Interview with Sierra Simone, One of the Authors of Naughty Brits

15 Sep 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Naughty Brits?

I’m not sure how most anthologies start, but I feel like most of them probably don’t start in a sunny pool at a writing retreat (and a fair bit of time after the wine had been opened at that!) We were in the pool talking through a friend’s London-set story, and we all gradually began riffing on the idea of romances set across the pond–and the things two people in love could or couldn’t get away with in the British Museum. And thus the anthology–with its host of cozy taverns, foggy evenings, and brooding heroes–came to be. My novella, Supplicant, is a second-chance romance with a stern professor and a poor American girl, but the anthology also features a duke in disguise written by Sarah MacLean in her first ever contemporary romance (!!), a sexy bodyguard written by Sophie Jordan, a brooding celebrity written by Louisa Edwards, and an ex-soldier with a tragic past written by fantasy author Tessa Gratton in her first ever romance!

What or who inspired you to become an author?

For a long time growing up, I thought I wanted to write non-fiction, either as a journalist or as a theologian, but after I wrote a novel for a senior class project, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. All other kinds of writing work to describe reality, but as a novelist, I would get to shape it. And also write lots of kissing scenes. So I chose fiction and never looked back!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
How Not to Fall by Emily Foster
(bonus best book: Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon!!!)

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

Is necromancy an option? If so, I’d really like to have Charles Dickens on so he can apologize for all the mean things he said about Elizabeth Gaskell. If necromancy is not an option, I’d really love to talk with Kresley Cole. (She wasn’t on my top 5 books because I literally cannot pick which book of hers is my favorite! They’re all my favorite! All of them!) She writes across genres, iterating on tropes and themes in a fun, freewheeling style, and she’s nailed the art of subverting and updating tropes while still capturing the essential magic of the original. There’s something so playful about the way she approaches storytelling, and it’s something I aspire to every time I sit down to write.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Working in pajama pants!

Truly, though, my favorite part is the process of starting a new story. I love research, I love input, and so when I’m starting a new project, there’s always a phase when I’m ordering all the research books and making folders and making notes–and beginning to dream while I’m doing it all. It feels like the beginning of a college semester to me. All that potential and new knowledge just waiting to be discovered.

What is a typical day like for you?

2020 has meant that very little is typical now–especially with kids schooling from home–but in general, I wake up right before it’s time to plonk my kids in front of their first virtual class, and then spend the next few hours yawningly doing emails and assorted marketing work. After lunch, my brain has woken up enough to write, and I write from about 1 – 4, break for dinner and family time, and then come back and write from 10 PM – 1 AM. All told, I spend about six hours a day on the words themselves (either drafting or editing) and two or three hours on the business end. I find that the business side of writing is an invasive weed, and it will start cannibalizing writing time if it goes unchecked, so I try to be deliberate about how much time and energy I give it.

What scene from Naughty Brits was your favorite to write?

Normally the high-heat scenes are my favorite, but in this case, it was the scene where my professor and my heroine meet for the first time and start arguing about a depiction of the goddess Ishtar. I wanted to capture the energy that happens when attraction is based on someone’s intelligence; I wanted to convey how it was their mutual intelligence and expertise that first captured their attention. Of course, the tricky part of writing characters smarter than I am is that I have to find a way for them to sound smarter than I am on the page–which meant lots and lots of research. Another favorite of mine!

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Gloria Anzaldúa, who was a scholar, activist and poet, said “I change myself, I change the world.” I find that to be incredibly galvanizing as well as clarifying–transformation starts with me, which means there’s no reason not to start at the present moment. And as I work to transform myself, the transformation inevitably ripples out to the people around me. Through my writing, through my actions, through my speech. It’s such a simple yet powerful recipe for making the world a more equitable, inclusive and just place.  Which in a lot of ways is the heart of the romance genre. Hope and justice.

Sierra Simone is one of the authors of the new book Naughty Brits.

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