A single sentence can start a cascade of trouble. Twenty years ago I was working in the production department of a Major New York Publisher; it was, as I remember, a rainy day. Sales conference, the materials for which were my responsibility, was getting closer every day, and I was slammed. And I got a call from some of my colleagues on the Editorial side of things.
Understand: I got my start writing Regency romances when I was just out of college. I had published five of them, and my co-workers knew this. So when they had a brainstorm, they figured I was the one to share it with. So I put down the six different conflagrations I was dealing with in that moment and went down the hall to my co-worker’s office. They had an uncharacteristic lull in their work flow, and had been chatting, as people do.
As a result, as I walked in the room, one editor announced happily, “We’ve come up with a great new genre, and you should be the one to write it! The hard-boiled Regency! Think of it! It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man of good fortune must be packing a piece!”
I was so concerned with sales conference that I simply laughed, said it was very clever, and fled back to production to keep pumping out slides and cover flats. But the idea lodged in my hindbrain and kept nibbling at me. I was, at that time, writing an entirely different book, a dark fantasy about New York City besieged by its own psychic energy–the book that became The Stone War. But that idea of a hard-boiled Regency, a book that looked at the under side of those lovely, frothy Georgette Heyer concoctions, and worked with all the conventions of the hard-boiled detective story, took root.
Finally I sat down at the computer and wrote “It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a Fallen Woman of good family must, soon or late, descend to whoredom.”
The rest, as they say…