Gentleman Prefer Mischief by Emily Greenwood

12_6 emily greenwood book coverThank you so much for having me here today to celebrate the release of GENTLEMEN PREFER MISCHIEF!

The hardest part about writing is…

Coming up with the overall structure of the story. Sometimes I might even have the right elements, but they’re in the wrong order and need to be rewritten. Also, actions tell so much about a character, and sometimes I’ll accidentally make a character unlikeable by forcing him or her do something because of a need to make the plot go in a certain direction. Fortunately, that kind of thing is usually fixed in the editing.

Where do ideas come from?

For me, a story usually starts with something about character. A compulsion, a flaw, a passion—whatever might drive a person. And then I start asking myself questions about that character.

For GENTLEMEN PREFER MISCHIEF, I knew my hero, Hal, already because he made an appearance in my first book, A LITTLE NIGHT MISCHIEF. He’s a handsome rogue who loves to tease and is always looking for the next adventure. I wanted a heroine who would both complement and challenge him, so I came up with Lily, who’s a pretty uptight woman, though she has a heart of gold. So there’s instant conflict between them, related to what each values and seeks, and that gets the story going.

To develop the story further, I think about the opposite of a character’s traits, the things a character most wants to avoid, whether they know it or not. For someone like Lily who’s very moral, that might be avoiding indulgence, or even shame. Then I give the character goals related to their traits—in Lily’s case, perhaps trying to do good and avoid shame.

Balancing life and writing

I do sometimes find this hard—for one thing, writing can be a way of escaping all the things I don’t want to do, like filling out forms, running errands, and tidying the house. For the most part, I find that after about four hours of writing, I’m not much good anymore, so I do the writing first thing in the morning and leave the rest of the day for other things.

What kind of writer am I?

Slow. Because I often don’t see what isn’t going to work until I write it, I have to throw away a lot of work. I feel that I got better as a writer when I started to throw things away sooner.

Lessons I learned from my hero

Live a little! Hal, the hero of GENTLEMEN PREFER MISCHIEF, is all about enjoying himself. He, unlike Lily, doesn’t need everything to be worthwhile. I think in our society, there is such an emphasis on accomplishment and doing—as if we are all going to get a prize at the end of life for doing the most—that we can forget to just be, and to enjoy.

What would you tell a new author?

Be patient and persevere! For almost everyone, it takes years to get good enough at writing and storytelling to create something compelling. Even authors I love, if I go back and read their earliest work, it’s obvious how they’ve improved over time. By writing and studying the craft and putting your work in front of critical (and helpful!) readers, you will improve.

Pondering the muse

I don’t believe in the muse. Writing is work. Sometimes I am just forcing words onto the page that are never going to be used, but I put them down because they’re something. Sometimes I even write yuck in the middle of awful paragraphs, knowing that they’re incredibly stupid and not working, but that I have to push on. Nothing about that process feels to me like a visit from a muse, but it’s how my books get written.

My take on critique groups

They can be super-helpful. I worked with a critique group early on and their comments helped me improve way faster that I would have on my own. Never mind the difference a little encouragement can make to a beginning writer!

How to handle negative criticism

It depends. I’m always hoping to improve, so I’m grateful for editorial comments. As for negative criticism in reviews—if there’s something useful there, I try to consider it for the next book. But some criticism is from readers who just don’t like the kind of stories I tell or the kind of characters that interest me, so I don’t spend much thought on those.


  1. Interesting premise

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  2. Thanks 🙂 Glad you stopped by.

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