FAQ Category: About the Author

What are your favorite books?

Books with beautiful prose and deep emotion transport me.  I love a good laugh, super smart characters, and page-turning action, too.  Below is my go-to list of authors* for utterly satisfying reads and some new favorites too.  They cover romance, mystery, adventure, historical fiction, fantasy, and even non-fiction.

Ilona Andrews, romance – A superlatively great writing team. The Edge was my first and I couldn’t put it down.

Liz Carlyle,  romance – Her first dozen historical romances were exceptional: rich, dramatic, gorgeously written. The Devil You Know is one of my favorite romance novels ever.

Alyssa Cole, romance – An Extraordinary Union is one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read.

Tracy Deonn, young adult fantasy – Legendborn, a modern young-adult retake on the Arthurian legend, is amazing and I cannot wait for the follow up.  Also, it was an instant New York Times bestseller.

Sonali Dev, romance – Gorgeous and moving contemporary-set love stories. Dev’s newest novel, Recipe for Persuasion, is in my pantheon of favorite romances alongside A Distant Heart.

Meredith Duran, romance – One of the best historical romance novelists there is.  Duran writes rich and passionate romances with fascinating history. Luck Be a Lady is among my favorites.

Umberto Eco, fiction – Mind-blowing intelligent prose that unashamedly delights in language, twisty plots, and great big mysteries.  For a 1980’s take on conspiracy theorists that’s shockingly on target in 2020, read his brain-teasing Foucault’s Pendulum.

Georgette Heyer, romance and historical fiction – Considered the mother of “Regency” romances, Heyer wrote smart, unique and marvelously funny romances as well as fascinating historical novels.  Try The Masqueraders first — it’s amazing.

N.K. Jemisin, science fiction – The Broken Earth trilogy is the absolute pinnacle of what science fiction can be: moving, thrilling, inspiring, meaningful, brilliant, perfect.

Beverly Jenkins, romance – Strong women fighting for justice, honorable men doing the same, and real history, Jenkins’s romances are the gold standard.  I’m particularly fond of her historicals, including my favorite Indigo, but her contemporary romances are fantastic too (and one is a movie!).

Laurie R. King, mystery – Years ago, and not yet a mystery fan, I discovered King’s Mary Russell series. I’ve been hooked ever since.  Island of the Mad, is so good in so many ways that as soon as I finished reading it I sat down and wrote a hand-written fan letter.

Laura Kinsale, romance – One of the best historical romance authors of all time.  Emotional, passionate, dark, dramatic: her novels are everything I love about romance.  My favorite is The Prince of Midnight, but each is uniquely wonderful.

Jeannie Lin, romance – I absolutely adore Lin’s historical romances set in Tang dynasty-era China.  One of my all-time favorite heroes of romance fiction is The Sword Dancer‘s Han.

Caroline Linden, romance – Linden’s multi-award winning historical romances are cast with warm, wonderful real people I’d like to make friends with IRL, and their love stories are so satisfying.

Tracey Livesay, romance – Smart writing, strong and professional heroines, and heroes who are actually good men that respect women and sexier because of it.  Livesay’s books are my go-to’s for contemporary romance.

Tahereh Mafi, young adult – Mafi’s Shatter Me series is so good I couldn’t put it down till I’d finished every book in the series, and I couldn’t think of anything else for weeks afterward.

Courtney Milan, romance – Wonderful writing, compelling stories, perfect romance. Choose any novel or novella — all are fabulous — and sink into heaven.

Madeline Miller, historical – Miller’s prose is a gift to readers.  The next time someone insists that we don’t need to study “women’s” history because all history includes women, I’m going to hand them Circe.  It’s fiction based on Greek mythology that upends the story.

Kate Morton, fiction – You sink into these stories about women and men and love, connecting different times, and don’t come out till you’ve read the final page.  They are perfect summer reads.  My favorite is The Lake House, but I love them all.

Naomi Novik, fantasy – Uprooted made me a Novik fan for life. Beautiful and fun storytelling, protagonists I adore, and utterly satisfying prose.

Michelle Obama, memoir – I enjoyed Becoming so completely that I wanted to read it again right away.

Nnedi Okorafor, science fiction/fantasy – Akata Witch was the fabulous start of my adventure with Okorafor’s books. I instantly cared about this group of kids and their adventures.  For one of her fabulous short stories and a terrific interview where she talks about Africanjujism (and offers a definition that resonates with me profoundly), check out the wonderful LeVar Burton Reads podcast.

Priscilla Oliveras, romance – “Contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor,” Oliveras’s romances offer casts full of strong women, warm and wonderful families, and incredibly romantic love stories.

Ashley Poston, young adult romantic comedy – Once Upon a Con novels are light, funny and sweetly moving. Perfect weekend sit-in-the-hammock reads.

Terry Pratchett, fantasy, mystery, etc. – Fantasy, fun, shenanigans… Pratchett is a genius.  Start with The Wee Free Men and you’re off!

Mary Jo Putney, romance – My first favorite historical romances ever, and still among my favorites.

Julia Quinn, romance – Quinn’s love stories redefined historical romance (and, not incidentally, inspired me to write romance).  They’re all wonderful, but I think my favorite remains An Offer from a Gentleman.

Vanessa Riley, romance – One of my favorite Regency historical romance authors, every book a delight.

Maya Rodale, romance – Maya’s books are a breath of fresh air and my go-to for smart, charming historical romance.  Her new Alice & Gabby’s Excellent Adventure is a fabulous romp about friendship and heart.

Theresa Romain, romance – Tender, romantic historical romance featuring women who know their own worth and truly decent men, Romain’s books are a delicious dose of sanity in a mad world.  Bonus: they’re brilliantly researched history.

Barbara Claypole White, contemporary fiction – The love stories White weaves and the struggles and triumphs of her neuro-non-typical characters are deeply moving.  The Perfect Son tops my favorites list, but they’re all beautiful.

Connie Willis, science fiction – Willis writes science fiction for history lovers, and every one of her novels is amazing.  Each Christmas season I reread Miracle & Other Stories — it’s that good.  The Doomsday Book is a must-read.

I add to this list regularly. Check back soon for more!

* If an author you adore doesn’t appear on this list, it could be that I just haven’t gotten around to including them, or I’ve never read their books. If you’ve a favorite author or book you’d like me to try in any genre, drop me an email.

When you begin working on a book, what do you do first? Research? Brainstorm? Plot?

The couple comes first. The hero and heroine’s romantic, emotional, and sensual dynamic are the heartbeat of every story, and they’re the reason for everything else in the book. All else follows.

Usually one comes to me before the other, but pretty quickly the other follows. For instance, for Captured by a Rogue Lord, whose hero is a Robin Hood-like pirate, I was writing the first chapter when his first lieutenant, Jin Seton, started speaking. After about two lines of Jin’s speech I knew that Jin had to have his own story. It was that clear, that quickly. And Jin told me that his heroine had to be Viola. I know it sounds kind of crazy, but that’s really how it happens most of the time! Jin and Viola’s love story became How To Be a Proper Lady.

On other occasions, the couples come to me at the same moment, as when I was planning my ghost Regency Captive Bride (which itself was a wonderfully mystical experience that happened in Wales), or with Eleanor and Taliesin in I Loved a Rogue, when I knew the moment I wrote the prologue to the first book in that series everything about their love story from the first glance onward.

The Duke offers a great example of my usual process: Amarantha said she wanted Gabriel as her hero. First I researched tons about Scotland and the Royal Navy and Jamaica and all sorts of other things (like whisky distilleries!). Then I started writing, I researched more, brainstormed with trusted friends, and finally finished a draft and shared it with friends who are romance lovers and scholars for feedback. After that I did some rewriting and editing, and–voila!–the novel was ready to publish.