Today, I’m having my moment with the torch of the Romance Writers’ Blog Hop. It has been passed from writer to writer for some time. Not only do you get to know a little about me and my writing process, but I get to introduce you to fellow romance authors so you can learn about their individual writing styles and processes.
I was nominated by my friend Caroline Warfield, writer of Dangerous Works and the forthcoming Dangerous Secrets (release date 18 March). With a 4.9 star average rating on Amazon, Dangerous Works tells the story of a scholar who dares scandal to learn what she needs to know to illuminate her study of Greek poetry, and the man she trusts to teach her.
You’ll find Carolyn on:
My writing process
Now to answer the questions about my writing process.
What do I write?
Tempting though it is to give Hamlet’s answer (“Words. Words. Words.”), I’ll behave. So what do I write. The short answer is ‘historical romance’, but this is my blog, so I’m allowed to give the long answer.
The novel and novella I’ve written, the two I’m working on, and the ones I plan to write in the next few years are set in the early 19th century. I do a lot of research to get the details accurate, and I include snippets about world and local events as part of the background to the action.
So ‘historical’ works.
Every plot so far tells the story of two people being attracted to one another and falling in love, and finishes with the two main protagonists starting a ‘happy ever after’ that I try to make believable.
So ‘romance’ works too.
And the first three novels also include elements of mystery and thriller. So I’d be quite comfortable with those designations, too. (The novella, though, is a straight sweet historical romance.) If people like the protagonists of my 2nd novel, I may go on to write about more of the cases they investigate together, and those will be historical mysteries rather than romances.
I have some book ideas for other historical periods: for example, the elves that whisper stories to me want me to write a murder mystery set in Edwardian times in Rotorua. But, at the moment, I’m sticking with the early 19th century.
I’ve also started (and abandoned) a number of sf books that I may go back to eventually. And the short stories I had some success with in the dim dark ages of my youth qualified as literary, being otherwise unclassifiable and universally gloomy.
What am I currently working on?
I’m continuing to market my first published fiction in 30 years, my novella Candle’s Christmas Chair. Candle is available free from all major ebook outlets and is doing well — more than 25,500 copies downloaded in its first 5 weeks and over 100 reviews in various places, with an average rating of over 4 stars.
I’ve just sent my debut novel, Farewell to Kindness, to the proofreader. It will be on prerelease early in March and published on 1 April. In Farewell to Kindness, an earl on a mission of revenge is attracted to a widow who lives rent-free in one of his cottages, and whose daughter is the image of his predecessor, his deceased cousin. Rede, the hero, doesn’t want to be distracted from his quest to destroy the villains who killed his family. Anne, the heroine, wants to stay in hiding to avoid the villains after her and her family. Love is both unexpected and inconvenient. Farewell to Kindness is the first in the series The Golden Redepennings.
I’m writing the first draft of Encouraging Prudence, starring the thief taker (bounty hunter) who helped Rede in Farewell to Kindness, and the spy he loves. Sent to investigate a blackmail scheme, the two uncover blackmailers, murderers, traitors, difficult relatives, and one another’s vulnerabilities.
I’m also researching for A Raging Madness, the second in The Golden Redepennings. Alex, Rede’s cousin, is coming home through Cheshire when he meets a woman he can’t stand and can’t forget. Ella thought Alex was the last person on earth she would turn to for help. She knows what he thinks about her. But when her evil in-laws seek to have her committed to an asylum, she is forced to seek his protection. I need to find out more about the canals through Cheshire.
And I’m beginning to plot a novella — another Farewell to Kindness prequel — for a boxed set I’m putting together for Christmas 2015 with a group of friends. Tentatively called Gingerbread Bride, it tells the story of a woman with a reputation for running away.
“Not away,” Mary said, definitely. “To. I run to. There’s a difference.”
“Away. To. It doesn’t matter. You’re a lady now; not a little girl. Surely you must see that you have to go home?” Richard didn’t expect Miss Waterford to listen, though. When had she ever?
“You can’t stop me, Lieutenant Redepenning. You can’t stop me, and you can’t catch me.” She flung her last words behind her as she heeled her horse into a flying gallop, striking his with her whip as she passed. “No-one can!”
Richard, shouldered to one side by the horse, sat where he’d landed, watching the two horses and the Admiral’s daughter receding into the distance. Annoying, arrogant, impudent, self-willed little bitch. What a woman!
How do my historical romances differ from others in the genre?
Books in the general category ‘historical romance’ cover a huge range of different eras, plot tropes, character types, tonal styles, and subcategories. And self-publishing has opened the door for writers to produce work that broadens the range still further.
I write strong determined heroines that, in ways that can be defended as historically feasible, refuse to accept the constraints society would place on them. I write heroes that can appreciate and respect my heroines. And I write villains that you’ll love to hate.
I also create complicated plots with a large cast of characters, and I enjoy using settings that don’t comply with the ballroom/house party scenes that are often found in historical romances.
My first two books take place in the same part of England, west of the Cotswolds. But Encouraging Prudence ranges more widely and finishes in another country altogether (Sweden, I think, but I’m not there yet).
I don’t stick to the world of the Beau Monde. Dukes, Earls, and Barons are fun and fascinating — the rock stars of their era. But the hero of my first book had a career as a fur trapper before he inherited an Earldom, and the heroes of the next two books are both commoners.
Why do I write historical?
I love reading historical romances, and I love doing research. I’ve been passionate about history since I was a little girl. One of my career aspirations during my teenage years was archaeologist. I fell in love with the late Georgian era when I began to read regency historicals that included information about canal building, balloons, the first gas lights, and all the other incredible innovations of the explosion of invention that changed society between the 1750s and the 1850s.
I see many parallels with today. To take just one example, my period includes the enclosure movement (it was started in England before it moved to Scotland). Intended to make farming more efficient, it resulted in wealthy landowners cut farm labourers off from keeping livestock and collecting foodstuffs from the commons. People who thought they had a historic right to use the common land to feed their families were suddenly cast into dire poverty. Today, companies are laying claim to intellectual property rights over plant and animal bloodlines, even human dna. And they’re taking ordinary people to court to prevent them from using what was once free to all.
Writing historical romances helps me to work through some of this stuff. The trick is to make it an essential plot point or part of the background, and not a lecture.
How does my writing process work?
I’m still working this one out. I thought I was a planner, and I carefully planned each chapter of my first novel and my first novella. Then I went off in a different direction with each, following the characters on their own journey. This meant a lot of rewriting, going back to seed later ideas into earlier chapters.
With the current novel, I know where each quarter of the book takes place; I have a fair idea of the main plot pivot points; I know more or less what the main conflict is. But I’m only plotting in detail a chapter or two ahead. It’s going well, but I expect I’ll need to do a lot of rewriting, going back to seed later ideas into earlier chapters.
Two things that are working well for me are setting a daily word count and creating detailed character sketches of my key characters.
I started with no daily word count. I wrote when the inspiration elves consented to whisper to me. Then I set a count of 500 words a day and all of a sudden those elves started visiting me more often. Now, I’m writing a minimum of 1300 words a day, six days a week. And I need to keep that up if I’m to meet my writing schedule. According to my beta readers, the chapters I wrote more quickly are better than the ones that took me ages. Go figure.
I have an one page questionnaire for each minor character and an eight page questionnaire for my main protagonists. By the time I’ve worked my way through all the questions, I know them well, and once I know them well I know what they’ll do in any particular situation. I do the minor characters as I need them, but I do the protagonists before I start my first draft. I originally kept the character sketches in the OneNote database for the novel or novella I was working on, but my books cross in so many different ways that I’ve now created a new database in OneNote just for characters.
I also keep Pinterest boards for visual inspiration, and I draw maps and house plans so that, when my characters are moving around, I can visualise what they’re up to and work out what route they need to take and how long they’ll spend getting there.
Up next, Jessie Clever
In the second grade, Jessie began a story about a duck and a lost ring. Two harrowing pages of wide ruled notebook paper later, the ring was found. And Jessie has been writing ever since.
Armed with the firm belief that women in the Regency era could be truly awesome heroines, Jessie began telling their stories in her Spy Series, a thrilling ride in historical espionage that showcases human faults and triumphs and most importantly, love.
Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds. For more, visit her website at jessieclever.com.
Jessie just wrapped her Regency romance Spy Series, but as creativity often plagues those blessed with it, Jessie discovered a whole new story erupting from what she thought was the end. So she is hard at work on the follow-up series she likes to refer to as the Spy Series: The Next Generation.
But before the next series debuts, be sure to check out the heroes and heroines of the Spy Series, starting with Inevitably a Duchess: A Spy Series Novella.
Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, waited for her, watching as the agony of marriage broke the woman he loved. Lady Jane Haven had to find a reason to survive, a purpose to carry on when it seemed God would not just let her die. But when fate finally offers them a chance to be together, a treasonous plot threatens to keep them apart. And when it becomes more than just a matter of survival, Jane must find the strength to be his duchess.