History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

15 January 2008

The Vanishing Viscountess
by Diane Gaston
ISBN 10: 0373294794

The prisoner stood with an expression of defiance, leather shackles on her wrists. Adam Vickery, Marquess of Tannerton, was drawn to this woman, so dignified in her plight. He didn’t recognize her as the once innocent, hopeful debutante he had danced with long years ago.

Marlena Parronley, the notorious Vanishing Viscountess, was a fugitive. Seeing the dashing, carefree marquess of her dreams just reminded her that shecouldn’t risk letting anyone, especially Tanner, get caught up in helping her escape. He would face the same punishment she did. The hangman’s noose.

Diane will be giving away a copy to one lucky commenter, so ask away!!!

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

The Vanishing Viscountess is set in Regency England. I love the Regency! What’s not to love about it?

I suppose if I were forced to find something, it would be that there is so much history packed into the few years of the Regency that an author has a lot to plot around. You really have to make a careful check of important events of the time in which you set your story because there is bound to be something there that would affect your characters’ lives.

In The Vanishing Viscountess, it was not the history that constrained me, but rather the geography. My hero and heroine had to travel across the UK, so I had to be certain that I gave them a realistic route and didn’t bump them into mountains or dunk them in rivers. You can see this route on a Google Map on my website.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

The hero of The Vanishing Viscountess, Tanner, first appeared in Innocence and Impropriety. He was the marquess who coveted the Vauxhall singer with whom his secretary fell in love. He also was a strong, vivid personality who demanded a book of his own. So Tanner made me write his story! In Innocence and Impropriety, Tanner is accustomed to solving all problems by using his influence and wealth. I wanted to strip him of those advantages and make him live by his wits and resourcefulness.

But a scene also begged to be written. I had read several accounts of shipwrecks in my Annual Registers. Annual Registers are a bit like almanacs, giving the noteworthy political, society, cultural and news events of the year. I’m lucky enough to own Annual Registers from 1810 to 1820.

Peppered through the “Chronicles,” the news events in the Registers, are accounts of shipwrecks. The saddest thing about them is that the women and children never survive. I couldn’t get that idea out of my mind.

On Jan 17 I’m going to blog here about the Annual Registers and accounts of shipwrecks, so come back and take a peek.

Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

I had to do tons of research on setting. Because this is a road story, I had to research a route for my characters to travel. My friend Delle Jacobs gave me the actual coaching route of the time period and I used that as my model. Then I had to research the towns and villages along the way, and what the the terrain would look like in autumn. I relied heavily on Google Maps and Google Earth. I wrote a little article in the January Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine about it.

I learned a lot about researching itself. I found that searching on Google Images almost always saved me time. I learned to use Answers.com for factual information about the towns and villages Tanner and Marlena would pass through, then I’d turn to Google Images for visuals.

I found a wonderful site for researching setting in Scotland: Undiscovered Scotland.

What/Who do you like to read?

I love to read Historical Romance, Regency Historicals most of all. But since I’ve been writing I find I am more compelled to read my research books, of which I have sooooo many. (Kalen and I are in a competition to see who can buy the most research books. I’ll bet she’s winning, but I give her a good run for her money) I just finished a biography, The Girl in Rose: Haydn's Last Love by Peter Hobday, which was pre-Regency but interesting. Before that I read Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson by Paula Byrne, also Georgian era, and Mistress of the Elgin Marbles : A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin by Susan Nagel. I’m into biographies of women these days.

Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

Now that I’m writing for a publisher, I have to write a synopsis and that means figuring out a plot ahead of time. If I didn’t have to do that, I’d be a complete pantser, although, like having my Google Map, I think having a roadmap for the plot makes the journey easier.

Even if I have a general idea of the main plot, I often don’t have a clue what the next scene will be. That’s the hardest thing for me, thinking up what comes next, what my characters will do next, how to get them from one big plot point to the other. There is no way I could do this ahead of time. I could never outline every scene; I just couldn’t do that!

What are you planning to work on next?

I have one book finished and due for release in October 2008. Scandalizing the Ton is my Regency paparazzi story, what I imagine it would be like if a lady was suddenly hounded by the press who are desperate to know the identity of the father of her unborn child.

After that I have an idea for a trilogy featuring three soldiers, and I have a novella for a Regency anthology with Amanda McCabe and Deb Marlowe.

I’m out most of the day today, Jan 15, but I’ll be back in the evening to answer any questions you might have. I’m also doing a chat tonight at Mystic Castle at 9 pm ET. Everyone is invited!


Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Welcome to the Hoydens, Diane -- loved this book. It was so much fun to see Tanner with a story of his own.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Ciara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:28 AM  
Blogger Ciara said...

I adore Regency historical romance novels, and have been reading little else for the last six months! I think they attract me because the heroes value honor and justice and the heroines remind me of Cinderella. I want to go to a fancy ball! I like the horses and the costumes, the polite manners and the fancy houses, the intrepid heroines and the gentlemanly heroes. And the babies. I'm a sucker for the epilogue pregnancy!
Road trip novels are especially exciting to me - the thrill of the chase through muddy roads and rough countryside, stopping only to rest the weary horses and warm the chill from their bones (often together in the single bed left in the inn), the growing intimacy of the characters as they must work together in unpleasant conditions to overcome the obstacles in their path.
I'm excited to read your book!

10:30 AM  
Blogger CrystalGB said...

Hi Diane. I love your books. I am a big fan of Regency novels.

10:34 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Everyone already knows how much I love this book. And Clara, this book has everything you love, trust me, and then some! I was just so tickled that Tanner got his story because I knew there was more to him than meets the eye. I am really excited about Scandalizing the Ton and can't wait for it to come out. Tell, me, O Divine One, once you submit a synopsis to an editor do they hold you to it, or do you have some leeway in where the story goes? That's a wrinkle I never really thought about before. And I am definitely checking out those research sites. Like I need MORE places to spend time exploring when I should be writing!

11:14 AM  
Blogger tetewa said...

I enjoy reading about this time period and looking forward to your newest release!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I'm home!!!
Mary, I'm delighted to be with the Hoydens!

Ciara, you have captured the gist of my book, the road story! and the gist of my own love of the Regency.

O Doggy One! Good to see you here. And, the editors don't hold you to the synopsis, thank goodness, because my original ideas are not usually the best ones! What's more, if they don't like what I've come up with,they are not shy about asking me to change it!

Crytal, thank you for the nice words about my books.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Welcome, Diane, this book sounds just wonderful! I love road stories. There's a wonderful enforced intimacy to two characters on the run with works so well juxtaposed to the social constraints of the Regency. The premise for your next book sounds fabulous too. I also loved hearing about your online research. I'm using the internet for research more and more myself, but I often think there's so much more to learn. I just recently discovered Googile Images.

Thanks again for joining us!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I find Google Images such a time saver, Tracy.

Thanks for having me as your guest!

7:38 PM  
Blogger robynl said...

Hi and welcome,
Would love to read about Adam and Marlena.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Pam P said...

Hi Diane, always love your stories, and just need to get this latest about Adam.

I don't know exactly why I love the regency, I suppose it's because the time is so different than today and thinking Cinderella - I used to play with Cinderella paper dolls and paper setting all the time as a girl and dream about my own Prince Charming, lol.

9:52 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Welcome, Diane!

"Even if I have a general idea of the main plot, I often don’t have a clue what the next scene will be. That’s the hardest thing for me, thinking up what comes next, what my characters will do next, how to get them from one big plot point to the other. There is no way I could do this ahead of time. I could never outline every scene; I just couldn’t do that!"

Diane, I am SO glad to hear that someone else out there works the way I do!

I love the idea of the road story; so many opportunities to build the relationship. And I am fascinated by your research on the actual coaching route and the stops along the way.

I'm also glad to see that you're a "Perdita" (Mary Robinson fan). ALL FOR LOVE: The Scandalous Life and Times of Royal Mistress Mary Robinson, my historical novel told from Mary's POV, comes out on Feb. 5. I, too, love historical biography of Georgian-era women (Emma Hamilton is another perfect example :) )So many of their life stories lend themselves to fiction because they are so often rollercoaster rides up the social ladder, with precipitous drops, Cinderella stories that didn't always have happy endings; and these women often broke convention (which is just the kind of story I admire).

7:46 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

Hi Diane,
Do you have plans to branch out into other genres?

12:11 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I just saw this question, Jane. No I have no plans at the moment to branch out to other genres. I am thoroughly in love with the Regency period!

I do love that others are writing exciting books in other eras. Harlequin Historical is very adventuresome to try lots of different time periods.

1:16 PM  

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