Message From The Author

Author's Message


One emotion not generally associated with debut authors is guilt. But that's something 26-year-old Lauren Willig felt when she quickly got an agent thanks to a childhood friend and subsequently landed a two-book deal with Dutton. "I feel a little guilty that I don't have the normal war stories [about getting published]," says the perky Harvard law student, who's also working on a history Ph.D. at the school.

But she's not exactly an overnight success story. When The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, set in both Regency times and today, hits bookstores this month, it will be the culmination of a journey that Willig, who's wanted to write novels since she was 6, began as a senior at New York's prestigious Chapin School. Back then, she convinced teachers to let her write a historical novel for an independent study project and spent a semester conducting researching at the New York Public Library for a novel about Napoleon's stepdaughter.

"At the time, I desperately wanted to be Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt," Willig remembers. "I had these images of writing a deeply serious historical epic, so I was hideously offended when one of the teachers told me what a lovely young adult book I had just written."

Willing's research came in handy years later, when she started her novel, a cross-genre romance about history scholar Eloise Kelly, who goes to London to uncover the identity of Regency spy the Pink Carnation. She discovers the love story of Amy Balcourt, a young woman of French and British descent whose father died in the French Revolution, and Richard Selwick, a Scarlet Pimpernel-type spy trying to keep England safe from French invasion.

But though both Willig and Eloise are history scholars who spent time in London, Willig maintains she is not her character. "I see her as being much more guarded, very outwardly polished but cautious," she says. "Whereas I tend to be rather frighteningly outgoing."—Diane Snyder

Read Book Review ›