Posted by Carey Baldwin
Today I am honored to spotlight our very own Manda Collins!
I have a fun interview with Manda in store for you, plus a chance to win her book and an amazon gift card.
But first, I want to tell you about her debut novel, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE (St. Martin’s press) which releases Jan. 31, 2012 and has already garnered critical acclaim.
From the first line, the banter and wit and just plain good writing entertained me. Manda jumps right into the story and introduces her delectable ugly duckling, Cecily Hurston and her dashing duke, Lucas Dalton with a darling first meet. Seriously, who can resist a darling first meet? Okay, perhaps you’ve had your fill of D words by now, but bear with me for just one more:
HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE showcase’s Manda Collins’ particular talent for creating engaging dialogue, and I don’t just mean the flirty banter between the hero and heroine. The girl talk is fabulous! The fun conversations among the ugly duckling cousins call to mind the work of Eloisa James and Tessa Dare.
Now add in spicy chemistry between Lucas and Cecily and that should be enough to satisfy any reader. But Collins elevates her story beyond the standard fare when she sweetens the plot with a mystery involving the disappearance of Lucas’ brother and an ancient curse.
HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is a fantastic, fresh, and sexy read you won’t want to miss. Yay for romance spiced with mystery!…And ladies, remember to smile, bat and tilt the next time you find yourself at a ball with a stolen dance card.
Carey: “Is that you, Tux Guy?”
Tux Guy: “Mais oui. I wish to speak.”
Carey: “Well, get on with it then. Say your peace so we can move on to my glorious interview with Manda Collins.”
Tux Guy: “You know you want it.”
Carey smiles, bats her lashes, and tilts her head. “Kind of full of yourself.”
Tux Guy: “I’m talking to our readers, not you.”
“Oh.” Carey blushes prettily.
Tux Guy: “And I was referring to Manda’s book. You know you want it. Preorder it here.”
Carey: If you were stranded on a desert island with one other author, yes the real author, not his or her book, who would it be and why?
Manda: Wow, that’s a tough one. I mean it would have to be someone who doesn’t get on my nerves. And someone who shares my sense of humor—because I figure surviving being stranded on a desert island takes some serious humor skillz. And it couldn’t be one of my friends because then that might hurt another friends’ feelings. And it would need to be someone with great survival skillz because I have, like, none. Is MacGuyver an author? No? I guess going just on skill set alone, I’d choose Bob Mayer since he was a special forces guy and would exponentially increase the chances of me getting off that desert island alive. (I know that’s pretty selfish, but hey, you did ask!)
Carey: Ha. You are a genius! If I’m stranded on a desert island, I’m bringing Bob Mayer too! What is your favorite book?
Manda: Wow, just one? It kind of varies from year to year, month to month, day to day. Right now it’s Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas. But if you’d asked me last month it would have been Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner. Hmmm, I am liking Lisa books lately, I suppose.
Carey: What is your favorite song?
Manda: “Shipbuilding” by Elvis Costello
Carey drops another $1.29 at iTunes before asking: Do you have a special way you order your food? For example, do you always hold the sprouts on your salad or ask for a side of cherries with your diet coke?
Manda: I always order things—especially salads and burgers—without onions or green peppers. I hate, hate, hate the texture of raw onions. (shudders)
Carey grins. For some reason, Manda’s hatred of raw vegetables seems slightly kinky: How did you come to write your first manuscript?
Manda: I wrote my first manuscript as a direct result of the Avon Fanlit competition (where, incidentally, I met you, dear interviewer!) A group of us formed an email loop where we posted our daily, weekly, monthly goals and it was during that period that I finished my first book. Which, sadly, did not sell.
Carey: I remember thinking back then (in the Fanlit competition) that you were loaded with talent. And see, I was right!
Manda, Do you have a personal hero?
Manda: For me this would be my grandmother, who has gone through a number of losses over her lifetime, but who still manages to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. I know if she hadn’t been there for me I wouldn’t be here today.
Carey: I have a feeling she is amazingly proud of you.
Manda, like you, I live in a house with three cats and more books than strictly necessary. Have you got a fun cat story to share? Can we see the cats?
Manda: Of course you can see them! (Flips open wallet filled with cat pix.) As you said I have three.
Next is Tiny, a gray tabby, who is the oddball, and who outgrew his name many pounds ago. He doesn’t like to be held. He doesn’t cuddle (except with Spike who is his adopted dad). And he is afraid of everyone who is not already a member of the household.
Finally, there’s Stephen, a tuxedo cat, who is named after Stephen Colbert, who also looks good in a tux. He is the youngest, and the most laid back—I think because he was a street cat before I adopted him and as such he knows a good gig when he sees it. The main story among all of them of late is their deep and abiding hatred of my sister’s little Shi-Tzu mix, Charlie.
It’s cats and dogs. Living together. Mass-hysteria. If the cats ever figure out how to join forces Charlie’s in real trouble. But lucky for him, so far they are all too concerned with their own interests to cooperate with one another.
Carey stops searching for her DVD of ARISTOCATS, and regroups: I adore a bluestocking heroine. Can you explain for our contemporary readers, what the implications of being a bluestocking were for young ladies in the regency period?
Manda: A bluestocking was a pejorative term for a female intellectual. Basically during the regency period it was considered unfeminine for a young lady to get too much of an education. And bluestockings were often stereotyped as being dowdy, humorless and just plain unappealing.
Carey says: Please tell us about your upcoming release, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE.
Manda: Well, it’s the story of Miss Cecily Hurston, a noted scholar and a notorious bluestocking, and Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, a celebrated war hero, and their quest to discover just what happened between her father and his brother on an expedition to Egypt. They’ll work together to solve the mystery and in the process they’ll fall in love.
Carey: What inspired you to write an “Ugly Duckling” series? And what other books do you have planned for the series?
Manda: Well, when I was coming up with the concept of this trilogy, I kept remembering the story of the Gunning sisters, who were quite real, and were among the most celebrated beauties of the ton. They were the daughters of poor Irish farmers, but based on their beauty alone they took the beau monde by storm and ended up marrying into the aristocracy. But I kept wondering what it would be like to be the daughter of someone famous only for her beauty and her social cachet. So I came up with the Fabulous Featherstones, who are the mothers of my heroines, Cecily, Juliet and Madeline, who are dubbed the Ugly Ducklings by a cruel gossip sheet and it sticks. After Cecily’s book, will come Juliet’s story, which is followed by Madeline’s.
Carey: When you are not busy herding cats, dogs, sisters, and books, what causes do you champion?
Manda: Well, I’ve got a few. Libraries, and information literacy. The American Cancer Society. The Amputee Coalition of America. And The National Marfan Foundation (http://www.marfan.org/marfan/) For those of you who don’t know, Marfan Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder, and it’s thought that Abraham Lincoln suffered from it. Some of the key characteristics are elongated limbs, long skinny fingers and excessive height. If you know someone with these traits who hasn’t been checked out by a physician, I would urge you to urge them to do so. Not because I love doctor visits;) But because a symptom of Marfan’s you can’t see is a propensity to suffer from an aortic dissection. (Though he didn’t have Marfan’s this is what killed John Ritter). It can happen out of nowhere in seemingly healthy people. There are lots of ways that it can be prevented—one of which is valve replacement, which I’ve gone through twice now. Life expectancy used to be in the 40s for Marfan’s patients, but just in the last fifteen to twenty years that has risen to the 70s where everyone else is! /PSA
Carey: Thank you Manda for describing Marfan’s Syndrome, a disease that has a set of physical characteristics that can be easily spotted if only one is aware of them. And thanks for sharing some of your own inspirational story and courage with us.
Then, as she is wont to do, Carey goes bonkers and suggests a free association test. Please say the first word that comes to your mind- no cheating! Turn off that editor!
Wallflower– Jakob Dylan
ER…Should I touch this free association test with a ten foot…pole? Yes, I am up to the challenge: Manda secretly wishes to go white water rafting with Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers. However (she fantasizes) as she and Jakob are admiring the turquoise blue of the sky, a cock crows, drawing their attention to the shoreline where Tom Sellek is grooming his mustache. Tom and Dylan exchange an icy glare. Who will win fiery Manda’s heart? The choice, a hard ones, is all hers.
COMMENTERS -as a special treat for stopping by today, we will be giving away one e-copy of: HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE to be delivered as soon as it is released, as well as one $10 Amazon gift card. There will be one winner. That winner will receive both the gift card and HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE. Don’t forget to check Thursday’s blog to find out if you are our lucky winner!
The floor is open for questions or comments for Manda, so fire away!