Meet poet, blogger and author Wendy Van Camp!

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I am delighted to welcome a writer, poet and blogger based in Orange Country, California, as my guest this month. We share a mutual love of Jane Austen’s work, an affinity with notebooks and pens, as well as a keen interest in Celtic designed jewellery. There are other aspects of Wendy’s talents and career, which I am keen to discover.

Welcome, Wendy!

Orange County sounds a fascinating place to live, is that a fair comment? Is it the place you moved to, or has it always been your home?

I have grown comfortable here in Southern California. I am close enough to the beach to go for an afternoon visit, but far enough away that I am not in the path of tourists. We have a wide range of concerts, public fairs, and outdoor activities to choose from. The white sand beaches are a world-wide travel destination and a mecca for surfers.

I did not start out in Orange County. I always moved around most of my life. My father transferred often when I was a child, and I have lived in many cities. I moved to Orange County when my husband and I got married. A few years later, we purchased our current residence only a mile away from our original condo. My house is modest, but it allows me a home office and a small garden where I can grow roses and sit in the sun. Can a writer ask for more?

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No, I don’t think so, it sounds lovely!

As an author of Regency romantic adventures I want to ask about this aspect of your work first. What is it that appeals to you about Jane Austen’s work?

I had not read Austen until my early forties. I sought her out because of the desire to read more classic literature. The only Austen novel available at the local library at the time was “Persuasion” and this is the first of her books that I read. I fell in love with this book about second chances and read all of Austen’s work.  “Persuasion” was my favourite of them all and eventually I felt the need to write a story based on these characters because they haunted me.

How challenging was it to take The Curate’s Brother from NaNoWriMo to published eBook?

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It has been an incredible challenge.  I am normally a science fiction writer and poet.  Writing a Regency era historical was a huge undertaking for me.  I had never read romance novels and had little idea of the amount of research a historical novel needs.  My first attempt was a complete failure. I trunked the manuscript for a full year.

After that first NaNoWriMo attempt, I read around eighty romance novels to better understand the romance genre as I researched the time the story took place. My second NaNoWriMo attempt went easier, but I discovered the story had grown and would need more than a single book to complete.

As I was revising the book, I realised that the first chapter was the only one told from Edward Wentworth’s point of view. He is the brother of Captain Wentworth and merely mentioned in Austen’s original novel.  I removed the chapter from the book for that reason, but the ideas in that chapter would not let me go.

I took the chapter to my science fiction writing critique group for help, thinking it might work as a short story.  The men refused to read it because it was “romance”. Most of the group hated the story, except for one, who was a professor of literature. She wrote what she understood of my outline to make it clear to me and to show my story followed a standard beat structure. She ended her critique with “it needs another ten thousand words”. I took her advice and over a two-week period, I wrote those ten thousand additional words. I took the new revision to a different critique group, one that was multi-genre, and they loved the story, urging me to publish it as is. That is how “The Curate’s Brother” was born. It has garnered good reviews on Amazon and has sold many copies down the years.

Were you ever daunted at the prospect of adapting characters from such a well-known classic as Persuasion?

At the time I started this project, I was an inexperienced novelist. Writing was still a hobby.  I had little idea about the hard work and dedication needed to bring a novel to publication.  I saw hundreds of Austen fanfictions online and figured the world could use one more Austen inspired author. Now that I’ve been writing and publishing for over a decade, my viewpoint has changed. I realise what a tremendous task I have undertaken. But I still have love for Jane Austen’s work, and I want to finish this project that I began so long ago, creating a story that ‘Janeites’ will love.

Will there be sequels?

I have three more books semi-drafted in my Austen Regency series. As I complete revisions, new characters pop up, along with connections that enrich the story. I am far behind schedule on finishing the final three books (I apologise profusely to my readers for this), but I have been making progress.  Book two of this series, “Christmas in Kellynch”, is close to completion.

Regency is far removed from your favoured genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Please share your interest in them and how your blog No Wasted Ink came into being?

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I have always been a hard-core science fiction and fantasy reader. The first “science fiction” I read was Edgar Rice Burrough’s “A Princess of Mars”. I loved the strong female characters of this series. I got hooked on Robert A Heinlein’s juveniles and Anne McCaffery’s Pern in middle-school.  Later favourite authors were Elizabeth Moon, Ursula Le Guin, and Andre Norton.  I still read a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy books.  I love to look into the future and see what humanity may become. I tend to be an optimist. I feel through technology and science we can solve whatever problems we as a people may face and that there are fantastic lives ahead of us all.

No Wasted Ink started not long after I published my first short story. I realised that this writing hobby of mine may turn into something more. I had always had a website for my jewellery business. It was a no brainer I would need a website for my writing business too. Over the years, No Wasted Ink has taken on its own life. It holds my writing clips, appearances, and links to my books, but it has grown into its own publication with a large following. I interview authors of science fiction and fantasy, have a top-ten writing article link page twice a month, host guest posts about the craft of writing, and the occasional article or essay I write on my own. You can also see illustrated poetry art featuring my scifaiku poems.

Your interest in these genres has evolved into two forms of poetry: Scifaiku and Astropoetry, which has gained you acclaim. When did you discover your poet’s voice and is this something you intend to continue publishing in the future?

It is funny, being a poet is the last thing I expected to happen to me as a writer.  I had a few negative run-ins with poetry as I was growing up and during my years as a television producer/director. One day in my forties, I was at a small science fiction convention and needed to kill time for two hours. I sat on a bench and a sign next to me said: “Scifaiku Workshop”.  I did not know was scifaiku was, but there was cold water in the room and I could get out of the heat for an hour.  So I went in. I ended up being the sole student of a poetry workshop, attended by a cadre of national level poetry magazine editors who came to support the instructor. I wrote my first poem in over twenty years that afternoon. I was told to read the science fiction haiku out loud to “the class” and I did…my only audience, that group of poetry editors. After my reading, one of them leaned over and whispered into my ear, “I loved your poem. I’d like to publish it in my magazine.  I’ll pay you.”  That was the moment I became a poet!

I suppose I have a distinctive “voice” in my poetry. To paraphrase, a critic described my voice as “poetry coming in undulating waves, like a white lily under a blood moon. Pure ideas surrounded by dark tension, but always reaching for the light.” I write from the gut and am self-taught. This is how the words come out for me and have since the beginning.

My debut poetry book “The Planets” has been nominated twice for the Elgin Award for Best Speculative Poetry Book of the Year. You can also find my poetry in magazines such as “Far Horizons”, “Starlight Scifaiku Review”, and in the anthology series “Eccentric Orbits” among many others.

Do you write in pen & ink first in a lovely notebook or on the computer?

It depends on the project. I compose poetry in a paper bound notebook with a fountain pen.  It is portable and I can take it out to coffeeshops or to the park. It also allows me an excuse for my fountain pen collecting hobby! Novels are different. I keep story ideas in notebooks, but I outline in Scrivener and set up my chapters there before the writing process. I create rough drafts on an AlphaSmart typewriter or via dictation with my Olympus Recorder.

Do you think your background in TV and the film industry has helped you to structure your plots and create credible characters within your novels?

Not at all. It was my dream to be a Hollywood filmmaker. creating stories for the screen.  What I ended up being was a television producer/director who handled events such as parades, city council meetings, and other municipal activities. I also directed hundreds of multi-camera talk shows, and two series.  One called “Musician Discoveries” which was a band showcase program, and the other “Cofeehouse Poetry” which featured poets reading their work in a coffeehouse setting. Returning to writing novels and short stories was my way back to the original dream of telling stories. While I loved working in television and wouldn’t trade a day of it, I don’t miss the pressure and dealing with all the negativity of Hollywood. I’m far happier as a writer and poet, working from home on my own schedule.

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Do you create jewellery to relax, or is it still very much your profession?

Believe it or not, I still run an occasional jewellery table, but I don’t consider myself an artisan jeweller any longer. Over the years, I have gradually made the shift from selling handcrafted Celtic jewellery to being a full-time author and poet. I do not make jewellery for fun. After thousands of earrings, bracelets and necklaces, I have hung up my pliers.

What triggered the Celtic design connection?

I am half Scottish/English and always had a love of the Celtic designs from my heritage. These designs are also very popular on the science fiction convention circuit. It was a profitable choice of theme for my work.

What is next for Wendy?

I’m in completion mode. I have two series that are drafted due to my years in NaNoWriMo, but in revision.  One is my Austen Regency series, of which “The Curate’s Brother” is the first instalment and the other is a Steampunk Alice in Wonderland adventure.

Poetry has become important to me in a way that is quite unexpected, but an art form I have embraced. I have two more scifaiku poetry collections, plus a hybrid poetry/essay book about a rare illness that I experienced and recovered from, in development.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.

Wendy Van Camp is an Elgin-finalist poet, writer, and artist. Her work has received Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future Contest and she is a graduate of the Ad Astra Speculative Fiction Workshop. Her short stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as: “Starlight Scifaiku Review”, “Scifaikuest”, “Quantum Visions” and “Far Horizons”. She is the poet and illustrator of  “The Planets: a scifaiku poetry collection” and the editor of the speculative poetry anthology “Eccentric Orbits 2”. You can hear Wendy as a semi-regular panelist on Sci-Fi Roundtable Podcast. She is the Con Coordinator for the SFPA.

LINKS

No Wasted Ink – http://nowastedink.com

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp

Medium – https://medium.com/@wvancamp

Twitter – https://twitter.com/wvancamp

Instagram – https://instagram.com/nowastedink

Esty Print Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NoWastedInk

Meet prolific Regency romance author GL Robinson

Welcome, Glynis!

How did a girl from Portsmouth come to settle in New York?

A  pretty simple story, really.  I married an American! What led up to it was: I was working in London for an industry lobby group at the time Britain joined the Common Market (as it was then). At a meeting one day, the boss asked if anyone spoke French.  The nuns at the convent I was brought up in were a French order and I’d been around the language for years, as well as studying it, so I put my hand up. The result was I was sent off to Brussels for an information tour with our European sister organization.

I’d been there about a week when they asked if I’d stay and take a job with them. They needed someone who could speak English! I said yes, and that was it! I never went back to live in the UK again!

The British Embassy in Brussels had a Singles Group called The British Birds Club (!) and they had a party one weekend. I went, a bit unwillingly, actually, but my secretary was one of the organizers so I felt I had to, and that’s where I met my husband! It was a Baked Potato Party, with all sorts of toppings for the potatoes. So when I met him I had my mouth full!

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We were in Brussels for four years, and then went to Bonn, which was the German capital at the time.  We were there for just over three years. I had learned German in the convent, so it was great to use the language. In fact, I had one baby in Brussels and twins in Germany, so I often say I never had a baby in English! We moved to upstate New York in 1978 and we’ve been here ever since. It’s really lovely here – semi-rural, with not a skyscraper in sight! We’re half way between New York City and Montreal.

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You have dedicated your novels to your lovely sister. What was it about the Regency period that led you to create your own book set based within the era?

My sister was with me in the convent. We used to read Georgette Heyer under the covers with a torch after lights-out, and we both always loved her Regencies.  When my sister died unexpectedly in 2018, I just felt compelled to write in that genre. I think now it was part of the grieving process. I feel her with me when I write. My books are sort of humorous, like Heyer’s are, and I know she’s laughing with me when I write. But quite apart from that, I find the period fascinating.  It really is the beginning of the modern era. We see the results of the Industrial Revolution both in its good aspects, and its bad – the development of the railways making travel possible for everyone, but also the growth of factories and the appalling working conditions in them. I deal with this historical background a lot in my books.

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What can readers expect from a G.L. Robinson novel?

You can expect to smile a lot and not cry very much, if at all.  You can expect gorgeous strong women and hunky men who appreciate them (sometimes only in the end, but you know they will).  You can expect a writing style that is very classically English and very proper. I really do try not to have linguistic anachronisms in my work, and because of my background in languages I know a lot of words. There are no sex scenes, though there is sexual tension. I write about real places, real historical events and I hope my characters are interesting. I’m especially proud of my latest, The Lord and The Bluestocking which is currently on Amazon pre-order, because my MC is a man who nowadays would be diagnosed as being on the Asperger’s Spectrum. He’s really great, but he’s a bit odd, and it takes a special woman to see past that. You can listen to the first chapter, which is really quite funny, on my website: https://romancenovelsbyglrobinson.com

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Pre Covid did you regularly visit the UK to visit actual locations of the period? If so, which was the most memorable?

I have always gone to England at least once a year for a month or more, because my family is there, including my dear old Mum, who’s 96, nearly 97. I was at university in London, so I know it fairly well, though it’s changed enormously since the 1960’s! Brighton isn’t far away, and I’ve been there a lot, especially the Pavilion, which features quite often in my books. I know Bath, too, as a family member used to live there. Those are the three places I most often refer to in my books. I can’t say which is the most memorable, as I’ve known them all forever.  The biggest fun I had was putting Portsmouth, my home town, in Cecilia or Too Tall To Love  because I was able to talk about the seafront and the Dockyard, which I’ve known all my life. It’s a wonderfully historical city.  I’m so lucky to have come from there.  I was born around the corner from where Charles Dickens lived (no, not at the same time!)

Did your early life strongly influence your love of literature?

Very much so! I’ve told you I was brought up in a convent (my father worked in Africa), and we had no TV, no radio, no telephone. What did we do? We read! It was a very old-fashioned place and the school curriculum was almost wholly the Humanities. I studied Shakespeare from about aged 11 onwards.  By the time I was 16, I could read all the French classics in the original, plus we did Chaucer in Middle English, and I did 8 years of Latin. Language and literature completely formed me. It’s no surprise I became a literature professor!

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Animal welfare features in your latest title; do animals feature in your family life?

I didn’t have a pet growing up, because of being in the convent. But we had a dog when my kids were growing up, and they all have dogs. Three kids, seven grandchildren, five granddogs!! I’ve never had a cat because both my sons are allergic, but I have lots of friends with cats, and they gave me lots of ideas for Horace in my last book. I love the way cats are sure they’re in charge. Horace certainly is. I was inspired to write The Lord and The Cat’s Meow  because 2022 is the 200th anniversary of the first Animal Rights Law.  I was going to release it in 2022, but I was too excited once I’d finished it!

Is there a period of American history that you would consider writing about?

No, I don’t feel I know it well enough. Not like British history that I grew up with and is in my bones. But I’m now writing my second contemporary American crime book and I LOVE IT! My characters don’t sound a bit like me!

During lockdown many families in the UK have had to endure long periods of separation, even when living near to each other, how have you been affected by the Covid 19 situation Stateside?

We were on lockdown pretty much from March 2020 to May 2021, so I didn’t get to see my kids and grandkids for over a year.  They don’t live near us anyway, so we were used to Face-timing etc. But it wasn’t easy. We cancelled a family reunion in the Mid-West in June, which broke my heart. But in November 2020 my Mum fell and fractured her hip so I spent four months in England with her. That was worse. The lockdown in the UK was much stricter than in the US, and my Mum was quite poorly after being in hospital, so I think I left the house maybe ten times in four months. Thank God for writing! I wrote the whole of The Cat’s Meow and began another Regency, which I’ve since finished.

When not writing, which genre/author’s novels do you read for relaxation?

I have a very wide-ranging taste, probably stemming from my upbringing. I still read Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen compulsively, all the time. I love the British writer Barbara Pym who wrote social comedies in the 1950’s.  She is honestly a bit dated now, but her books are so funny and her characters so well drawn, I re-read them with pleasure. I think Kate Atkinson (Brit) is the best female writer alive today, closely followed by Ann Tyler (American). Then I like the American authors Wallace Stegner (died 1993) and  Amor Towles whose book A Gentleman In Moscow is definitely the best book of the 21st century so far. And who doesn’t love Lee Child and the Jack Reacher books? I devour them at one sitting. You can see – I read all over the place!

What is next for G.L Robinson?

Forgive me for quoting a poem I learned in the convent and now appreciate even more, like Tennyson’s Ulysses in his old age, I intend To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths/Of all the western stars, until I die. In other words, I’m going to keep on keeping on! I’m 75 this year and I figure I’ve got ten good years to keep writing! I have a Regency on pre-order , another ready for publication in 2022,  a contemporary American crime series begun (book one is done, book two is well under way) and I’m collaborating with six other writers on an Anthology called Love Yesterday, Today and Forever, a set of all sorts of different genre romances we hope to publish for Christmas. I hope you don’t mind my adding:  if you’d like a short story, or to hear me read from my nine published novels, please go to my website: https://romancenovelsbyglrobinson.com

Thank you, Glynis, for sharing with us.

Please leave comments and/or questions below. 

Introducing the short list for the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2020!

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Every author has their own unique story to tell about how and why they came to be a novelist.

Read on to find out the stories behind the talented shortlisted authors for the prestigious award as they reveal the themes that are at the heart of their lovely novels.

Zoe Allison, Impervious, Totally Bound

After years of hard work and burn out in Medicine I came to realise how much I loved writing and what a release it was – a balm for the soul. I wrote a couple of opinion pieces for a medical newsletter and after that tried my hand at writing children’s picture books. As my own children grew I got back into reading romance and remembered what I enjoyed most about the genre – the happy endings. I decided to write my own romances, with the strong heroines and non-toxic heroes that I craved to see in the books I read.

Jan Baynham, Her Mother’s Secret, Ruby Fiction

On retirement, I joined a local writing group. Once my stories started getting longer, I undertook a novel-writing course, enjoying the challenge to explore my characters in more depth and delve further into their stories. Joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme was the best decision I made on my journey to becoming a published novelist.
I love writing about families and the skeletons lurking in their cupboards. In ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, my main character, Elin, has a well-hidden secret. The novel explores the bond between a mother and her daughter, forbidden love, cultural differences and a search for true identity.

Laura Bambrey, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, Simon & Schuster

The theme of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness was dictated by my main character, Tori. As I spent time getting to know her, looking past her severe anxiety and issues with specific phobias I realised that, right at her very core, she was chronically lonely. This sent me off on a fascinating trail of research. Loneliness has so much stigma attached to it – it’s a strangely taboo subject and something that is very difficult to discuss – but we’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives. I hope this book helps to open up those conversations.

Victoria Garland, Finding Prince Charming, DC Thompson

My first attempt at writing was at the age of twelve. I was given a typewriter for Christmas and started pounding out my own version of a Nancy Drew mystery. Remember those? Fast forward three decades to when I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme. After having several short stories published in My Weekly I decided to write a pocket novel for them. I was asked for a sparkling Cinderella story for Christmas and Finding Prince Charming was born. I had an absolute blast writing it, playing with the fairy tale theme and falling madly in love with the hero.

Rosemary Goodacre, Until We Meet Again, Hera

As RNA members know, the New Writer Scheme is a great way for debut novelists to have work critiqued by professionals, and I’m very grateful for this opportunity.
The centenary of the Great War reminded me of this tragic period of history. What must it have been like to have been suddenly swept into it? My characters, Amy and Edmond, had to be special people. They fall in love as war breaks out, snatching days and weekends together, uncertain of their future. Only their love brings them through disaster.

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Annette Hannah, Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe, Orion Dash

About fifteen years ago the Signal Box near where I live became automated and I always thought it a shame that such a lovely building should be neglected and boarded up. I often visualised it as a café and when my protagonist Lucy needed a venue for her wedding planning business, I decided to use the old Signal Box as inspiration and followed my dream even if it was just in my imagination. Writing a book has been my lifelong ambition and to have achieved it feels fantastic. Being a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award is a wonderful rite of passage.

Stephanie Harte, Risking It All, Aria

I’d dreamt of writing a book for years but had been put off by the daunting task. Filled with self-doubt, I talked myself out of the idea every time it resurfaced until I plucked up the courage to put pen to paper and join the New Writers’ Scheme.
In Risking It All, Gemma’s forced into a life of crime to clear her husband, Nathan’s debt after he secretly borrows money from a gangster. Her loyalty is pushed to the limit as she battles with her conscience. Losing Gemma could be the price Nathan has to pay for his reckless behaviour.

Stefania Hartley, Sun, Stars and Limoncello, Totally Bound

When I moved to the UK from Sicily, my English was too poor to imagine that I could ever write anything. Eventually, my Italian became rusty too. But one day I discovered that I could write articles about my subject (I was a Science teacher). After twenty years, I finally knew English well enough to write! It was as exhilarating as sprouting wings. I started writing about anything that excited me and memories of my Sicilian youth popped up more and more. Now I love to share with others those memories and stories of hot Sicilian summers, sun-drenched passion and sparkling seas.

Kirsten Hesketh, Another Us, Canelo

My debut, Another Us, is inspired by my son who was diagnosed with mild Aspergers when he was ten. A few years later, sorting through some of the bumpf I’d been given at the time, I stumbled across a statistic which claimed that eight out of ten marriages with a child on the spectrum end before that child is sixteen. Our son was already sixteen by this point and I decided the statistic was rubbish. But what if I’d known about it earlier on? Might I have reacted differently, behaved differently? And so the idea behind Another Us was born.

Sharon Ibbotson, The Marked Lord, Choc Lit

As a child, I never wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to be a nun. But after my parents informed me that I was neither Catholic nor was being a nun like it was in ‘The Sound of Music’ I started to consider other options. I loved reading – in fact, I still believe I am a better reader than I am a writer – and I started writing when I lost a copy of a library book I never got to read the end of, making up my own conclusions to the story and seeing where I could take the characters I had fallen in love with. I wrote ‘The Marked Lord’ when I was pregnant, sitting in my garden and dreaming of home (Australia plays a large role in this story). It’s all about second chances and letting go of past hurts, both physical and emotional. It was a lovely book to write and I’m still very fond of it (I am also still very fond of ‘The Sound of Music’ but then who isn’t?)

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Emma Jackson, A Mistletoe Miracle, Orion Dash

“Back in 2013 I went along to see the Christmas lights being turned on in Alfriston village with my partner and one-year-old daughter. It was a bitter night, but the buoyant atmosphere and chocolate-box setting set my mind racing with possibilities for a Christmas novel. From that spark of an idea, A Mistletoe Miracle, a festive romantic comedy, grew. Slowly. I squeezed in writing in the evenings and children’s naptimes over the next six years and in 2019 joined the RNA NWS, knowing that if I wanted to be published it was up to me to start taking my writing seriously.”

Lynn Johnson, The Girl From The Workhouse, Hera

I didn’t mean to become a novelist. In my fifties, I began researching my family tree and discovered things I never knew about my mother’s family. At my local writing group, I started to write short stories. The Girl From the Workhouse, was one of those very early stories and it grew – but was I writing history or fiction? I decided on fiction. And my biggest stumbling block took time to resolve itself. Dare I give my Grandma a boyfriend who was not my Grandad? Once I had the answer, my writing flowed. Fifteen years later…success!

Nina Kaye, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, Orion Dash

My childhood dream to write became real when I turned to writing to support my rehabilitation from a difficult illness, and to provide escape from it. Recently, I’ve completed another story inspired by this time, and I hope to share this in the future.

The key ingredients of The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating are the beauty of Edinburgh’s setting, personal experience in the hospitality industry, and (of course) my appreciation of gin! Real life issues are an important touchstone for my writing, as is the light-hearted side of life.

Lucy Keeling, Make It Up To You, Choc Lit

I wrote my first story when I was 8 and not to toot my own horn, but it was good. It had Ice Monsters roaming the streets. From then on, every few months I would get this urge to write. As I got older, I would manage a solid three chapters before I ran out of steam. It was only when I discovered that I could plan out a story, that it didn’t have to just magically spill from my fingertips, that I actually managed to finish one. Now, the only ice monsters I write about are the ones that melt with a HEA.

Ruth Kvarnström-Jones, Halleholm – Lovisa’s Choice, Printz Publishing

One is seldom too sick to scroll through Facebook. That said, as a copywriter flattened by pneumonia back in 2012, even scrolling depleted my energy supply pretty pronto. Until I saw a meme that suggested one had an obligation to use up every ounce of talent before one died. Must write my novel! Energy inexplicably refreshed, I began making notes for Halleholm- Lovisa’s Choice.
Set in the chocolate-box environs of the Stockholm Archipelago, Halleholm – Lovisa’s Choice is a modern-day Romeo and Juliet saga: the tale of a multi-generational family feud that nearly rips apart a town and shatters one woman’s dream.

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Mairibeth MacMillan, The Viking’s Cursed Bride, Tirgearr

When I was wee, I got a tape recorder as a birthday present. My friends then spent several summers voicing the characters in the radio plays that I wrote – I still have some of the tapes! Later, when I took a career break from teaching drama, my interest in writing was rekindled and I completed degrees in creative writing and playwriting. I became interested in using writing to explore the stories associated with place, and most of my initial ideas are inspired by visits to particular buildings or places. The Viking’s Cursed Bride was initially inspired by a visit to Dumbarton Rock.

Melissa Oliver, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight, Mills and Boon Historical

My debut is a sweeping medieval romance, set against the back-drop of the Baron’s Conflict, which began in 1215. There’s a nod to the legend of Robin Hood- which, in turn, took its inspiration from the real-life story of Fulk FitzWarin III.
King John demands that his trusted knight; Sir Hugh de Villiers marries the reluctant widow; Lady Eleanor Tallany, and also quashes local outlaws…. Unknown to Hugh, his new wife and the outlaw are one and the same.
Through twists, turns, and intrigue; Hugh and Eleanor’s spark of attraction need to overcome standing on opposing lines, or extinguish forever.

Maggie Richell-Davies, The Servant, Sharpe Books

Novels were always a portal through which to roam the moors with Heathcliffe and Cathy, to take the waters at Bath with Beau Brummel, or to fall in love with Darcy, so it was inevitable to yearn to write my own. Then a visit to London’s Foundling Museum, with its heart-breaking scraps of fabric and ribbon left by women in the hope they might, one day, be able to reclaim their precious child, inspired me to write The Servant, the story of a poor eighteenth-century girl battling to survive the injustices of the age – and to find love.

Jacqueline Rohen, How To Marry Your Husband, Arrow

J Rohen

Written by Jacqueline’s family: From childhood, Jacqueline was an avid reader and budding writer. She found ideas for stories everywhere, notebook at the ready. One such inspirational nugget was Mick Jagger’s public statement that he and Jerry Hall were never officially married; the story stuck with Jacqueline for years, finally evolving into the plot of her debut romantic novel. Eventually, Jacqueline’s own romance led her to chimpanzee conservation in Uganda where, forcing herself to become a morning person, she determinedly set aside the time necessary to fulfil her dream of being a published author. She would have been so proud to be nominated.

Kathleen Whyman, Wife Support System, Hera

Working as a magazine journalist, Kathleen always aspired to be a novelist, but got slightly sidetracked over the years by work, children and Mad Men box sets. It was her eight-year-old daughter’s words – ‘Stop talking about writing a book and just write one’ – that gave her the push she needed to write Wife Support System.
The novel, published by Hera Books, was inspired by Kathleen’s own feeble attempt to juggle a career with childcare, never-ending house ‘stuff’ and, outrageously, occasionally some time for herself. She is still struggling.
Kathleen’s next novel, Second Wife Syndrome, has been shortlisted for the Comedy Women in Print prize 2020.

Fiona Woodifield, The Jane Austen Dating Agency, Bloodhound Books

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since my childhood love of reading spilled into the desire to write stories of my own. In 2018, I sent the manuscript for my first novel, The Jane Austen Dating Agency off to the fantastic RNA New Writer’s Scheme and had lovely feedback.

The Jane Austen Dating Agency focuses on a heroine who has spent rather too much time reading romantic novels, so her reality fails to live up to the dream. She joins a regency dating agency where she meets some wonderful friends, some rather interesting and familiar characters, to the Jane Austen fan at least and discovers her true self.

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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