Inés Saint interviews Crimson Romance Author and Golden Heart Finalist, Moriah Densley

RWA 2012 Golden Heart Finalist
for Historical Fiction

Crimson Romance Author and Golden Heart Finalist, Moriah Densley, joins me today in a cyber version of an outdoor café, under a crimson sunset,  to tell me a little more about herself and her soon to be released title, Song for Sophia. You’re invited to pull up a chair, order from our shirtless waiter, and listen in on our girl talk/author chat.

Inés Saint: First of all, congratulations on being named a finalist! I’d love to know what it was like to get such exciting news…Where were you? How did you react? What did you do to celebrate?

Moriah Densley: Thank you, Inés! Pass the napkins, please; I’m having a little trouble with the chipotle sauce on my turkey focaccia sandwich. So, I entered the Golden Heart on a whim and forgot about it. When I saw a call from Texas the morning of March 26th, I thought it was my friend in Houston. Imagine my surprise to hear THE Julia London on the line. She had good news, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s no secret my historical is a bit unconventional, so I was honestly surprised.

Anyway, I got off the phone and started behaving like an orangutan on caffeine. My kids came running to see what was on fire. What they understood: Mommy just won Best Writer in the Whole World Award. I let them think so. I went to lunch with my friend Pauline, and tried not to be obnoxiously giddy.

The best perk: Sixty-five instant friends. The other GH finalists are friendly and helpful, and so savvy it’s scary. It really is honor to be a finalist. I feel like I already have my prize, and in July I will happily cheer for the winner and not be too terribly jealous.

IS: It sounds so exciting and gratifying… I have goose bumps. I wish you the best of luck come July, and seriously, your kids are too cute. Are you planning on attending the ceremony? If so, are you stressing about what you’ll wear?

MD: Yes, I’m going! Looking forward to it. I hope to see you and our other writer friends there.

Ooh! We’re going to talk about girly stuff? *sheepish thought for Glock logo on t-shirt* I was concerned about the row of dorky ’90s prom dresses at the back of my closet comprising my formal wardrobe, until last week. I took a shortcut through Dillard’s on my way back from the Apple store and saw The Dress. Count on me to go straight to the most expensive item in the store, but the stars were aligned in my favor. The perfect navy blue, triple-lined, corseted, floor-length gown―in my size and on clearance. Sold! Fashion dilemma solved. Now I have to stick to my workout routine so I can still zip it up in July. Confiscate my chocolate, please?

IS: A few Ladies in Red and I will happily confiscate your chocolate, only because we’re made of such generous stuff. And hey, if Sharon Stone can wear a Gap T-shirt to the Oscars and still get past the fashion police, you can certainly wear a Glock logo T-shirt. However….your dress sounds dreamy! You will definitely have to post a pic. Now, tell me, what inspired you to write Golden Heart Finalist for Historical Fiction; Song for Sophia?

MD: As much as I adore Jane Austen, I love the Brontë sisters more. Tormented heroes who make bad mistakes before finding redemption. Heroines who sacrifice their pride for love. Dignified angst, leashed sensuality, a hint of the supernatural—timeless romance. It calls to me. I think Laura Kinsale is our modern Brontë, with her masterful use of le pathétique—pathos or artistic suffering. “Smart romance” before the term was even coined.

Wilhelm Montegue in “Song for Sophia” was inspired by Brontë and Kinsale’s dark, fascinating heroes, with a twist. Wilhelm is a mathematical and musical savant, but his genius is tempered with odd limitations. He flawlessly transcribes the aria he heard at the opera but can’t fasten a button. His social radar is off; he insults the vicar by quoting Newton or is caught in a staring trance for minutes on end. The next minute he is winsome and generous. The rumors about him are not nice.

Who could possibly be his match? Meet Anne-Sophia Duncombe, the lousiest housemaid in all Christendom. She’s hiding from her father, and it’s either life as a domestic or the convent for her. One night she stumbles (literally) over Wilhelm in the garden, and the fun begins. What did I enjoy most about creating these characters? Beginning with two people who have nothing left to lose, and watching them find true love.

I did say I adore Jane Austen, and am admittedly a lover of all things silly and ridiculous. Despite some darker elements (a hero who was captured and tortured during the war, and a heroine with an abusive father), Wilhelm and Sophia interact with an irreverent sense of humor. Constantly teasing, they stretch and break their Victorian etiquette, which I had a ball with. I hope readers find equal parts drama and humor.

IS: You did an excellent job channeling your inspirations into Wilhelm and Sophia. From the beginning, I pictured Wilhelm as a cross between Michael Fassbender in “Jane Eyre” and Tom Hardy in “Wuthering Heights”. And I can picture Sophia trifling with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She definitely has it in her.

MD: Inés―thank you! Such high praise. Pardon me a moment while I preen.

For those of you eager to meet these unique, memorable characters, Song for Sophia will be released on June 4th, 2012 by Crimson Romance Books. What other books can we expect from you in the near future?

MD: I also write paranormal romance. “The Valkyrie’s Guardian,” about Cassiopeia Noyon, a flunky superhero who falls for Jack MacGunn, an immortal berserker working as a Navy SEAL, releases October 8, 2012 from Crimson Romance.

Next in the historical series is “The King of Threadneedle Street,” about a financial prodigy who turns world markets upside down to get what he wants . . . which is his childhood sweetheart, a courtesan’s daughter. I’ve finished the manuscript and will start shopping it soon.

IS: I’m thrilled to see we can expect new, intriguing characters and worlds from you so soon, Moriah! Let’s now go a little bit further into the future. Would you mind sharing your dream for where you’ll be in five years?

MD: In five years, you’ll google me and find at least 15 published books in a few different genres, books readers talk about and care about. I’ll answer fan mail from a balcony overlooking the sapphire-blue waters of Santorini. (This is my dream, right?) I would love to be in a position where I can write whatever I want, without worrying, “Am I toeing the market line?” Rather I would ask, “Is this fresh and thought-provoking? An emotional and sensory experience for the reader?” That is freedom. That’s art.

IS: Freedom is such a lovely dream and I daresay you’re well on your way to making it a reality.  And I’m glad we share a love for the silly and the ridiculous because it is now Quick Quirky Questions time.

– If you could have one of your characters over for coffee, tea, or a margarita, which character would you choose, and what is the one question you’d ask them?

MD: Lady Chauncey, Sophia Duncombe’s colorful courtesan mother, is a character I love more and more as she develops. In “Song for Sophia,” she is credited with teaching Sophia aristocratic dignity; smiling and carrying on despite everything falling apart around her. Instead of being disenchanted and defeated by her abusive husband, Helena Duncombe hides her bruises under a corsage or hat feather, cracks a joke, and takes a trip to Paris where she breaks the hearts of half a dozen men half her age.

In “The King of Threadneedle Street” she looks for love in all the wrong places but has a keen eye for matchmaking, and is sincerely pleased when her friends find love. Comfortable in her own skin, her happiness doesn’t come from naïveté, but a conscious decision not to let the negative stick. Her “sadder but wiser” mien fuels her wry humor. If I could hang out with Helena, I don’t know if I would dare ask her a poignant question, for fear of getting a too-honest answer, but know I would laugh. A lot.

I’m toying with the idea of giving Helena her own story.

IS: I love the idea of Helena having her own story! More than once, I found myself thinking: The tales this woman could tell…

-If you could live in any story ever written, which story would you choose and why?

MD: If I could be Jason Bourne’s sidekick . . . I would probably screw up get myself killed in the first scene. But before that, all my super-spy-assassin fantasies would come true. I would crack an encrypted letter, defuse a bomb, get the bad guys, save the museum artifact, hack into a computer mainframe, and land a few spectacular aerial stunts involving motorcycles, parachutes, and remote Italian villages.

I wouldn’t pick a period piece. Those polished, clever people would eat me for breakfast. And I have an affinity for modern plumbing, pest control, yoga pants, and the internet.

IS: If your Glocks could time travel with you, I’m sure they’d quiet the polished, clever people. 

-If you were single, who would you rather kiss: James Bond, Mr.Darcy, Thor, or Lloyd Dobler? And you know I’m going to ask…why?

MD: Oh yes, Thor, baby. Come to mama. *wipes drool* What was that? Uh, sorry. You said Thor, and I think I went somewhere else for a while. (Covers husband’s ears.) Yeah, I really have a thing for superheroes, and Thor is positively adorable. Broad shoulders―check. Warrior tough-act going on―check. Shy-guy smile with dimples―check. I’m a goner. Hypothetically.

IS: Thank you so much for joining me, Moriah! We now have to return to the real world, where we don’t get to kiss Thor (bummer), kick butt with Jason Bourne (probably a good thing), or have our characters over for a chat (they’d label us certifiable). Wait, that’s a depressing way to end the interview. Let’s instead end by saying we’ll meet again in five years in Santorini for another interview! I’ll bring the chipotle.

MD: Thank you for hosting me, Inés. I’m taking you up on that. 2017: You, me, Greece, and chipotle.

Visit moriahdensley.com for teasers and sample chapters, and humorous blog articles on life as a writer. See reader reviews on Goodreads.com. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I love hearing from readers!

Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children.

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Sexually depraved fruit fly gets hammered and becomes a muse…

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Sexually depraved fruit fly gets hammered and becomes a muse…

The actual title of the article I read was “Sexual Deprivation Increases Ethanol Intake in Drosophila and it captured my imagination. I’d love to know who came up with this study and… why? Why would anyone study a drunk and horny fruit fly?

Now, I’m not going to pester the author of this study with questions because he sounds busy… but my mind keeps wandering and wondering and soon, there’s a new voice in my head. Some voices stay with me and become characters. Others fade away.

This new voice stays.  He becomes a very intense (and endearing) research scientist who’s absorbed by his fruit fly studies. My adorable geek begins to show me bits and pieces of his past and I see him as an inquisitive, dirty-faced little boy, chasing and collecting insects. He puts them in jars, pokes holes in the lids, and watches them, fascinated. The images make me smile and I wonder if this character will continue to reveal itself to me.

A few days later my eight-year-old wants to know if the word drunk is a bad word. He begins to tell me a (long-winded) story about an argument two kids had over this. As I nod and (pretend to) listen, my scientist comes back for a visit. This time he shows me a short reel of himself as an anxiety-ridden little boy, peeking out from inside his closet. He’s so sad. The jars he used to collect his insects are smashed on the floor.  Among the broken pieces of glass I see a label for a popular brand of vodka. Someone is storming out of his room, alternately grumbling and yelling. My future scientist is holding his breath, his heart thumping hard in his throat.

So I learn there’s a reason my character now draws on his passion for insects to help study alcoholism. This disease affected the carefree child I first imagined. He lets me in on his current, noble intentions, and I can’t help but care about him. I want him to fulfill his needs. I want him to have his own happy ending.

My geek is sexy when he’s exasperated. Who can exasperate my geek? Maybe someone who is his complete opposite, but who shares a similar history..? A rival scientist from his past with secrets of her own..? She hasn’t entered my mind just yet, but she will, probably inspired by a song on the radio, another article, or a random comment. And when she enters my mind I’ll begin spinning a new yarn about characters I really care about.

I’ll probably never know why the author of the article that inspired me began studying fruit flies, but maybe you can let me in on what inspires you. I’d love to know.