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?