PW: Your first three Pleasures books were published by Dell in hardcover, but Duchess in Love is being published by Avon as a mass market paperback. Why did you switch publishers?

Eloisa James: I actually bought back my hardcover contract for Duchess in Love from Dell. I didn't think publishing in hardcover had really been as successful a marketing experiment as Dell had hoped. The Pleasures books had a solid little readership, but I decided that it would be better, especially in this economy, to get out of hardcover.

PW: I understand you're a professor. What do you teach?

EJ: I'm a Shakespearean. My particular focus is on a very small theater company that was playing at the same time as Shakespeare's… and on puns, bawdy puns.

PW: Is that why there's so much humor in your novels? Because you like bawdy puns?

EJ: I do! I like bawdy humor. A lot of my story ideas come out of details in Renaissance drama. Midnight Pleasures, for example, was based on a very obscure play written in 1607 called "The Hog Has Lost His Pearl."

PW: Did Renaissance literature also inspire Duchess in Love?

EJ: Yes. When Cam and Gina have been separated for 12 years and he walks into the ballroom, sees Gina dancing and turns to his cousin and says, "God, who's that?" And his cousin says, "That's your wife...." That happened to the Earl of Essex in the 1590s. I did my Ph.D. at Yale, and one of my topics focused on the Earl of Essex, so I know a lot about his life.

PW: You're an academic and a romance writer, professions that some may see as mutually exclusive. Is it difficult being both?

EJ: I have kept the two worlds apart. No one at the college knows except the head of the department. Mostly because I don't want my students reading my popular fiction when they are, in essence, being taught to draw a strict line between popular fiction and literature like Shakespeare. It's not something that I necessarily believe in because genre itself is a tremendously interesting form, and Shakespeare wrote within specific genres. A great many of his plays are comedies, which end happily, which end in love. In the Renaissance, it was considered challenging to write within a genre. Now we say, "Oh, the challenge is to write outside the genre." I don't want to imply that I'm comparing myself to Shakespeare, but I think the shame that's levied at people who write genre fiction now is something that we should try to dispense with.

PW: Do you think you'll ever "come out"?

EJ: I don't really see the point at this moment. I like having my two worlds separate. If I make the New York Times list, however, I might have to run around my department screaming.

PW: What motivated you to write a romance?

EJ: To be honest, I wanted to make money. I have degrees from Yale and Oxford and I had massive student loans. My husband's Italian. Italians don't understand debt in the same way that Americans do. We [Americans] have a very easy attitude toward things like student loans. He doesn't. So, we had one child, and he said "We absolutely cannot have another child unless we pay off these loans." I was going to be gray and the clock long since stopped before we could get around to having this second child. So, on sabbatical, I would write my academic book until four o'clock in the afternoon and then, from four to five, I would work on what became Potent Pleasures. That was a deliriously happy spring.

PW: You often have a full palette of characters in your novels. How do you come up with these various personalities?

EJ: I suppose it's a response to my writing schedule. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about these books and then I write them in the summer when I'm not doing scholarship. So I have months and months to dream up the plot and characters.

PW: Do you plan to revisit any of the characters from the Pleasures trilogy?

EJ: My plan had been to finish this trilogy and then do another Pleasures trilogy, but now I have this idea about sisters. One of my strengths is female friendships, and it's one of the things I enjoy writing about the most.