Jade Lee's newest historical romance novel, The Dragon Earl (Leisure Books, Dorchester), is a Regency with a twist: The hero was stranded in China as a boy and has trained to be a Buddhist monk. The heroine meets him when he interrupts her wedding, claiming to be the earl she is supposed to be marrying. Earlier this year, Jade published Dragonborn (Love Spell), the first in a new paranormal romance series, and The Tao of Sex (Harlequin Blaze). Her first books were published under the name Katherine Greyle.
Welcome to my blog, Jade, congratulations on your recent books and new series. Thank you also for giving away a book to one of my blog readers.
In 2003, when you decided to reinvent yourself as Jade Lee, what were your goals?
Goals? Are we supposed to have goals? Actually, I just wanted to write something very sexy just to see if I could. Devil's Bargain was about the steamy, sexy underbelly of Regency England. It's a training of a courtesan book, and I just loved writing it. My editor loved the book, but worried that fans of Katherine Greyle (light, funny regencies à la Julia Quinn) would be shocked and horrified by the shift to dark sensuality. So . . . a new pen name.
And, btw, anyone looking to find a pen name: Google it first! Yeah, Google wasn't so big when I started Jade Lee, so I forgot to check on the Internet for it. Jade Lee is the name of a very big porn star. No lie. That's why my Website is www.jadeleeauthor.com.
Most of your recent books take place in China or have a character from China. Did you need to persuade your editor to let you set a book outside the traditional historical romance locales?
Actually, I never intended to leave Regency England. Love it there (and am very glad to return in The Dragon Earl). But my editor heard me talking about my grandmother's funeral in Hong Kong. It was a bizarre experience because of some of the wacky traditions my senile grandmother wanted (such as forty-nine days of crying and an auspicious burial date . . . which was three weeks away . . . in August . . . in Hong Kong. Hard to keep a body on ice that long!). Anyway, Chris Keeslar (editor extraordinaire) wanted me to explore writing in a Chinese setting. I was resistant. I'm both Chinese and American (Indiana Hoosier, on my father's side). In my mindset from childhood, Americans stood up and were counted; Chinese girls sat down, stayed silent, and looked pretty. I failed on all three Chinese counts, so why would I want to explore that repressive, horrible society?
Turns out, my Chinese heritage is so much more interesting than I ever imagined. And that whole repressive aspect actually made the exploration of sensuality with the Tigresses all that more interesting. I just had to try! Push past my comfort zone. Talk to my mother! So, the Tigress series was born. And then it turns out that there's a lot more to explore. Go figure! Someone should have told me that China has a vast and diverse history! Oh, wait, maybe my mother did . . . .
With The Dragon Earl, you return to the Regency romances you wrote as Katherine Greyle. Was that because you missed writing about England or for some other reason?
I missed England and the Regency. Plus, the Tigresses had run their course. I was looking for something new. But I got to bring Chinese martial arts into the Regency, so yippee!
Your Tigress series of historical romances explores the Dragon-Tigress religious sect in old China. Could you explain briefly what this sect is and why it fascinates you?
Because tantrics are fun! The Tigress sect actually exists. There's even a temple now in California. The following is a huge simplification, but here goes:
All Buddhists are looking to elevate their spirits to merge with the Great One (my name for it, btw). Traditional Buddhists do this by living pure lives, dropping away the yuck, and hoping to elevate their spirit through meditation. The fighting Buddhists use the discipline of martial arts to help elevate their spirit. The tantrics (and tigresses/dragons) use the excitement of sex to elevate their spirit.
Cool, huh? Now put what we might call a sex cult into that repressive Chinese society, and you've got a ripe field for conflict. Also remember that even well past the Victorian age, many Chinese people were taught that the whites were a kind of monkey. They didn't even realize the whites had names for "father," "mother," "sister," or "brother" because monkey colonies appear to be big communes. So . . . imagine the fun of having a white woman convince a Chinese man that she is more than a monkey. She's actually his equal! And that doesn't even begin to address the prejudices on the English side regarding the Chinese. All this gave me a very rich field in which to play!
Most of your books have required substantial research. Were you able to research your Tigress books here, or did you need to go to China? Do you have any suggestions for efficient research?
I've been to China many times, so I didn't need to go again. And I had my mother right here in the US to ask questions about Shanghai. She grew up there. But, of course, she didn't know about the tigress cult, so that I had to research. In fact, the whole concept came when I was wandering through a museum bookstore. Hsi Lai's book The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress literally fell on my foot. I picked it up and the rest is history!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I have two pieces of advice for new writers:
- It's a marathon, not a sprint. Get a writing habit and stick to it. Eventually you will break in!
- How do you become a writer? Just sit down and write. Just write . . . every day.
How do you write so many books a year?
Caffeine. Plus the daily habit. Yes, daily, even weekends. There is no magic bullet except to write, to learn, and to write some more. Eventually you'll pick up techniques that speed the process, you'll learn ways to build conflict quickly and sustain it better, and your strengths will get stronger, your weaknesses fade away, and then you will be able to leap tall editor piles in a single bound!
The Dragon Earl ends with a satisfying resolution for the hero and heroine, but loose ends still dangle for a couple of the other characters. Are you planning any sequels?
Oh yes! I'll get to Christopher's story for The Dragon Earl soon! No title yet, but it's coming!
Thank you, Jade, for visiting my blog today to talk about writing and your new books.
It was great fun! Thanks for having me!
Jade may be dropping by during the day, so feel free to leave questions for her.
Now for the contest: Post a response to this blog by 11:50 pm Pacific time on Sunday, 5 October, and you will be entered to win your choice of The Dragon Earl (historical romance set in England in the Regency period) or Dragonborn (fantasy romance), courtesy of Jade Lee. Thanks, Jade!
Learn more about Jade and her books at her Website at http://www.jadeleeauthor.com/ and her blog at http://www.jadeleeauthor.com/blogger/. Her book The Dragon Earl is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.
Carleen Brice, whom I interviewed here in March about her debut novel Orange Mint and Honey, was honored as Breakout Author of the Year at the African American Literary Awards Show. Way to go, Carleen!