Author Emery Lee of The Highest Stakes is stopping by The Life and Lies today. Keep your eyes peeled for my review of The Highest Stakes.
A quick summary of The Highest Stakes (from goodreads):
All thoroughbred horses in the world to this very day can trace their blood back to three specific Arabian stallions imported to England in the early part of the 18th century. Against this backdrop comes a painstakingly researched novel with breathtaking scenes of real races, real horses, glimpses of the men who cared for them, and the tensions of those who owned and controlled them.
In 18th century England and Colonial Virginia, when high-spirited stallions filled the stables of the lords of the land and fortunes were won and lost on the outcome of a race, a love story unfolds between a young woman for whom her uncle's horses are her only friends and the young man who teaches her everything about their care and racing. When she's forced into marriage, his only hope of winning her back is to race his horse to reclaim all that was stolen from him—his land, his dignity, and his love.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I began writing (at the tender age of forty three!) during a point in my professional life when I was experiencing a great deal of frustration and suppressed creative energy. Although I had never written anything before, I had this idea for a historical novel churning around in my head. I shared it with a friend who, like the Nike ad said, “Just do it. Write the book.”
So I did!
What inspired you to write The Highest Stakes?
I have always loved history and historical fiction. I am also such a sucker for a romance, especially a seemingly ill-fated one. Add to the mix a lifelong love of horses, and you have the elements that converged to create The Highest Stakes, an epic novel of thwarted love, ambition, and betrayal against the backdrop of 18th century horse racing.
How did you come up with the title?
My original title for the novel was “Blood Will Tell,” which actually refers to the performance potential of a racehorse based on bloodlines, but my publisher must have thought it sounded too much like a vampire novel, and in their wisdom re-titled the novel The Highest Stakes.
What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?
Without hesitation I must say the incomparable Georgette Heyer was my biggest influence. I fell in love with her novels as a teen and re-read them to this day. Of her many novels, I think I was most influenced by An Infamous Army when I wrote The Highest Stakes. I can’t think of anyone who has negatively influenced my writing.
How do you go about researching for your books?
I love research! The problem is that I become so obsessed with research that at times I go off on so many rabbit trails that I forget what I was actually looking for! At the same time, this tendency has led to some fascinating discoveries – like a Jacobite intrigue that was plotted at the Lichfield races, which I featured in chapter one of my novel.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
I used many real people in the story fictionally. The Duke of Cumberland features in his true role as the second son of George II and a military leader. I wrote him as I envisioned him. Dr. Pringle who treats Robert’s wounds was a real military surgeon, as was his experimentation with anti-septic agents that I included.
The majority of the horses were also real, particularly Amoret, although I added some fictional ones into the story as well.
Robert Devington’s acts of bravery were loosely inspired by an account of the Battle of Dettingen, where a private in Bland’s Dragoons named Thomas Brown, was knighted on the field for bravery after suffering numerous wounds to save his regimental standard.
What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?
The most exciting part –
Being able to say, “I did it! I actually wrote a full-length novel deemed worthy of publication!”
The hardest part-
Chewing my nails to the quick while waiting for the reviews and hoping they concur that it was worthy of publication!
Do you have any other books planned in the future?
Absolutely! At least three at the moment.
Philip and Sukey were such great secondary characters that I am dying to tell their story. I have nine chapters written that I hope to pitch to Sourcebooks soon.
I would also like to continue the tale of Philip’s son Ian, in a third installment, but the future of both of these proposals rests in the success of The Highest Stakes.
I very much hope to write them.
After that, I have one other idea that again relates back to early horse racing.
Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
This is so very hard to answer because it is such a character driven novel, and there are pieces of me in every single character – good and bad, so I can’t help loving them all!
In the end, I confess that Philip is most near and dear to me. I love his complexity and caprice.
What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?
Read incessantly. You will learn something about writing from each single author and from every book.
Just for fun:
1. What are your ten most favorite things?
I have done my best to place in order although order can be subject to mood!
- Food – ranked first due to necessity to life!
- Sex – there is (literally and figuratively) no life without it!
- My husband – there is no #2 without him
- My children – a source of pride and joy (the result of #2 and #3)
- Books – at times may replace #2 but never #1 without a whole lot of condiments!
- Writing- an ineffable experience
- Horses – a lifelong love
- Music – a delight to the soul classical is my favorite (Handel, Bach and Mozart)
- Sleep – I dream a lot. I dream chapters of books. I can never get enough.
- 10. Is there any more to life?????
2. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Sleep! (I do most of my writing late at night)
3. Do you have any pets?
Yes. Currently two dogs – both strays that were dumped at our “farm,” and two horses: one grey Arabian, and one Palomino Quarter Horse – both geldings. (I don’t much abide mares!)
4. What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?
Foods? I do love food, especially Italian but not Italian desserts. I adore crème brulee.
Least favorite is German food.
5. Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
Yes. I MUST have my own space no matter how small. I can’t tolerate interruptions or distractions. I play music (usually Bach or Handel) to drown out the TV, the Wii, or whatever else is going on in the house.
6. Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
My indulgence is Twinings’ Lady Grey tea. I drink it every night.
7. If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?
New Zealand. I want to live the remainder of my life writing books and herding sheep (on horseback of course).
8. What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?
I am a complete geek. I loved school, especially languages. I studied French and Spanish and was an exchange student in Finland my senior year of high school. I hated math and I thought I was completely stupid in it until I got a 620 on my math SAT.
9. What book are you reading right now?
I have just started Wild Swan by Celeste Deblasis. I had never even heard of the book until someone blogged that my plot in The Highest Stakes had some similarities to it. I immediately tracked down a copy so that I would be prepared to discuss it intelligently if comparisons are made.
10. Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
Jokes - I love a good joke but have never been able to tell one. I can never get the timing or punch line right!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Emery.
About the Author
Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel: a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. For more information, please visit http://authoremerylee.com/
The Highest Stakes was published April 1st by Sourcebooks.