I am both delighted and privileged to welcome award winning international romance author Jo Beverley as my guest this month. Jo is a member of the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame and has been described as:-
“Arguably today’s most skilful writer of intelligent historical romance.”
“One of the great names of the genre.”
When and where did your passion for writing begin?
Too early to remember! I used to make up stories when I was very young — mostly about horses — but when I was about sixteen I wrote a historical romance in a school exercise book. I still have it! Not good at all, but it showed promise.
You have written books set in Medieval, Regency and Georgian times, but what was it that triggered your love of these particular periods?
That teenage effort was medieval, and I’ve always had a love of that period. Though it wasn’t as grim as sometimes portrayed, it was life on the edge that demanded strength and resilience from anyone who was to survive. My other two periods, Georgian and Regency, owe a lot to Georgette Heyer. I loved her books as a teenager and reread them many times. I truly wanted to be her when I grew up, which meant to me, giving the same sort of reading pleasure. Heyer’s influence led me to Regency, which was where I was first published, but I always had a yen for the Georgian age, with the fabulous costumes, especially the men’s. I love manly men in silk and lace. So totally cool.
Your period research is impeccable, however, you keep the hero and heroine attractive and the dialogue accessible, giving a flavour that it is true to the period. How carefully do you have to balance historical accuracy against modern taste to keep the appeal to a contemporary readership?
It can be tricky, especially as my readership covers a broad range from scholars to those who want the story and don’t much care about dates and details. Mostly I try to know as much as possible and use only what I need, letting the story rule. However, many stories are based on realities, so what I know shapes the stories! I certainly try to avoid info-dumps, but I usually include an author’s note at the end for those readers who are interested in the background. For example, the author’s note to Seduction in Silk includes details about a famous stone carver of the time, because marble memorials play a part.
I also try to avoid archaic language because I don’t much like to read it. I use “time neutral” language, which means avoiding both obviously modern language and archaic. If it works, the reader should enjoy the book without noticing.
You have been quoted as saying you do not get along with ‘stupid heroines’. How do you study the social attitudes of the period to avoid applying modern values to a heroine’s outlook on life?
Awareness of the social attitudes comes along with knowing the period, because I try to read primary sources — ones written at the time. That gives a pretty good feel for how people felt and thought. The good thing is there’s quite a range, just as there is now. We can have realistic heroines who don’t create waves. We can also have eccentric ones, rebellious ones, and downright weird ones, but then we can have everyone around them thinking they are wonderful. That’s unrealistic, then and now.
Stupid is a whole other matter. For me, it’s no fun to spend time with a character who keeps saying and doing bubble-headed things, especially if they’re creating pain and problems for others and don’t care. Another type of character who doesn’t work for me is the selfish one, the one who reckons if they want it they should have it regardless.
Each author has their own favoured way of working – would you share yours with us?
Firstly, I “fly into the mist.” This means that I don’t pre-plot my books. I get an idea for characters and situation and start writing to see where it goes. It might be easier to plot out my books and know where I’m going, but that doesn’t work for me.
I write on the computer and rarely print work out along the way, though I generally do print it out about half way to read through, and then at the end before the final edit. Reading in print does throw up interesting things. I do these printouts in faux galley style. This means landscape, two columns and justified, so it ends up looking like the pages of a book. That helps, too.
I start writing early in the morning and continue until lunch because this is my most creative time. Sometimes I do edits and research in the afternoon and evening, but I rarely do first draft writing then.
However, there’s no rule to this, for me or anyone else. Each writer needs to find her own way, and for new writers that usually means trying many ways, some of them crazy. You never know! I do believe that we know it when we find it.
This month sees the release of Seduction in Silk another story from the Malloren world. Could you tell us what triggered the idea and motivation behind this latest novel?
I wanted to write about Perry Perriam. He appeared in An Unlikely Countess as the hero’s friend, and in A Scandalous Countess as the heroine’s brother, and readers asked for his story. I was happy to oblige, because I like him a lot. He’s not titled, but he is aristocratic — he’s the younger son of an earl. He’s very bright and very charming, and earns his living by using his talents in London, at court, in politics, and in society.
London — or rather Town, as fashionable London was called — is his life, so he’s not pleased when a distant relative names him heir to Perriam Manor, with the condition that he marry Claris Mallow, a clergyman’s daughter, within the month. Perry doesn’t give a penny for the manor, but getting it back is an obsession of his father’s, so he has no choice. He doesn’t think it will be difficult, especially when he learns that Claris is impoverished and raising two young brothers. He’ll marry her, install her and her family at the manor with free use of the income from it, and get back to his life.
Claris, however, has survived her parent’s tormented marriage and has no intention of marrying anyone, least of all an elegant stranger who assumes she’ll fall at his feet! She chases him off at pistol point. And thus their dance begins.
Readers can enjoy a free sample here.
Romantic Times has made Seduction in Silk a Top Pick for August.
With her talent for writing powerful love stories and masterful plotting, Beverley delivers the latest addition to her Malloren World series… emotional, sensual and highly satisfying historical romance.
What project are you working on next?
I’ve returned to the Regency, to the Company of Rogues, to pick up the story of David Kerslake, the heroine’s brother from The Dragon’s Bride. That book left him both the Earl of Wyvern and the leader of the local smuggling gang, The Dragon’s Horde. To make matters worse, both the earldom and the smuggling band are broke. He has to marry money, and Lucinda Potter, only child of a wealthy City of London merchant seems the ideal choice.
Lucy has other ideas, but then, David is a fascinating handsome man and the more she comes to know him, the more fascinating he becomes. However, it also becomes clear that he has secrets, possible dark and dangerous ones. She’s far too sensible to give herself and her money to such a man. She hopes.
This novel is called A Shocking Delight, and it will be out in April 2014.
Many thanks for your time in answering my questions and sharing some insight into your vast experience.
More by Jo: