I’m so excited to spotlight A Certain Appeal and also share an interview I did with the author, Vanessa King.
Welcome Vanessa! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Hi, there! Thanks for having me. I’m Vanessa King, author of A CERTAIN APPEAL. Originally from Arizona, I went to college in Southern California, then was in Colorado for a while before bouncing between the coasts, from Brooklyn to Seattle, with stops in Arkansas, Virginia, and wrapped up a second round in Colorado before landing in Austin, Texas this fall. Most of my professional life has been spent in aquatics, where I taught swim lessons and lifeguarded for more years than most would probably be comfortable admitting, punctuated with one year teaching high school English. I was not good, but at least I got a lot of student debt out of it.
My husband is regularly told that he looks like Nick Offerman, which is fitting, as he is decidedly Ron Swanson-esque. Our 7 year-old daughter committed her summer to mastering a pull-up (her choice– a few years ago it was the monkey bars), though her first love remains origami. We also have a 14 year-old cat named Reuben, who has officially lived in more states than I’d visited by the time I was 20.
When not writing, I enjoy reading, championing my favorite audiobooks, wielding a glue gun, and the privilege of choosing my form of suffering with my fellow meatheads at Crossfit.
I once won a baking contest with a 15lb, three-layer carrot cake, I can wiggle my ears AND nose (up and down, bunny-style), and at its most uncontrolled, my laugh is either all Betty Rubble or 100% Beavis. There is no in between.
How has the publication experience been for you?
Publication has been a TRIP.
To be honest, I absolutely lucked out; I sent my agent what I hoped would be myfinal draft of the manuscript within an hour of receiving the email from my daughter’s school district, informing me that, hooray! Spring Break was starting a week early and, in fact, would commence the very next day, Friday! And that maybe…there’d be no school again…at all…for the rest of the year.
Fortunately, my agent approved the manuscript over the weekend and went on submission with it that Monday. Wednesday, just as I was coordinating a final playdate for my daughter before Boulder closed their parks (for…ever?) I got a call from my agent. She had an interested editor at Putnam! We’d done it!
I was unprepared. I’d been braced for the long haul. Submission was supposed to take months, maybe over a year, not days. But NYC had shut down and the editor was a captive audience in need of a light, fun read. ACA had hit the sweet spot!
That’s when the process slowed to the standard, glacial rate of publication. As a friend in the midst of it once told me, “Publishing is eighteen months of nothing punctuated by two week stretches of anxiety.” That has very much been my experience.
Putnam wants to buy the book! Now…we wait for them to sort out the financials and wite up the contract.
Your contract has been signed! Now…we have to come up with a new title before we can make the announcement, as POP A PASTIE has been deemed too scandalous.
We have a pub date! Hope you didn’t get attached! It’s been changed.
And so on. Months went by. I received an edit letter, suggesting I add here and there for clarity. My acquiring editor left the company, her assistant took over my book. I got paid! That was neat.
More months. Line edits happened. Did you know that’s when entire LINES are EDITed out? Because I sure didn’t. I screamed! Literally! In the end, of the 6k words in cuts that were suggested, I made 3k, and the draft was approved. I even got paid again!
More time went by. We went through many, many drafts of the cover before finalizing, and I periodically received notes from my copy editor, who was very thorough. At one point, she looked up the layout of a real-life bar I mentioned in-book and let me know that the banquettes I described were not in the room–did I want to change it? (I left it as-is; I’m sure The Standard will remodel soon enough). I was introduced to my launch team and began reaching out to contacts who might be persuaded to contribute to the launch (nipple tassels, anyone?), and the book started receiving reviews on Goodreads. People seem to like it! Yay!
Now, I’m at the final push. Sweepstakes are being coordinated, SWAG has been ordered, Zooms and podcasts and interviews scheduled. I have showgirl headdresses to construct and a viewing of Bridget Jones’s Diary to get in before a podcast recording next weekend, and somewhere in there, I need to revise the opening chapters of my follow-up so we can pitch it to another other editor, as my ultimate editor for ACA has also left publishing.
How would you describe A Certain Appeal in one sentence?
A CERTAIN APPEAL is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the contemporary NYC burlesque scene.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of A Certain Appeal?
In the original P&P, Elizabeth Bennet is described as having a “lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous,” and I like to think that the same can be said for my version.
Like her Austen inspiration, Bennet is fiercely loyal to her friends and family, independent, and unafraid to speak her mind. She doesn’t trust easily, but, like so many of us, can be swayed by a nice smile and a serving of confirmation bias. She has a background in interior design and enjoys rock climbing, movie nights with her best friend and roommate, Jane, and, naturally, all things burlesque.
And then there’s Darcy.
Proud. Wary. Stuffy, but surprising. Reserved, but generous. Quick to judge but willing to listen and learn. And that’s the Darcy appeal, isn’t it? We appreciate a man who takes the time to listen and learn and is open to letting his opinions evolve past an initial judgement.
Also, he’s really, really, ridiculously good-looking. And rich.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
Working from the framework of Pride and Prejudice, I knew how the story would progress, the fates of the couples involved, etc. Choosing which story beats to use was the real challenge. Ultimately, I picked the ones that would best progress the relationship between Darcy and Bennet. Sadly, that means there’s no parallel for Mr. Bennet, neither Darcy nor Bingley have sisters, and, to my dismay, my Mrs. Bennet-inspired character doesn’t get in any reference to her nerves.
But Darcy gets to see Bennet care for Jane in a medical emergency, which changes his perception of her, and when Bennet sees how much Pemberley means to Darcy, it nudges her toward reconsidering her first impression of him, too. They have to outmaneuver a Wickham, as well as endure a blow-up over Darcy’s very botched admission of affection, and he explains his motivations behind some poor decisions in a letter.
And in said letter, does Darcy admit that Bennet has “bewitched” him?
Well, you’ll just have to read and find out 😉
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
My favorite moment in the book was written pretty late in the game, as part of the revisions my agent recommended before we went on submission. In it, Bennet explains to Darcy the value she sees in burlesque and why it has come to mean so much to her, and, thinking on it now, it’s probably the most important scene in the book. If there is to be any kind of intimacy between Bennet and Darcy, he has to understand the significance of burlesque in Bennet’s life. At the same time, articulating how she feels about burlesque prompts a realization Bennet has long been avoiding, progressing her development as a character.
That said, my favorite line in the book is and has always been, “Mr. Darcy, you’ve purpled my nurple.”
I have commissioned commemorative pencils.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed A Certain Appeal?
Ooh, good question!
When querying, one of my comp titles was The Hating Game; I laughed out loud a bunch of times reading that book, but I maintain that Josh Templeman is a monster. On a related note, I need a book from the POV of their HR gal, like, yesterday.
Not all of the books in the series worked for me, but I adored Get a Life, Chloe Brown. At one point, Chloe refers to her nipples as, “sparking like slutty little batteries,” and that slayed me. As an unrepentant audiobook enthusiast, I have to share that the audio version is narrated by Adjoa Andoh, who played Lady Danbury on Bridgerton. Her performance is perfection.
Love Lettering and ACA are very different in tone, but they’re both very much NYC books, and I appreciate how well Kate Clayborn balances the story’s romance with the other elements of the main character’s life.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
A MASSIVE overhaul of my ACA follow-up project, which is set in the same “world” as ACA. It’s another Austen retelling with new MCs and a lot of familiar faces. Familiar faces and familiar…other parts.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A sparkling contemporary retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the tantalizing world of New York City burlesque, perfect for fans of The Kiss Quotient and The Roommate.
After a betrayal derailed her interior design career, Liz Bennet found a fresh start in New York. Now an executive assistant by day and stage kitten by night, she’s discovered a second home with the performers at Meryton, Manhattan’s top-tier burlesque venue. Love’s the last thing on her mind when she locks eyes with Will Darcy across the crowded club. The spark between them is undeniable–that is, until she overhears the uptight wealth manager call her merely “tolerable.”
Bennet is determined to write Darcy off, but once their besties fall head-over-heels, they’re thrown into each other’s orbit again and again. Each encounter begins to feel more heated than the last, but is their chemistry enough to topple that terrible first impression? What’s more, when a charming newcomer arrives on the scene with accusations against Darcy, his claims leave Bennet torn. And when a sudden development leaves Meryton’s fate in jeopardy, she will have to decide who to trust in time to salvage her design dreams, her heart, and the stage she shares with her found family…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vanessa spent two years picking up the peelings of the best in the NYC burlesque scene and has the glitter in her pumps to prove it.
She spent the oughts bouncing between the coasts, from Brooklyn to Seattle, with stops in Arkansas and Virginia before landing in Boulder, Colorado. She lives with her Ron Swanson-esque husband, paper craft-obsessed daughter, and an elderly feline gentleman whose life she’s plotting to upend with the introduction of a kitten.
When not writing, Vanessa enjoys reading, championing her favorite audiobooks, wielding a glue gun with unearned confidence, and the privilege of choosing her form of suffering with her fellow meat heads at Crossfit.
FUN FACT: Vanessa writes in the first person, so this has been SUPER weird for her.