What was the initial spark that put this story in your head?
Expecting Royal Twins had a long journey from initial spark to what was actually published. I originally pitched a story to my editor via email called Princess Nobody in November 2007. It was a Plain Jane/Cinderella romance with a royal marriage of convenience added in.
I've always loved stories where a character finds out they're not who they thought they were. Think Princess Diaries, one of my daughters' favorite movies. I was given the go-ahead, but then was offered a spot in a trilogy in February 2008. The royalty idea got put on the back burner once again in June 2008 after Harlequin Romance scheduled a royalty trilogy.
When I was at the San Francisco RWA conference in July of 2008, another royalty story popped into my head. There was still a Cinderella element and also a marriage of convenience, but with a little twist. What if they were married, but neither the hero nor heroine knew it? I quickly filled out Blake Snyder's beat sheet. I knew the line didn't want any royalty themed stories so I just played around with it whenever I had a little free time.
In late 2009, I asked if I could do a royalty book after I finished another manuscript. I told my editor I'd written about 60 rough pages and thought I'd found the story which was a combo of what I'd pitched her before and the new idea. In early 2010, my editor asked to see what I had as-is.
Talk about a worst nightmare. I'm a draft writer. Rough really doesn't begin to describe the writing at this stage of the process. But I emailed the pages anyway sure my career was over. She said she appreciated this was a draft and saw the potential for Harlequin Romance. She asked me to polish the pages into a proposal and submit them. Here's what she said about the "polished" proposal:
Melissa, this story has so much potential – it is a pure fantasy with Ellie discovering she is a real life Princess and being whisked off to a castle in a faraway land! I do have some points for revision to make sure that the characters remain sympathetic and contemporary, and the premise remains believable.
The original proposal began in Vernonia, Oregon with a heroine who was a motel maid named Elliana. (Yes, I was taking the Cinderella archetype to heart.) My then-editor Joanne Grant had written three bullet points with various ideas/questions for me to address in the revisions.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn't fix the proposal. The heroine wasn't working. She wasn't contemporary enough. I needed to start over with a brand new heroine, someone completely different. The spark of the idea was still there, but I had to rethink everything else. The royal twins remained since the book had been pushed up in the schedule to be part of February 2011 Babies and Brides promotion.
It seems that most authors use something from their own lives, or the lives of people they know as an integral part of the story. Is there anything in this story like that? What?
I wish I could say I was a long-lost princess, but Expecting Royal Twins is a fairytale, a pure fantasy as my editor wrote. I did use my love of auto racing to come up with Izzy's dream of working on a pit crew. In my mid-to-late twenties, I worked on a pit crew, went to kart racing school and attended car races all over the country.
More integral to the story was the help I received from other people. I reconnected with a guy I knew from a rival high school via Facebook. Roger Carstens graduated from West Point, spent time in the Balkans and starred in the TV show, "The Wanted." He helped me to better understand the Balkan region and gave me a soldier's perspective, providing me with insights into my prince hero who had fought in his country's civil war. Roger introduced me to a friend of his, John Fenzel, who is not only in the Army but also the author of a novel set in the Balkans. Both of them were very helpful suggesting research materials and answering my questions.
Does this story background relate to previous or future books? In what way?
One of the secondary characters in Expecting Royal Twins, Princess Julianna from Aliestle, was also a secondary character in my Silhouette Romance April 2000 release titled, If the Ring Fits….
I've wanted to write her story for over a decade! I finally got the chance following Expecting Royal Twins. In July 2011, Julianna gets her shot at a happily ever after in my Harlequin Romance titled Not-So-Perfect Princess.
All three stories are stand-alone books so it's not necessary to read one before the others. I hope to write Julianna's crown prince brother's story one of these days.
Is there a particular scene in this book that you really loved when you finished it? If so, which one and why?
The wedding scene! It's actually three scenes since I switch to the hero's POV in the middle. Not only are the hero and heroine getting married, but it's their first kiss, too! I had my reasons for holding off on a kiss until then. I hope that works for the readers.
As to why that scene, I love weddings. I think there's something extra special about royal weddings, too. I remember when I was a teenager lying on the couch at my aunt's house really early one morning so I could watch Diana Spencer marry Prince Charles. I'm sure I'll be doing the same thing when Kate Middleton marries Prince Williams.
If someone wants to check out your backlist based on loving this story, where would you suggest they start? Or which books would be in a similar vein?
Most, if not all, of my books are in a similar vein. The Cinderella archetype is a favorite of mine (even when the heroines have money of their own) and many of my stories could be considered modern day fairy tales. My backlist is available on my website.
Expecting Royal Twins is the only book, with the exception of my very first called Fiance For the Night, with anything resembling a love scene. My books are very traditional romance (aka sweet) reads.
If I had to pick specific titles most similar to this one, I'd say If the Ring Fits…, The Billionaire's Wedding Masquerade, Plain Jane's Prince Charming and Memo: The Billionaires Proposal. Unfortunately the Silhouette Romance titles are out of print, but can be found at used bookstores.
Thank you, Melissa, for taking time to join us at Behind the Book! Readers, hurry to buy Expecting Royal Twins and have it read before the upcoming Royal Wedding. The combination will be dynamite.