Jul 24, 2017

Mackenzi Lee talks Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, Monty and grand tours

Hey bookworms!

Today's interview features one of my favourite authors and human beings, and the creator of one of my fav books of 2017, as well as one precious cinnamon roll of a character, for whom I have the biggest soft spot. Say hi to Mackenzi Lee, author of The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, who gave the world the delightful treasure that is Henry Montague.

1. Describe your book in 5 words

Making trouble and making out

2. What inspired you to write The Gentleman’s Guide for Vice and Virtue?

Oh gosh so many things. Taking my own grand tour of Europe while I was in college (though on a much, much smaller budget than the dudes traveling in the 1700s got), a frustration with the voices of marginalized people being excluded from mainstream historical narratives, and a lifelong love of adventure novels

3. What has been your favourite aspect(s) of the entire journey of the book?

The fictional journey the characters take? Definitely Monty’s emotional arc, and his realization that the people around him have lives and pain and emotions that are as complex and real as his (mostly because this was also a very formative part of my teenage years).

The actual journey of my book from draft to publication? Definitely hearing from readers who haven’t seen themselves in historical adventure narratives until now.

4. If you fancast the book, who would you pick for Monty, Percy and Felicity?

Oh man I have such a hard time with this question because it feels like casting people to play your friends in a movie about your life—Monty, Percy, and Felicity all feel like real people to me! Maybe young Jude Law, circa Wilde, for Monty. He’s very sassy and flirty in that film.

5. This might be a cruel question, but who’s your favourite out of the trio?

Monty, hands down. Mostly because he was so fun to write, but also because we have a lot in common. We’re both self-aware assholes who are bad at talking about our feelings, and we also have the same sense of humor—basically his jokes are just my jokes with some 18th century lingo thrown in. I’m still shocked anyone but me finds this book funny.  

6. One of the most beautiful things about the book is Monty’s character transformation, especially how he learns and accepts his privilege. How did you manage to portray it this perfectly?

I’d hardly say it’s perfect—and there are plenty of readers who have found Monty too much of an asshole to be worthy of redemption, which breaks my heart a little bit. Because it’s true—he’s seriously an asshole. I wrote his character very aware of that fact. Bu the key to writing him was that, under that assholery, he wants to be better. He knows he’s doing things wrong and knows he isn’t being his best self, he just doesn’t know how to be better. It’s a spot I’ve found myself in in my own life. It’s that self-awareness that I think (hope?) makes his arc realistic. That and the fact that his bad decisions come from a lot of pain that he doesn’t know what to do with, and a lot of privilege he doesn’t realize he has. And accepting that privilege—and especially reconciling it with his own sexuality and the way that has left him feeling marginalized for so much of his life—is a journey for him that will be far, far longer than a 500 page book.

7. Gentleman’s Guide take us through a journey throughout Europe. Have you travelled to these countries and/or rest of Europe? Or what’s been your favourite place out of those you have travelled?

I’m really lucky that I’ve traveled to all the places they go in the book, and I basically planned the gang’s itinerary around my favorite cities in Europe. Though of all the locations, Venice has a very special place in my heart. It feels like a place from another world—so magical and decrepit and enchanting. It’s the sort of place that makes you want to write about it.

8. What advice would you give for aspiring authors?

Take yourself seriously. Call yourself a writer, not an aspiring writer. As soon as you put those first words on paper, you are a writer. I’d also say find your people—surround yourself with other writers who get what you’re trying to do, and help you do it better. And ignore any of that nonsense about the things you have to do to be a ‘real writer.’ You don’t have to write every day, or hand write your drafts, or not write fanfiction, or brainstorm in bullet journals.
Find your people, find your process, call yourself a writer.

9. Can you share with us what you’re working on next?

Gentleman’s Guide is getting a sequel/companion novel—The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is coming out next year! It’s narrated by Felicity, Monty’s little sister, and is about three very different girls coming together to do science and piracy. I also have a collection of nonfiction essays called Bygone Badass Broads coming out from Abrams next spring. It’s illustrated by Petra Eriksson, and is all about forgotten women from history you should definitely know about. It’s basically my favorite project I’ve ever worked on. 

Title : The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author : Mackenzi Lee
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : June 27th 2017
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores

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