Suzette Hollingsworth grew up in Wyoming and Texas, went to school in Tennessee (Sewanee), lived in Europe two summers, and now resides in beautiful Washington state with her cartoonist husband, four cats, and a dachsie named “Tinkerbelle.” She collaborates on a web-comic with her husband, www.startingfromscratchcomic.com, which has a strange correlation to their life! (And which has readers in sixty countries.) It’s the story of how financial misfortune transformed their lives.
Suzette’s hobbies are playing the flute and traveling with her husband. Her favorite music is opera, Little Richard, and bluegrass. She loves tropical vacations and snorkeling: she freely admits that the closer she gets to the equator, the happier she is. She also admits to being a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll with a passion for all things Jane Austen. She also loves her Seattle gal pals and Girls’ Beach Parties with her high school graduating class.
The Daughters of the Empire series, 3 novels
What's the genre/subgenre of your series?
Historical Romance. The best descriptor of the series is “If Jane Austen and Robert Downey Jr. met on the African Queen type of historical romance.”
What is the premise of your series? What ties it together? Are the characters related, have the same career, live in the same town, etc.?
The daughter of each union is the heroine of the sequel novel, encountering along the way a British officer in Egypt (Victorian times), a Spanish prince in Madrid (1902), and a World War II spy in Italy.
Why write a series? What are the pros and cons?
I understand that there are marketing advantages to writing a series, but that’s not why I wrote it. I wrote it because I have a story to tell and it has me in its grip: I couldn’t do anything else. In fact, I would like to carry the Daughters of the Empire series to its natural conclusion and have a futuristic female president.
What's your next project? Is there another series in your writing future?
YES, as a matter of fact! My current project is a young Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in their early thirties with Mrs. Hudson’s niece the love interest. In the first novella, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Sword Princess, seventeen-year-old Mirabella Hudson, hired as a laboratory assistant for Sherlock Holmes, learns that the Great Detective has more in store for her than washing jars, labeling specimens, and indexing criminal fingerprints.
Sherlock Holmes is a great, fun hero to write because he is liked from the get-go despite being a pompous ass (or perhaps because of it!) something which might result in an unsympathetic hero in another narrative. Holmes also lends himself well to Steampunk, blending the “Age of Invention” with something old-fashioned, elegant, and slower-paced. It seems to be a perfect fit for my writer’s voice which involves complex plots and is elegant and witty.
Yes, I will give away a free book in the Daughters of the Empire series (Kindle, Nook or .pdf version) winner’s choice:
THE PARADOX: The Soldier and the Mystic
A closet Victorian psychic’s abilities are the key to a British officer’s future, the reason why he can't marry her, and the destruction of her dreams.
THE SERENADE: The Prince and the Siren
It's the clash of the TITAN EGOS between the crown prince of Spain and a Parisian diva opera singer whose suppressed terrifying secrets unexpectedly escape to the surface when she sings.
THE CONSPIRACY: The Contessa and the Cartoonist
A World War II spy/Contessa crosses swords quite literally with a dashing British political cartoonist who threatens to blow her cover.
Any other information you would like to add?
I think this is a great time for writers and a great time to write your series. I believe in writing the story which has always fascinated you--intrigue is contagious!
Oh, for goodness’ sake, who is he and why is approaching me? It was little more than twenty minutes until curtain. Until her life changed forever, until all of her hard work culminated in one perfect moment, until…
She smiled at her own excitement. It was all deliciously true, and there could be no further delays before proceeding backstage. Although she was in full costume, her heavy makeup had not yet been applied.
Nicolette glanced his way, his exquisitely elegant dress catching her interest. Definitely wealthy, or dressed the part if not. For a moment her curiosity overcame her ire. Even in a sea of seemingly identical evening wear, he stood apart.
His dark hair waved over his ears from underneath a black silk top hat, and his dark-brown eyes were…inviting. There was a regal, stiff formality about him.
And he has the most engaging smile I ever beheld. Combine that with the heat in his eyes and…
What am I thinking? I need to leave--now. She admonished herself to hasten out of the Grand Foyer without looking back. And something about him…
This isn’t like me. Especially tonight.
He had the look of a notorious flirt. Dangerously virile. She never succumbed to any courtship by the extremely rich or notoriously handsome and most assuredly not both! They had everything, and nothing pleased them.
Why am I speculating on this man I don’t know? He is nothing to me, and this is the singular most important night of my life.
As he grew closer, Nicolette observed the unmistakable look of desire in his eyes. Well, she certainly was not going to be next on this dark lord’s discard list.
Inexcusable! I allowed him to reach me. No doubt due to the fact that his gait contained much more energy than the elderly bow he was now executing as if he were suffering from gout, despite having the superb physique of a sportsman.
“Mademoiselle, may I beg your acquaintance?” His smile was dazzling. It surprised her that he exerted the effort.
“You may. If it pleases you.” She barely nodded, but she kept her eyes glued to his face, growing increasingly annoyed with his effrontery. She was no man’s student, nor did she wish to engage in any game and call it love. He had best look elsewhere. Love must be love and nothing else. Like music, love must be pure and rich and encompass everything. It must swallow one whole.
Why am I concerning myself with him? Nicolette raised her chin, her forced expression cordial, she was sure, but her mood anything but.
The elegant gentleman appeared startled at her dismissal. Something told her he was not accustomed to begging--or even asking. He would soon gain an education in manners. Why the fact that she was not at all impressed by him should momentarily stun him, Nicolette did not know, but it appeared to be a new experience for him. True, he was exquisite and wealthy, but this did not preclude rejection.
“I would prefer to please you, Mademoiselle,” he remarked slowly, his tone both tempting and bewitching, as if he were wavering between commanding and placating. “And how might that be accomplished?”
Suddenly a little man appeared out of nowhere, clearly intending to announce the gentleman’s presence--how outmoded! She smiled in spite of herself. He displayed a practiced arrogance that implied the announcement was generally not needed but that she, in her unrefined foolishness, required it.
She returned her eyes to the elegant gentleman who had cleared his throat, an apparent signal to her to answer him. She happily obliged him. “That is not information which should be necessary for me to reveal. One who was truly interested would discern it.”
The page observed her lack of deference with an unconcealed desire to correct it as he hovered beside her polished intruder in overt dismay, his moustache bobbing.
This delighted Nicolette all the more.
“Mademoiselle, have I offended you? The very idea pains me. Let us take the first step toward reconciliation and actually meet. It is the greatest wish of my heart.”
Those residing in hell wish for a glass of water, but I should not expect them to get it. She lowered her eyes in an effort to hide her mirth. “And mine, I assure you.”
“Your servant, Mademoiselle.” His manner was polite, but his positioning prevented her from advancing. He reached for her hand to kiss it in a gesture of introduction.
She denied her hand. Simply because she was an opera singer did not mean that she owed men an audience or free access to her body.
He was clearly astonished that she refused him her hand, his practiced demeanor suddenly stupefied. Much to her amusement, this was far more than his companion, the perfumed bull, could endure. The attendant grew red in the face and rushed forward, sputtering, “The crown prince of Spain, Alejandro de Bonifácio, wishes to make your acquaintance, Mademoiselle.”
Oh, my. This is a most distressing development.
So she had refused to grant the prince of Spain his every wish, had she? Well, not the best thing to do, she supposed, but he couldn’t expect her to know who was demanding her hand.
Why am I still here? The first bell sounded, indicating that patrons should exit the Grand Foyer for their seats. I am Cinderella, and the clock is striking twelve, and still I stand here, staring…
“Are you a lover of music, Your Highness?” she asked, watching for his reaction. He had a pleasing manner now that she observed him more closely.
“I am a devoted patron, Mademoiselle.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “But I must admit that I prefer the classics both in art and music.”
“I do not actually understand the new music. Puccini and Verdi are much too modern for me. Forgive me if they are a particular favorite of yours.”
“Very much so.” She giggled. “And who is your favorite Spanish soprano, if I may ask?”
“I favor the days when men sang all the parts. I admit I am old-fashioned but do not like to see our women on the stage.”
“Oh?” she asked coolly. “And why is that, Your Highness?”
“I would think it would be obvious, Mademoiselle. And, please, call me Prince Alejandro.”
“You consider it degrading for women to be on the stage, Your Highness?” she persisted.
“That is the general view of things. And how could it be otherwise? Women should be cherished, protected, and revered. How can that be the case when they are flaunting themselves on the stage?”
“I beg you will excuse me, Your Highness.” She forced a smile before turning to leave, surprised at the magnitude of her disappointment in this man.
How could she have imagined any other outcome? Why had she wasted her precious time with him? She wanted to kick herself. “I am much honored to make your acquaintance, but I, unfortunately, have a pressing engagement.”
“Mademoiselle, please. When shall I see you again?” he asked, his voice desperate. Clearly he was unaccustomed to being refused information and did not know how to navigate this situation.
“Oh, I should think very soon indeed.” Unless I don’t make haste. She could not resist turning to gaze upon him one last time.
“But I don’t even have your name,” he commanded, his voice now edged with angst.
“You will, Your Highness.” She bestowed a parting glance upon him before turning and gliding quickly across the Grand Foyer, smiling to herself. “You will.”