History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

08 May 2008

Welcome, Claudia Dain!

The Courtesan's Secret
by Claudia Dain
Available Now!

Lady Louisa fell in love with Lord Dutton exactly three years ago and never fell out. It was past time for him to fall in love with her. Long past time. What was wrong with Dutton? Couldn't he see that she was the very ideal sort of wife for him? The picture of ginger haired beauty and sparkling wit? And her bosom was quite nice, too.

After watching the speed with which Caroline, Sophia's daughter, managed to snag a husband, Louisa has come to the logical conclusion that if she could only have Sophia help her then Louisa and Dutton would find themselves quickly married. With Dutton as her goal, Louisa swallows her pride and asks Sophia for help in acquiring the man of her dreams.

Sophia is more than happy to help a woman get the man of her dreams, but is Dutton that man? Lord Henry Blakesley seems a much better match for the fiery Louisa. And Sophia, an ex-courtesan, has no qualms at all in arranging things so that Louisa sees Blakesley in a new light. But it's a secret...no one can know that Louisa sought help in snaring a man from a former courtesan.

But in London, secrets are as rare as hen's teeth.

THE COURTESAN'S SECRET is set in 1802 LONDON. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

I love the Regency period, along with the rest of the world. Anyone who's seen or read Pride and Prejudice and loved it falls equally in love with the Regency, don't they? It's a fascinating time, poised between bawdy Georgian England and buttoned-up Victorian England, the end of the Revolutionary conflict in America and the beginning of the French Revolution and Napoleon on the continent. Tension up, down, and sideways!

Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

I turned my gaze to the American continent instead of the European one. My anchor character, Sophia Dalby, is half Iroquois and half British nobility. She straddles both worlds culturally and emotionally so I had to find sources that would give me insight into the wars, politics, treaties, cultural values, etc, for both continents, both cultures, over a 70 year period, from about 1750 to 1820. I'm still researching, still finding bits of essential information, so I step carefully until I'm sure I have exactly what I need. As this is a multi-book series, I'm going to be researching and stepping carefully for a long time to come!

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

In planning The Courtesan's Secret, I decided not to focus on certain elements of detail that other authors can spend a good amount of time on; there aren't a lot of descriptions of interiors or clothes, no lengthy and proper introductions, no scene of the maid stoking the fire with the appropriate tool. It was definitely a decision on my part to "use up" my allotted word count on external and internal dialog. Did I fudge the physical details? Probably, but I was more concerned with getting the culture right, that internal compass that we all learn from living in a society.

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

Well, after banging my head against British titles for three years, pounding every correct form into my head, I've found that no one else much cares. Reviewers have yet to get the titles of the characters right, and even the blurb copy tends to be wrong. What can you do?

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.

Oh, this is such an interesting question because it points out how we go about writing, the different ways we each have of finding the story and the characters. My hero: he doesn't have a pet during the course of the action in The Courtesan's Secret...so he doesn't have a pet. My mind never went there, never went back to his childhood. He is as we find him, a full grown man at a party one night in April. My hero is very observant, sarcastic, and a closet romantic. He was extremely fun to write because he zinged the heroine nearly every time he opened his mouth, all to hide his romantic nature from her.

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

It's the character of Sophia Dalby, without question. She's the driving force behind all the books, the fulcrum on which all the Courtesan books rest. I'm definitely a character driven writer and not a plot driven one, and Sophia is the character of all characters! I can't get her out of my head, and don't want to. She's endlessly entertaining.

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 did! And that's always so much fun. I had no idea that the Indian nations of America were so vital to European politics. While European power struggles were being fought on American soil, the various Indian tribes aligned with the European powers. All the alliances shifted with each treaty, each battle, each gift. Because France and England specifically sought to have as many Indians as possible on their side, they loaded the Indians with gifts. Not the string of cheap beads we often hear about, but the best of the best. While the colonists were struggling to buy a cheap gun or making do with a flaky pot, the Indians were given the most technologically advanced firearms of the period and cooking on the best iron skillets. Mirrors, for example, were very expensive, a true luxury item in America. The Indians were dripping in mirrors! This fascinated me. Plus, whoever had the most Indian allies in any specific battle were the usual winners. The French and English spent the lion's share of their financial resources and time trying to make sure the Indians stayed or strayed over to their side.

What/Who do you like to read?

I love reading Regencies, obviously, but the problem is that I can't read one while I'm writing one! When I'm between books, I read Liz Carlyle, Sabrina Jeffries, Deb Marlowe, Karen Hawkins, Suzanne Enoch, Julia London, Mary Balogh. When I'm writing, I read Harlan Coben, Karen Rose, Tess Gerritsen: suspense! I need to take a breath in a completely different world when I'm writing.

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?

I'm a pantser, almost completely. I do quite a bit of research before I even have an idea for a book; everything in my writing process springs from the research. Once I have an idea, and that usually means a character, I just jump in and start writing. I write one draft on the computer. I don't read back as I go forward, I just keep writing and writing. Once I finish, I read it through on the computer, cleaning it up. Then I print it off and my DH reads it. He's my cold reader. He fixes all the typos I missed, makes notations where he was confused and where he was delighted, I go back and clean it up again, then off it goes to my editor. No critique partners. No input at all while I'm writing. Even my poor editor has to play by my rules. Any other voices in my head while I'm writing and I can't hear the voice of the story.

What are you planning to work on next?

I've just turned in the third book in the Courtesan series, The Courtesan's Wager, and am about to begin the fourth book. I know who the heroine is in this book (as yet untitled), and I *think* I know the hero, but as to what will happen? I have no idea! I'm a bit gun shy because in The Courtesan's Wager, a new hero sprang up one-third of the way into the book. He was *not* supposed to be the hero! It's humiliating and a bit scary, having a book run roughshod over me that way. I only hope this next book is better behaved. I can dream, can't I?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Claudia,

Great post. I'm on my way to B&N to pick up a copy of The Courtesan's Secret. The cover is wonderful. Did you get to have a say in the final artwork?


8:01 AM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Hi Petrina! Good question. Do I have a say? Well, they try, they really do. Ultimately, it's the art dept. that decides what makes the best cover, and the best title! The only thing I have firm control over is the content, which is fine with me. I'm so glad you like the cover! Thrilled, actually.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Deb Marlowe said...

Hi Claudia and History Hoydens!

Lovely interview. I am so anxious to read The Courtesan's Secret! I'm a Sophia fan! All the wit and fun, secrets and manipulations remind me of Dangerous Liasons, except that Sophia uses her power for good! Plus, I can't wait to see what happens when all those handsome Iroquois warriors are set loose on London.

I am going to set this book up next to my laptop as a prize. As soon as I finish the WIP, I get to read it!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Joan said...

Hello, TICD!

Waving madly from the lair to say I think the Courtesan series sounds fantastic and has been added to my book shopping list.

I also think it so romantical that your DH marks the areas where he is "delighted". Does he ever say a man wouldn't say/act/do a particular thing?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Hey Claudia, so nice to have you over here in our little neck of the internet. I love the idea of a half-Native American heroine, but then I'm half-NA myself. *grin* The book sounds fab. I'll have to try and grab a copy for my flight to Bangladesh . . .

11:54 AM  
Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Hi, Claudia! Thanks so much for visiting History Hoydens. I just began "The Courtesan's Secret" and... well, let's just say I won't be getting any of my own work done this afternoon. That bit about Hawksworth's amiable disposition being his finest trait-- in fact his only trait-- made me giggle so explosively that I thought they were going to toss me out of the Barnes & Nobles. There was nothing for it but to buy the book and leave as quickly as I could, so I could get back to reading it Right Away.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Deb Marlowe, thank you so much! I love being someone's treat. I love the comparison to Dangerous Liasons; what a compliment!

Good luck on your WIP. Having just crawled out from under a massive deadline, I am FREEEEEE.

Not that I'm gloating or anything.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Joan, oh does he ever! My DH used to say that to me at least once a book. I've since learned that, according to him, "Men aren't as nice as you think they are." They aren't? LOL They've always been nice to me.

I consider it a personal victory when he doesn't have to comment on my men.

That came out...weird, but you know what I mean.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Kalen, Bangladesh! How exotic! What a fun trip. Long trip? You'll need good reading material. Not that I'm hinting or anything...

12:19 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Lauren, thank you so much! I'm just grinning from ear to ear. These Courtesan books are very much romps and I really want to give the reader a fun ride. I hope The Courtesan's Secret does that for you.

Fingers crossed!

12:21 PM  
Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Hi, Claudia. I was out of town most of the day Monday so didn't get to comment on your blog with us at the Romance Bandits, so I'm making up for it today. :)

That's fascinating about the English and French loading up the Indian nations with gifts. Too bad that after the wars between the European nations over American soil were over, the victors gave Native Americans the shaft and did their best to "convert" them or destroy them.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Claudia! Swinging over from the Bandits Lair to say hi. I had to laugh because when I'm writing (I write suspense) I tend to read historicals so I don't subconsciously "borrow" ideas. Grins.

Wonderful interview. I'm looking forward to a good read in The Courtesan's Secret. :>

12:38 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Trish, that's another interesting factoid I learned about the American Indians of the period I mentioned; a large number of them were Christians long before the American continent became independent of European control.

I also am in the process of reading a few fascinating books (they're all fascinating; who am I kidding?) about the change in dynamic between the American colonists and the Indian tribes. They didn't become enemies until the Revolution, for various and complicated reasons.

History, always more to discover!

12:43 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Hi, Claudia--I love the research bits. Colonial America is one of my favorite eras, so I'm going to enjoy that aspect of this character.

Hoydens, your blog is gorgeous!

Claudia wrote: History, always more to discover! Ain't the truth? And you've discovered quite a few different time periods. I'm looking forward to reading this book.

12:52 PM  
Blogger jo robertson said...

Hi, Claudia, popping over from the Bandita Lair to say hello. I just love hearing about your Courtesan books.

Historial research is so interesting that I'm not surprised you begin with research and then let the characters speak to you. I knew the American Indians made treaties and alliances with European powers, but not that they were so fragile and transitory.

I've ordered the first of your Courtesan books, can't wait for it to arrive.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Anna Sugden said...

Another Romance Bandit swinging by to say hello to a fellow shoe-aholic!

You've got me hooked on the Courtesan series! Now if only 'they' would let us write about Post-1900 England, I would switch to writing historicals. That's one of my favourite periods of our history - probably because I didn't have to study it to death at school

3:37 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Hello, Banditas! Thanks for visiting me today.

One of the interesting things I discovered about Indian/European alliances was that the Indian nations understood very well the importance of their role in European power struggles and used the needs of the French and English to pursue their own best interests. Very cunning negotiators! The problem for the Indians was the constantly changing military leadership in the French and English forces. The rise of a separate American nation was another wrinkle that, ultimately, they couldn't surmount.

But I love the complexity of the whole mess! Push all that into a Regency drawing room...bliss.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Wonderful interview, Claudia and Kalen! This book sounds fabulous. The background on connections between Native Americans and Britain and France is fascinating. Are you planning to do a book with Sophia as the heroine at some point? She sounds like a great character!

4:29 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Tracy, the question of all questions! I will. I definitely will. Sophia will get her own book, likely the last book in the series. It's going to be very tough for me to let her go!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Cassondra said...

Hi Claudia!

So sorry I'm late to the party. Popping over from the party in the lair to say hi. You already know I adore Sophia, and I have to say that your marketing and art departments have created gorgeous packaging for this series. Sometimes I just STARE at The Courtesan's Daughter cover. Her eyes have a thousand stories to tell. The new book is equally stunning. All that hair!

You said, No input at all while I'm writing. Even my poor editor has to play by my rules. Any other voices in my head while I'm writing and I can't hear the voice of the story.

I'm curious about this. Have you always written this way? Did you ever struggle at all with your process? The confidence it takes to be this--well--SURE of your voice would be a way to say it but maybe I also mean PROTECTIVE of your voice along with it--anyhow that's an elusive thing for me. I'd love to know how you came to write in this way.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Cassondra, this topic of how we write, our process, fascinates me. We're all so different and the trick to writing, imho, to find our path and not get pushed from it, into the wilderness where wild bears eat us bite by toothy bite.

Just my opinion, of course! But a strong one. LOL

I've always written this way. I don't know exactly why, but I'd guess it's because it's how the writing track was laid in school. Get the assignment, go home, sit alone at a desk, write it down, turn it in. Sound familiar?

I'm very trusting of the voice in my head. It never leads me into the wilderness. My fear can lead me. Well-meaning advice can lead me. I'm not sure it's confidence exactly, more a knowledge of where I can put my trust. It's very definitely a protective urge on my part. I have to protect the work and this is what protecting the work looks like in my process.

I can tell you that the editors I've worked with have learned that this is how I produce the best work. When they tell me what they want, what they think should happen, I always do it----and it's horrible. If I'm left alone, the book works. When I get advice, it doesn't. Why, I have no idea.

The point of this in a general sense is that editors want the best book they can get, and if that means that they leave you alone, they seem to be very willing to do that. I'm grateful!

6:14 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Hello, Claudia! Everyone knows I LOVE the Courtesan books! Sophia is such a fascinating character. Of course part of the reason she is near and dear to my heart is because like Kalen, I am half NA. My Mom is half Creek and half Cherokee. What Nation are you, Kalen?

I truly appreciate your dedication to research, Claudia. Many of the characters in historicals who are of Native American extraction are depicted in one dimensional terms. The subject of Native American politics pre-Revolution and post-Revolution is both fascinating and infuriating to me. If you have ever visited a "reservation" you know why.

Claudia, did you catch any flack from editors about including more inner dialogue and character depth than furniture descriptions? Don't get me wrong. I love a good scene setting, but the thing I have noticed about your work is that I often feel as if I have crawled into the hero or heroine's heads and I really love it!

6:43 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Doglady, no one has given me flack about anything! Whew! LOL

My editor is very supportive and very excited by the mood I'm trying to create in these books, which relies heavily on the disparity between what the characters are thinking and what they say. The more deeply in their heads I go, the more fully I identify with them, bringing the reader along with me for the ride.

I'm so glad that works for you. I've wondered if readers miss the detailed scene setting. It's definitely been a line I've walked, scared that I'm veering too far one way or another.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thank you, Claudia. Can I rent your husband for a cold reader? ;-)

Mine only reads the "interesting scenes" then tells me "a man wouldn't do that" or "say that."
Most of the time, when I think about it, he is right! I go fix!

Wonderful books you write. Love the the early 1800's, too!

8:30 PM  
Blogger Cassondra said...

Claudia said:

find our path and not get pushed from it, into the wilderness where wild bears eat us bite by toothy bite.

Oh Claudia. Those bears are EVERYWHERE. Sometimes I think I'm lost in the wilderness and won't find my way back! Okay, you should teach a workshop. "Staying on the Path." ;0)

Okay I'm only half kidding.

Thank you for sharing this though. It's really very beneficial for me to hear how people do it and do it successfully. Especially when you're unpubbed, everybody tries to shove you onto THEIR path. Trish Milburn recently said one of her most valuable "gifts" of advice from someone ahead of her on the writing track was to trust her instincts as a writer, that she knew what was best for her story. I love that advice and I think it meshes with what you're saying. I'm absorbing all of this.

Well, I for one am glad you stick to your path. We get Sophia and her acquaintances because of it!

8:48 PM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Cassondra, the bears ARE everywhere.

It's so true; it's a tough fight to stay on the path that is right for you. Everyone seems to want to push you off, in the mistaken belief that you're on the wrong path, of course. It's all so well-intentioned. They only want to help!

But you have to figure out your own process of getting from idea to story to manuscript and then stick to that no matter what.

First step is to figure out your process. There's no wrong way to get a story on paper. There's only your way. It's not always easy to figure out what your way is when advice is coming at you from all sides. Just tune that out. Listen to your story.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Claudia Dain said...

Kathrynn, my husband is the best reader. I'm so lucky to have him! I used to get so annoyed with him when he didn't get a scene or misunderstood who someone was.

"She's in love with her brother??"

"That's not her brother!" Sigh. *G*

But I learned that his perceptions are pure cold reader perceptions. If he got confused, you'd get confused. So I don't bother getting annoyed anymore; I just fix it. I don't know what I'd do without him!

Aren't you glad you have a husband who'll read your stuff, even just the "interesting" parts? I need that second pair of eyes!

7:28 AM  
Blogger Sabrina said...

I'm a day late and dollar short as usual, but I just have to weigh in by saying that I can't wait to read The Courtesan's Secret! I ordered my copy from Amazon this week. Since I'm in deadline hell, I'm barely leaving the house, so no bookstore shopping for me anytime soon.

I think Deb's description of this series as being like Dangerous Liaisons, but nicer, is spot on. I just love Sophia. She has that sort of Georgian air, even though she's living in the Regency. I'm sure during her youth, she was the quintessential Georgian miss. And I love all the snappy dialogue!

2:47 PM  

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