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The Wenches

  • Mary Jo Putney

  • Patricia Rice

  • Susan Fraser King

  • Anne Gracie

  • Nicola Cornick

  • Andrea Penrose

  • Christina Courtenay

In Memoriam

  • Jo Beverley
    Word Wench 2006-2016

  • Edith Layton
    Word Wench 2006-2009

Word Wenches Staff

Wench Staff Emeritae

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  • Want to read ALL the posts by a specific Wench? Just scroll down to the bottom of her post and click on her name!

June 2023

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Wenches Statistics

  • Years published: 164

    Novels published: 231

    Novellas published: 74

    Range of story dates: nine centuries (1026-present)

    Awards Won:

    • RWA RITA

    • RWA Honor Roll

    • RWA Top 10 Favorite

    • RT Lifetime Achievement

    • RT Living Legend

    • RT Reviewers Choice

    • Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews

    • Golden Leaf

    • Barclay Gold

    • ABA Notable Book

    • Historical Novels Review Editors Choice

    • AAR Best Romance

    • Smart Bitches Top 10

    Kirkus Reviews Top 21

    Library Journal Top 5

    Publishers Weekly Top 5

    Booklist Top 10

    • Booktopia Top 10

    • Golden Apple Award for Lifetime Achievement

    Bestseller Lists:

    NY Times

    • Wall Street Journal

    • USA Today

    • Waldenbooks Mass Market

    • Barnes & Noble

    • Amazon.com

    Chicago Tribune

    • Rocky Mountain News

    • Publishers Weekly


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Yes, I do find it interesting to see how stories developed. And it's enjoyable to read about it for books which I have already read! I say that because often authors write about it at the time the book is first published, as part of its promotion, and I tend to avoid reading those posts because I like to read books without knowing too much about them first.

I'm really enjoying the whole epublishing of backlists by romance authors! It gives me a chance to read books I may not have been able to get hold of in print, plus it has introduced me to a couple of authors I hadn't read before.

The whole issue of how much you alter your books in the process (especially the early ones) is a fascinating one. I suspect most readers want the ebook to be exactly the same as the print book, because they see it as merely a different medium and want to read it as written, warts and all. But I understand how painful it must be for an author to pass up on what she feels is a chance to improve it. I suppose one compromise is to mark it as "revised" if the changes are more than cosmetic.

Sue Mccormick

As someone who worked 30 years in publishing, on the other side of the book as a proofreader and copy editor (and in textbooks, not novels) I am fascinated by the creative side.

Please do keep telling us about how these books came about.


Great post Mary Jo

I do find it interesting to hear how story ideas develop. For someone who always found writing a torture (hated doing essays or poetry at school) it's fascinating, I have always admired people who can tell a good story, written or verbal.

As for your second question, I'll take my historicals anyway they come, long, short, traditional, sensual, as long as they're well written, I'm there.

Jane O

I sympathize with your struggles with the diabolical baron—I have always hated rereading my old work. I can't believe I perpetrated some of the things that ended up in print!

However, I do love a story with a plot, and Thunder and Roses has long been one of my favorites.

Mary Jo Putney


I can understand readers who want to read the original to see how a writer developed. (Assuming the original is readable!)

But one thing I'm aware of how long my paragraphs often were, and how that makes them a little harder to read. One of the things I did in the first part of The Diabolical Baron was turn semi-colons into periods and one sentence into two.

But even that basic level of change was very time consuming, so I stopped. It was getting embarrassing--that scan was on my hard drive since January, I think, and I kept finding other things to do whenever I came close it it. *g*

As for changing creatively--I do understand that, but have largely resisted the temptation. My psychological instincts were pretty good from the get-go.

(Helena Justian. Lindsey Davies fan???)

Mary Jo Putney


Careful, I don't need much encouragement. *g* Stories have always fascinated me, and even after writing so many of them, creative process is a great and beautiful mystery. Sometimes I can point where and element came from. Other times--it's a Mystery. So I hope you continue to enjoy reading about this. *g*

Mary Jo Putney

Beeba, there are a lot of different kinds of writing, and essays are very different from stories!

I'm a good storyteller (though I wouldn't say it is exactly easy!). I'm not so good on non-fiction--that's much harder for my brain to encompass. I know a handful of novelists who are also natural essayists, Wonderful non-fiction just seems to flow out of them. But that's rare. And it is SO not me. *g*

Mary Jo Putney


I'm glad you enjoy THUNDER AND ROSES. To my admitted biased eyes, it holds up well. I've always liked a good, strong, and preferably over the top plot. As you may have noticed. *g*

With historicals so much shorter these days,there's less room for plot. At the least, subplots are usually sacrificed.

Quilt Lady

Yes I do find it interesting how the stories have developed over the years and I still enjoy the older books just as well as the new ones. Sometimes I will get out an older book just to compare. As long as the story is well written is all that really matters.


It is interesting to me to see how stories develop. I write too and I'm amazed sometimes at how ideas spawn off each other. I keep a blog about my writing so that I can go back and remember how such-and-such character came to be or how a plot twist was originally supposed to be something else.

Thunder and Roses is one of my favorites.

Annrei, who is currently 12,692 words into NaNoWriMo


I love hearing about the creative process, especially in prolific writers. One-offs I can understand but to keep finding new ideas... wow. It's also fun to see the changes in the genre and in the writing styles of career authors.

Personally my favorite historicals are regencies though I am not sure why. Maybe because they tend to be light? Though, as a reader I love angst. Hmmm. Too much Austen in formative years?

For some reason I am not generally fond of true historicals, maybe because I find them over the top in writing style and events? Plus, I don't care for multi-generational stories. With most historicals, I tend to get frustrated and start making comments like, "really" and "oh, come on." I also am generally a stickler for historical detail and attitude but can at least turn it off for light stories. When my eyes roll so far back in my head I can't read the page, we're done. There was one recentish award-winning historical romance with appalling inaccuracies in the first 2 pages and the most unbelievable, modern-esque characters running around after each other that I found impossible to finish even with skimming.

Linda Banche

I always want to hear about the book, first and foremost. I don't care what the author had for breakfast, what her pet had for lunch, or that both of them will have dinner out. (twitter and facebook are works of the devil) The book! I want to hear about the book! And I happen to like some of that overwriting. Too spare and there's nothing left but dialog. Boring.

I confess, I haven't read THUNDER AND ROSES yet. I have to get a copy.

Mary Jo Putney

**Annrei, who is currently 12,692 words into NaNoWriMo **

Well done, Annrei! You will indeed have a book by the end of the month.

It really is fascinating how ideas spin off other ideas.

Mary Jo Putney

Dee--I also have trouble with books that are so hopelessly anachronistic that it's impossible to suspend disbelief. I also lost my taste for ponderous multi-generational sagas, too. But I love books like Judith Merkle Riley's wonderfully witty and well researchee stories. I need to go on a re-read binge!

Mary Jo Putney


I agree that too spare just doesn't carry the emotional impact, and sometimes a little purple really brings things alive. My overwriting was less purple prose than it was clumsiness in getting points across and repearing things. Not very interesting.

I hope you enjoy THUNDER AND ROSES is you give it a try. It's up in e-edition now. I'm thinking that when all my backlist is e-published, I might try some print on demand editions for people who prefer print. I'd like the have the books available for everyone who wants them.


Any time I can 'pick' an author's brain, whether the information is volunteered or I have to wring it from them ;) I'm fascinated and thrilled. Each author's process is so different from the next, it reminds me that my way might not be the right way, but it's my right way. So keep telling because I want to know!

As far as what I love, I've been done with the 'lush historicals' for a long time now. Not that I won't read a historical because I want to read that particular genre, but I won't read them anymore if they're disguised as anything romance. I gave up on a couple authors after their books became history lessons. So no, give me a great romance, history secondary to the romance, and if the writing is decent, you've got a reader for life.

And I loved the excerpt.

Mary Jo Putney


There IS no "right" way! One of the reasons we do the monthly "Ask A Wench posts is to show just how different we all are.

Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Nicholas is a hoot, and Clare is a great foil. *g*


As you say, the creative process is unique to each author, and thus, informative. The part of the process of most interest to me is the research. Certainly, I grew up on lush historicals. My nieces and greats suspect I lived during the Regency.

Mary Jo Putney

**My nieces and greats suspect I lived during the Regency.**

I'm willing to accept it as a working proposition. *g* The research is certainly part of the fun of writing historicals. (Usually more fun than the actual writing!)


Because I work full time and then cart around my two teen daughters all the time, I really enjoy reading the shorter versions of books. Anthologies are too short sometimes and some books are just too long.

Mary Jo Putney

You sound like a good candidate for one of the newest and lightest e-readers. Being able to carry dozens of books in something the weight of a paperback is delightful. *g* I agree that sometimes novellas are too short to give a good romantic hit, and big honkin' heavy books are no fun to lug around!

Anne Gracie

Mary Jo, one of the question I like to ask authors is "what was it that sparked that particular book?" and it's almost never what one expects. Love the way your muse stepped up to the plate under pressure and produced the good so beautifully.

I'm so excited by this e-book revolution, where out of print books by beloved authors are made newly available. As for how books develop, I'm also fascinated by how writers develop. I have the first book of many authors and reading subsequent books, I enjoy seeing them grow and develop as writers.

As for authors cringing at early writerly habits and wanting to change those editions, I can so identify with that. Not that I'll ever get the chance to battle with that impulse to rewrite — my early books have not reverted to me, and are unlikely to.

Mary Jo Putney


That might make a good "Ask a Wench" question: what inspired a particular book? As you say, the answer isn't always obvious, but it's alway fun. *g*

I remind myself that you twitched when I recently read your first book, THE GALLANT WAIF. But I loved the story--loved the characters and the sparkle--so I'm hoping that readers will feel something equally positive when they read the forthcoming e-edition of THE DIABOLICAL BARON!


Mary Jo, first of all, I'm thrilled to know that your early books are going to come out as ebooks. I can't wait!

And you make me feel SO much better. I'm doing the same thing right now, proofreading my very first published book so that it can be released as an ebook in January. It's KILLING me. But unless I stop all other writing to rewrite this one (which is a ridiculous idea) this one has to go out like it did the first time.

Thanks for sharing your process, because it makes me feel a little better.

Mary Jo Putney

Scary looking at those early books, isn't it, Pooks? *g* But they were good enough to sell, and people enjoyed them, and MUCH better you put your time into your new work then editing the past.

As I said in the column, what works for me is printing out the book in faux galley form (so it looks rather book like), then going through with a red pen and marking the scanning errors and typos, et al. THen turning brain off to go through the e-file to make the corrections. *G* Most readers are much more interested in story and character than they are in our dangling participles.

John Dierdorf

The only thing that surprised me about the penguins was that you didn't have one of the characters wonder why the name is Welsh! (pen-gwyn = white head in Keltic. The original penguin was the Great Auk of the North Atlantic, now extinct, and IT seems to have been named for Penguin Island, near Newfoundland. In other words, the White Head was geographical, not biological. Both island and bird were probably named by Breton fishermen.)

Mary Jo Putney

**you didn't have one of the characters wonder why the name is Welsh! (pen-gwyn = white head in Keltic.**

Okay, John, you TOTALLY got me on that one! I had no idea where the name came from, and it certainly didn't occur to me that it was Welsh. Very cool! (No pun intended. *G*)

My research consisted of going to the Baltimore zoo and studying some of the penguins of the sort that Nicholas might have brought back from his travels, but it never occurred to me to look into the origins of the name. Thanks!

Cathy Gilleylen Schultz

"do you find it interesting to see how stories developed?": Yes, very much so.

"Are you interested in traditional Regencies and the older, longer, lusher historicals?": Yes. I love a book most when it feels real to me. It only does that when the setting feels believable even though I might not know the time period well, and when the relationships have time to truly evolve.

Mary Jo Putney


I am so with you on needing plausible world building so that one can believe in that world, whether it's history or fantasy. Even if the history is light, it needs to be right, and it does take some word count to get that. Relationships need even more pages to evolve in, which is why it's difficult to do a convincing romance in a very short format. People and history are complicated.

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