Hi everyone! So if you’ve seen my Goodreads profile or talked with me about books lately, you’ve probably seen me confess my love for ‘Servant of the Crown’ about ten billion times. That’s how much I loved it. If you love anything regency, romance, castles, princes, ballrooms, and anything in between, you need to check out her books. Trust me on this one (you can see my review HERE)! In fact, I couldn’t type an email fast enough to Melissa McShane, asking if she wouldn’t mind sharing a bit of her brilliant mind in an interview! Lucky for us, she agreed!
One of the things I loved most about ‘Servant of the Crown’ was the unique blend of genres. My personal take on it was fantasy meets regency romance. What was your inspiration in choosing this route? What is your favorite part about the world you’ve created?
I’ve always liked the Regency period (my other series, The Extraordinaries, is set in an alternate Regency England) and the idea of a world in which society was egalitarian and yet had some of the elements of Regency and pre-Regency society interested me. My favorite part is actually the religion. Tremontane and most of the countries surrounding it believe in ungoverned heaven—a place without gods that is linked to earth by lines of power. It’s unique and different and results in a different mindset for my characters.
Do you ever get frustrated with your character’s choices?
Yes! Writing the second half of Servant was so hard because I wanted Anthony and Alison to be together, and that couldn’t happen so long as Alison didn’t change. It took her so long to change, and even though I knew her progress was as it should be, it didn’t stop me wishing I could skip ahead to the resolution. (There was an earlier version that had them getting together about two-thirds of the way through, but it just didn’t work. Alison needed to experience all the events of the story to be able to change properly.)
You’ve written some extremely emotional scenes between Antony and Alison. What scene was the most fun to write?
Probably the scene where Anthony tells Alison how he feels about her. He has already changed so much, and Alison really hasn’t yet, and her desire to believe him was so at odds with what she feared would happen, it made that very emotional to write—which was a lot of fun, strangely. I just loved their love story.
I can’t wait to dive into the rest of the ‘Crown of Tremontane’ series. I know they are companion novels, which makes me even more excited. What can readers look forward to as they continue?
The three novels tell the story of different generations, which means there are about twenty-five years between each one. Rider of the Crown takes a step away from the North royal family to tell the story of Imogen, who is a nomad warrior caught up in international intrigue, first as an unwilling bride to a very nasty man and then as ambassador to Tremontane, where she becomes involved with Alison and Anthony’s son Jeffrey. Agent of the Crown is about Alison’s granddaughter Telaine, who appears to be a frivolous socialite but is in reality a spy for the King of Tremontane. There are many changes between the books, and I’m afraid something very sad happens between Servant and Rider that isn’t really resolved until the epilogue to Agent.
If you could create a soundtrack for the series, what are a few songs that would be on it?
Okay, this shows how long I thought about Tremontane before I wrote it, but Phil Collins’ song “Against All Odds” is the theme for Agent of the Crown. And I always picture Anthony and Alison dancing to Maroon 5’s “Love Somebody.” I don’t tend to think in terms of music, so the songs that occur to me in connection with my books are generally odd.
In addition to reading the book, I actually listened to it on audible as well and I adored the narration! Will the rest be made into audiobooks as well?
I don’t know. The audio production is up to Tantor, who produced the audiobook, and they have to see it do well to want to take a chance on sequels. I would really love for them all to be audiobooks, because my daughter has a reading disability and only ever listens to books instead of reading print. I know she will love this series if she’s able to read it!
Tell us a little bit about your writing process! Are you a plotter or do you prefer to write as you go?
I do a lot of planning in advance of writing. For the Tremontane series, I have a huge notebook in Microsoft OneNote with details on customs, history, the North family tree, things like that. Then I start writing the book by outlining as much as I know about the story. Usually this first outline has big gaps that I fill in as I write my way closer to them. With Servant, because the book is in two parts, I had outlines for each section, as well as notes on what Alison wanted and what Anthony wanted at different points in the story. Each day, I read through what I wrote the day before, making small changes, so I can get back into the story. I also now keep what I call a final outline, that I add to at the end of a writing session so I end up with what’s basically a synopsis of the novel. With this method, it takes me between 4-8 weeks to write a complete novel.
Who are some of your biggest writing influences?
Diana Wynne Jones, Sherwood Smith, Lois McMaster Bujold, Martha Wells, Jasper Fforde. I wish I could create a multi-series world like Terry Pratchett did with Discworld.
If you were stuck on an island with only one book, what would it be?
I have a book database to keep track of the thousands of books I own, and of those books, there are maybe 375 that I’ve rated the highest rating possible. That’s a lot to choose from. I would have to say Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells. It’s been a huge influence on my writing, and I never get bored of reading it.
What is next for you?
In April I intend to release a complete trilogy called Convergence, which is about a young woman mage transported from her world, where magic is forbidden, to a world in which magic is celebrated. The two worlds are coming together, and it will take her magic along with that of her new home to stop it happening—but that’s just the beginning of the story. It’s told in diary format and I really love it.
Then in September I’ll publish the first of the Willow North trilogy, Pretender to the Crown, which tells the story of Willow, first of the North queens, who started life as a thief. Willow comes home one night to find her former boyfriend in her home with the eight-year-old King Felix of Tremontane, whose uncle murdered Felix’s father and wants to kill young Felix so he can be King. Each volume will be published a month apart, and they’re a good prequel to Servant as well as an excellent introduction to Tremontane for people who haven’t read the other books.
Do you have any advice for writers aspiring to be as awesome as you?
Thank you! My advice is—read a lot of different books in different genres, just for fun. Then re-read the ones that really spoke to you, analyzing how the author did what she did in creating characters or writing description or dialogue. Write the stories you love and trust that they will find an audience. Don’t be afraid to try something no one else has done before. And find some readers you trust to read your stuff before you send it out to be published—and listen to their insights.
Melissa, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to interview with me! I’m so excited to continue the series, as well as more of your books! You are such an inspiration!
Everyone, I highly recommend checking out the audio version of ‘Servant of the Crown’ as well! Click HERE for the link to the audible version! Otherwise, be sure to add her books to your TBR! You won’t regret it!