York

I am so lucky that in the course of doing my research for my own titles I have been able to visit some fascinating historic places. York is the one that encapsulates time as now other. If you were a Roman, it was known as Eboracum. If you had lived there through the Saxon era, then it would have been called Eoforwick. Perhaps it is better known historically as Jorvik because of the state of the art Jorvik museum which brings Viking York back to life.

Walking through the city’s narrow lanes is like seeing all eras of time side-by-side. Medieval wooden structures stand next to Georgian houses and over them all are the famous towers of a grand cathedral known as The Minster.

There are far too many aspects of this fantastic place to mention in one post so I am sharing some photos of the city with you that I discovered when researching locations for Abigail Moor.

An Interview with Liesel Schwarz

LieselI am delighted to welcome Liesel Schwarz, Queen of Gothic Steampunk to my blog this month. I first came across Liesel’s work when I read her debut novel ‘A Conspiracy of Alchemists’, which is an action packed adventure described as “Combining the best elements of Gothic fiction with contemporary Steampunk”. It was chosen by Random House to launch their SFF imprint (Science Fiction and Fantasy) Del Rey in the UK.

Welcome, Liesel, and thank you for taking the time out to answer my questions.

To me the combination of history, invention, science, fantasy, romance and thrilling adventure is a magical blend – literally too, as it reveals a deadly game between Alchemists and Warlocks as the creatures of light and dark walk among us.

Hi. Thank you for inviting me!

How do you describe Gothic Steampunk?

That’s a question that requires a rather long and convoluted answer. I think steampunk, in broad terms, is the fascination with Victorian optimism. It concerns itself with technology and progress. The Victorians had this obsession with making the world a better place, by “civilising” it. We know today that much of what they did was deeply misguided, but I think their hearts were in the right place. Steampunk takes its cue from those intentions. Gothic romanticism is more about Victorian disillusionment. It is the 19th century’s nostalgia for the romantic ideals that originated in the Dark Ages. I’ve always been a fan of the 19th century Gothic literature and I love steampunk and so I thought it would be cool to create a world that was bright and technologically progressive on the one side while dark and organic on the other. Two sides of the same coin, but in direct opposition with the other. This is how Elle’s world came into being and so I suppose in a way this is why they described the books as Gothic Steampunk.

That’s a great description which captures the complex essence of the genre. When I read your first novel what struck me most was the energy and enthusiasm that came through the words on the page. Have you always been a natural story-teller?

I’m not so sure about the story telling part, but I do know that I have however always been a natural story maker-upper. Telling the stories you create in your head is, I think a natural progression in this case.

Where did your writing journey begin?

When I could hold a crayon. It took a few detours, and I decided to start writing more seriously after I left university but I think writers tend to be born that way. It is again a natural consequence of story maker-uppers.

How long did it take you to become a published author?

A few weeks! No, I’m serious. I was incredibly lucky. I met my agent, he sent my book out to market and I literally had a book deal a few weeks later. Before I met my agent, I did however spend years and years honing my craft. This involved writing stories, polishing them, having them rejected and then starting all over again. I also studied the craft of writing quite intensely. I have an MA in Creative Writing and I am also busy with my PhD on the subject.

Will you ever forget the moment when you were told yours would be the debut novel of Del Rey?

I think I was more excited by the mere fact that my book was going to be published, to be honest. The fact that it would be the debut for a new imprint only really registered with me a bit later. It’s great when you have a good relationship with your editor and publishers and again, I am extremely lucky in this respect.

There are many aspects to your novels. The research of actual inventions must be meticulous – but you have also blended in your own to make the fiction appear real and the impossible plausible. Have you always been drawn to this age of invention?

Yes. I think it started when I was very young. I remember watching films like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I found the sheer eccentricity of it all irresistible. This fascination grew as I started reading and it’s been with me ever since.

Do you have great fun spending many hours inventing your own machines on the page?

Actually, many of the machines I use in the books were actual patents filed in the British Library. I think the Victorians were far better at inventing fantastical machines than I could ever be. I think the reason for this is because there was an element of naivety about their inventions. Today, with all the marvels we have at our fingertips, we are a little jaded. Although, I suppose that in a hundred years from now, people will look at us and think, “Oh, how quaint!”

Elle Chance and Mr Marsh are strong characters who continue to develop. Do you have plans for the series to continue over many novels?

I think all characters must develop within a narrative. You can’t really have a story without that and so yes, I have further plans for Elle and Marsh. There will be a book 4 and a book 5 in the future.

Do you constantly jot down ideas for the next book as you work?

I must admit that I am quite bad at jotting things down. Or, I tend to jot things down and then forget about them. Ideas that are live and have potential tend to stick in my mind. They niggle away at me until I write them into a story. I do however carry a notebook with me at all times. I sometimes jot down bits of conversation I’ve overheard when I’m sitting in a coffee shop.

Elle travels widely – how do you research the many locations that your novels cover?

I like to travel and so the settings I use tend to be places I’ve visited. You have to place settings into historical context though and so I do a lot of research as well. I am particularly fond of old city maps. For example – the Cafe d’Enfer in Paris which appears in Sky Pirates really existed in the early 1900s. Today, it is a 1-Euro store (Pound/dollar store) but the doorway still exists. I find that fascinating.

What is next for Liesel?

Well, I have two short stories which will be appearing in anthologies next year and I am currently working on a standalone novel before continuing with the Chronicles of Light and Shadow – so keep watching this space.

More from Liesel

The Laundry Maid’s Lye

I have just revisited the beautiful Georgian house and grounds of Beningbrough Hall, north of the ancient city of York. It was as I walked around the laundry in the grounds of the house, crossing through the archway of the bell-tower, that I created the heroine Miss Chloe Branton and Mr Tobias Poole.

The life of a laundry maid was hard. In the days before running hot and cold water, it had to be either hauled from a well or stream or pumped up from an underground source. Once they had the water they then had to heat it and use substances such as lye soap to soak, wash or scrub the garments, which was hard on the hands. Even the garments were more difficult to maintain as before modern textiles, dyes and methods of controlled cleaning the garments may have to be unpicked to separate delicate lace, from wool or silk and each section cleaned or washed separately. Materials were not colorfast and were often heavy. A careless laundry maid could cause shrinkage, pilling and ruin a garment and easily lose her already lowly position.

It was a hard life, but it was also an excellent place for someone to be hidden away for a short time. Chloe was unused to hard work, in a building with a cold stone-flagged floor, lifting heavy loads. She needed help and a good friend to survive.

The Captain’s Creek – Pressing Times

Maggie Chase discovers an injured stranger hiding between two rocks as he flees for his life on the beach. Rapidly, she is forced to make a choice: reveal his whereabouts to the fast approaching press gang, or hide him from their sight.

The Impress Service was set up to make sure that the Royal Navy had the needed number of sailors to man its ships. It was harsh and unfair as the press gangs were notorious for their raids, often ignoring the set age-limits of between 18-55, in an era when it was difficult to prove your age when plucked off the street.

The coastal towns were rife with smuggling. Robin Hood’s Bay, for example, had a network of tunnels and passages linking the houses built on its steep banks. Although these were designed to move and hide contraband, they also proved useful when the press gang arrived. The womenfolk fought off the gang with anything they had to hand whilst their menfolk hid. They were a tough and hardy people, which is why the service wanted good seafaring men at a time when paid volunteers were not enough in number to fight Napoleon’s threat. Criminals who had chosen to serve a different type of sentence in the Royal Navy were often weakened by illness because of their previous incarceration. Therefore, the press gang swooped on the unsuspecting and gained a ruthless reputation as a result.

The eBook of The Captain’s Creek is available from Smashwords and Amazon directly or from most eBook sellers.

Abigail Moor – Biddy’s Bakery

Abigail was rescued as a baby by Lord Edmund Hammond – or so she believed.

Raised as a lady, calling him father, she enjoyed a sheltered life as she grew up and loved her step-brother, Frederick. Life dramatically changes because she has to flee from a forced marriage when Lord Hammond falls ill. With her lifelong maid she travels to the port of Whitby via the beautiful ancient city of York.

To Abigail’s naive eyes Whitby would have been a noisy, bustling place with a myriad of smells from the various industries surrounding the whaling, fishing and boat making industries. Even Abigail’s name, like her situation, has a double irony. Abigail literally means ‘my father’s joy’, yet she does not know who he is. The name is also used commonly to refer to a lady’s maid.

When I explored Whitby I came across a narrow snicket in which was a love old ram-shackled set of buildings I borrowed this setting for ‘Biddy’s Bakery’, placing it next to an old inn like the amazingly well restored White Horse and Griffin and took the extra liberty of placing a laundry opposite. Whitby was so wealthy through the whaling industry that in 1790 there were two street lamps in Church Street outside this original coaching inn.

I had the pleasure of staying in the same room that it is said Charles Dickens once used. It was a lovely friendly place in a fascinating location, and serves excellent food.

The eBook of Abigail Moor: The Darkest Dawn is available from Smashwords and Amazon directly for $2.99/£1.88 from most eBook sellers.

An Interview with Juliet Greenwood

I first met Juliet when we were at Writing Magazine’s awards ceremony back in 2002. We were both winners embarking on our writing careers. A fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Juliet had several works of fiction published under the pseudonym Heather Pardoe and is now a novelist under her own name.

Welcome Juliet!

In what way did ME lead you into a writing career?

It was a really bad viral infection that left me with ME for years. Before then, I’d been energetic and healthy, holding down a career, cycling, rushing up mountains, and working for hours in my garden. Being so ill for so long, and not knowing if I would ever get better, forced me to completely reconsider my life. That’s when I decided I would work part time in a far less stressful job, and just go for my lifelong dream of being a writer. I’d never had the courage to do it before, in case I failed. Having ME made me realise I’d nothing to lose, so it gave me the courage to try.

Have you always been a story-teller with a love of the written word?

Definitely! As a child I used to devour books and write my own wild adventures and the only subject I ever wanted to study was English. In my twenties, I lived in a garret (well an attic room) in London, bashing away on a typewriter, sending stories out and finding them flying right back again. Then I did the sensible thing and found a ‘proper’ job and did a bit of living (the best kind of research). But I never quite lost sight of the dream.

You had established your work under the lovely name of Heather Pardoe, why did you decide to revert to your true name for novels?

I’m very fond of ‘Heather Pardoe’, but I’d always known I was going to write under two names. Writing stories and serials for magazines was a really valuable learning curve. I loved doing them, and had great fun with the novellas I wrote for the ‘My Weekly Story Collection’. But my novels are very different. The kind of story you write is a pact with your readers, which is why many authors write under several names. My Juliet Greenwood books aren’t dark, but they deal with much darker themes (like my heroine racing through the battlefields of WW1 in a beaten up ambulance, on a desperate rescue mission), so I’m very happy writing under two names. I definitely see them as two aspects of me, so when I sit down as Heather, it feels different than when I sit down as Juliet. Although Heather is my middle name, so my two writing personas are not that far apart…

Which author’s work have inspired you the most and why?

There are so many! As a child, the novels of Rosemary Sutcliffe gave me a passion for historical fiction. I love Elisabeth Gaskell, George Elliot and the Bronte’s for their portrayal of strong, passionate women trying to make sense of the world around them on their own terms, and I can never get enough of the twists and turns of Dickens’ plots.

I love the description you gave in one interview of your ‘crog loft’. I have just converted my garden shed – it does not quite have the same ring to it. How structured is your writing day/process? Are you a plotter or do you let the ideas grow organically through the story?

WW1 Seed Cake smallMy crog loft is tiny, but it’s nice and cosy and womb-like (and has steep stairs that stop me from sneaking out into the garden when I hit a tricky bit!). When I’m writing serials, I have to plot everything out, as there is no chance of going back and changing things. When I’m writing my novels, I start with a general idea of the plot, but I know that’s going to change as soon as I start, and find the heroine needs a mother, or a brother or best friend, who turns out to be far too interesting to ignore! I generally know the beginning and the end, but once the first draft is done and the real work begins, anything can happen. That’s the exciting, and the scary bit, because I’m never sure if it’s going to work. I love tightening up the plot, and developing the twists and the turns to (hopefully) keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. ‘Eden’s Garden’ was a real challenge, moving between the modern heroine and Victorian times, and keeping the two stories weaving in and out of each other while not giving the twists (especially the one no one ever spots!) away. ‘We That are Left’ had some of its structure dictated by the historical events of WW1, even though the action is focused mainly on the experience of the women and civilians at home. The next book is also based around historical events, but with some family twists and turns too.

You are a member of the Novelistas whose members include amongst others Trisha Ashley and Valerie-Anne Baglietto. How did you become involved with the group?

I’ve been meeting with the Novelistas for years. We all live in very rural parts of Wales and the North West, and writing is a lonely life, so it’s great to be able to meet up and support each other.

How important do you think it is for an author to be a part of a supportive group/organisation?

I feel it’s very important to be part of a supportive group of fellow writers. It’s like any specialism you feel passionate about – you need fellow geeks, and those going through the same experience, otherwise you can bore the socks off family and friends (after all, I’d glaze over if a stockbroker discussed the minutiae with me every day, even if I had some interest in getting rich quick!).

What would you say a reader can expect from a Juliet Greenwood novel?

A big emotional story, set in a rambling old house in Cornwall or Snowdonia in Victorian or Edwardian times, with women firmly at the centre of the action, each making her own way towards self-fulfilment. There is a mystery to be solved, and danger to be overcome, and the path of true love definitely never runs smooth. There will be a garden in the background somewhere, and probably cake. For ‘We That are Left’ I researched authentic dishes from WW1 newspapers for my heroine to use, as she struggles to keep her family and the local village fed on limited resources, mainly anything she can grow in the kitchen garden on the family estate.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished another serial, this time set among the paddle steamers of Conwy in Victorian times. I’m also deep into my next novel, which is a still a secret, but I can reveal that both cake and bricks are involved. And possibly a suffragette or two?

What is next for Juliet?

I’m looking forward to finishing my next book – especially as I’ve already got ideas I’m passionate about for the next one, or even two. The kindle editions of ‘We That are Left’ and ‘Eden’s Garden’ both reached the top five in the kindle store. I never expected it to happen, but it was such an exciting experience, I’m just itching for the chance for it to happen again. Writing is always a rollercoaster ride. Just watch this space…

More from Juliet

Website: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/
Blog: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014

‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012

An Interview with Eileen Ramsay

Eileen RamsayThank you, Eileen, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be my guest this month.

You have had a fantastic breadth of life experiences from teaching the children of international politicians and celebrities in the USA to working in Migrant Education. What lasting impressions did this contrast leave you with?
One fact that has remained with me through all my years of teaching is that, no matter the social position of the parents, the wealth or lack of it, education or lack of it, ALL good parents want the best for their children. Another is that poor parents – and I’m not talking finance here – come from every strata of society. I have had extremely wealthy parents leave seriously ill children in hospital while they jetted off to join some celebrity at a ski resort and I have had really poor Mexican parents turn up at my door begging for “Trabajo ahora?” whenever there was a school outing that cost a little money. They didn’t want a hand-out, they wanted to work to earn the money.

What is it about Mexico that appealed to you so much?

I visited Mexico often and studied Spanish language and Mexican music there. I love its fascinating and sometimes sad history. It is incredibly beautiful. The people are proud and they are generous and full of humour and you have just given me ideas for articles!

Would you agree with the observation that despite having lived with the lifestyle of the very privileged, you always seem to have kept your focus on what is important in life – family and reality?

You’re right, I did enjoy some incredible experiences and my upbringing was certainly not among the privileged but one wonderful woman in Washington DC reinforced all my early lessons. I had just met the man who was to become my husband and I wanted to impress him – shallow person that I am – with my ‘new’ family. I was taking him to lunch – to be introduced – and we walked into the house to see the lady of the house on her hands and knees washing a floor.  It turned out that the resident ‘cleaning lady’ wasn’t feeling well and had been sent to bed.

‘But why are you washing the floor?’ I asked.

She looked up at me and laughed. ‘Dirt,’ she said, ‘is no respecter of persons.’

My husband, of course, fell in love with her on the spot.

Churchills AngelsWhen did you break away from teaching to develop a career in writing?

Teaching and writing marched together for years. I wrote stories for Sunday School magazines and I wrote reading materials for primary schools. I was able to use knowledge of Native Americans I had gained while living in the US to write something a little different – Bud and the Hunkpapas was a favourite. For a few years I wrote from 4am to 6am but resigned when our younger son went to university.

Are you a very disciplined writer in the way you organise your day?
Organise?  I can already hear the laughter of those who know me.
I am disciplined. If possible I write every day; some days I write all day and well into the evening – that’s research time too. I use a laptop that has no internet because I can’t resist an email pinging in. My husband is learning to cook – our sons and lovely daughters-in-law sent him on a course – and he does one meal a day and he helps with housework – does all the heavy things and brings me a cup of coffee in bed first thing – and so I have 30 mins of ‘fun’ reading.

How and when did your first breakthrough as a published writer occur?
I went to a writing conference at USC where the great Michael Shaara, Clive Cussler, and the editor Charles Block were speakers. A friend typed up part of a Scottish Regency novel I’d been writing – I had even fewer technical skills then – and Charles Block read it. He was waiting outside a lecture room for me on the last day, handed me the script and said, “I think this will go but have chapters one and two change places.”

I had introduced the heroine in chapter two and he advised that the heroine should always be right there in chapter one. We returned to live in Britain that summer; I managed to get an agent – long story and sent her the finished, rewritten manuscript. A few days later she called and said she’d attended a party the evening before and an American editor had asked her about the availability of Scottish Regencies.  She showed her the typescript and it was bought! I looked at it a few years ago and it was rather dire – wouldn’t be published today. I rewrote it, correcting errors, and published it on Amazon!

You were established as a saga writer and then made the bold and successful move to writing romances based around the world of opera and music. What inspired this departure?

I had written children’s books, Regencies, Sagas and serials and I wanted to write contemporaries. I went to an artist chum’s exhibition and found myself thinking – What if all these paintings were of one person? The idea stayed and grew like Topsy and I wrote a book about an artist who loved a tenor – my favourite voice!  It was read by several reputable editors and agents but no one wanted it but almost everyone made sensible points. (I occasionally bump into one or two at an RNA party and we chat perfectly happily!)

            At a book launch I found myself standing beside a lovely woman who asked me if I wrote books like those of the superb writer onstage. I said “no” and told her my friend’s publisher had just, that very day, rejected me.

            “I didn’t reject you,’ said the woman and gave me her card. “Send it to me and I’ll have a look.’

            I dithered for days and eventually rang my friend, telling her I felt badly about, even inadvertently, using her launch to contact a very senior editor. She looked at me and said. “Don’t be stupid; if anyone holds out a hand to you in this business, grab it.”

            I grabbed, sent it and received the manuscript back with a “NO” for which she gave her reason. She also told me I really needed a good agent and suggested three. Two had already rejected me but I had not heard of the third and so I had one more go.

            The agent accepted me as a client, and, with her guidance, I rewrote a few scenes. The agent, the brilliant Theresa Chris, sent the manuscript to auction. It went for an amazing amount of money and was then bought by several foreign publishers.

Wave Me GoodbyeLast year, ‘Wave me Goodbye’ was published under the name of Ruby Jackson, which I understand is the first of a series of novels ‘Churchill’s Angels’.  Please tell us something about this new project?
I suppose, like many writers, after five best-selling books, I fell out of favour. Theresa stayed with me, encouraging me, advising me.  A few years ago, she asked if I would like to revisit WW11 and after much thought, I said yes. I did not know, of course, that  an editor at Harper Collins had conceived the idea of publishing a series of books about the courageous women who did everything from catching rats to ferrying Spitfires; the women she calls Churchill’s Angels.  Using the pseudonym, Ruby Jackson, I have now written four books; two have been published so far.  It’s been an enormous privilege. I’ve met land girls, pilots, nurses, etcetera and been awed by every one of them. Their stories need no exaggeration – they were quite simply – superb.

You obviously love historical fiction and research your chosen topic thoroughly. What advice would you give to anyone who was considering writing a historical novel?
Advice would depend on which era and which country but obviously I’d say, find out as much as you possibly can about the person the time and the place. Read everything, especially newspapers of the time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Archivists and librarians are great sources and remember there are archivists in famous department stores, in grand hotels and in universities.  They know what you don’t know you don’t know!

What is next for Eileen?

I have no idea; my head is spinning – that way, or that way but I did visit a conductor friend at the Royal Opera House earlier this year. He has been keeping me accurate about conducting and conductors for several years as I have an idea. He asked me about progress.

‘I’m afraid, for the past four years, the poor man has been standing on a rock looking out to sea.’

He shrugged. ‘Well, there are worse places for a conductor to stand.’

Now, wouldn’t you want to discover the worse places?!

More from Eileen

Website: eileenramsay.co.uk
Blog: Eileen’s Blog

Sharing Places – Part 4

Whilst researching social history for my stories I visit some fascinating places. Here are some of the places that have triggered plots, created characters or inspired a mood or a desire to return to the keyboard and write.

4. Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

 

Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey, an iconic image on the headland.

One of my favourite places to explore on the North Yorkshire coast is the unique, atmospheric town of Whitby. This ancient port situated on the northeast coast of England is famous for many reasons.

St Hilda founded a double monastery (for monks and nuns) here in 657 AD, making it a valued seat of learning. The famous Synod of Whitby was held here in 664 AD.

Whitby became a famous whaling port with such famous seafaring names associated to it as the Scoresby‘s.

Whitby's 99 steps
The famous 99 steps, better going down than up!

The James Cook Museum is housed in the C17 house where he lived as an apprentice. It is an atmospheric place overlooking the River Esk. There is a large car park nearby so exploring this side of the harbour is not a problem if arriving by car. If you walk into the East side of the harbour from here you can wander through the old cobblestoned streets and explore the many yards and snickets.

Passing the old inns and market square you will reach the bottom of the famous 99 steps which lead up to the unique church of St Mary and then to the abbey beyond. The views across the harbour from here are magnificent.

St Mary's Church
The unique St Mary’s church in front of Whitby Abbey has pride of place on the horizon.

To experience staying in one of the original inns, The Whitehorse and Griffin has been lovingly restored and offers excellent food.

Whitby sporadically comes into my stories, either in passing as in Abigail Moor, or as a setting in itself, such as Amelia’s Knight, which is still to be released as an eBook.

Whatever your reason for visiting this fascinating location, being prepared to walk and explore its narrow alleyways, historic places, or the more usual shops and eateries on the west side of the harbour, then there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Whitby houses
A glimpse of the red pantile rooves that characterise bay town houses.

For excellent seafood and a great place to eat it, looking back across the harbour to the abbey is The Magpie.

Other places of interest in the area can be found on these helpful websites:

 

An Interview with Louise Allen

A photo of Louise Allen

When did you first decide to become a writer or discover your love for the written word?

I’ve always had a vivid imagination and loved fiction but I think academic work knocked the urge to actually write it out of me. Then I started for all the wrong reasons – I was a librarian and saw how popular Mills & Boon novels were. I thought it would be easy money – idiotic of me, of course. However, by the time I sorted myself out and took it seriously I was hooked.

What appealed to you about the romance genre?

It is a great genre for exploring relationships, which is always interesting, and when I discovered historical romance, there was no stopping me – two passions in one!

Your research is impeccably thorough. At what point do you take a step back from it and begin to write the book?

Walks Through Regency London Cover LARGE EBOOKThe story and the characters have to come first, always, although some plot lines can be sunk from the start if the historical premise is incorrect – 18thc characters getting an easy divorce, for example or a sub-plot that involves getting from London to York in a day. Generally I know what I don’t know and therefore what to research – politics, for example. I’ve got a huge personal reference library. But once I know I have a plot that will work in a particular historical context then I leave the research until afterwards and go back to it so it doesn’t take over. When I wrote a story set in AD410 during the Sack of Rome (Virgin Slave, Barbarian King) I just left questions in red for bits I needed to check and went back to them to be sure my characters left Rome by the right gate onto the right road and I’d got the layout of a bath house correct and so on.

I also write historical non-fiction – Walking Jane Austen’s London (Shire), Walks Through Regency London (Kindle), Stagecoach Travel (Shire, July) and I’m working on something on the Great North Road at the moment, so I can channel the hard facts somewhere they won’t take over.

You must have visited some fantastic locations and discovered some unusual facts during your research. Could you share some of the most memorable with us?

Finding three of the houses that Jane Austen stayed in when she was in London was a thrill. Only one, in Covent Garden has a Blue Plaque, but I discovered the other two when I found a pamphlet about research that was done after the war which revealed that her brother Henry’s homes in Sloane Street and Hans Place were not demolished by the late Victorians, but simply refaced and had new upper floors added. The originals are still there under the later shell.

Practical research is great too – I took carriage driving lessons, for example and I’m about to go on a practical osteoarchaeology course handling real skeletons. Goodness knows when that will come in useful…

Do you have a strict writing routine?

Yes, or I’d never get anything done! I write every afternoon until I have hit at least the minimum number of words I need to do to make sure I finish a week before the deadline, and hopefully a few more. That way I have some time in the bank for catching flu or unexpected commitments.

How do you balance the need of keeping your work accessible to contemporary readers against your desire for historical accuracy?

I won’t distort history but it is possible to use it to appeal to contemporary readers. For example I tend to write heroines who are older and who have the freedom to act in a more assertive, interesting way. They may be widows, or following one of the career paths open to women at the time. Where there are strong differences in beliefs and norms between the time I am writing about and the present – the fact that many wealthy families in the 18th century owed their fortunes to slavery in the West Indies, for example – I simply avoid putting my characters into those situations. On the other hand, the ‘long Regency’, which is the period I usually write about, saw the beginnings of many of the freedoms we are concerned about now, or at least the fight for them. Education for women, abolition of slavery, prison reform, concern for child welfare can all be woven in to some plots and engage the sympathy of readers.

As the New Writers’ Scheme Organiser for the RNA, what key advice would you give to someone who wanted to break into the romantic fiction market?

Read widely in the genre you are interested in and do so analytically as well as for pleasure. What works, what doesn’t? Why? Then work at developing your own voice – there is no substitute for practice!

Please tell us about your latest release?

UnlacingMy latest book is Unlacing Lady Thea (Harlequin Mills & Boon. April). I got the idea for it when we took a small-ship cruise down the eastern coast of Italy. My heroine is no great beauty, and thoroughly practical with it (and I had some fun with the fact that, unlike many romantic heroines, she doesn’t fool the hero for a moment when she disguises herself as a boy). My hero begins the book seriously the worse for drink and talking to the kitchen cat. He’s so drunk that he agrees it would be a good idea to allow Thea to accompany him on his Grand Tour so she can join her godmother in Venice. By the time he sobers up, it is too late and he is stuck with escorting his childhood friend for whom, of course, he has no amorous feelings… None at all, he tells himself.

What is next for Louise?

Scandal’s Virgin is out in June and Beguiled By Her Betrayer, which is set in Egypt in 1801, is released in August. Stagecoach Travel comes out in July.

Currently I’m working on book three in a trilogy, provisionally called Battlefield Brides. Book one is by Sarah Mallory and book two by Annie Burrows. The three books are set before, during and just after the battle of Waterloo and will be released to coincide with the bicentenary of the battle in 2015.

More from Louise

Website: louiseallenregency.com
Blog: janeaustenslondon.com
Twitter: @LouiseRegency

Sharing Places – Part 3

Whilst researching social history for my stories I visit some fascinating places. Here are some of the places that have triggered plots, created characters or inspired a mood or a desire to return to the keyboard and write.

3. Ormesby Hall, North Yorkshire, England.

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This interesting Georgian mansion belonged to the Pennyman family for nearly four centuries and is now open to the public. It is nestled in its own grounds hidden away from the busy modern environment surrounding it.

I was delighted to be shown around the servant’s passageways when I visited. They thread through the house so that the daily running of the hall did not get in the way of the family who lived there.

The Victorian launderette is not as grand as the larger hall of Beningborough near York that gave rise to Chloe’s Friend, but the estate is a joy to walk around. You can visit the local church further up the lane and the stables which are used to this day by The Cleveland Mounted Police.

Also, there is a permanent exhibition for the model railway enthusiast and fine cakes in the tea room.