28 June 2011

Elyse Mady, Guest Author

I love having Elyse Mady visit. Not only does she write great books (no, I'm not biased. Check out this review from Drea at Judging a Book by Its Pages), she's a wonderful interviewee -- did you know about Jane Austen's "borrowing" tendencies? Also, there's a ***giveaway***. Elyse has generously put a digital copy of her latest book, Learning Curves up for grabs. So share your favourite title in the comments and go in the draw to win!

Well, first off, thanks for having me to visit, Jenny! I'm glad to be back. I'm really excited to be talking about my new novel, Learning Curves. It's a departure for me, because my first published book was a historical novella and this story is a sexy contemporary. With a hero who takes his clothes off for a living! Yum.

“Learning Curves” is a fantastic title. Do you have any title favourites? (I like “Pride and Prejudice”.)

I think titles are so important - after all, before a reader can even flip over to read the back cover copy, they've read the title and if doesn't draw them in, they're not going to be interested in what's between the covers.  Some of my books title themselves really easily.  Others are more challenging.  Happily though Leanne and Brandon's story seemed to know what it wanted to be called right from the rough note stage.    Much more appealing than calling it "Untitled" all the time!

Some of my favourite titles are Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel "Love in a Time of Cholera" and the wonderful poetic autobiography "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept" by Canadian writer Elizabeth Smart.   Both authors explore love but their viewpoints are so different, it's really fascinating.  One so visceral and uncontrolled, the other this carefully paced and elegant dissection of what love and marriage are throughout the characters' lives.

P&P is a great title, too, although I think I'm a smidge more partial to "Persuasion".  Did you know that Jane Austen actually borrowed the title of "Pride and Prejudice" from Frances Burney?  Burney used it first in her novel, "Cecilia: Memoirs of an Heiress"?

How about favourite places of learning, given the setting of Learning Curves? (Oxford? kindergarten class? archaeological dig?)

I've always loved school.  Setting the story at a university seemed a really natural fit for me.  After all, university campuses are these odd little microcosms, with thousands and thousands of (usually) young people, contained and in close proximity.   Romance is going to happen, which comes as quite a surprise for Leanne, the heroine, who's been focused on nothing but her books for a long time.  Meeting Brandon throws her off balance and it was so much fun watching both of them struggle to regain their equilibrium in the face of falling in love when they are both convinced it's the last thing they want right now.  I used many of my own experiences as a graduate student when I was writing this book but since I went back and did my Masters after I was married (and had two very young children), my student life was obviously different than Leanne's.  No male strippers for me.  ;)  But that's why I'm a writer - what doesn't happen in real life, I can just majick it up with my imagination for somebody else.

But my favourite place of learning has to be a library.  Public, school, university stacks: I love wandering the aisles, hunting for a book.   And I'm on a first name basis with my Interlibrary loan coordinator at my local library (*waves* Hi Stacey!).  What's not to love when you can track down any title and have it delivered right to you, for free??  Just last week I finished a biography on Beau Brummell and another on the courtesan, Harriet Wilson.  I think librarians are one of the most important people in all of the educational system - they bring the written word - electronic, printed, ephemeral - to everyone who wants to learn.   That role can't be underestimated.

Name your favourite word in any language, and why.


It means "rubber" in French.  It just rolls off the tongue.  It's like a nonsense sound, that actually means something.

I sincerely hope this doesn't provide some horrible Freudian insight into my subconscious minds, btw. :) I just like words that sound good, too.   I'm actually reading my words out loud as I type - I find writing silently difficult, because for me the sound and the rhythms that the words make are integral to my writing process.   I read everything out - it helps me distinguish characters' voices and tells me if my pacing is appropriate, too.

Caoutchouc :)

Favourite food to eat while writing?

Well, I don't know if *I* have a favourite writing food, but I know where my food's favourite place to go is...straight to my hips! :)

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be? and what would you ask them? (well, that’s almost a favourite question).

A fictional character I'd like to meet.   Hmm...I think I'd chose Newland Archer, from Edith Wharton's gilded age novel, "The Age of Innocence".  He's someone who's always fascinated me, in large part because of his control and his deep-seated need to behave appropriately.   I'd ask him why, at the end of the novel, he decides against going up to Ellen's apartment in Paris.  He's loved her his entire life and yet he prefers the Ellen of his memories than to the possibility of the Ellen in his here and now.   That's a really interesting choice for me, and obviously for the character, a deeply personal one.  Newland and Ellen love each other.  They've loved each other their whole lives and yet when they are both finally free, he retreats. Why?

Finally, share one of your favourite moments from Learning Curves.

From her miniscule office window, Leanne saw students, well wrapped against the fall chill, hurrying across the quad below. Located in an old, cramped building near the center of campus, the English department was understaffed and overcrowded.

And while she’d tried to make the space a little more cheerful, bringing in a small plant and hanging some funny—well, okay, relatively funny—quotes from great writers, the window remained the only perk in an otherwise awkward space that was sweltering in summer and damp in winter. But Leanne knew that as a graduate student, she was lucky to have secured any office, even this one.
Sighing, she abandoned the view and sized up the thick stack of term papers she’d collected during the last lecture. Determined, she opened one, but before she’d corrected the first run-on sentence, memories of the weekend hijacked her thoughts.
Ever since their wild encounter and subsequent humiliating discovery, she’d undertaken some serious soul searching, asking herself again and again what kind of person would abandon her so-called principles at the drop of a hat—or a bathrobe—for a pathetic thrill with some guy she picked up in a strip club. Even if he did have washboard abs and a killer smile.
And was hung like a Greek god…
Her devil-may-care side had chipped in a lot over the past forty-eight hours.
Until Saturday, she hadn’t even known it existed. She’d always played it safe. Done the expected and never strayed outside the lines. Now, she was discovering that she also had a Leanne-cares-a-lot side too.
The aftermath of their encounter had been awkward and tacky. Although the other dancers apologized profusely for their ill-timed interruption, there was no ignoring the subtle signs of approval they telegraphed their coworker. Or Brandon’s stony embarrassment, clearly conveyed despite his near-catatonic silence.
Dressing hurriedly, trying not to meet his eye, knowing the scorn and condemnation she would see in his face, she’d barely been able to look up from the floor. Only as she left the room had he spoken.
“Are you okay to get home?”
She’d turned, perplexed, all her thoughts focused on escape. “I don’t understand.”
“Do you have a way to get home? Will your friends make sure you get there safely?”
She shook her head and tried to overcome the after-effects of their incredible sex. There was no way she could face Gillian and the bombed bridesmaids. She’d rather be drawn and quartered. “No. But I can grab the bus or find a taxi…”
His lips thinned. “You’re not walking alone at this time of night,” he’d said angrily and picked up the radio from the dressing table. “Jay…Jay…come in…”
“Hey, Brandon. What’s up?”
“I need you to do me a favor.”
In the end, the bouncer waited with her out front until the taxi arrived. And when she reached her apartment, she discovered Brandon had also arranged for the fare to be taken care of, the driver making a show of the brightly colored chit he’d collected at the club.
Yet as she lay awake in bed that night, her body still thrumming with the incredible sensations he’d awoken, it hadn’t been his sexual prowess she remembered as much as his thoughtfulness, his protectiveness. He’d made sure she’d been looked after.
Maybe, she thought, if I went back to the club, we could meet again…
The notion of returning to the strip club brought her back to earth like a cold dash of water. What the hell was she thinking? Brandon was an exotic dancer; she was an academic in training. The sex might have been great but what would they ever talk about outside of bed? They had nothing in common. Nothing at all.
Now, as she shifted restlessly in her rickety office chair, she knew she had to put Saturday night behind her. She’d been over this and over this all weekend and the conclusion was always the same. So what if she’d had the greatest sex of her life? For him, it was probably just another anonymous sexual encounter. She should treat it the same way.
Trying to muster her willpower, she turned her attention to the next paper.
Bryon’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” is an important poem because it’s a really romantic poem about Harold and not the crazy sister that Bryon liked to sleep with.
Oh boy. Not an auspicious start, when even the poet’s name was spelled incorrectly.
The office door opened, and Cassandra Murphy, a fellow doctoral candidate and Leanne’s best friend, rescued her from reading another torturous line.
“Tell me again why earning this degree was a good idea,” she moaned as she laid a stack of books on the adjoining desk. “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs—I should be clear of it shortly before retirement—and Julia and I decorate with milk crates while eating no-name macaroni. My comps are in two months and I already feel like flinging myself from the observatory tower.” She threw herself dramatically into a chair. “I have been reading, I am reading, I will be reading.”
Leanne smiled sympathetically. She remembered how harried and emotionally drained she’d felt when she faced her own monumental two-day comprehensive exams last year.
“You’ll more than survive. You’ll blow them all away and get the green light to begin writing your thesis, which will wow the entire academy and make them say ‘Judith Butler who?’”
At the mention of the oft-controversial lesbian theorist, Cassandra grinned.
“I’d be willing to share the stage with her. As long as I get top billing in the conference programs.” Reaching for the shelf where they kept their not so emergency cookie stash, she continued between mouthfuls, “Julia had good news, though. She’s had her abstract accepted for the next MLA conference. It’s in St. Paul.”
For a moment, Leanne was distracted by the great news. Only the best humanities scholars were accepted to present at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference and being chosen was a huge feather in Julia’s cap. “That’s fantastic. I hope you took her out to celebrate.”
“I never need a reason to celebrate with the woman I love.” Cassandra laughed. “But yes, I let her supersize the fries and the drink. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.” Her eyes sharpened. “Wasn’t this the weekend for the ghastly Gillian’s hen party? Did you end up going? How was it? Really, really awful or just sorta-kinda awful?”
I had the best sex of my life and three orgasms, all within half an hour of meeting a perfect stranger.
“Not bad.”
“Right.” Cassandra snorted. “I’ve met Gillian. Fun and Gillian don’t usually travel together. So, tell me, did the bride-to-be get falling-down drunk and do something tacky and embarrassing? And if she did, puh-lease tell me you got pictures.”
“Well, Gillian didn’t…”
“Ooh, that sounds promising.” Cassandra rolled her chair over, straddling it with her long legs. Leaning over its back, her chin resting on her arms, she smirked. “Let me guess. You went to the strip club, got wildly drunk and had noisy, kinky, public sex with a total stranger before being discovered in a compromising position.”
“Um…yeah. That’s about the size of it,” she admitted before hastily qualifying her statement by adding, “but I wasn’t drunk.”
Dead silence.

Thanks again for having me, Jenny.  I'd love to give away a copy of my book to one of your readers.  I've been blabbering on about my favourite things so I thought turnabout is fair play.  I'd love to know what their favourite title is and why, too?  You can choose one lucky winner and I'll send them a copy of my new book, Learning Curves in their choice of e-format!

Learning Curves by Elyse Mady

Leanne Galloway has no time for dating; her focus is on launching her academic career. Dragged along to her childhood frenemy Gillian’s bachelorette party at a male strip club, she just wants to get through the evening—but she can’t help interfering when Gillian sends a note to a sexy dancer proposing a hot hookup.

Brandon Myles is working backstage at the Foxe’s Den to fund his post-graduate studies in dance, but he’s forced onstage when the headliner fails to show up. He feels a surprisingly strong connection with a quiet woman watching from a table full of tipsy bridesmaids, and he’s delighted when she appears backstage after his set.

After a scorching spontaneous encounter, Leanne and Brandon agree to go their separate ways. But they’re both grad students on a small campus, and avoiding each other and denying their attraction won’t work for long, especially when a jealous rival appears, determined to ruin both their academic careers.

Learning Curves by Elyse Mady available from Carina Press and other fine e-book retailers June 20th, 2011


  1. Enjoyed the interview Jenny! I think one of my favorite titles is ASHES IN THE WIND....love that book. One of the only civil war era books I read or will read...

  2. Ivy - I read that! I hadn't thought I had until I googled the title and up popped the cover. Then I knew it, all purple and misty and clenchy. Good ol' Kathy W :) She made up a big chunk of my grandma's bookshelf and by extension, mine, when I was a teenager!

  3. Congratulations on Learning Curves, Elyse. I love the cover, but "Untitled" does have a certain charm to it. :)

    Great interview, Jenny and Elyse!

  4. Don't take this as an entry for the book as I've already bought my copy *grin* but just wanted to stop by and read. These are fabulous interview questions - really thought provoking. My fave title I've ever read so far is 'I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes' - and it was a great read too :)
    Good luck with your release Elyse - it sounds right up my alley and I can't wait to read it.

  5. I know! She was my intro to historicals & of course Rosemary Rogers. She gets trashed a lot now but I still have the SSL series. Did you ever read Moonstruck Madness? Loved her! She was a highwayman, how's that for kick ass?

  6. btw, your book sounds really good...sorry, got a bit carried away..;)

  7. Learning Curves sounds wonderful, Elyse! Hmm, my favorite title is probably Halfway to the Grave. Just sounds spooky and ominous and reminds me of my love, Bones, LOL

    Cari Quinn

    email: cariquinnauthor@gmail.com

  8. Oooh! books I haven't read. I don't know this Kathy W at all. (will Google!) As for "I have a bed made of buttermilk pancakes" -- that is a terrific title.

    As for my fave title, there are lots. There's something brilliant about the simplicity of "Thud" by Terry Pratchett. Then again, I'm a Pratchett fangirl. I also love alliteration, so Lisa Shearin's "Bewitched and Betrayed" is a fave. Do you know the title I hate? "The Great Gatsby", but then, I hated the book too (philistine that I am).

  9. TGG is one of the few I could deal w/. Hate Conrad, Hemingway et al...boring and ponderous. Kathleen Woodiwiss...have fun.

  10. Ivy, I haven't ever ventured to read Hemingway. Will trust you and continue to steer clear of him :)

    Kathleen Woodiwiss! *facepalm* I have read about her and her work. Just haven't managed to read any. *glares at clock, which refuses to add more hours to the day*

    Cari -- "Halfway to the Grave" caught my eye the first time I saw the title. It is a fab one.

  11. Jenny, I know what you mean about the hrs...thanks for the trust..:)

    FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT sounded good & is on my tbrmountain...*huge sigh*...

  12. I am at a loss for titles, but I wanted to come by and say hi to Elyse anyway.

    You rock, woman!


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