Cynsters Next Generation Interview
When you started the Cynster series, did you think it would become so big?
No, I had no idea the Cynsters would fascinate readers in such a way—although, of course, I hoped that might be so. The initial six books were always intended to be published as a group—one after another. But believe it or not, back then (1996-early 2000s) publishers were very leery of “groups or series, or…” for romance. The buyers for the accounts (almost universally male) didn’t like them. So it was a battle to get them published as a group at all—and the publisher always downplayed the connection between the books. We never managed to get “A Cynster Novel” or any such tagline on the covers until the 11th book! (The Ideal Bride). I just checked my shelf of first editions, and it was that long before publishers woke up to the phenomenon that romance readers liked families! Now, of course, that’s changed, but back then, it was a different story.
In terms of long-running and still continuing series in romance, the Cynsters were among the first to get started.
Why did you start the Next Generation series with the stories of Richard’s oldest children?
The three things that determine order of romance in such a large family are gender, age, and personality.
With respect to gender, if you are looking at males and females of the same age, then by and large, the females are going to get married first. Lucilla is the eldest female of the Cynster next generation. Sebastian, the eldest male, is a bare year older, so Lucilla is going to marry before Sebastian.
In that period and circle of society, when it comes to age, the females are generally going to get married before 30, while the males are generally going to marry after reaching 30, possibly reaching to the late 30s.
As for personality, I can illustrate that by looking at the group of 3 oldest girls described in The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh—Lucilla, Prudence, and Antonia Rawlings (although not a Cynster). Those three young ladies are going to be among the first to marry. Of the three, given her role as new Lady of the Vale, Lucilla is likely to be the first (The Tempting of Thomas Carrick, 1848). Antonia wants to get married, so she’s the next (The Lady By His Side, 1850). But Prudence has, so she thinks, no interest in marriage, so she’s going to resist and be older when she does succumb. Prudence’s romance will be the one to follow the current Devil’s Brood Trilogy. It was always likely that given Louisa’s and Prudence’s characters, that Louisa would marry before Prudence.
As for Marcus marrying when he did, two years after Lucilla, as Lucilla’s twin, and as their stories were connected, his book had to follow Lucilla’s.
And that’s the answer to the question—Lucilla’s romance naturally was the first, and Marcus was her twin and the stories were connected.
And by then (1850), Sebastian was reaching the point where he was considering marriage, so…
Working out the order is really a matter of allowing my characters to behave as people would. And after the difficulties readers had when I didn’t stick to chronological order with the Cynsters back when I did Simon’s book ahead of those that followed (remember?), I’ve vowed to stick to chronological order—the order the genders, ages, and personalities of the characters dictate—as far as possible!
After the first ten books, you then wrote Helena’s story (The Promise in a Kiss). Did that evolve as a result of the previous 10 books, or did you always have it in mind?
The Promise in a Kiss came about for two reasons. One, by then, Helena had become a favorite character and readers wanted the story. Two, my publisher wanted to do a hardcover Cynster book as a Christmas special, and my usual novels are too long for that. As Helena’s story naturally came so much earlier, it was easier to do as a slightly shorter work. That’s really why The Promise in a Kiss came about.
Will the senior Cynsters make an appearance in the stories?
Oh, most definitely! You won’t see many in the first of the Devil’s Brood Trilogy, but they become progressively more abundant as the trilogy progresses, and there’s a very large contingent in the third volume. Indeed, two of your favorite grandes dames play a key role in solving the mystery.
I really can’t imagine a family behaving in any other way. Of course, the elders are interested and concerned, but it’s no longer their time. This is the moment when their children—now adults—start accepting the challenge and stepping forward to shape their world.
Will Wolverstone and his offspring be featured?
Drake, Marquess of Winchelsea, Wolverstone’s eldest son, appears on the first page of the first volume in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy. He is a critical player in all three stories, and the hero of the last. So yes, the Variseys are definitely represented, and in the third volume, you meet more of them.
And yes, Drake has three brothers and two sisters. I now know who they are, and I’m sure in time their stories will eventuate.
At the end of The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh, you detail the number of children, their sex, and the year they were born. How do you keep track of them all?
How much additional research do you have to do as time carries you into the Victoria era?
I do have to do more research, that’s true, but it isn’t all that much more than I did for the stories set in the 1830s, or, for instance, the research I had to do for The Adventurers Quartet. For any book, I research the locales and all the specific items and issues pertinent to the story.
For instance, in the Devil’s Brood Trilogy, because I found myself using so much that was real history, I’ve added Author Notes at the end of each volume explaining what was real and giving a little more historical background.
One thing I have had to change is my reference map for London streets. Otherwise, for ordinary day to day living, as well as the obvious areas such as fashions and travel, I tend to research those specific things that crop up in stories—the use and prevalence of gaslighting, for instance.
There were so many advances made in the late 1840s and 1850s, such as rail and telegraph. Do these things make it easier or harder to shift era?
I don’t know that I would categorize such changes as making things harder or easier—they certainly make things different, and in terms of keeping a series fresh and entertaining, different—in the sense of what is going on around the characters, the world in which they live—is always good!
Changes in the characters’ world do make writing the stories more of a challenge, but that also keeps me engaged and—hopefully—on my toes.