We are thrilled to have romance novelist Maya Rodale kick off our new AFPL Q&A feature! She has written several popular series including Bad Boys & Wallflowers, The Writing Girls, and Keeping Up with the Cavendishes, along with the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. Read on to learn about Maya and her latest book, Duchess by Design, which comes out October 23rd and kicks off her latest series, The Gilded Age Girls Club.
What would you like to say to anyone about to read your latest book, Duchess by Design?
Happy reading! I’m a reader first, and I always strive to write a book that I want to read and Duchess By Design is no exception. But this one I’m really, really excited about. Because it’s set in Manhattan’s Gilded Age. Because a duke is only the second most exciting thing to happen to my heroine, Miss Adeline Black. Because it has pockets. Because feisty heroine + duke = snappy dialogue, sexy times and happy ever after.
What drew you to write about New York City during the Gilded Age?
New York City is my adopted hometown, and I have long wanted to share my love for this city by making it the setting for my novels. In fact, I did so in my novella series, The Bad Boy Billionaire. But Gilded Age is the perfect historical moment to pick—so much glitter and grittiness to work with! And so many fabulous frocks.
Where did you go to learn about the time period?
Books, museums and simply walking around the city. I have shared my research reading list on my blog—it covers the Gilded Age generally, but with a particular focus on socialites, dressmakers and lady bosses. I especially loved seeing familiar streets through new eyes, based on what I read.
Despite being set in the past, the themes in the novel seem very much of our current moment, was that your intention?
Absolutely. 1000%. The Gilded Age is so now—massive income disparity, a strong progressive movement, women and other marginalized groups fighting for rights and recognition. The fashions were different, but there are definitely similarities in spirit. Romance is supposed to be an escape—and it is an escape—and in writing this book I wanted to escape the news to a fictional world where everything ended by my definition of happily.
Where do you see this series going in the future?
There are at least two more novels in this series, all featuring “lady bosses” who are members of the secret club, the Ladies of Liberty, which serves to promote women’s professional advancement in a top secret, behind-the-scenes, ask no permission sort of way.
What are you working on now?
I just turned in the first draft of book #2 in the series—I think fans of Duchess By Design will find a lot to love in this one, too. Until I get revisions back from my editor, I’ll be working on shouting my love for Duchess By Design from every rooftop.
What are you reading?
I’m always reading a ton of romance for my romance review column at NPR Books. For fun, I love to read non-fiction. One of the best I’ve read recently is The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No, but I did once find a story entitled “The Accident In The Ballroom” written in some very elementary school handwriting so it seems I was destined to be a romance author.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I love writing in coffee shops, a hotel bed or on my couch at home. But I have learned to write anywhere because all that matters is words on the page.
Which of your characters do you think you could be good friends with?
Hopefully all of them! I definitely want to be a member of the Ladies of Liberty club featured in Duchess By Design—all those fearless women, sipping tea and changing the world one female friendship at a time. Count me in!
What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for a book?
Oh my goodness…I can’t even imagine. But I can definitely say Google must be confounded by the searches of romance writers. In other words, there are a lot of random, strange searches happening!
What’s something you are really good at that few people know about?
I am a decent guitar player! I had rock n’ roll aspirations, but I became a writer instead because the hours (early nights, earlier mornings) suited me better.
Is there anything you’ve edited out of a book that you really wish you had left in?
Nope! I’m a big fan of “kill your darlings” and am always struggling to make the required word count.
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Everything. Always. It’s a constant process and evolution and that’s the fun of it.
What little known book do you wish everyone would read?
So many! But a recent one I’ve read that I think a lot of people should read is Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life by Sally G. McMillen. It’s an amazing, in depth biography of a powerful but forgotten suffragist. I think of how different the women’s movement would be today if we recognized Lucy Stone on the same level as Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony. Women’s history is history and it’s endlessly fascinating—one cannot read, research or write enough on this subject.
You can order Duchess by Design through the library here, on Amazon here, or at your favorite local bookshop.