When I saw No Proper Lady (new from Sourcebooks on Sept. 1) described as “Terminator meets My Fair Lady,” I had to read it. Seriously. How awesome is that? And I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint me—it’s half kickass urban fantasy with a Victorian twist and too, too fun. Today, I’m happy to welcome author Isabel Cooper to the blog—No Proper Lady is the publishing debut for this Boston author who spends her days working in legal publishing and says she has never fought a demon—although she can waltz. Read on for one of two chances to win a copy of the book!
First, about No Proper Lady: It’s Terminatormeets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts, and mysticism. England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and in 200 years demons will destroy it all. Unless Joan, a rough-around-the-edges assassin from the future, can take out the dark magician responsible. But to get close to her target she’ll need help learning how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend—until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.
Welcome, Isabel! You work at a legal publishing firm by day; is it hard to switch gears to romance by night?
Not too often. My day job is actually the part of my life that leaves my mind the fastest: I’m out the door at 5 or 5:30 and I pretty much leave work behind. It’s one of the areas where I’ve been really fortunate—and in all honesty, when I had jobs I liked less or that involved more downtime, I did a whole bunch of writing at work!
Actually, it’s my non-work life that tends to get in the way of my writing. If I’ve had an argument with a friend or am worried about my budget, or even if I’ve just read an article that annoyed me, I’ll find it much harder to center myself and get back into the story.
I think the thing that helps the most there is walking. I don’t have a car, so my commute involves a 20-minute walk on either end of my workday. It’s a great opportunity to plan what’s going to happen next, imagine scenes, or just clear my mind so that I can write when I get home.
This is an amazingly fun read, with dystopian demons, evil magicians, and proper Victorian manners. What inspired you?
Thank you very much! I had a lot of inspiration for this novel. I’ve read fantasy and romance for most of my adult life, I really like post-apocalyptic weirdness, and I find both Victorian society and Victorian occultism fascinating. They’re both so intricate, with so many elaborate rules, that they become almost like games.
Speaking of games, my hobbies were a big source of inspiration to me. Ballroom dancing obviously helps, and reading’s a given, but role-playing and video games provided very active ways for me to explore other people and worlds, and I think that really helped. There’s also a lot of genre combination in both, and that’s definitely contributed to my writing style: I like to say that I come up with plots the way some people mix cocktails!
What’s on your nightstand—or at the top of your To Read pile?
Actually, I just got an email saying that my library’s received the books I’ve requested, so I have a lot waiting for me right now—which is always good! I read very quickly, which is a questionable blessing on long trips or in dentist’s offices.
At the moment, I’m really looking forward to Naamah’s Blessing, by Jacqueline Carey. Carey’s historical-with-high-weirdness world never fails to interest me and her prose is great. I particularly like the heroine of this third trilogy, because she’s the most plucky and down-to-earth of Carey’s protagonists, and those are qualities I love.
I’m also going to pick up Peter Straub’s Mystery. Straub is an interesting author for me: I read The Talisman when I was young, loved it, and still do. Right out of college, I tried some of his other novels and wasn’t thrilled—but then gave Ghost Story another whirl over this Christmas, and found that it was terrific this time, and really liked Koko and A Dark Matter as well, so I decided to plunge back in. (And if the man actually writes the third Jack Sawyer novel with King, I will buy everything he writes for the rest of his life, whether I like it or not.)
Mercedes Lackey is always relaxing mind candy for me, and I see that Unnatural Issue, another of her Elemental Masters series, is out. I am passionately fond of the Elemental Masters series: obviously, I like Victorian/Edwardian-but-with-magic! stories, and for my money, the Elemental Masters are some of Lackey’s better work for mature readers. More interesting magical systems, fewer teenagers with low self-esteem. I approve.
This is your debut book. What has most surprised you about the publishing process?
Actually, not a great deal—but I worked in publishing for a while, so I got to see things from the other end first. I guess my biggest surprise has been how thrilling it is when it’s your book!
What’s the biggest challenge of writing a time-travel?
Figuring out how much to explain and how much to leave out. I didn’t want to put in a whole lot of theory about how time travel works in this universe—the actual mechanics of it are a pretty minor detail as far as the plot goes, since it’s a one-way trip that happens at the beginning of the story—but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave my readers wondering what was going on, how Joan could change the past without wiping out her own existence, and so forth. Readers have an irksome tendency to notice things. 😉
In the end, I went with a fair amount of hand-waving and the knowledge that I *could* explain, if I had to. Magic’s kind of awesome like that.
Did you always think you’d write a novel? When did you start writing?
I started writing very young—in second grade or so, I believe. I remember some sort of multi-page epic about a puppy and her adventures, which mostly consisted of running around being cute, and was only slightly a blatant ripoff of Lady and the Tramp. I didn’t know that I wanted to write for a living until I was eleven or twelve—until then, I wavered between “veterinarian” and “soap opera star”.
Once I figured out that I wanted to write professionally, and I wanted to write fantasy, it was a pretty easy jump to “and that means a novel at some point.” I managed to finish one in my senior year of high school—high melodrama and plot holes you could drive a truck convoy through—and most of my writing since then has been attempts at one novel or another. I ramble, by nature.
What’s next for you. Will we see more set in Joan and Simon’s world?
Definitely! No Honest Woman, the sequel to No Proper Lady, is scheduled for April 2012. It features one of Simon’s friends (the man has to have some friends who aren’t evil), a former army surgeon with a gift for healing, falling for a medium who started out as a fraud and discovered that she had a talent for the real thing. Meanwhile, they’re trying to cope with demonic incursions and train students with hard-to-control magical powers. It’s like Victorian mystical X-Men. No blue shapeshifters though—at least not yet.
Thanks, Isabel! Want to win a copy of No Proper Lady? Leave a comment, and you know the rest of the drill. One entry for comment, another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Be sure to include your email. Now…Go forth and comment!