Interview with Sally MacKenzie, Author of The Naked Earl

Today the Riskies welcome Sally MacKenzie, author of Kensington’s popular “Naked” Regency series. Sally’s The Naked Earl is in bookstores this month. Sally’s books have been praised as having a combination of humor, sensuality, and a hint of suspense. Here is what John Charles of Booklist said of The Naked Earl: “The latest in MacKenzie’s delectably sensual “Naked” historical Regencies series has plenty of sexy sizzle and charming wit.”–John Charles, Booklist

Sally is giving away a copy of The Naked Earl to one of our lucky readers who will be chosen at random Tuesday, April 10 at midnight and announced on the blog. Bertie the Beau has exerted himself to compose official Risky Regency contest rules. Please review them carefully or we will have to endure another Bertie snit!

Here’s Sally!

1. Tell us about your latest book, The Naked Earl.
The Naked Earl is the third book in my Naked series, following The Naked Duke (Feb. ’05) and The Naked Marquis (March ’06). The characters continue and develop, but the books are all stand alone. This book opens with the earl fleeing naked across a portico roof to escape a marriage trap. He climbs through a handy window and into Lady Elizabeth’s bedchamber. Lady Elizabeth, as naked as he, screams–and then decides she’s had enough of being proper. She will be bold and daring just this once–of course, her courage is aided by her earlier overindulgence in ratafia. Various house party intrigues ensue as the earl and Lady Elizabeth–and other guests, as well–make their ways to happily ever after.

2. What, if anything, was “risky” about The Naked Earl?
I feel as if I’m always doing something risky with these books–if nothing else, humor is risky–but probably the most notably risky bit in the Earl is the fact that the hero has what we would call performance anxiety, or, as he puts it, “[h]is shy little organ would not perform in the presence of company.”

3. Tell us about the review of The Naked Earl in Publishers Weekly.
Ooo, how did you know I wanted to talk about that??
The review was definitely a surprise. My agent called on Groundhog Day and asked if I was sitting down. Since we were in contract negotiations at the time, I was rather hoping she was going to tell me the publisher had offered me a six figure deal. Well, a girl can dream, right? But the review was wonderful. I love almost every word. (They did get just a teeny tiny bit wrong.) Here’s the first sentence: “MacKenzie continues her spicy Naked series (following last year’s Naked Marquis) with another ribald Regency, this time centering on a country house party full of the punch-drunk loveless.” It goes on from there and concludes: “Providing plenty of heat and hilarity, MacKenzie has great fun shepherding this boisterous party toward its happy ending; readers will be glad they RSVPed.” Excuse me while I go gaze in rapture at it one more time….
Oh, and while I’m bragging, I’ll tell you that RT gave Lord Westbrooke a KISS. Here’s a quote from their four star review: “MacKenzie continues her delightfully humorous, sexy series with a nice and naughty naked hero who matches wits and wiles with an equally irresistible heroine in the author’s typically touching style.”

4. All these naked guys in your titles–what a great marketing hook. Did you plan it that way or just how did that come about?
Well, it began as dumb luck, I suppose. One of my friends, a former editor who was critiquing an early draft of my first book, told me my original title was horrible. I had to come up with something better, so I thought, hmm…a title is a marketing tool, so what sells? Sex and power, right? Power = duke; sex = naked, so–The Naked Duke! It fit, since the duke does appear naked in the first chapter. That’s how he’s, um, “dressed” when he meets the heroine, who also happens to be naked.
The Naked Duke provoked a lot of buzz, so when it was time to come up with a title for my second book, sticking with Naked seemed like a good idea. I had two other men, friends of the Duke, to write about. However, I also had a problem–too many earls! Robert Hamilton, the Earl of Westbrooke, played a role in the Duke and had to keep his title. The Earl of Knightsdale, Captain Charles Draysmith’s brother, was only mentioned in passing, so I “promoted” him to a marquis during copy edits for the Duke. Captain Draysmith inherits the title just in time to be The Naked Marquis.

5. You were one of Kensington’s “Debs.” Tell us about that.
In June 2004, Kensington started publishing one book a month by a new author. The books were offered at only $3.99 to encourage readers to take a…risk…on a new writer. (See, I was risky from the beginning!) The stories run the gamut from strict historicals in varying time periods to paranormal historicals to contemporary romantic comedy. An added benefit from my perspective was that the early “Debs” found each other online and bonded. We, and a few other Kensington writers who got their start at the same time, helped each other take our first steps through the publishing maze. We are still friends. You can find us at www.romanceunleashed.com.

6. Why do you write in the Regency era?
I discovered Georgette Heyer at my local library when I was still in grade school and fell in love with her books. I loved the story conventions and the plots, the Regency wit and language. (I even sometimes talk in “Regency-isms.” When I used “brangle” in a conversation, my husband gave me a blank look–that’s how I realized the word is archaic.) And I’m sure it is very un-American of me to say so, but I think there is something very sexy about the aristocracy and landed nobility. I used to wish that I lived during the Regency. Of course, being mostly Irish, I’d probably have been a scullery maid. And really, who wants to live without antibiotics, anesthesia, and modern flush toilets?!!

7. Did you come across anything new or interesting when you were researching The Naked Earl?
I found some interesting objects when I was trying to furnish my dungeon, learned how cue sticks developed in billiards, and stuck my toe into the landscape gardening debate, somewhat of a hot topic in the Regency.

8. Are there more naked guys to come? What’s next for you?
I’ve already handed in The Naked Gentleman, scheduled for May 2008, and I’ve just accepted a contract to write three more books, so I think I’ll be hanging out with Naked guys for a few more years!

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Sally! The Riskies wish The Naked Earl every success and we can hardly wait for the next Naked guy.

Sally will attempt to stop by, so all comments and questions for her are welcome (and will enter you in the contest).

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.

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45 Responses to Interview with Sally MacKenzie, Author of The Naked Earl

  1. Kathy says:

    Congratulations on the release of your latest Naked book in the series, Sally!

    You mentioned what you would like least about living in the Regency era but, in the process of researching these books, what would you like best about living in the era providing you were not an Irish maid? 🙂

    Kathy

  2. Todd says:

    Did you know that the heroes of essentially all books are actually naked under their clothes? But in any case, congratulations on behalf of naked men everywhere.

    Todd-who-is-fully-and-I-repeat-fully-clothed-as-he-types-this

  3. Sally, hello again. A week and a half ago, we bantered over at the HistoryHoydens about naked barons and baronets. With The Naked Viscount and The Naked Baron to follow The Naked Gentleman, have you had a chance to choose your final naked peer of the realm?

  4. KimW says:

    Welcome, Sally! Congratulations on your contract.

    Question for you:

    Which female character of yours is the most like you and why?

  5. Wow, you guys get up early! Let’s see whay I can comment on before I have to drag the kid who got mugged in Spain over spring break off to get a new drivers license!

    Kathy, I think I could get used to having a house full of servants. No cleaning the bathroom myself any more! (Well, okay, the quality of that bathroom would be in the list of “not so great” things about the Regency.) The slower pace of the world might be nice, too. And the world was much “larger” then–no internet, TV, etc. Hmm. That’s good and bad…. This is a question I can muse about all day.

    Todd, hey, the ladies are all naked, too, right? I have to laugh when people ask me if the characters are ever actually naked. Well, this isn’t a sweet romance, so…

    Keira soleore–hello again back at ya! I probably won’t pick that final naked one for a year or two, until I’m into The Naked Viscount. What I usually do is “seed” a character I want to write more about in a current story. The “naked baron” and the “naked viscount” both show up in The Naked Gentleman. I’m just planning the baron’s story now. So, I’ll probably stumble onto the next naked one during the baron’s or the viscount’s story.

    Kimw, I think all my female characters have a little bit of me in them–or at least I become each of them when I’m in their point of view. Hmm. Another question I’ll have to muse a bit about.

    Gotta run now. It’s my turn in that lovely bathroom. I’ll try to check in during the day.

  6. Sally, OMIGOD, your son was mugged in Spain? I assume he is all right, but what a way to ruin a trip.

    It is good to see you here!

  7. traveler says:

    Congratulations of your new Naked book. What a wonderful series. Who is your favorite author whose books you thoroughly enjoy.

  8. principessa says:

    Congratulations on this newest book of the Naked Series. What a delight they are. What inspired you to write about this era.

  9. sharon says:

    Love your Naked Books. Wonderful and fun. Do you travel for your research for your books.

  10. ellie says:

    Congratulations of this new Naked book. How did your dream up the idea for this series and did you foresee the success.

  11. pearl says:

    Welcome and best of this newest book. How did your interest in this era come about.

  12. Hi, Diane–and thanks for inviting me here! We are successfully back from getting a new drivers’ license. Yes, the trip didn’t start out well, but all in all it ended up being a great experience. AND he got to scoot up to London. Very expensive, but lots of fun.

    Oh, Sharon, I would LOVE to travel for research–or at all. (The kid was travelling with a friend.) Maybe when this “baby” goes off to college in the fall I’ll be able to get away. I’ve got four sons, so travelling wasn’t much of an option before.

  13. Kathy says:

    If I lived in the Regency era, I suppose I would love the get togethers most, dances, parties, except for the stringent rules of etiquette I’d have to follow. I’d probably bungle my way through everything.

    Sharon asked earlier if you traveled to research your books. If you could travel to do your research, where would you go and why?

    Kathy

  14. Traveler, that’s a tough question. Before I started writing regencies, I read tons! Georgette Heyer was the first, of course, but then I also read Joan Wolf, Mary Balogh, Edith Layton, Anita Mills, Marion Chesney, Julia Quinn…the list goes on and on. Now that I write, though, I don’t read many–or any. I know too many of the authors, so maybe it’s a little like sitting at a piano recital when your kid is playing–you can’t listen to the music (ok, with my kids the music was probably pretty dreadful!) because you’re so focused on the performer. Or maybe I’m afraid their stories will somehow creep into mine. Or I just need a break from living in the regency–if I’m not writing, I’m usually planning the next book.

    Anyway, longwinded way of saying I hardly read much anymore–blush. I do read the newspaper–The Washington Post–and I have some research books I should be getting to.

  15. principessa and pearl, it was the wit and stories of Georgette Heyer that first hooked me on the regency era. I read her books when I was a kid and I was captivated by them. Regencies–traditionals in the beginning–became my novels of choice–when I wasn’t reading science fiction, that is. When I decided to make a serious attempt to get published, trying a regency seemed like the obvious choice. By then I had read hundreds, if not thousands. I even sometimes fell into regency speak in casual conversation–much to the amusement of my husband!

  16. Ellie, I started writing The Naked Duke just to get back into writing. I’d always wanted to be published, but raising four sons was a bit of a distraction. Many moms can write with small children–and my hat is off to them–but once I got into the carpool years…well, it just didn’t happen.

    Once I created the three friends, I thought I could write stories about all three, but since I really had no thought that the Duke would ever actually get published, I didn’t think about it too seriously. In fact, once I finished the Duke, I started writing a futuristic! Then I got the call. The offer was only for two books, so I was taking a risk (!) in even planning a trilogy–that is now turning into more than three books. And no, I had no idea the series would be so successful! I’m a bit gobsmacked as one of my Canadian writer friends might say.

  17. Sally, welcome to the Riskies! Have you considered doing a parallel “downstairs” series–from the Naked Land Steward to the Naked Boot Boy?
    Congratulations on the fabulous review.

  18. Kathy, I’d be on a plane to England in a minute! I was there right after high school–MANY years ago–and not since. I’d love to go to Kent and Devon, where my books are loosely set, and London of course. I wonder if I would be too overwhelmed by the present day London to see beneath it to what it might have been like in the regency? And I’d love to tour the great houses, to just soak up the atmosphere of the country. And I’d like to go back to Scotland (another stop on that long ago trip) and go to Ireland.

    And yes, the balls would be fun, wouldn’t they? I used to love to dance, and I married a man who doesn’t dance!! Well, and the kind of dancing from the 70s wasn’t quite like waltzing, was it?? (If you were even born in the 70s–ack!!)

  19. LOL, Janet. My agent suggested The Naked Valet, so that’s sort of in contention….

  20. Kathy says:

    To ease your pain, Sally, I was dancing in the 70’s… to Disco! Can you believe it? And just like you, I married a man who doesn’t dance. Oh, he danced during the courting phase of our relationship. But when he was sure he’d snagged me, the dancing stopped, to my chagrin. 🙁

    I think it’s possible to go to England and see past the modern setting. With imagination anything is possible. Oh, to think of walking where your characters walked. To dine in a great hall, mix with the nobles… yes, that would be absolutely devine.

    Janet has an interesting concept there. Imagine, a naked footman, butler, cook… the possibilities are endless. 🙂

    I have 4 children, too. With 4 boys how do you find time to write? Two of mine are grown and on their own but I’m real busy with the 2 at home and with our schedules writing doesn’t come easy at times.

    Kathy

  21. Maureen says:

    Congratulations on your new Naked book. Are all your upcoming books going to be in the Regency period?

  22. joelle says:

    The Naked books are so unique. Congrats on this latest addition. If you could where would you live in that era and now.

  23. swimmer_girl says:

    Congrats on the release of your latest naked book. Do you feel like you are walking a thin line with humor? I enjoy your sense of humor but think it may be one of the harder things to write.

    Cheers!

    –mj

  24. Bertie the Beau has exerted himself to compose official Risky Regency contest rules. Please review them carefully or we will have to endure another Bertie snit!

    I beg your pardon, Mme. Perkins? I have (of course) no notion what a “snit” is, but as it sounds particularly inelegant, I am certain I do not own one!

    (On a totally different subject, I will say that I am quite disappointed that certain persons have clearly not read my rules after all. And they are so witty! So fashionable! So apt to keep entrants from being disqualified!)

    Mme. MacKenzie, welcome! (Even though the titles of your novels make me redden a bit. Of course, I look quite beautiful with a bit of colour in my cheeks, so I hardly mind at all.)

    Bertie the Beau
    (Exquisite as ever)

  25. Lois says:

    Hi again! 🙂 You can keep me out of the contest because I just won a copy of my very own recently, but alas, I haven’t read it yet! 🙂 I still have a few books that I had lined up before the Naked Earl, but I’m trying to get there, I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

    But happy to see you here. . . it’s another place I regularly visit and love seeing people from other places I visit come here! 🙂

    Lois

  26. georg says:

    I constantly say anachronisms in my conversation, like commenting so and so is a bit on the go or shot the cat, and oh yes, I get stares. My husband positively hates it when I tell people he’s blowing a cloud. He says I shouldn’t tell people he’s orally carnally entertaining a meterological phenomenon.

    When you run out of titles, you can try for the Naked Vicar and the Naked Highwayman and the Naked Rogue.

  27. jackietoo says:

    Hi, Sally!

    Are all your Naked books going to be connected or will The Naked Gentleman be the end of this set of friends?

    Thanks!

  28. Disco, Kathy!! That’s REALLY dancing. I was thinking just of the stand around separately, move to the music kind of stuff–or the hang on each other shuffle slow dance. That was the most I could get my now husband to do. And I used to foxtrot and waltz with my dad. Sigh. Oh well, our heroes can’t be perfect in real life, can they?

    And yes, having four kids kept me very busy. Two have moved out, one’s away at college, and the “baby” drives so you’d think I’d have plenty of free time, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way. The baby is a swimmer so I spend a lot of time at pool. I’ve just made it through the high school season and the club championship season. (Club champs require EARLY mornings and eat up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday–and since my guy is a distance swimmer, Thursday nights,too.)

    Actually today I got a reminder of what my life used to be like driving the kid around–early to the DMV to replace his driver’s license lost in the Madrid mugging, stop by the lab to get blood drawn for blood work, stop by the house briefly and then on to the eye doctor’s–one contact got ripped in Madrid and seems like the prescription needed changing anyway, then on to the regular doc for the menningitis vaccine in preparation for college, then to the mall to replace the wallet also lost in the mugging. Whew. I’m finally home for good!

  29. Maureen, yes, all these books will be regency-set. If I ever get caught up, I may get back to that futuristic I started. I was rather taken with the plot. Of course, I’ve done a lot of writing since then, so perhaps it won’t be quite as entrancing when I have another look at it…. There are times, though, when I think it would be fun to be able to put aside the constraints of the regency era and see where I can go.

    Joelle, hmm, that’s a tough question. On one hand, I’d like to live in London, but my reading indicates London was a pretty dirty place there, very smoky with all the coal fires. Don’t think my lungs would like that. So, since the Gentleman and some of the Baron is set in Devon, I guess that’s where I’d like to be. The area around Torbay sounds very nice. According to my guide book, it’s been dubbed the English Riviera.

  30. Cherie says:

    Congratulations on the new release Sally! Which of the books you have written is your favorite?

    Cherie Japp

  31. Hey, swimmer_girl! I know LOTS of swimmer girls…of the teenage variety, at least. Swimmer boys tend to attract swimmer girls.

    As to humor, yes, it’s tricky. I was being a good sport last night–I watched Napolean Dynamite with husband and swimmer boy. (If you haven’t seen it, it has NOTHING to do with the regency. I don’t know why the kid is called Napoleon–maybe I missed that part of the movie.) Anyway, husband and kid are rolling on the floor laughing and I’m just rolling my eyes. Well, and grimacing. To me it wasn’t funny–it was stupid.

    So that’s one risk of humor–if your reader doesn’t get it, they probably think the stuff is just stupid. And humor has a lot to do with delivery. A few too many words in the sentence, one or two too many lines of dialogue in the scene and you don’t get the punch you want. Some of it depends on point of view, too. The reader sees things that the characters don’t…is that called dramatic irony? Hmm. I know there’s a name for it.

    And then since I’m sometimes pushing the envelope a bit and treading on the ribald side…sometimes the humor might become a little too risque for some folks. Though I’m pretty conservative myself, so I’m not sure how big a risk I run with that. However, my characters do occasionally become unruly…

  32. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. St. James. Kind of you to drop by. These Risky posters are keeping me very busy!

    Hi, Lois! I know about those huge tbr piles! I hope you enjoy the Earl when you get to him.

    Georg, I think the Naked Vicar might be a little TOO risky…but The Naked Rogue, now THAT has definite possibilities!!

  33. Hi, Jackietoo! Good to see you again. Let’s see, how the Naked books are connected…shh…don’t tell anyone, ok? This is how they are organized–or I think they’ll be organized–but I don’t ever quite come out and say it because I’ve probably made a boo boo or two along the way–and for the books that aren’t yet written, nothing is yet cast in stone.

    The Duke, Marquis, and Earl are the stories of the three male friends first mentioned in the Duke. They are the most tightly connected. The Gent tells the story of Meg Peterson–she’s the sister of the Marquis’s heroine. Meg first shows up in the Marquis and then appears in the Earl. Her hero is introduced in the Earl. Those are the books that I’ve written, though the Gent hasn’t been edited yet, so I may have to change some things there.

    Now as to the plan for the unwritten Baron and Viscount. Both characters are introduced in the Gentleman. The Baron would go back to the year the Duke is set and tell sort of a prequel to one of the events referred to in the Gent. That’s the book I’m starting now. The Viscount, if it follows my current vague plan, will be the story of one of the Gent’s sisters. It will also be a prequel of sorts, set the year before the Gent. I’m thinking of having glimpses of the Duke, Marquis, and Earl characters, but these books won’t be as tightly linked. I don’t yet have a clue about the third book. I assume I’ll discover an interesting character while writing the Baron and the Viscount.

    Did that make any sense? I’m still figuring it out myself! But I think of the ton as a smallish group of folks that knew each other and all went to the same parties, so I thought I might have some fun with that.

  34. Cherie, truly my favorite book is the one I’ve most recently finished. So at the moment, it’s The Naked Gentleman!

    Whew!! Okay, I think I’ve answered all the comments so far. I’ll check back later to see if anyone else has popped in.

  35. Susan/DC says:

    I’ve yet to read one of your books although I’m intrigued by them. The problem is that I’ve the memory of a gnat, so when I go to the bookstore I’m far too easily distracted and come home with every book but the one I originally set out to buy.

    As I’m the mother of 3 boys, I’d like to know if your firsthand knowledge has affected how you write male characters. I grew up with sisters and mostly female cousins, so my sons definitely educated me on the ways in which the genders differ. You certainly couldn’t use 21st century guy speak in a Regency, but has upclose and personal knowledge of the male thought process colored your characterizations?

  36. Hi, Susan/dc. Remember…NAKED…when you go to the bookstore! Grin.

    I hope my immersion in testosterone has helped me write believeable male characters. And I do worse than just write males–I write in the male point of view, so I sort of pretend to BE one–when I’m not pretending to be one of the female characters.

    None of the males in this house–my four sons or my husband–will read my books, I don’t know what they think. My father and brothers (two) have read the first two books and they haven’t gone into great detail–thankfully–as to their reactions!

    I do love all my male characters. I think of them as people, not just males, if you know what I mean.

    Sorry if this is a tad incoherent. The baby is breathing down my neck. Classes resume tomorrow and he needs the internet computer. I’ll try to check in again later tonight, but if the student is busy, I may not be able to get on the ‘net until tomorrow.

  37. Todd says:

    Sally MacKenzie wrote:

    Todd, hey, the ladies are all naked, too, right?

    A thought that has frequently consoled me.

    Todd-who-remains-fully-dressed

  38. Kathy says:

    You’re dealing with Swimmer boy and I’m dealing with Tennis Dude and Tennis/Cheerleader Dudette. I know all about rushing off to games and competitions. Whew! I’m tired just reading what you’ve had to do today. But I’m so relieved to know your boy is healthy and safely back home. I know your focusing on that right now above all else.

    It’s obvious your characters have taken on a life of their own. You seem to have a good handle on them, too. And georg, I like the Naked Rogue, there is so much Sally can do with that one. 🙂

    Sally, too, have the teens breathing down my neck when I’m at the computer. That’s what happens when the writing nook/”office”, is a shared family space. LOL. Maybe someday…. (she says staring into space.)

    Thanks Bertie the Beau for having Sally with you today.

    Kathy

  39. tetewa says:

    Hello Sally congrats on the release and success on many more books in the series. (Naked men what more could you ask for)?

  40. Elena Greene says:

    Thanks for the interview, Sally!

    THE NAKED VALET and THE NAKED VICAR would be a hoot. Some other ideas: THE NAKED GAMBLER, THE NAKED SMUGGLER?

  41. Thanks, everyone, for commenting. It was fun being a “Risky” for a day.

    And I just don’t know about The Naked Vicar, Elena. “Vicar” just doesn’t connote sexy to me. Hmm. Guess I’ll have to work on that. But yes, the possibilities of naked guys are endless, aren’t they?

  42. CrystalG says:

    Hi Sally. Great interview. I love the concept of your books. You can’t go wrong with naked men. 😉

  43. georg says:

    The Naked Vicar had better get married Immediately! It’s an excellent chance for a falling in love after forced unsuitable marriage story, if you like that sort of thing, which sometimes I do. I can see the setup… but I’m sure you would prefer your own ideas. 🙂

  44. Thanks, crystalg and jackietoo. Hmm, I’m definitely warming to this Naked Vicar idea, georg, but I have to do the Baron and the Viscount first, so by the time I get to the third book, I may have other naked guys clamoring to have their stories told!

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