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October 25, 2000
In each generation there is one author who crosses the line from success to legend. Mary Balogh has clearly crossed that line. Since beginning her career in 1985, (when she received a Romantic Times award for best new Regency) she has completely redefined the Regency genre, adding realism and pyschological depth while retaining the elegance and warmth of the traditional form. Born in Wales, she now lives with her family in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
Tell us about MORE THAN A MISTRESS, your newest book, and first hard cover release.

MORE THAN A MISTRESS is a Regency-era historical with one of those delicious Regency rakes as hero. But Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, is a rake with a difference. A perfect man's man, he is incapable of a meaningful relationship with a woman. It is up to the heroine, Jane Ingleby, the only person of either gender who has ever had the nerve to stand up to the powerful duke, to discover what is missing in his character or rather to uncover all that has been ruthlessly repressed in him. Like all my books, this is one that may appear to have a simple and familiar story line at first--until the reader realizes that I am taking her/him deep into the very psyches of my main characters to reveal something significant about human nature and relationships. As always, this book is about love--not just romance and sex--but about the full depths of the weakest, most powerful force on earth (I love paradoxes). Love!

Your Signet Regencies have already become a legend among readers. Name some favorites.

That is a little like asking me to name my favorite child! However, if I must... I am particularly attached to THE NOTORIOUS RAKE, A PRECIOUS JEWEL, A CHRISTMAS BRIDE, LORD CAREW'S BRIDE, THE SECRET PEARL--and 40 or so others! I have never written a book that I wasn't particularly proud of when I sent it in. I would have kept such a book back until I had rewritten it in a form I could be proud of.

So many of your books are interconnected. Which "group" is your favorite, and why were the connections especially interesting?

Again, this is difficult to answer because all are my favorites. I think perhaps the best group is the Berkley trilogy--INDISCREET, UNFORGIVEN, and IRRESISTIBLE. I created four charismatic friends, who had fought together in the Peninsular Wars and had been dubbed by a comrade as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I enjoyed those men and their relationship with one another. And I loved creating the perfect heroine for each. The only disappointment was that the planned quartet of books had to become a trilogy when I did not renew my contract with Berkley--two of the men (Nathaniel and Eden) had to have their stories told within the same book (IRRESISTIBLE). However, I believe their stories were a great foil for each other--one very serious, the other more comic.

Readers loved LONGING. Will there be more books set in your beautiful homeland, Wales?

Oh, I do hope so. That book had everything of myself in it--all my passionate attachment to my homeland and my people and my heritage. Unfortunately, it was not a commercial book. Readers, I have been told, like their romances lighter and simpler. And yet I have heard from so many readers who consider it my masterpiece. Perhaps it needed more aggressive and enthusiastic marketing. Or perhaps such books really do have a limited appeal. Who knows? But I hope the day will come when I will be free to write more like it. I have numerous Welsh books in me...

Your heroes have ranged from exquisite dandies to battle-scarred soldiers. Are there any surprises for us in the future?

Doubtless! But they will be as much a surprise to me as to the reader. I never know a character until he starts to take life on my computer screen. And he invariably does. After a chapter or two I would swear that my characters are not the creation of my imagination but real men who frequently amaze me and take the story in a quite different direction from what I had planned. I don't like repeating myself or writing the same old same old. So I am always on the hunt for characters who are different from the stereotypical heroes and heroines.

Although certainly the greatest Regency writer now active, you have ranged as far forward as 1850 and as far back as the 1770's. May we hope for more work in these periods?

Obviously my great love is the Regency. I feel perfectly at home in that period and it makes for great fiction and romance. The Victorian age and the Georgian era have totally different dynamics and so are a challenge to me. I absolutely love creating Georgian stories with their gorgeous, painted, but very masculine heroes. The Victorian age with its huge inhibitions is an altogether different challenge--but it suited the characters of TANGLED, which seems to be a great reader favorite. I am sure I'll venture into other historical eras in the future, though I do have a whole series of related Rregency-era books coming up.

No other romance writer has written such beautiful Christmas books. Why does Christmas work for you as the perfect setting for romance?

Ah, Christmas. It has always been a magical time for me--for my whole family. My children are now scattered about the globe, but they move heaven and earth to get home for Christmas whenever possible. Christmas elsewhere, they say, is just not Christmas. It is a time of love and joy and peace and family closeness. Add a few children and a budding romance and I have the perfect formula for a riveting story. What better combination could anyone ask for? Christmas in my stories is never the accidental setting for a romance. It is almost a character in itself and always has a very definite effect upon the budding relationship. I become quite shamelessly sentimental when I go into my Christmas writing mode. Anything less than a whole box of kleenex when reading these stories ( or writing them!) is just not allowed! Incidentally, I always use the full meaning of Christmas in my stories--I do not ignore the religious significance of the holiday.

You seem to have an inexhaustible range of heroines -- shy, bold, rich, poor, shrewd, naive, and so on. Is there one type of heroine you like best of all?

No, I don't think so. As with heroes, I aim for something new and different each time. One thing all my heroines have, though, is integrity and an inner strength, which may waver in the course of a book but always asserts itself by the end. I don't like wimpy heroines. I always hold as my ideal Elizabeth Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, who is perfectly a woman of her times, but who is undeniably strong. What other woman would have had the strength of conviction to refuse the enormously advantageous marriage offer of Mr. Darcy the first time he made it? The alternative was so bleak for her, yet she took it.

With so many awards and honors, some readers might think you've done it all. What keeps writing a challenge for you?

Well, I do earn my living from it! And I haven't yet made the New York Times bestseller list, though my newest book did spend two weeks on the Extended NYT list. Even apart from these incentives, though, writing is a love and a passion for me. It is hobby and career all rolled into one. I think I would write for my own pleasure even if I did not have a publisher. I was a writer even as a child--I used to fill fat notebooks with stories.

Your official web site is a new and exciting place. Tell us about it.

I try to make it an interesting place for readers. They will want to find out about the newest book or one that is imminent, of course, so I always put that information on the home page plus a link to an excerpt. Many want to know about my backlist. I have a separate page for that. I have a news page and a personal page, including everything anyone could want to know about me and plenty of pictures of my family and me. There are a few links to pages that I know readers enjoy--like one explaining all the relationships among my books, and one that gives an unpublished epilogue to a published book (A CHRISTMAS BRIDE). And there is my favorite part of the site--the guest book, which shows all the messages readers send me. I answer them all too and then add all the addresses to my mailing list. The site has a Regency look, particularly with the use of lacy parasols all over the place. I like to think that the whole site makes for about half an hour of pleasant browsing.

Thank you so much, Mary, for taking the time to talk with us!
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