by Delle Jacobs
Please join me in welcoming three-time RWA Golden Heart winner Delle Jacobs. Delle was one of the Wild Cards (2005 Golden Heart finalists) with me, and I’m extremely excited to get my hands on her latest release.
Aphrodite's Brew is set in 1812. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?
Years ago Micki Nuding told me the Regency period was going to be hot and I should check it out. I did. I fell in love. She actually meant what we today call the Regency Historical, but it was the Traditional Regency I discovered then. But I also think it's wonderful the way so many authors who prize accuracy have turned to the longer Regency Historicals and now give us fully rounded, exciting and historically accurate stories.
There's something unique about the Regency period. It's such a tiny piece of history wedged between two very disparate times. There's an abrupt change in fashion,from the earlier Georgian period to something simpler and in many ways perhaps more elegant than the Baroque and Rococo past or the crinolined future Victorian years. It's an era in massive transition, yet poised on the brink of change. Ideas are emerging. The Industrial Revolution is soon to change everything, and its footprint is just becoming evident. Photography and printing will drastically improve soon and change the worlds of art and publication. The world is being explored and people are looking toward expanding into it., with only the war holding them back. Napoleon's war is changing the world forever, and the outcome is in doubt, hopeful one day, and frightening the next. But for now, most people are bound to their tiny island by the war. No Grand Tours. No great adventures throughout the world. In the future are Clipper ships, steamships and locomotives. Weapons are still more like the previous century than the one to come. Even a rifle, with some rare and primitive exceptions, fires only one shot and then must be reloaded. Someone will no doubt figure out a way to make electricity useful, but it's still a toy. Even time is different, for it will take the introduction of trains before the need for time zones becomes evident. And staying up late is still something only the rich can afford to do. It's a time when people value their social place and put forth the effort to be a part of society. The Regency stand with one foot in the Eighteenth Century with the other touching the Victorian Era by a toe. What an exciting time!
Besides, I love the dresses. And I want my Regency hunks in their inexpressibles.
What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?
Sometimes it feels too limited. Sometimes I really wish Regency women could have had more freedom, dared to express more individuality. Yet I know the very freedom we prize today is largely a function of mass communication and mass production. My mother could never have had this sort of freedom I have, and can't imagine not having, but she didn't have time. The laundry and constant housecleaning bound her to her house, and I know sometimes she resented it. But she did what was required of her, just as Regency women did in their day.
The censure of society was a heavy burden then. That would grate on me if I had to live with it. No doubt it was difficult for many women. Yet I try to keep in mind most of us accept whatever world is ours. We can't know the future world. When I think about doing without my laptop, I cringe. But I didn't even have a concept of computers and internet when I was growing up. I didn't miss them then. So would a woman in early Nineteenth Century England miss being treated the equal of a man? I'm still working on that question.
Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?
Yeaaaahhhh..... the whole concept..... It's about a love potion. How real can a love potion be? And where in all Celtic history is there mention of a Laughing God? And where in all England will you find a hot spring that is located next to a spring of pure, cold water? You won't because it can't happen. Even the hero says that ought to be geologically impossible. But the heroine shrugs and points. "This one's cold. That one's hot," she says. It's been that way all her life, and from time immemorial, so who s she to question it, just because Val thinks it can't be true? I've always found it fascinating how the ancient, irretrievable past continues to influence the modern world. So yes, I confess. I made up a lot.
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*
I found a misplaced modifier that made it through dozens of edits, and it's funny. I'll challenge you to find it. Maybe you'll find even more, and then I'll really be embarrassed, but that's one of my frequent flaws. I did almost forget to go back and change the date of the story from 1807 to 1812 after I added a waltz in the dark corners of Sydney Park. But I remembered in time. And the waltz just has to be there.
However, here's a deliberate gaff: In my book trailer, I used the waltz from Coppelia by Leo Delibes, which was first performed in 1870. It was so perfect, I just had to use it. And I could imagine Val and Sylvia dancing to it in their later years, remembering the time they'd danced alone in the darkness to the faint music of the distant band. Go ahead, check it out. I'll brazenly stand by my choice
Honestly, if you find something else, I'll blush and hold my hands over my face. But I'd rather know, so tell me.
Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss.
Poor Val. He didn't have a delight-filled childhood. In fact, he'd just as soon forget about it, if you don't mind. But he has a cousin who was his childhood buddy, and they remain very close friends. It isn't really in the book, but in the warm summers he spent with his cousin Lord Albert Pinkerton (Pink), they built a hidden refuge in the forest. It became their castle for two daring knights battling the invading foe, or a hermit's cave where they never talked at all as true hermits would have done-- except when they wanted to change to something else or it was time for supper. Away from prying, disapproving parents and tutors, their imaginations soared, and they could be anything they wanted to be, ancient Roman soldiers invading Britain, Greek philosophers on the Acropolis (or wherever they thought Greek philosophers might be) or even brave knights at Bosworth Field or peasant archers at Crecy). Of course that's all forgotten now. Val has grown up to be a man of reason and science. Grown, responsible men do not engage in such fantasies. Certainly they do not believe fanciful things like witches and potions or forgotten, nameless gods that might possibly be making perfectly rational men do irrational things. But there's something about Sylvia that brings back the magic of those days.
What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
I think most of the time a book begins with many tiny sparks that suddenly join together to form a flame. That was true with this book, at least. I had in mind writing a story that was just fluff, just fun, and strictly for me. It was not a time of great joy in my writing career, but then most of us face at least as many hard times as good ones. But I needed to do this just to do it. I was looking for something whimsical and uplifting. I didn't care what anyone else thought of it. It was mine. That was spark number one.
At the same time, I had been thinking about what would happen to a refined lady who had been secretly indulging in trade for some very good reason, all the while knowing it would damage her reputation if caught, and especially if caught at something that might appear to be pure quackery. Spark number two: What if the same lady came from a family Old Wives, with a very lengthy history as local healers? What if people thought them a wee bit odd? Women who knew too much? What if they really did know too much? And had been this way for many centuries? What if they'd learned to keep their mouths shut, perhaps after one of their kind found herself healing someone a bit too quickly and was burned at the stake?
Sylvia came into being, and with her, her product, something rather mundane in her time, but in her case a product widely recognized as effective: Lady Aphrodite's Restorative Tonic for Women.
Spark number three: But if it's for women, how would it affect a man? And what if someone discovers it makes a man fall in love? And what if one of the matchmaking mamas discover it?
Spark number four: I happened to feel like challenging science which can sometimes be so arrogant about its knowledge, when it really knows so little, and knew even less then. What better to do that than the mystical past when men took by faith abd belief what could not be proven? Add to this a man of science and reason who descries all superstition and is determined to prove to his friends they are being hoaxed. And the plot began to form. It was fun from then on.
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 really was disturbed when Sylvia informed me her home was in the Cotswolds. I hadn't studied them before. And then she was going to Bath, where she would meet Val. I thought they were going to meet in London. I had to confess I didn't know all that much about Bath either. So I had a lot of research to do. I owe a lot to Vicki Hinshaw for loaning me some wonderful books on Bath, and Kathy Caskie who gave me the marvelous little book, The Last Promenade, about Sydney Gardens. Those books made my settings come so alive that when I visited Bath I could point to my companions and say, "there's Val's house, and over there is where Sylvia and Amalie stayed with her friend Elizabeth..." And we walked exactly to the place where Sylvia and Val stood by the River Avon and watched its roiling brown flood waters.
What/Who do you like to read?
I love history, both research and fiction. I'll read any period, any culture, any place. In novels, the world is mine to explore.
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've tried pantsing. It usually works pretty well up to chapter six. Unfortunately at that point I realize I've written myself into a corner and the only way out it to throw away what I've already written. Why would I want to do that? So plotting ahead, knowing where I'm going, is still the best and fastest way for me. But once I have my map I write fast through the first draft. And usually by the third draft I'm willing to let daylight shine on my manuscript. It's odd, though, that sometimes my very best, deepest thoughts emerge even later than the third draft. I've wakened in the middle of the night with a new idea for a story I thought finished long ago.
What are you planning to work on next?
Aphrodite's Brew has a sequel coming up, Gilding Lilly, and there will be four books in the series. The fourth will be the story of two fairly minor characters in the first book who have been slowly growing emotionally until they're ready for their own story. You would not want them to be hero and heroine of the second book, for they both have a lot of maturing to do first, but I hope by the end of Book 3, you will be cheering them on and awaiting what shall at last be theirs.
My June release from Samhain, Sins of the Heart, was a multiple award winning manuscript as Lady Scandalous. Everybody loved the charismatic black-eyed Davy Polruhan, the Cornish smuggler, and he deserves his own story. Poor fellow. I will torture him so. He has the sort of flaw that requires a hard nudge to the soul.
And I have an erotic fantasy of the sea, Siren, which I am finishing now. It's fairly short, and almost completely fantasy, nudged by the history of the Great Age of Sail. I've finished a video of it too, although the story isn't finished. It was my trial video
Another project is a heavy fantasy/medieval mix, set in Eleventh Century England, treating the mythology and superstitons of the day as if maybe they are real. There are others, but you don't want to be here all night, so I'll shut up now.