I’m thrilled to have a special guest on my blog today – USA Today bestselling author, Sally MacKenzie. Sally writes the acclaimed Naked series, funny, sexy, Regency-set historical for my publisher, Kensington Zebra. Her unique blend of humor and passion has been wowing fans over the course of eight books and novellas. Her last book in the series, The Naked King, is now in stores. Please join me in welcoming Sally to the blog!
Hi, Vanessa. Thanks so much for letting me stop by your blog.
Sally, let’s talk about the Naked series. How did you come up with such a great high concept?
Can you hear me laughing? When I wrote my first Naked book, The Naked Duke, I wouldn’t have known a high concept if it bit me in the derriere. Frankly, I don’t think I’d know one now, either.
The Naked series had a very low concept beginning. I decided in grade school that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and I’d done some writing when my four sons were young, though I hadn’t sold any fiction. When I entered the carpool years and took over the cub scout pack and the neighborhood swim team at the same time, writing got pushed to the side. Finally, when our oldest son was getting ready for college, it hit me that I wasn’t getting any younger. My hands-on mom duties were being phased out, and I needed to figure out how the next chapter of my life was going to read. Was I finally going to seriously follow my dream of publishing? If I wasn’t, I needed to find something else to do.
So I sat down and started writing the Duke. I worked in fits and starts, teaching myself as I went along, but I made myself finish and revise and polish. I think it took a couple years. Then a friend who’d once been a NYC editor took her red pen to it. The pages bled. My heart sank when I got them back, but I told myself I was going to read them through with an open mind. If I was serious about this, I needed to get over myself. I do think that editing job was what took me to the next level. Somewhere in there she said that my original title was sort of awful. (And, no, I will not tell you what it was.)
So this is where maybe a glimmer of high concept came in. I thought, well, they always say sex and power sells. My hero was a duke–that’s the power part–and he happens to meet the heroine when they are both naked. Voila–The Naked Duke! My friend liked it, but I had no idea it would catch on the way it has.
I sold the Duke in a two book contract, so I then had to write another book. Yikes! The title I came up with for that book was something lame–I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was The Reluctant Earl. My editor was rightly unimpressed. So then I thought, oh, what the heck, she likes Naked so much, I’ll stick with that. The problem was that when the second book opens, the hero (Captain Charles Draysmith, one of the Naked Duke’s friends) has just inherited his brother’s title–Earl of Knightsdale. Except I already had an earl–foolish me had decided that the other friend, Robbie, the Earl of Westbrooke, would be the hero of my as-yet-uncontracted third book. I couldn’t have two Naked earls, so I had to “promote” Charles’s brother to marquis before killing him off–and then I had to catch that change up on the Duke page proofs. Thus The Naked Marquis was born, and my “high concept” idea was launched.
Who are your favorite writers?
Growing up, I read mostly science fiction and fantasy–Lloyd Alexander, Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, Andre Norton, P. L. Travers–and Georgette Heyer. I was passionate about stories–until I became an English major in college. That was a bit of a shock. I didn’t really “get” many of the authors I read–Vonnegut and Barth and Pynchon and Brautigan. I think my reaction to books has always been emotional–or even spiritual–rather than intellectual, and I just didn’t feel these stories. After I “retired” to stay home with my sons, I read tons and tons of Regencies while the kids played or while I waited in carpool line. Some of my favorite Regency authors were Mary Balogh, Marion Chesney, Marion Devon, Edith Layton, Barbara Metzger, Joan Wolf–I could probably go on and on. My mother and I used to go out to lunch once a month and hit the Borders, buying that month’s Signet Regencies which we shared. Now I find I don’t read much fiction at all. I either can’t get into a book or I get so caught up in it, I let my own writing slide. This just happened to me with Marjorie Liu’s In the Dark of Dreams. (Shh, don’t tell my editor!) Not good for a girl on deadline!
What’s up after The Naked King?
I’m working on the Duchess of Love series about a duchess who’s one of the ton’s premier matchmakers–but the matches she’d really like to make involve her three sons. I’ve written the novella which tells the duke and duchess’s story–sort of a prequel to the trilogy–and now I’m writing book 1. I actually don’t like to talk much about a book while I’m working on it, so that’s all I’ll say for now.
Great interview, Sally! Thank you so much!
Sally will be giving away a copy of her latest book, The Naked King, to one lucky commenter. Just answer the following question: If you could only take one book on vacation with you this summer, what would it be?
43 thoughts on “Guest Post: Sally MacKenzie & The Naked King. Giveaway!”
I have all of Sally’s Naked books, so funny, I love them.
Sheila, Sally is one of my favorite Regency historical authors.
I love you, too, Vanessa!!
Great interview and, oh, so true re: high concept. Lots of times I have to write something before I can even figure out what it is. Even more pathetic, sometimes I need someone else to tell me.
PS: I love Sally’s cover!
Ruth, I’m with you on that. I practically stand on my head to come up with high concept ideas. And then I’m not sure if what I’ve done is even high concept! The only way I can ever figure it out is to come up with the most in-your-face examples, like the movie Aliens: Jaws in space.
Just one book?! Must be a short trip 😉 Of course the Naked King is at the top of the list if I haven’t already devoured it. So looking forward to reading it though will be sad to see the series end.
Donna, our tour guide is either going to keep us very busy, or else he is evil in only allowing us to bring one book!
What a great interview! I love how you sort of stumbled into the high concept, but it’s delightful.
Just one book on vacation–I was thinking of this recently because I didn’t want it to be so engrossing that I ignored all the local vacay hotspots, but not so boring that I didn’t have anything to enjoy. LOL I think you’ve just convinced me I *need* an e-reader, so I can count IT as one book. LOL
Very clever, Donna!
Seriously…just one book? What vacation? Sounds like a weekend to me! Anyway, I’ve read all of the Naked books and loved every one of them. I believe The Naked King would have to be that book I take with me on that weekend mini-vacation!
Sally, being an author must mean learning how to juggle 6 balls while riding a unicycle! Can you rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time too? LOL Thanks for the giveaway!
Ha! This one book thing is turning our to be harder than I thought.
I’m just back from the gym and catching up–writing is not a very healthful profession–all that sitting–so I have to make a real effort to work out. Gravity–and age–are not my friends 😉
I’m delighted to see all the Naked readers here! I hope you’ll enjoy the King. I’m always rather nervous when a book first releases–my poor baby is venturing out in the world on his own!
And, Donna, my first thought on the tour guide question was I need an e-reader, too! Haven’t taken that plunge yet, though.
Karen H, as Vanessa will tell you, I feel like I’m dropping those balls and falling off the unicycle at the moment. I’m in the Dark Pit of Despair on the wip. One might think writing a book would get easier once you’ve written one…not true, at least not in my experience.
Off to spend some quality time in the Pit. I’ll check back later.
Thanks for stopping by, Sally! Yes, it’s true that writing seems to get harder rather than easier. Very conter-intuitive, but most writers will tell you that.
Hi! 🙂 Well, firstly, what vacation… LOL
And just one book… well, to pick one, I’m going to say The Lady Most Likely by Quinn/James/Brockway, and here is why. Since I’m not taking a summer class this year, I have lots of catching up to do from the Spring semester when I was taking an easy, but time consuming Chemistry class, I’m still getting my new books, but trying to read the older ones (like I’m reading the third Knitting book by Heidi Betts, which has been out a while!). And with the one I named — I still yet have to read this one, and I saw that those three authors are writing a second one! Geez.
Oh, and I saw that I also still have the Naked Viscount on the pile too. But, I did read the two Naked novellas during the class; made it nice and easy since they were short stories. As for the Naked King, well, *sniff*, sorry to see the series end! 🙂
Lois, I’m also sad about seeing the Naked series come to an end!
Well, Naked novellas are better than no Nakedness at all, Lois! And the Prince is sort of a prequel to the King 😉
One book, huh? Sooo unfair! I usually take a whole bag, cuz I never know what genre I’ll be in the mood for from one day to the next. I guess if I can only take one, it would have to be Smokin’ Seventeen, the newest Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich. It comes out this month, about 3 days before I leave on vacation, and I take the newest installment with me every year at this time. Luckily, since I got my Kindle for Christmas, I know the amount of books I take won’t be an issue this year 🙂
Mwahaha! I did say we had a very evil tour guide for our vacation, didn’t I?
Betty, the new Plum books sounds great!
Just ONE book — Ok — I am also a Stephanie Plum junkie… her latest Smoking 17… once I went to St John, USVI with my sister… we mailed 2 cartons of paperbacks to the campgrount to be held for us… Now I have a Kindle. ummmm, probably would only mail one carton of books…
Cate, you have a Kindle and would still mail a carton of books?! Romance writers everywhere love you!
We just back from vacation and believe me one book would never be enough! I took 4 “real” books AND my Kindle! My husband only took 1 book with him but ended up downloading 3 books using WFI and the also downloaded 4 books he wanted to read the granchildren while we were there.
Needless to say we are a reading family because we also took a big box of books with us which were a comination of books from me, my husband and other sons who live near us for my won and his family we visited. The box contained children books, historical romance, history, thriller, fantasy and biographies thrown in. We are a reading family!
Sally one of the books I read (real book) was An Invitation to Sin and I loved your novella The Naked Prince. I can’t wait to read The Naked King! The new series sounds wonderful and I can’t wait for it’s release. Do you know when is the “preview” short story is going to be released yet? Hopefully there are at least one or two more “Naked” stories to come.
Jeanne, the family that reads together stays together!
My son and daughter-in-law just called. They are still unpacking all their boxes from a move they made over the week-end because of a job relocation for my son (they are now the “proud owners of two homes sinced their other home hasn’t sold yet). They had called to “thank” me for passing on their children’s love of reading and that the first thing they wanted unpacked was their books!
Jeanne, I’m so glad you enjoyed the Prince! No word yet on when the novella for the Duchess of Love will release. I haven’t seen it in revisions or copy edits yet, so it will be a while. I’m thinking in 2012.
I’m loving all the serious readers in this group!
First of all, The Naked King, sounds like a fun read and I would enjoy taking it with me on summer vacation. But another book I’ve been itching to read and can’t seem to get to is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The movie comes out in August and I want to read the book beforehand.
I haven’t yet read The Help, and I’d love to as well.
Congrats to Sally on the new release. I’m a fan of this series. I would bring my copy of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.” It’s one of my favorites and it’s time for a reread.
Jane, I love a good reread. In fact, I often resort to that when I can’t decide on a new read.
If I’m allowed only ONE book, I suppose it should be Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” – it’s a thick book and I’ve been meaning to read it.
Good choice! I’ve been thinking about the book I’d bring. I think it would have to be Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.
Good choice! I’ve read that one twice already (I know, only twice but given the size of my TBR pile…).
Oh, man. I don’t know how many times I’ve read LOS, but I find something new in it every time.
Thanks for having me here, Vanessa, and thanks to everyone who stopped by. I’m beat–been working hard on the new book–so I’m heading off to bed. I check back in the morning to see if anyone’s left a question for me. I’ve got a lot more titles to add to my tbr mountain!
Thanks for being on the blog, Sally!
I would take Pride and Prejudice. It gives me warm fuzzies 😉
Can’t go wrong with P&P!
Just ONE?! Better be a day trip! Probably a Lisa Kleypas. All her books are winners & I would happily re-read any of them.
Snap! I forgot LK, Linda. Yes – there are many of her books that would fit the bill.
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