What Happens in London is the story of Lady Olivia Bevelstoke, a slightly bored debutante in regency England who starts spying on her neighbor when she hears a rumor that he killed his fiancée. He didn't, of course; he's never even had a fiancée, but Sir Harry Valentine does work for the War Office, and he ends up spying on her when a Russian prince (who may or may not have ties to Napoleon) arrives in town and decides that she might make the perfect wife.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
In college I was a researcher/writer for Let's Go: Europe, assigned to Crete and Cyprus. I was supposed to go to England, but at the last minute they transferred me, despite the fact that I spoke not a word of Greek. I learned the very basics, and to this day can say "oil," "vinegar," and "boyfriend in America."
The job wasn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. (And if you think it doesn't sound glamorous, rest assured that it was even less so than you imagine.) Everything I owned became infested with fleas, I ate sandy hummus with an albino for the sake of U.S.-Arab relations, and on a boat from Limassol to Haifa, I was propositioned by a monk.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
Nonfiction: Clara's War by Clara Kramer. A friend recommended it on Facebook. It's the story of a Polish-Jewish teenager who hid in an underground bunker for nearly two years. Riveting.
Fiction: This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James. I was in New York, having dinner with some people from my publishing house, and I wanted a copy so desperately that we sneaked upstairs at 10 p.m. to grab one from the publicity department. It was great, by the way. I think Eloisa is one of the most original and clever writers in romance fiction.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
Yes! Last time I was in London, I visited Number 5, Bruton Street, which is the address I gave to Violet Bridgerton, the matriarch of the Bridgerton clan in my novels. It was a bit disconcerting to learn that it's actually a pub.
What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
The are slip-on mules (thus perfect for airport security), supremely comfortable, not entirely unfashionable, and make me two inches taller. I have an ongoing search on eBay for replacement pairs.
Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Fahrenheit, but I'd like to be more Kelvin.
Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Considering that my idea of a good time on tour is room service and a TV remote, I'd have to go with rock bands.
Write a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: 'Fess up. What classic author do you simply not enjoy?
A: Faulkner. I can't help it. I believe in punctuation.
Most fiction series are written so that the reader can come in at any point and not feel lost, but if you can start at the beginning, why not?
The Miracle at St. Bruno's by Philippa Carr
The first in her Daughters of England series, which follows a mother-daughter chain from the time of the Tudors to World War II. I devoured these when I was a teenager and still cherish my collection. Sadly, I think most are out of print.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Imagine a city built underground, and imagine that the inhabitants have no idea there is a world above them. Then imagine that their generator is failing and soon they will be without electricity. The Books of Ember are written as middle-grade fiction, but I recommend them to adults as well. Thought-provoking, well-written post-apocalyptic fiction. Way better than the movie.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Alternate history where writers are rock stars and the most important thing in the world is the written word? Sounds like heaven to me!
Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James
Historical romance set in Georgian times. Eloisa James is a professor of Shakespeare, and this flavor comes through in all of her novels. They are sometimes bawdy, sometimes emotional, and always fabulous.
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I have almost no interest in Egyptian archaeology, but Amelia Peabody, the narrator of this book and the ones that follow in the series, is so arch and funny, I would follow her into any tomb. The series gets even better as it goes along.
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
When I wrote this, I had no idea it would be the beginning of an eight-book series. To this day, The Duke and I remains particularly close to my heart; I felt it was the novel in which my writing took a huge leap forward. I think about the process of writing more now. Sometimes I wish I didn't; it's slower going, but the end product is better.
÷ ÷ ÷
Julia Quinn started writing her first book one month after finishing college and has been tapping away at her keyboard ever since. The New York Times-bestselling author of sixteen novels for Avon Books, she is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest.
Books mentioned in this post
Julia Quinn is the author of What Happens in London