Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tasha Alexander, Not at all Dangerous to Know!

RHYS: It's funny in our profession how every now and then we come across an alter ego. It happened to me when I first met Jacqueline Winspear. We clicked instantly and had so much in common.
And more recently it's Tasha Alexander, writer of the Lady Emily Ashton novels of suspense. I was first attracted to her books by their gorgeous covers. I'm always skeptical of English historical novels written by Americans but she has a great feel for Victorian England and I was hooked.
Then her books started showing up next to mine on Amazon. You know--people who bought your book also bought.... one by Tasha Alexander.
We met last week at the Bouchercon mystery convention and Tasha was still in that newlywed glow, after her recent wedding to fellow novelist Andrew Grant.
And yes, she really is that gorgeous. It would be easy to hate her but she's also SO NICE!

So welcome to Jungle Red, Tasha. You're a girl from the Mid West, so what drew you to Victorian England?

TASHA; I've been a confirmed Anglophile from an early age. When I was ten, I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and was a little worried about Lizzie when she turned down Mr. Collins's proposal. At the time, I couldn't imagine ANY boy ever liking me, EVEN someone as awful as Mr. Collins, and figured it would probably be the same for Lizzie. As far as I was concerned, she was taking quite a risk hoping for a second chance. Needless to say, I was relieved when it all worked out with Darcy, and celebrated by making paper dolls of all the characters. My paper Lizzie was not kind to my paper Mr. Collins. From then on, I read everything I could get my hands on that was set in England. As I got older, I became more interested in the social history of the Victorian period, particularly the latter part of it. I've always been drawn to its strong women who struggled against social mores and repression to live vibrant, fascinating lives.

RHYS; How did you get a feel for the lifestyle of the British aristocracy?

TASHA;I read a lot: histories, diaries, memoirs, letters. Some of the memoirs published by vanity presses are especially wonderful insights into the period and the people. Just the fact that so many "Great Women" (and men) felt the need to see in print the tales of their experiences is extremely telling. There was certainly was no lack of ego amongst the aristocracy. Also, because I spend loads of time in the UK, I visit houses, which helps give me a concrete sense of how these people lived. Chatsworth is one of my favorites, but there's no shortage of great country estates. Unfortunately, many of best London townhouses were torn down, but there are still some (Spencer House springs to mind) to see.

RHYS:Lady Emily Ashton? In what ways is she like you? Does she lead the life you'd like to read?

TASHA: When I started, I set out to write the book I wanted to read. Emily's like me in some superficial ways--it would be no fun to write about someone who likes things I hate, after all. I've always been fascinated by Classical art and antiquities, love to read, love to travel, and wouldn't object to a nice glass of port. There's lots about her life I envy. I certainly would have no issue having an enormous fortune irrevocably settled upon me, and I'd love to have a house in Mayfair. But Emily is much more impulsive than I am. And I was never married to a viscount....

RHYS:Tell us a little about the new title, Dangerous to Know.

TASHA: Emily has come to the lush Norman countryside in search of respite. Instead, she finds a brutally murdered woman, a ghostly child, and a family being destroyed by hereditary madness. Not to mention a disapproving mother-in-law. Most importantly, however, this book continues developing her character. When I started writing, I wanted to tell the story of a young lady in a repressive time period who found her way to independence. And I wanted to do this in an historically appropriate way. In the first book in the series, Emily underwent an intellectual awakening that led her to start to question her role in society. Over the course of the following books, she branches out more, seeing a world beyond the sheltered, aristocratic one in which she grew up, and has to reconcile her own intellectual and emotional growth with her place in the world.

RHYS: Tasha, I can't let you go without asking you about your recent marriage. How did you meet Andrew? How much time do you plan to spend in England? What do you like about UK better than US and the other way around?

TASHA:We met at Bouchercon in Baltimore. I saw this tall, handsome guy leaning against the bar, and couldn't resist introducing myself. We clicked immediately. By the end of the weekend (most of which we spent sitting on a couch and talking in the hotel lobby until the sun came up), we were already (half) joking about him moving to Chicago. We now spend about a third of our time in England and are constantly diverted by new differences we find between the two countries. I've been converted to craving scampi and chips, am addicted to Boots hand cream, and carry more Fortnum and Mason tea in my suitcase than is probably decent (have to keep my US supplies up!). The wonderful thing about having a foot in each culture is gaining new appreciation for them both--the drawback is it's much more difficult to romanticize either place. That said, Andrew playing Heathcliff and stalking across the moors is a sight to behold.

RHYS: We wish you both a lifetime of happiness and good books! So thank you for visiting us today and the best of luck with Dangerous to Know!

(It is spooky that I have always loved Pride and Prejudice (my hero is called Darcy, after all) and also used to make paper dolls to act things out. And I also come back from England with a suitcase full of tea. If this were a soap opera, you'd be my long lost young sister..or the child I never remembered having!)

Tasha's website is www.tashaalexander.com


  1. Tasha, we're so glad to have you here! That was a wonderful interview ladies...I was big on paper dolls too. Doesn't it make sense that would be a good background for a writer--we were working on our characters way back then.

    Tasha, I love your description of how your character grows and changes--how does mystery and mayhem figure into her life?

  2. Thanks so much for having me!!!

    As for Emily and mystery & mayhem...Initially, she's drawn to detection because she learns her first husband's death wasn't due to natural causes as she'd been led to believe. During her subsequent investigation, she realizes she has an affinity for the work, and comes to like it.

    She's primarily an amateur sleuth, but as the series progresses, she marries again, and her new husband is an agent for the crown. His work puts them in the path of more mystery and mayhem, and allows her to partner with him when circumstances require it. On the one hand, I didn't want her to become "officially" employed, but on the other, I didn't want to kill off her entire circle in order to give her more cases to investigate. This strategy gives me a happy medium.

    Roberta, I think you're on to something with the writer/paper doll connection....

  3. I absolutely love this:

    The wonderful thing about having a foot in each culture is gaining new appreciation for them both--the drawback is it's much more difficult to romanticize either place. That said, Andrew playing Heathcliff and stalking across the moors is a sight to behold.

    Great interview! I was lucky enough to read an early version of Dangerous to Know but am eager to break open the REAL book and read it all again.

  4. Oh, gosh, I remember reading Pride & Prejudice the first time...and the second...and the third. Rereading is like eating your favorite comfort food. You can relish all the misadventure because you know it will all work out in the end, and because JA is so witty.

    You MADE your paper dolls? You, too, Roberta? I got them whenever I was sick and cut them out...maybe that's why I'm smitten with Project Runway.

    Congratulations on the book, Tashs, and your marriage to the very handsome, talented (and lucky in love) Andrew Grant.

  5. Hey Tasha, It's so great to see you over here! You know how much I love your books (and I've turned on family and friends to your books . . . they're so jealous that I "actually know a real writer").

    Can't wait to read this lastest -- your books make me feel like I I'm visiting with a dear friend way "back in the day" (as my kids would say).

  6. Carrie, you'd like the moors.

    Hallie, you couldn't be more right about rereading. It's the ultimate comfort food--especially when it's P&P. There's real genius in writing a story that stands up to multiple readings. Even though we know the end, we are DESPERATE to see it all work out.

    Do you notice, though, that what you take from the book changes depending on what stage you're at while (re)reading? My views now are much different than they were when I first read P&P. And they changed again when I was in college, etc. etc.

  7. Aw, Judy, thanks! I'll be crossing fingers you like it....

    It's great to see you here!

  8. Hey, Tasha! So lovely to see you..I have a great pal who was there "that night in Baltimore" and her face still glows when she remembers it. Apparently it was quite a moment. And it's such fun to see you both so happy.

    ANd I have a great photo of you two at Murder 203 that I keep forgetting to send you...its on my list now!

    And hey--me, too, on paper dolls. So funny. I didn't make them, but I loved playing with them. The cutting out of the clothes was my favorite, and then I would trace the shapes and design new clothes. MUCH better than real dolls. Robeta, I agree, you may be on to something.

    Congratulations, Tasha! (And wouldn't it be fun if you actually were Rhys' long lost sister?)

  9. Awww, Hank! That's so sweet! I love that other people remember the moment. Boy it was a good one--and even better with so many sharing in it!

    I'm kinda missing my paper dolls now. Maybe we should make them for our books.

    And I very much like the idea of being Rhys's long-lost sister!

  10. Paper dolls! Gosh, I haven't thought about that in years, but I was a fanatic with them! I'd use about anything I could find to make their houses--including the living room pillows for walls! I guess all of us started as kids with our storytelling.
    Great interview, Tasha! I'll be downloading your book to Kindle today. Thanks again, JR, for another wonderful author profile.

  11. You guys have given me a brilliant idea--how about paper dolls of our heroines as a give-away?
    Isn't it interesting that we all liked paper dolls. An attempt to control a big frightening universe, Roberta would probably explain. Bring it down to our size so that we can manipulate it.

  12. Hi Tasha,
    Welcome to Jungle Red. I had the same reaction to Pride and Prejudice, which I've read about five times.

    Just came back from England where they were reporting NEW research showing that Jane Austen was an incredibly sloppy writer with all sorts of mispellings and grammatical errors in the original P&P.

    As a fellow sloppy first drafter, that info made me love Jane Austen and P&P all the more.

  13. Rebbie, thank you! I hope you like it!

    Rhys, I would enter a contest to win paper dolls....

    Jan, I read that article and am very glad to be in good company when it comes to writing sloppy first drafts!

  14. I think it is great you ladies introduce other writers and their work.

    Hello Tasha. I am also a Midwestern and confirmed Anglophile. I started reading Agatha Christie's books when I was a teenager.

  15. Melissa, great to meet you! I remember going through every Agatha Christie.....

  16. Hi Tasha,

    Great interview! All things that I would have loved to ask you during the lunch we shared at the last Bouchercon, if I wasnt having so much fun chatting with everyone. I discovered Emily in Only to Deceive and have enjoyed her growth ever since. I look forward to reading about her new adventure.