October 7, 2010
It’s debut week on Blog! Please welcome Jeannie Lin today. Jeannie is debuting with her Golden Heart winning manuscript, BUTTERFLY SWORDS! I was lucky enough to read her Harlequin Historical Undone, THE TAMING OF MEI LIN and it is fabulous. I devoured it in one sitting. I have BUTTERFLY SWORDS on deck to read next and I have no doubt that it will be relegated to my ‘keeper shelf’. Jeannie is definitely an author to watch.
Tell us a little about Butterfly Swords.
It’s a story about a Tang Dynasty princess and a swordsman from Dark Age Europe who’s travelled across the silk roads. It takes place in the later part of the Tang Dynasty after what’s commonly thought of as the fall of the Golden Age. Ai Li is a young woman who’s been betrothed to a warlord, but she fakes her own kidnapping when she learns that the warlord is plotting against the throne. Ryam steps in to rescue her as she’s trying to make her way back to the capital, so they form a bond as they venture together through the countryside.
It’s a travel adventure with political intrigue, honor, and romance of course!
How much of the story is historically accurate?
I believe the historical setting and customs are accurate. The places are all real, from the imperial city of Changan to the western frontier of Gansu. I tried to envision the feel of the landscape in this time. However, the actual people are not historical figures. The figure of Emperor Shen is very loosely based on a warlord who seized the throne in this time of unrest and Ai Li’s character is also inspired by several notable princesses of the Tang Dynasty, however she’s not meant to be a depiction of any one person.
As to the question of westerners in China during this time, there’s some conjecture about visits from Roman envoys and European merchants such as the Radhanites throughout the Tang Dynasty. There are also legends about a Roman legion that made it all the way to the western frontier of Gansu, but centuries earlier. The East meets West elements of the story are a bit of alternative history twist, though there are records that indicate China knew of the West and thought favorably of it, calling it ‘Daqin’ which meant Great China; an empire as magnificent as its own.
What sort of responses did you get when submitting such an unusual setting?
It’s funny, I always got a lot of interest, but also a lot of rejections citing the risky setting and premise. I think the story was high concept enough that people wanted to take a peek, but once they did, they had to decide if there was a market.
I sincerely believe that Butterfly Swords was rejected mainly because my writing wasn’t strong enough yet. The historical market is competitive for a debut author trying to break in with any setting. It just took a little more work for Butterfly Swords to be considered. The Golden Heart nomination came at a critical time and I think it gave the story a fighting chance. I was almost ready to set it aside, and query with the follow-up book, The Dragon and the Pearl.
Your book has received some buzz prior to the release date. Does any of it surprise you?
It’s all a little overwhelming, but for once it’s nice to stick out like a sore thumb, right? I really didn’t know what to expect, but I knew people would talk about the setting and perhaps the multicultural romance. I’m so grateful and relieved that the response has been so positive and supportive. The one thing that has surprised me is how people have responded to Ai Li. I didn’t realize how much she would seem to overshadow Ryam.
What’s next after Butterfly Swords?
The sequel is already at the end of the revision stage, though there’s no publication date set yet. Without too many spoilers, it’s tentatively titled, The Dragon and the Pearl and starts where Butterfly Swords left off. It features several of the secondary characters from Butterfly Swords, but is written as a complete standalone.
Other than the setting, it’s a very different book. First of all, there aren’t any of the big sword fights you’ll see in Butterfly Swords. After seeing how much people liked the fights, I’m a little worried about that. Butterfly Swords centered around martial arts and honor culture, whereas The Dragon and the Pearl focuses on the political underworld.
Jeannie Lin writes historical romantic adventures set in Tang Dynasty China. Her short story, The Taming of Mei Lin from Harlequin Historical Undone is available September 1. Her Golden Heart award-winning novel, Butterfly Swords, was released October 1 from Harlequin Historical and received 4-stars from Romantic Times Reviews—“The action never stops, the love story is strong and the historical backdrop is fascinating.”
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