Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today’s guest is Rose Lerner, Romance novelist, author of one of Ana’s favourite Romance novels of 2010: In For a Penny. Her newest book is called A Lily Among Thorns (which Ana will review later today) and we are pleased to welcome Rose back to the blog to talk about the inspirations for her new book.

Please give it up for Rose Lerner!

1. Old-school Regencies

There was a certain type of alpha hero that was very common in older Regency romances, the ones I read when I was just starting out as a romance reader. Stiff-upper-lip isn’t even in it. This guy had a whole stiff face thing going on. His only visible expression of emotion was going a shade whiter under his tan, or a muscle twitching in his jaw. Sometimes (and sometimes for no apparent reason) he had a broad, deep knowledge of the criminal underworld.

The following exchange takes place after Sir Richard has foiled a burglar with great sangfroid:

“When I meet up with a leery cove, I don’t bear malice,” Jimmy announced, raising a tankard of ale. “So here’s to your wery good healthy, guv’nor, and no hard feelings!”

Sir Richard seemed to be rather bored, and merely nodded.

I read The Gamble by Joan Wolf about four hundred times in high school. There’s a scene towards the end where the heroine Georgiana goes to see the “king of the London underworld” and he calls the hero “Phillip.” This sort of thing has happened a couple of times before in the book, and Georgiana says, “It occurred to me that my husband appeared to be on a first-name basis with every scoundrel in London.”

I loved that idea of an aristocrat incongruously not just knowing, but being friends with dozens of shady characters, to the amazement of a new acquaintance. The idea that my heroine Serena “knows every rogue in London by his (or her) Christian name” is a running joke in my book.

This type of hero was generally saved from his degenerate ways and emotionally deadened state by a fresh-faced young woman who steadfastly refused to be shocked by him or his past. And I really, really wanted to see what that dynamic would look like with the genders flipped.

2.Nicholas Lea

Nicholas Lea is my favorite actor in the whole world. He’s best known for his role as Krycek on the X-Files, but…don’t think about that right now? Because I’m about to tell you that I based my hero Solomon’s appearance and mannerisms on him, and I really really don’t mean Krycek. That isn’t how he normally looks or talks! (But he IS that handsome full time.) Here are a couple of pictures that I think get across the vibe I wanted:

from Lonesome Dove: the Outlaw Years.

from Lunch with Charles

Yes, I want to talk about it! I’ll take some of that tea, too.

He’s got a wonderful, boyish smile, but he’s got a great frown too, and a temper. He’s funny, and willing to look a little goofy to make you laugh. He has an amazingly sexy voice, deep and a little husky. He’s tall and broad, with arms like…like REALLY NICE ARMS, and freckled shoulders that should be immortalized in sculpture. In fight scenes, he’s efficient and businesslike. He can be scary when he wants to be. But for all that, he’s totally beta. My eyes are drawn to him in every scene, but it’s because I love him, not because he’s dominating the room. It took me about ten X-Files episodes before I even realized that yes, he’s several inches taller than David Duchovny.

He has this way of kissing a woman’s hand that’s both playful (he knows it’s cheesy) and totally sincere (she’s a queen and he wants her to know it). When he says, “You’re perfect,” or “you’re wonderful” (yes, this has come up multiple times in his career), he says it with a reverence and intensity that makes me swoon. It doesn’t sound like a compliment. It sounds like a statement of fact.

3.Billy Joel

Don’t worry, my hero doesn’t look anything like him! But he has that one song, “Don’t Ask Me Why,” that perfectly encapsulates the dynamic I wanted between Solomon and Serena.

The lyrics are perfect, especially

All the servants in your new hotel
Throw their roses at your feet
Fool them all but, baby, I can tell
You’re no stranger to the street

And it’s not just that Serena owns a hotel! “Fool them all but, baby, I can tell”: that’s it right there. One of the sexiest things anyone can say. More than the line itself, it’s the way it’s delivered.

Solomon gets Serena. He sees her, really sees her for who she is, in a way no one’s seen her her entire life. And he’s not going to let her get away with hiding or pretending that everything is fine. But at the same time, he isn’t aggressive or dismissive about it. And he is never, ever going to judge her. Solomon takes something that’s always been deathly serious for Serena and he’s playful and gently teasing about it. He says, “I know you’re hurting, but come have fun with me.”

Solomon’s attempts to get closer to Serena are a really fine balance of pushing and giving space, and of humor and earnestness. This song helped me find that mood when I was floundering.

4.Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

No one in the book looks like him either, which is a shame because that is one fine beard.

The thing about Tennyson’s writing is that it’s very Victorian and proper, but it’s also got this incredible sexual tension going on right below the surface. Here’s a stanza from “Maud”:

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead,
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

It seems pretty innocuous at first, maybe, but then you think about what he’s saying: he is so intensely physically drawn to this girl that his hundred-year-old corpse would bloom in bright, sexy colors if she walked by. “Erotic” isn’t in it, I’m going to have to go with “dirty”!

Solomon and Serena are trying not to openly express their connection to each other: he because he knows it will scare her off, and her because she’s scared of intimacy and of being vulnerable. They’re tiptoeing around it, but all the while there’s this undeniable, electric physical link between them. The more they try to deny it, the more charged it becomes and the more they’re drawn to it.

I’ll be giving away a copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one commenter! Tell me your favorite Billy Joel song, or who you’d cast to play your favorite fictional character.

You heard her: leave a comment here answering her question in order to win a copy of A Lily Among Thorns. Contest is open to ALL and will run till Saturday Nov 5th 11:59PM (PST). Good luck!

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54 Responses to Guest Author & Giveaway: Rose Lerner on Inspirations & Influences

  1. Katherine says:

    She’s always a woman!

  2. Archee says:

    One of may favourite characters has always been Lord Sebastian Flyte from Brideshead Revisited. Not because he’s dashing and winsome and such, but because I’ve always envisioned him to be amazingly good looking but utterly harmless. That is to say, if he wasn’t madly in love with Charles, he’d be flashing his boyish charm straight your way. He’s also got this careless air, this hint of darkness… so, no matter how many times the book is redone as a film or TV show, I will always stand by the fact that Gaspard Ulliel fits the bill perfectly.

  3. Sephria says:

    It’s already been done but for me, it has to be Colin Firth for Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. He owned that role and every other Mr Darcy played fails miserably in comparison!

  4. I have to second She’s Always a Woman.

  5. Kristi says:

    I have many many favorite Billy Joel songs, but my tippy-top favorite has to be Christie Lee, because my name is Kristi Lee. :D

  6. CrystalGB says:

    Uptown Girl is my favorite Billy Joel song.

  7. [...] Guest Author & Giveaway: Rose Lerner on Inspirations & Influences [...]

  8. Gerd D. says:

    That stanza sounds a lot like undying zombie love. :D

    Casting call’s are always tough choices, but I really think that Julianne Nicholson would make a perfect choice for Patricia Brigg’s Anna Cornick.

    Favourite Billy Joel song:
    Leningrad.

  9. MarieC says:

    An actor to play a fictional character….

    Richard Armitage (the actor, not the politician!) to play Meljean Brook’s ‘Rhys Trahaearn’ from “The Iron Duke”

    Dylan McDermott to play Patricia Briggs’s ‘Adam Black’ from the Mercy Thompson series.

  10. Emilia says:

    Piano Man is my favorite Billy Joel song.

  11. Lozza says:

    It’s probably kind of a weird choice, but I sing “And So It Goes” to my son every night during our bedtime routine, so that’s probably my favorite.

  12. Rose Lerner says:

    Katherine–I love that one too! Although I read Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs about a hundred times as a kid and so I always think about that woman who thought it was a Geritol commercial when it gets to the line “She takes care of herself.” But it doesn’t ruin my enjoyment!

    Archee–You’re making me want to read Brideshead Revisited! I’m pretty sure it’s too depressing for me though. There’s a reason I mostly read romance. I’ve never seen Gaspard Ulliel before, and…those are some NICE pictures. ::fans herself:: I must investigate further!

    Sephria–I will be honest, I’m a Matthew Macfadyen fan! (Although I can never remember how to spell his name. Hopefully that’s correct.) That’s awesome that your dream casting has actually been done!

    SwiftScribbler–I think my favorite bit of that song is “She’ll ask for the truth but she’ll never believe you/And she’ll take what you give her as long as it’s free.” I’d like to see this woman as a romance novel heroine.

    Kristi–I’ve actually never heard that one! I’ll be honest, I know every song on Greatest Hits Volumes 1-3 by heart, but that’s all I’ve got. I need to expand my collection.

    CrystalGB–The great thing about that song is that it can apply to ANY relationship! Sometimes you have to play with the genders, but it ALWAYS works. That and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin are the only songs I’ve come across like that.

    Gerd D.–My favorite part of Leningrad is the surprise twist when he becomes a clown! It’s just such an abruptly new direction for the song. But “cold war kids were hard to kill” always gives me chills. Is Anna Cornick from her second series? I absolutely adore Mercy Thompson but haven’t ventured outside those books. Are the others equally amazing?

    MarieC–I have now googled Dylan McDermott and you are BRILLIANT. He is absolutely perfect for Adam.

    Emilia–I adore that song. And it’s so impressive because it’s a brilliant song up to the quality of any of his later work but I’m pretty sure it was on one of his first albums! (Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m just basing this on its placement on the Greatest Hits CDs…)

  13. Rose Lerner says:

    Lozza–I have to admit, I don’t do so well with slower songs. I have some attention span issues… But that’s completely adorable that you sing it to your son! It makes me happy just knowing that.

  14. Isabel C. says:

    Billy Joel! I must comment. :)

    I also love “And So It Goes”–my favorite love songs are the ones that are also sort of resigned, the ones that know this is going to end badly because that’s how things go, but hey, what else can you do–although my all-time favorite is “Only the Good Die Young.” I do a decent version when playing Rock Band, too.

    Well, by “decent” I mean “loud.”

  15. Molly says:

    Oh man, I LOVED Nick Lea as Krycek, which led me to watching “Once A Thief”, in which he got to be very charming and roguish. I think he’s an excellent choice for a romance hero.

    As for Billy Joel songs, I’ve always been partial to Uptown Girl.

  16. I love this blog post almost as much as I… loathe the oeuvre of Billy Joel. (Billy J: “I don’t want clever conversation; I love you just the way you are.” Cecilia: “Did you just tell me I’m not clever?!”)

    Congrats on the fab Booksmugglers review; no need to enter me in the drawing :)

  17. Carol Thompson says:

    Favorite Billy Joel song – Piano Man

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

  18. Rose Lerner says:

    Isabel–I have done “Only the Good Die Young” at Karaoke a couple times! Sadly there’s that whole part at the end with only a few words and all of them repeats and I always get self-conscious standing there waiting for the song to be OVER. But I adore the song. Actually, I’ve been thinking about “So it Goes” and I’m a huge fan of that one too, especially “but you can make decisions too”…I was actually thinking of “Hey Girl” which I find a bit boring. Not sure how that happened since they don’t have a lot in common.

    Molly–Once a Thief is one of the greatest TV shows of all times. I love that episode when Mac and Li Ann have to pretend to be married and you think it’s all going to be repressed sexual tension and classic fake-relationship stuff but instead they end up in the hotel room fighting over the right way to squeeze a toothpaste tube. BEST TWIST EVER.

    Ceci–Well, no, “Just the Way You Are” is not his best work. Like, maybe I’VE changed, Billy! Maybe I want more from this relationship!

    Thanks!

    Carol–thanks, and good luck! I’ve already gone on about Piano Man in a previous comment but that song is AWESOME. And I love that there’s a harmonica part. I discovered last night that Bruce Willis plays the harmonica and it was a happy moment for me.

  19. Mia says:

    Aw, I really like this guest post. I’ll have to check out your books, Rose, whether I win anything or not! A Lily Among Thorns sounds like just the ticket right now.

    I love it when authors have an actor they base their characters on, especially when it comes to mannerisms or such. I don’t know if I have a favorite fictional character (I can’t choose, they’re all my favorites!) but sometimes I do get a very clear mental picture of an actor as a character in a book. In this vein, I kind of picture a younger Patrick Fugit as will grayson (the emo one, not the Neutral Milk Hotel-loving one) from Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

  20. My favorite Billy Joel song changes from moment to moment, but just now it’s I Love These Days, maybe because my husband’s favorite (joking) way to describe himself is “bon vivant.” I also like All For Leyna, because it’s such a vivid portrait of a relationship with no future.

    Love Tennyson, love Nicholas Lea, love how well the lyrics of Don’t Ask Me Why fit your characters.

  21. Alex says:

    It’s a tie between “Only the Good Die Young” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” “Piano Man” reminds me of a Robot Chicken sketch…

  22. willaful says:

    I just love the doo-op of “the Longest Time.” It’s so much fun to sing.

    The book sounds fascinating… I love gender turnarounds.

  23. Amy Kathryn says:

    I love most of Billy Joel but I think my current favorite right now is Downeaster Alexa.

    I am glad to see Lily available…I know there were some worrisome moments amid publisher problems!

  24. MD says:

    Ohh… I can’t answer the question – I am a someone who hardly ever listens to music, and who doesn’t watch movies. Books are my primary source of entertainment… I hope I can get entered in the context, anyway, since I am clearly so exceptional ;-)

  25. Jasmine says:

    One of my absolute favorite characters in fiction (though the list is LONG (and a bunch are unpublished, which is terrible cause they are so awesome I wish to see them shared)) is Divergent’s Four. He’s quiet and dangerous and ethical and I would love to see him played by Jamie Bell.

    I’m really, REALLY bad at the casting game, sorry. But I stand firm in my belief that Jamie Bell can plan anyone.

  26. Rose Lerner says:

    Mia–Thanks! Let me know what you think if you read the book. :) I think it’s sometimes easier to have somewhere to start with a character physically, because I’m not always the best at visualization. If I already have a base, it’s easier to remember to do physical description and body language.

    Alyssa–Ooh, I don’t know either of these! As I mentioned earlier, I know every song on the first three Greatest Hits albums by heart, and that’s about it. Do you have a recommendation for a good album to start with if I want to go deeper?

    Alex–“We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the first Billy Joel song I ever heard–my 20th century history teacher played it for us on the first day of class in sixth grade. I didn’t get into him for real until years later, but the song stuck with me.

    Willaful–Yeah, that one was popular with a capella groups at my college. Always fun! Hope you like the book. :)

    Amy Kathryn–Yes, I appreciate all y’all’s patience! I’m so glad the book made it through, because this story is really special to me. Hope it was worth the wait! Downeaster Alexa was the Billy Joel song that got me to actually buy a CD–a friend of mine at camp used to play it on his acoustic guitar (he’d usually get pretty self-conscious during the yi-yi-yi-o parts) and I loved it. There ain’t no island left for islanders like me!

    MD–well I guess we will make an exception for you since you ask so nicely! Books are pretty great. :)

    Jasmine–Jamie Bell does a FANTASTIC quiet and dangerous and ethical (what a great combination, btw, tell me MORE about this character and book at once!). I assume you’ve seen his St. John Rivers? SO GREAT. And I agree, he’s very versatile–I’ve actually cast him as a minor character in my next book, a hapless but dedicated baker, and he works splendidly for that too.

  27. Angie says:

    What a fun guest post! You guys know how much I love this book already. And I love hearing more on the inspiration behind it.

    Favorite Billy song? I love “The Longest Time.” And “Piano Man.” Of course.

  28. Kristy McRae says:

    My favorite Billy Joel song, hands down, is “You May Be Right”—it was one of the first 45 rpm records I ever owned, and I listened to it over and over again! (Sang along, too, but thankfully only when there was nobody around to hear…) :)

    Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of your book! It sounds wonderful, and I look forward to reading it, whether I end up being the lucky winner or not!

  29. Justine says:

    I would love to see another Anne Shirley on screen, but I have no idea who I would cast. In comparison, Megan Follows didn’t bring to life my vision of Anne Shirley as fully as other actors embodied their characters, particularly Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe and Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert. I haven’t seen Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning yet, so maybe Hannah Endicott-Douglas captures Anne Shirley’s spirit.

    Um, I know I didn’t provide a truly proper response to the question, but I’m not very familiar with current actors and casting them!

  30. MeganS says:

    Great post! I had no idea Tennyson got so dirty! That wasn’t covered in my literature classes.

    My favorite Billy Joel song (at least at the moment; this is subject to change) is “Turn Around.” The line “I don’t know where you’ve been / but you’ve been gone too long,” though, gets me every time I listen.

  31. Rose Lerner says:

    Angie–Thanks for stopping by! “If you said goodbye to me tonight, there would still be music left to write”! That’s one of my favorite romance tropes, where just by knowing the person it changes your life…

    Kristy–That may be my favorite too! At the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this weekend, we went to a dueling piano bar Friday night and they played “You May Be Right”. Luckily everyone else was also singing along!

    Justine–I think Karen Gillan would be a great older Anne lookswise (I don’t know what her Canadian accent would sound like) but I don’t think I know enough younger actors to cast that either…

    MeganS–Literature classes never cover the good stuff. No one told me most of Shakespeare’s sonnets were about a guy either! I don’t think I know “Turn Around,” but based on that line, I need to. Swoonalicious. I need to take these comments and hit YouTube!

  32. Billy Joel’s Piano Man. Ah, classic stuff.

  33. Audra Holtwick says:

    Fave Song — Piano Man
    audie(at)wickerness(dot)com

  34. I have to be boring and say my favourite Billy song is “Piano Man”! Not very original, I will grant you.

    I cannot WAIT to read this book, I have had it on my “pre-order” list on Goodreads for ages and ages and ages… :!:

    Thanks for the chance to win, guys! :D

  35. KC says:

    I loved In For a Penny – thanks for the new book & for this opportunity! “You May Be Right” is my fave Billy Joel song.

  36. Rose Lerner says:

    Stephanie and Audra and Elle–Good choice! They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.

    KC–thanks and good luck! I was just thinking about “You May Be Right” last night while trying to explain my crush on Commodore Norrington and how I really like uptight heroes and just want to make them laugh…

  37. Jen B. says:

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson did have one fine beard! Thanks for a look at the inspirations. I find Nicholas Lea to be inspirational, too! Thanks for the giveaway.

  38. Julie Witt says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but Uptown Girl was always a favorite of mine!! :roll:

  39. Rose Lerner says:

    Jen–Inspirational is the right word! Yum. If you haven’t seen Lunch with Charles you totally should, he is ADORABLE in it.

    Julie–Aw, don’t be embarrassed! If we would just give ourselves and everyone else permission to like whatever we want instead of worrying about what’s objectively “good,” we’d all be a lot happier! Plus “Uptown Girl” is an objectively great song. Just saying.

  40. hapax says:

    “She’s always a woman” has to be my favorite. I love me some psycho heroines (and heros).

    Hmm. I can’t begin to think who my favorite character is — there are so many. But if I have to cast whoever in a movie, I vote that Alan Rickman gets the part.

    Even if I decide that my favorite character is Eliza Bennett.

  41. J says:

    Don’t Ask Me Why, it’s on my current playlist and I always burst out in song when it comes on! :)

  42. Rose Lerner says:

    Hapax–Alan Rickman is a good choice for every role. No question.

    J–I love “Don’t Ask Me Why” too as you probably guessed from this post! UNH IT’S SO GOOD.

  43. Kate M. says:

    My favorite Billy Joel song is “She’s Got a Way” because when I was in high school, I went to a small camp where there was a person who had a habit of playing Billy Joel, and this one was in the rotation a lot. Whenever I hear it, I think of those summers and since it’s all good memories, it’s really nice!

  44. Rose Lerner says:

    Kate–Aw, that’s how I feel about Downeaster Alexa! I once had a friend tell me she wanted to be like the woman in “She’s Got a Way,” but really she was probably like the woman in “She’s Always a Woman.” I thought that would be a fun meme to start…

  45. Michelle says:

    Wow, this was a really fun and interesting guest post! I loved In for a Penny last year too; I actually picked it up because of this blog, and I don’t normally read romance!

    What I read is fantasy, and one of my favorites is Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede. The main character is a spy and an aristocrat, but he’s undercover as a lower-class travelling magician. I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be perfect to play him, as long as he can show a good sense of humor along with the elegance.

  46. Rose Lerner says:

    Michelle–Sorcery and Cecilia by Wrede and Stevermer is one of my very favorite books ever, and indirectly started me writing romance because my romance-reading friend and I were inspired by it to play the Letter Game. I didn’t adore the Mairelon books quite to the same degree but they were pretty awesome too!

  47. Joan says:

    I’d have to say my favorite Billy Joel song would either be Piano Man or the Downeaster Alexa

  48. Amelia P. says:

    Favorite Billy Joel song: The River of Dreams

  49. Cristina says:

    I would have to go with casting Olivia Wilde as Lirael, the title character in my absolute favorite book by Garth Nyx. I really couldn’t think of an actress who could play Karou from Laini Taylor’s amazing book “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” so… sorry any suggestions? lol

  50. Rose Lerner says:

    Joan–Those are two of my favorites too!

    Amelia–I’ll admit that’s one of the few I occasionally skip past when listening to my CD. I’m not sure why, because I do like the song…I’m curious, did you hear the song for the first time on a CD/tape, or on the radio?

    Cristina–you are the second person to recommend Laini Taylor to me this week! Clearly it’s fate.

  51. Josephine says:

    My favourite Billy Joel song is We Didn’t Start the Fire.

  52. Maureen says:

    I would say my favorite Billy Joel song is Big Shot. The book looks great!

  53. Mary Preston says:

    I have to go with the classic PIANO MAN. I have my eye on A LILY AMONG THORNS. Yes please!!

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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