Anne here, doing a kind of Ask A Wench — talking about how our Wenchly anthology, MISCHIEF AND MISTLETOE (released on 25th September) came about. We think it's the first time a group of authors who blog together have brought out an anthology together. To illustrate the process, I'm using snippets of the email discussion the Wenches had in working out the concept. They're all in blue, so you'll have to guess who said what.
The idea originally came up in a discussion in Mary Jo's room at the RWA National conference in Washington DC in 2009, where Mary Jo, Jo, Pat, Nicola, and I had all met for the first time as wenches. We talked about doing an anthology together, agreed it was a great idea and then... got swept up in various activities and forgot about it.
In August, 2010 Pat raised the idea again on the wenchly loop. Her email started: I'm procrastinating major big time, as may be obvious. <G>
She suggested we could each write a story of around ten to twelve thousand words, either with an overall story arc, or based around a loose theme.
"We just need a tie-in factor."
Anne: I have to say, we all seized on the idea with enthusiasm and the suggestions flew thick and fast. The discussion went something like this:
*We could set all the stories under a full moon or at the time of a full moon.
*Love the anthology idea, and the idea of a loose theme, by moonlight or otherwise.
*I quite like the idea that the moon is involved -- maybe "They met by moonlight" or "Wenches by Moonlight" or something like that. One moonlight scene in each story and that's the connection.
*This is why I like doing short projects. Feeds the muse, who likes variety.
Anne again: Most of us loved the full moon idea but then we discovered it had already been done, so that was that. But we thought Winter might be a good time of year to set the stories in. We thought we should have wenches in the title, as it was a celebration of the Word Wench group, and then for a while we debated the idea of wicked wenches.
*I keep thinking Wicked Wenches. Then the link could be wickedness. I think it would have to be a fairly serious badness, but it could be theft, a really bad lie, sex, treason, all kinds of things. Or even, probably only by one Wench, an unjust reputation for wickedness. Or does anyone fancy the 7 deadly sins? *G*
*Deliberately wicked - because she has no choice. I like. Oh there are so many wicked little things a heroine could do that can be justified in a romance plot...
*What are the side effects if we brainstorm this during a retrograde? <g>
*Actually, considering that the idea was first bruited about more than a year ago at the DC RWA conference, returning to it on a retrograde makes sense.
*I'm not sure about having "wicked" in the title. It suggests more erotic stories, and I don't think that's what we're going for here.
Anne here: We all agreed that we wouldn't have "wicked" in the title, because it would make people expect more erotic stories, but we still liked the idea of some kind of wickedness in the story. But how wicked is wicked? And could we still make our heroines likable?
*I don't know that I would want to put a level of badness, since it could be relative. A proper young lady who slips outside to kiss under the full moon might be called a wicked wench by her parents. Just depends on the level of conflict we want.
*True, but I always feel cheated if a story in an anthology seems to wimp out on an edgy concept. I don't think it means the wickedness has to be awful, but it has to have that edge to it. But you're right that it's relative. The proper young lady being caught with her clothing considerably disheveled, with a man with a very wicked reputation could do it. Whereas if the Wench were a whore, it wouldn't be seen as wicked at all!
*My vote would also be for WICKED WENCHES, and if people want to add moonlight, all the better. <G>
*Yup, I'm happy with this. I suspect the "wicked" will push me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing.
*Good point about comfort zone. It's always good for us to go out on the edge, wherever that edge is for us personally.
*I'd say as soon as anyone has a wicked concept they want to use they should toss it out so that others can try not to use the same thing.
*Okay, if we want to do Wicked Wenches, then we want to make it deliberately edgy? Not sweet misses kissing in the moonlight but a miss who has deliberately done something she knows is wrong.
Anne again: I'll spare you the rest of the discussion — we made long lists of different kinds of wickedness, and as for titles — well, we have dozens. But the stories were, in the end, linked in the following ways:— a dash of wickedness during the winter season, which for some of us also meant the holiday season. Hence the title, Mischief and Mistletoe. Most of the stories also involved an inn, named after a wench of some sort. Mine was the Wench and Haggis Inn, so you can guess where my story is set.
Mine's called The Mistletoe Bride and here's the set-up. Ronan McAllister must marry an Englishwoman to receive his inheritance but having one distastrous marriage behind him, he's reluctant to marry again. His lawyer offers to find him a dying woman to marry and reluctantly Ronan agrees.(You can read the scene here)
Of course the scheme goes wrong, there is a mix-up at the inn, and Marguerite Blackett-Smith finds herself with a wicked choice. Here's a tiny snippet of the story.
The thought of having to leave this cozy, friendly house and take up residence with an uncle who was the most notorious skinflint in the county made her stomach sink with dread. But there was no help to it — they thought she was Peggy Smith and—
And Peggy Smith was dead.
Peggy Smith, who'd promised to marry a man for money and then disappear from his life, no questions asked.
What if . . ?
I have to say, I really enjoyed writing this story. It did stretch me out of my comfort zone a little, writing a heroine who deliberately does something wicked, but I liked Marguerite and I really enjoyed watching Ronan open up to her in the end.(You knew it was going to end happily, right?)
I also really enjoyed reading the other wenches stories — it's a wonderful demonstration of our different voices and I have to say, I'm very proud to be part of this collection.
So, I'm giving away a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe, and I want to ask you, how wicked is wicked when we're talking romance heroines? Are heroines harder to redeem than heroes? Have you ever read a book where the heroine was, in your view, unredeemable? Did any author make you change your mind? Or if you don't want to wrap your head around wickedness, what's one of your favorite holiday stories?