Debut Author Spotlight: Jillian Stone

Name: Jillian Stone

Book: An Affair With Mr. Kennedy

Current Home: Southern California

Job (when you are not writing): Freelance Advertising Creative

Author Icon: Diana Gabaldon

Do you write under a pseudonym?: I write under a quasi-pseudonym. My name is Jill Stone. I added the "ian" to make Jillian.

How many manuscripts do you have hidden under the bed?: 160,000 words of a medieval fantasy trilogy is hiding in a file folder snoozing in the cyber clouds.

How long did it take you to sell your first book?: I began writing fiction in earnest in 2006. (Sitting down at the computer and writing every day.) I started An Affair with Mr. Kennedy (Originally titled The Yard Man) in 2008 and sold in 2010.

Your first novel, An Affair With Mr. Kennedy, starts the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. Even from this title readers know that you have decided to focus on working class characters. What intrigued you about these "Gentlemen"? Why not write about lords and ladies instead?

Regency seemed like a crowded field (filled with very talented writers). And I didn't want to write about dukes and earls who sit around in gentlemen's clubs and make wagers. I began to notice that a few romance authors were writing in the Victorian period. I was particularly drawn to Amanda Quick's novels, which were historical romance but incorporated mystery, suspense and occult elements. Then I got to thinking about Scotland Yard detectives. It seemed to me that Yard men were always portrayed as bumbling inspectors, five moves behind Sherlock Holmes. So I thought, what if there was an elite group of detectives? I began to do some research and found out that there was a division of Scotland Yard created in the 1882 called Special Branch. I added a dash (as in dashing) of James Bond Steampunk and that was the start of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard. The heroines in the series are fascinating, progressive Victorian women: an Impressionist painter, an industrialist and a ballerina/jewel thief/spy! 

The hero of this first book, Zak Kennedy, is quite the interesting character. How did he first become involved in detective work?

A bit of Zak Kennedy's back story: After university, Zak's uncle arranged for a commission in Her Majesty's Scots Greys (cavalry/dragoons). Bored with parade work and drills, Zak jumped at the chance to become a military attache in France, then Burma. Since intelligence work suited, when Zak returned to England he applied and was accepted into Special Branch, Scotland Yard. This new division was created (much like Homeland Security) to deal with anarchist organizations involved in terrorism.

Zak has quite a problem. He suspects a member of parliament might be a terrorist. We are all aware of terrorism in modern times, but many readers are probably less aware of attacks in the Victorian era. Can you tell us a little about terrorism during this time?

The rise of republics in Europe, the social stresses of the industrial revolution and the invention of dynamite combined in volatile ways. Anarchist organizations were prevalent, including radical Irish organizations, which were responsible for a number of bombings in late Victorian London. The Irish wanted self-government and parliament could never seem to pass Home Rule legislation. There are many interesting parallels between Britain in the late nineteenth century and the US today.

Zak isn't the only one who gets caught up in the terrorist plot. Heroine Cassandra has also (unwittingly) become involved. In your opinion is she trustworthy?

Cassie maybe be a young Victorian bohemian but she is 100% trustworthy. Part of her backstory is that she sidelined her ambition to become a serious artist when she married an earl. After she became widowed (not a year into the marriage) she vows to concentrate on her painting. An Affair with Mr. Kennedy begins when Cassie rents a flat from Zak Kennedy and sets out to build her life anew. She is an artist, suffragist, and adventuress. And she just might just be interested in having an affair — with the right man. 

Cassandra has a very unusual upbringing. What was her childhood like and how did it affect her morals and goals?

Cassie was raised in a household full of brothers, by two progressive, professional parents (both parents are physicians). Her mother has forged a practice in women's health and doctors everyone from wealthy women to prostitutes. Her mother is also a placard wearing suffragist and avidly promotes the use of condoms to prevent pregnancy as well as venereal disease. 

What makes Zak and Cassie so well suited as a couple?

Ha! In many ways, they are polar opposites. Zak is reserved, stoic, over analytical. But he also has an inquiring mind and is intrigued by his new neighbor, an Impressionist artist no less, who rides bicycles in pantaloons, smokes cigars and has a tattoo in a secret place.

What aspects of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy are you most proud of?

I set out to write a love story that readers can immerse themselves in, one driven by sexual tension, with a strong supporting cast of characters and a suspense plot to keep things moving. I think I achieved that with Mr. Kennedy, but I wait to hear from readers! 

What parts of the book were most difficult for you to write?

Integrating the romance with the suspense elements and making sure the different levels of tension compliment one another and enrich the story.

Have you started writing the second novel in the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series yet? If so, can you tell us a little about what we can expect?

An Intrigue with Detective Lewis is fast-paced, heart-pounding road trip tale, featuring a combative hero and heroine in a truly heartwarming love story. Here's a quick blurb: Five years ago, pure as an angel, hot as the devil, Raphael Lewis, did something unforgivable to Fanny Greyville-Nugent. Now, the handsome Scotland Yard agent is assigned to protect the wealthy industrialist heiress. Her life is in danger from the anti-progressive Utopian Society and its leader, Bellecote Mallory, who has tumbled into madness and gone underground. One by one, the diabolical Mallory is executing prominent members of the industrialized world — by their own machines — and Fanny is next in line. Pursued by Mallory’s henchmen, Rafe and Fanny are on the run from Edinburgh to London by train, land, ship and submersible! Racing against the clock, they are carried away by their passions, but can Rafe ultimately redeem himself?

Do you have more questions about Jillian Stone and her writing process? If so, let her know in the comments below. And be sure to stop by RT's Everything Romance Page for more genre coverage!