Jennifer's Journal


Monday, May 16, 2011

How I Came to Write the Three Graces Trilogy

At the RT BookReviews conference in 2008, I participated in a workshop with long-time friends and fellow writers, Roberta Gellis and Bertrice Small. The workshop was on how to avoid plagiarism while using historical research materials. Roberta suggested that we each take the same piece of research text and use it to write two or three pages to illustrate how we incorporated factual details without actually copying from the information source. At the end the workshop, we would read these pages to the group. Since it was Roberta’s suggestion, she chose the paragraph of research, one which happened to be on medieval pele towers. I took the paragraph, added a bit more research for color, then wrote what was basically the beginning of a book. In it, the well-born heroine arrives at the home of the illegitimate commoner she is being forced to marry, and is disturbed by the brooding nature of the late 15th century manse and pele tower awarded to him by the king. The description of the tower was tied to the emotions of the heroine, and the pages ended as the hero was about to appear.

When I read my pages at the workshop, there was a beat of dead silence. Then someone yelled, “But where’s the rest of the story?”

Well, there was no “rest” of the story. My area of expertise had always been pre-Civil War Louisiana history, and nearly all my 50-something previous books, including many best sellers, were set in that time and place. It seemed highly unlikely I would be allowed to write something so radically different. No matter how many times Bertrice told me I should, must, had to write this late medieval story!

Fast forward several months. I finished the last book of my Masters at Arms series, and then created a proposal for a new trilogy set in New Orleans. The stories revolved around sisters known as the Three Graces who lived under a Voodoo curse which said any man who attempted to marry them without love would die. My editor liked the idea, and we were about to go to contract. Before the deal was finalized, however, she attended a sales conference where figures were presented which indicated books set in Europe sold much better than those set in the States. She emailed my agent to ask if there was any way I could transfer my Three Graces trilogy across the Atlantic.

Here was my opportunity to write that medieval tale! Though the storylines I’d intended for my New Orleans trilogy would not work in England, that was fine. After more indepth research, I created three entirely new stories that revolved around sisters known as the accursed Three Graces of Graydon, young women who could not be wed without love—though they were wards of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, who could choose husbands for them at will. My editor was pleased with the trio of tales, and to contract we went. Naturally, Book 1 used the beginning I’d written for the workshop.

If you’re curious about those few pages, they are included in the excerpt that’s now available for BY HIS MAJESTY’S GRACE. See it by clicking on the link below its cover art on the front page of this web site.

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