In Mary Jo Putney's latest historical romance, Not Quite a Wife, two estranged lovers are brought back together after a 10-year separation—except the pair are already husband and wife. Spymaster James Kirkland's dark and violent career prompted a young and innocent Laurel to head for the hills, but a fateful meeting may be enough to rekindle their passion for one another.
We chatted with Putney about her love of music, historical romance and more in a 7 questions interview.
Describe your book in one sentence.
A long estranged couple who never stopped loving each other must come together again to see if they can rebuild their marriage.
What do you love most about James and Laurel?
They're both very honorable people who care about helping others, but they do so in very different ways. James's work as a spymaster is vital, but it eats at his soul. Laurel is all warmth and compassion, and James needs that so much. She gives him warmth and love and in return he makes her feel loved and valued, which she needs. They balance each other.
Music is a key element of their connection. Does music play an important role in your own life as well?
I've no particular musical talent or knowledge, but I do love it. When I work, I always have music playing. Instrumental only because words distract me. I love Celtic music and Baroque, among others. Music seemed like a perfect way to show how James and Laurel connect. After they separate, his music is his one solace and a way of connecting with her, even though she's gone from his life: He keeps it so private that even his closest friends don't know what a talented musician he is.
What do you love most about writing historical romance?
It's a great excuse to research history! Plus, because the setting is distant from modern life, it's possible to write dramatic, over the top characters and plots. It's also possible to deal with difficult issues, like alcoholism and death, because setting them in the past allows for some space and detachment.
Which authors first inspired you to start writing yourself?
I always loved reading and books, but I grew up in farm country. Lots of dairy cows, no writers. It never occurred to me that I could become a writer. The actual inspiration to start was getting a personal computer so I could get words down, and when I fixed them, they stayed fixed! But authors that influenced me greatly would be Robert A. Heinlein, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Dunnett and Georgette Heyer. They all shaped my love of storytelling.
What’s at the top of your reading list right now?
I'm madly trying to finish a book, so I'm re-reading old favorites at the moment. Lois McMaster’s Bujold's Vorkosigan series. Beth Kendrick's smart, funny contemporaries. Patricia Briggs' urban fantasy because she does brilliant characterization. When my book is done, I'll go back to shopping around for new authors.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently working on my seventh Lost Lords book, which will be out next year and is titled Not Always a Saint. The hero, Daniel, is the brother of Laurel in Not Quite a Wife. Like her, he is caring and hardworking, a doctor who is also an ordained minister. The heroine, naturally, is a Wicked Woman for contrast!
Author photo by Marti Corn