Interview with John Charles on The Booklist Reader!

10 Questions for Minerva Spencer

Rising romance star Minerva Spencer launched her writing career with the publication of Dangerous, the first installment in The Outcasts, her Regency-set historical trilogy, in 2018. Dangerous would go on to earn a spot on Booklist’s Top 10 Debut Romances: 2018. And it was was soon followed by Barbarous, which was chosen as one of BookPage’s 14 Most Anticipated Romances of Fall 2018; and Scandalous, which just earned a rave starred review from Publishers Weekly. A transplanted Canadian, Spencer now lives happily in New Mexico on her four-acre hobby farm with an assortment of animals and a terribly tolerant husband.

Who is Minerva Spencer?

This is not a very flattering admission, but when it comes to writing, Minerva Spencer is a messy, disorganized, seat-of-my pants maniac. Just like in every other part of my life, I’m impulsive when it comes to how I tell my stories. When the muse comes to visit, I’ve written as many as 60 pages in a single day.

Of course I’m just as likely to cut all that the following day.

Here is a recent example of how my writing style can sometimes be painful: two nights ago I woke up at 1:53 a.m. convinced I needed to cut 50 pages from my current work in progress. Fifty pages represents about four average days’ work at the rough draft stage; so cutting 50 pages means throwing away four days of work. Anyhow, I dithered and tossed and generally kept Mr. Spencer from having a restful sleep until I finally put on my slippers, made a cup of coffee, and excised those pages with the ruthless precision of a surgeon.

I immediately felt better and could go back to sleep.

My writer friends who plot, plan, and outline listen to those kind of stories with expressions of horror. I’ve tried to make outlines in the past and it has been a waste of time. I might not always like my writing style, but it’s the only one that works for me.

Tell us about your new book, Scandalous.

I know authors aren’t supposed to say they have a favorite book (kind of like saying you prefer one of your children better than the others) but I have a serious soft spot for Scandalous.

I adore Martín Bouchard, the hero in Scandalous. I love the stuff that comes out of his mouth, no matter how obnoxious it is. As I was editing the story and getting it ready for publication I was definitely tempted to make Martín more acceptable to mainstream, modern sensibility. He is far from perfect and often behaves in ways that don’t cast him in a favorable light. For example, I was tempted to make him more sensitive, less arrogant, and get rid of his habit of hanging around brothels.

It’s lucky for me I have an awesome editor who loved Martín, warts and all, and didn’t want me to sanitize either his dark past or his less-than-proper behavior.

Martín might be mercurial, conceited, and selfish at times, but he is also loyal, brave, loving, and principled. Oh, he’s hot. Like, REALLY hot.

And he knows it.

When you have a character like Martín, who could easily turn into a story hog, you have to be very careful about who you pair with him.

Not only do I love Martín, but Sarah is one of the best heroines I’ve written. I’m not a religious person, but I believe that Sarah portrays the best of what organized religion purports to be, without making her into a Pollyanna in the process.

Sarah is loving, kind, open, and giving without being judgmental or rigid, but she’s human, so she’s beset by doubts and struggles to forgive. She’s also consumed by wanton, distinctly improper impulses toward Martín, even when she knows her reaction is impious and probably foolish given his reputation as a world-class rake incapable of love.

The story itself is a wonderful combination of “road trip” (they are on a ship for about half of the book) and glitzy London ballrooms.

Martín is an escaped slave who has made a fortune as a privateer, but he’s got secrets in his past he is less than eager to share. Sarah was born and raised in the jungles of West Africa, but being the child of strict missionary parents meant that she always felt somewhat isolated from her friends and neighbors in the village she considered her home.

The two outcasts bicker and banter their way to London while tentatively exploring each other’s hearts (okay, and bodies). This is definitely a story in which the journey is as exciting and enjoyable as the destination.

You have had a somewhat colorful career path. Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.

I laughed out loud when I read this question.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that it occurred to me you were supposed to pick one career and stick to that. How is that possible when life has so many fascinating options?

did have a plan—of sorts—but it has never bothered me to deviate from plans.

I went to undergrad and graduate school for history and then taught on the college level for five years. I only had a part-time position and eventually decided I had two options if I was going to make a career that would support me: pursue a doctorate or do something else entirely.

What I’m about to tell you is the height of irony considering where I’ve ended up. I decided the publish or perish nature of academics—not to mention the ridiculous degree of specialization often required these days (best description of this I’ve ever read is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis)—coupled with the constant wrangling with one’s peers over minutiae, were all things I wanted to avoid.

Having come to that conclusion, I then decided the law would be a less fraught and more straightforward career. (I never told you I made rational decisions!)

I went into law school thinking I’d specialize in tax law, the least glamorous of all legal fields. I figured that would be the perfect job for an introvert. I could work for some firm that would tuck me away in a room somewhere and leave me to myself.

True to form, I never even interviewed for a tax position. Instead, my second job out of law school was that of criminal prosecutor at the Harris County Prosecutor’s office, the fourth largest DA’s office in the country. So, it wasn’t the most laid-back and low-key of positions. My first day on the job I was given an office stuffed with cases and told I had 21 trials scheduled for the next week.

About five years after graduating law school I decided the law wasn’t for me.

At the time my husband was working for a Nigerian company and spent a good deal of time in cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, where people in his business were often kidnapped or shot.

My legal training served me well and I was able to convince him he should quit his dangerous job and we should strike out on our own.

I had owned a bar with my ex-husband years before (did I forget to mention that career?) and knew my current husband and I were too old to live that lifestyle.

Anyhow, I somehow convinced my very traditional spouse—who’d been in the same career for almost 40 years—to jump ship after only four months of research (about three and a half months more than I usually did before making major life decisions) and buy a bed and breakfast. Because, you know, having thousands of strangers visit your house every year is such an excellent job choice for an introvert.

We ran the inn for eight. Long. Years. At the end of that time, in 2013, I seriously needed a break. For the first time in my life I had no idea what I was going to do next. My husband told me to relax, sleep in, and read a lot of books. That’s what I did for a couple of months. And then one day a story came to me while I was on a six-hour round-trip drive to the airport.

I came home and wrote the story down. And then I wrote another (without taking the drive first, this time) and another.

I wrote a pile of stories before a good friend convinced me in early 2017 that I needed to send them off to somebody.

In terms of publishing, I won the lottery and the fifth query letter I sent out got me my first three-book publishing contract.

I love my current job better than any I’ve ever had. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep writing books for as long as I’m having fun. If I ever stop enjoying what I’m doing, I’ll look into going to vet school . . .

What is the book (or are the books) that hooked you as a reader on romance fiction?

I think it is amazing that I actually remember the exact book: The Devil on Horseback, by Victoria Holt. It was the first romance I read and I was titillated by the taboo nature of the relationship (May-December). I recall finding it hard to believe that the young heroine could find the hero—a 35 year-old geezer—attractive. Yes, I was very young.

What three words best describe your own writing style?

Intense, emotional, unpredictable.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received about writing?

Write what you like, because if you don’t like it, nobody else will, either.

If you could be one character in literature for a day, which character would you choose, and why?

Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I still check out wardrobes from time to time.

What role do chickens play in your life?

I suppose some people (er, Mr. Spencer, maybe) would say I’m a tad obsessed with chickens. Yes, I love all birds, but chickens—one of the most abused animals on the planet—have a special place in my heart.

I’ve had a small poultry rescue for the last eleven years. I don’t buy chicks from hatcheries after learning how horrible they are (think puppy mill, but with cute fuzzy chicks!) so my flock only increases when I take in a new rescue.

Most of my birds are older because people don’t want them anymore when they don’t lay as many eggs. The second category of rescue is birds who were the sole survivors of predator attacks. For example, my newest rescue—a duck hen we’ve named Mrs. Nelly Quackenbush—was the only survivor after a bobcat got into somebody’s coop and killed 25 other birds.

Because we keep four Great Pyrenees guard dogs patrolling the property we rarely have to concern ourselves with predators.

Over the years I’ve gained enough expertise about their illnesses that the local vet has called me more than once to ask me about chicken issues in her own flock.

I guess you could say I truly love chickens. If you know of any needing a good home, bring ‘em on over.

What is next for you as a writer?

I’ve written sci-fi, detective, and fantasy stories as well as a whole lot of historical romance. I’m lucky that my agent, Pam Hopkins, encourages me to write what I like. In addition to continuing writing romances, I’m hoping you will see my name pop up in one of these other genres at some point.

How can readers best connect with you?

You can check out my website: minervaspencer.com if you want to learn more about my books or bird obsession. If you have a question it’s best to contact me by email: minervaspencerauthor@gmail.com.

DANGEROUS is a Kindle Daily Deal on October 14, 2018 ONLY!

PICK UP A COPY FOR ONLY $1.99…

Amazon Kindle Daily Deal

What are people saying about DANGEROUS?

Wicked repartee, savvy wit, and energetic libidos.” Publishers Weekly

“Spencer is my new auto-buy!”  New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt

“A remarkably resourceful heroine who can more than hold her own against any character invented by bestselling Bertrice Small . . . deliciously fun retro flavor.”Booklist Starred Review

“Sexy and wildly entertaining.” Bookpage

 

Congratulations to Cheryl M.!!! Winner of the Great Big Bucket-O Prizes Giveaway!

Congratulations Cheryl M. !!! You’ve won the Great Big Bucket-O-Prizes Giveaway!!!

Thanks to everyone who entered! As long as you are on my mailing list you are entered for all subsequent contests.

Sign up for a FREE copy of DANGEROUS!

It’s time for FREE advance reader copies of DANGEROUS!!!

You can sign up for a copy either on NETGALLEY or GOODREADS. 

dangerous book cover

What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands . . .

Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—not since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own . . .

 

Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage . . .

But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart . . . 

“Minerva Spencer’s writing is sophisticated and wickedly witty. Dangerous is a delight from start to finish with swashbuckling action, scorching love scenes, and a coolly arrogant hero to die for. Spencer is my new auto-buy.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt
 
“Readers will love this lusty and unusual marriage of convenience story.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter
 
“Smart, witty, graceful, sensual, elegant and gritty all at once. It has all of the meticulous attention to detail I love in Georgette Heyer, BUT WITH SEX!” 
RITA-award winning author Jeffe Kennedy

Yay! I’ve sold a 4th book to Kensington Zebra!

I’ve known about the sale of my 4th book, NOTORIOUS, for a while but I’ve had to wait until all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed before I could spread the good word.  My agent Jessica Alvarez just announced the deal in Publishers Weekly so now I can celebrate the good news!!

Here is the PW blurb:

Minerva Spencer’s NOTORIOUS, a Regency Era romance and Book 4 in the Outcasts series, in which one man discovers that a London Season is even more dangerous than being a sultan’s heir, to Alicia Condon at Kensington, in a nice deal, for publication in Late 2019, by Jessica Alvarez at BookEnds (World).

The four books in the series and their publication dates are:

DANGEROUS June 2018

BARBAROUS November 2018

SCANDALOUS 2019

NOTORIOUS 2019

I’ll be posting more information as it becomes available.

Cheers,

Minerva

Book Review of Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

Never Dare a Wicked Earl (Infamous Lords, #1)Never Dare a Wicked Earl by Renee Ann Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a great way to kick off a holiday in a good mood!

I loved Hayden and Sophia (and also Lady Olivia) and their romance was fraught with enough delicious tension to keep me flicking the pages on my Kindle like a junkie.

The part of Miller’s writing that impressed me the most (okay, there are 2 parts) was her ability to evoke the era (or certainly what felt like a “bygone” era, to me) and also her delightful turn of phrase (GREAT similes which made me alternately smile or move to the edge of my seat). Miller does an excellent job of injecting historical fact into the story without beating the reader over the head with it.

Great sensuality and tension throughout, with lots of secondary characters to bring depth to the story and make you care what happened to the H&h.

The author also did a fantastic job engaging my sense of smell, something I don’t often experience reading books. From the seamier smells of London’s impoverished back alleys to a gourmet breakfast that made me get out of bed and ransack the kitchen at 10 o’clock at night.

This book is a Victorian adventure that will engage and satisfy all your senses.

View all my reviews

March 24-26, 2017: Los Angeles RWA California Dreamin’ Conference

The conference was the ostensible reason for the bike journey (but really it was to meet George and Marla, my fabulous beta readers!!)

After collecting my name tag and bag-o-swag I headed off to find and meet my internet pal, Marla.

Here I am with a goodie bag:

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Marla and I finally met that first night and she was just as wonderful as I’d suspected she’d be! Sorry, no pictures of that emotional first meeting…

Anyhow, she brought her wonderful husband Murph along with her and I’m already trying to figure out ways to get them to move to New Mexico!

Here we are Saturday morning drinking coffee and discussing our plans for the day (Brantly is the camera man):

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I finally got to wear the skirt that took 400 hours of my life to crochet, so here is a close up below…

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The question I was asked most often was where I bought it. Right after that came, “What are you wearing under it?”

Yoga pants. Nothing more exciting than yoga pants.

The conference had a lot of interesting speakers and workshops, but my two favorite parts, hands down, were California Readin’ and getting to dress up in period clothing!

Marla scored tickets to the California Readin’ event, which was apparently a first at the conference. Both attendees and fans purchased tickets and were seated at tables with seven others, two of whom were published authors.

The event was billed as reader appreciation and they weren’t kidding. There were 60 authors total and each gave out a gift basket. The tables themselves were loaded with cool swag and we got to play. . . BINGO!

No, I didn’t win, but Marla scored a huge basket of romance novels and an ice cream maker. Also lots of candy and desserts everywhere. . . Tons of fun.

Not only that, but afterward was a monster book signing sponsored by the Ripped Bodice book store. I got to meet one of my favorite historical romance authors, Tessa Dare, as well as contemporary romance queen, Robin Carr. Lots of fun meeting and chatting with authors.

Marla went to an afternoon session and I went to play dress up. The people offering hair/makeup/costumes were in the business of shooting book covers but on Saturday they were beautifying the contest attendees and taking cover shots, as well as dress up, fun shots.

I had a blast. My only complaint is that it didn’t last all day and I didn’t get to try on every dress.

Here is a shot of me in one of their masterpiece creations:

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This was a photo Brantly took before the photographer stepped in and posed, moved, and generally made me look far better.

The dress was 8 layers of skirt in addition to the top, which was another two pieces. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I’m hoping the photographer shots will show the colors and craftsmanship.

After I took off my 10 layers of clothing I was off to the banquet hall for dinner, where NYT bestseller Robin Carr was our keynote speaker.

Sunday’s highlight was our lunchtime speaker, Sarah MacLean, who gave a wonderful keynote speech on the place romance novels hold in modern life.

By the time lunch was over I was beginning to suffer from conference fatigue and ready to head over to Marla and Murphy’s house for a couple days of R&R LA style. Here we are ready to take off:

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LA is a huge city. And I mean huge. One of the favorite topics of conversation is the state of the freeways. Getting anywhere takes 2 hours. Even with all that traffic, the Los Angeleans are almost scarily happy. In fact, everyone in that part of the state seems really happy.

Anyhow, the next three days of relaxation were blissful after the chaos of the conference and road trip.

We hung out, chatted, went to see a magic show at the Magic Castle, checked out Santa Monica Pier and the neighboring beach, and beaded! Yes, I got to savage Marla’s fabulous bead collection and make myself a lovely bracelet.

Here we are getting ready to enter the Magic Castle:

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The Castle is a members and guests only establishment and it felt like we’d entered a secret world. From the moment you say “Open Sesame” to the bookcase to enter the house, to the ghostly piano playing of Irma, to the wonderful prestidigitation of LA luminaries such as Pop Hayden, the experience was a one-of-a-kind.

Here I am destroying Marla’s pristine living room:

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This was a wonderful trip and WAY too short.

Here is a photo of my long-suffering photographer and SAG wagon driver with his new friend:

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Thanks to both Marla and Murphy for being such lovely, generous hosts. We’re coming back next week…

 

 

March 23, 2017: Day 13-The Last Day! Alpine, CA to San Diego, CA

Not much happened last night except losing $40 at the craps table. We’re not even sure how or why that loss happened, either. Craps is hard-like, calculus hard. So, even though we didn’t know what the hell was going on we couldn’t resist getting involved. Chatting with Robert and Mark, two of the craps dealers, was very entertaining, so that was worth the forty bucks.

Map from Alpine, California to San Diego, California

Anyhow, the next morning I woke up before first light and was the rain coming down pretty heavily on the well-lighted parking lot outside our window. Went back to bed and woke up at a decent hour.

The trip down the mountain was short (less than 30 miles) and almost all down hill. It was also a bit terrifying in spots because of the slick roads. According to Zach, my bike guru, my bike was not the best performing in ice, snow, or rain. After breaking on a particularly steep hill and skittering to the left, I finally knew what he meant.

The good news? I finally got to wear a lot of that expensive rain gear I bought in preparation for the trip.

Here I am coming down the hill from Alpine:

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What d’ya think? Too much gear?

Hey, it’s the last day, I had to wear it all. Cars were swerving and retinas got burned, but I got to wear every damned piece of biker garb I purchased.

Here’s another:

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At the bottom I got my reward:

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Yes, I took a wrong turn somewhere along the line and ended up back in New York, or maybe Phoenix? Anyhow, look who was waiting for me…

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Yeah, we hung out.

So, after a bit of a carb extravaganza I got back on the bike and onto Ye Olde Hwy 80 (that’s really what the signs say!)

Most cyclists keep going through the city and stop at the water’s edge to dip a bike tire into the Pacific Ocean. Snoopy put the kibosh on that idea as he’s not overly fond of water. Also, it was time to get our butts to Los Angeles.

This was the end of the road for me:

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I got lost multiple times on my way to this park entrance. I kept following the bike lane, thinking it was THE bike lane. It took me a while to figure out San Diego has a whole pile of bike lanes,  not just the one. Huh.

I flipped a coin with Snoopy to see which of us got to ride shotgun and who got to ride on the rack.

Guess who won? (I tried not to gloat. . . )

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For whatever reason Brantly thought this photo was hilarious:

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I really had no idea that my normal smile looked so . . . demented.

Anyhow, after loading up we got on our way and headed north to LA. After a quick stop for fish and chips in Oceanside I got to meet the first of two people I came to see: my fantastic beta reader George!!

Here are Snoopy and me with George and his wife Bette, who kindly put us up for the night before the conference began:

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Brantly and I had a great time with George and Bette and took an evening lake cruise graciously provided by George’s brother Bob and his wife Deb.

Thanks so much Bette and George for having us at your house!

Onward to the conference, where I get to meet Marla! My other fabulous beta reader . . .

 

 

March 22, 2017: Day 12. A day of rainy, cool, chocolate-filled rest!

Today I did nothing and there are no pictures of me doing it, either.

Brantly took a day trip into San Diego to ferret out a stamp shop while I lounged and ate junk food and watched it rain.

I wish I could say I won big at the tables but all I managed to do was throw away $5 on a video poker game. After underachieving at the all-you-can-eat buffet yesterday we decided to give it a wide berth today.

See you bright and early in the morning.