based on the Victorians, and the technology should be primarily steam based.
Thinking about modern movies, I see the new Sherlock Holmes movies as having a distinctly steampunk vibe.
As for what drew me to it…Well, what could be better? I love paranormal and science fiction, and I love historicals. Why not mash them together? What I love about steampunk is that it can be anything. Want to write a straight up speculative fiction? Sure. Want to add in some magic? Why not? Hey, let’s throw in some zombies, or a vampire. In steampunk, it’s all good.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Shucks, Bobbie, I don’t know.
I’ll still be writing, that’s for sure. At last count, I had something like fifteen books in my head. It’s three different series, two contemporary romances, and a romantic suspense. So there’s my ten-year plan, right there! It would be lovely if I were writing full-time by then, but if I’m not, at least I like my day job (most of the time)!
The kids will be in high school by then, so you tell me: do you get more or less writing time as the spawn get older?
We’re moms, I don’t know that we ever get more time Meggan but I keep dreaming for it! Again thank you for letting me delve into your creative process. Here’s a except of The Marker. Stop by Meggan’s blog and make sure you buy a copy of the book.
Lexie placed a hand on the back of a chair to steady herself as she pushed away the idea. She was no fool. One look at Nicholas Wetherby told her he wasn’t the man for her. A man like him wouldn’t be caught dead courting the destitute daughter of a drunk, even if she were available. Too rich, too good-looking, too self-assured, he could have any woman he wanted. He’d probably marry some pale, blond goddess who would bear him a whole passel of pale, blond children.
Strange, how that thought made her sad. Steeling herself, she said, “I assure you, Mr. Wetherby, whatever my father owes you, I will make every effort to repay you.”
Nicholas nodded. “Your father has already generously provided me with his preferred method of payment.”
Startled, her eyes flew to his face. Trying to cover her surprise, she said, “What did he promise?”
Nicholas glanced over at Markland. “Did you not tell her?”
Markland put his head down on the table. “You can’t do this, Wetherby,” he said miserably.
“Oh, but I can,” he said, his lips curving into a wolfish smile, and her heart lurched painfully in her chest. “Having come here, I intend to collect my marker.”
Markland moaned into the table, refused to look up. Temper flaring, Lexie demanded, “Oh, for God’s sake, Father, what did you lose this time? What is this marker?”
Nicholas turned his bright, glittering eyes to her, his lips curling in the ghost of a smile. “He didn’t tell you?”
“Would I be asking you if he had?” she retorted.
He visibly suppressed a smile, as if he found her amusing. “No, I suppose not.”
“So what’s he lost? What did he bet this time?”
Nicholas ran his eyes over her in a way that sent shivers up her spine, and she felt naked under his gaze, as if he saw through her and into her soul. Silent for what seemed like a long time, he handed her the contract and in a low voice said,
Meggan makes her home in the Wild West with her lawman husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets. She is a member of Romance Writers of America. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing with her kids, hiking in the mountains, or reading a book.