History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

07 November 2006

Mistletoe Kisses with Elizabeth Rolls!

Share the warmth and happiness of a Regency Christmas with three award-winning authors!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical

A Soldier’s Tale – Elizabeth Rolls
Dominic, Viscount Alderley’s family are looking to him to marry an heiress, but only his downtrodden, compassionate second cousin Pippa seems able to ignore his scars...
A Winter Night’s Tale – Deborah Hale
This year’s festivities for Christabel and her young son will be sparse and cold – or so she thinks. When the man she’s loved and lost returns, offering her warmth, comfort and a true family Christmas, she can’t resist!
A Twelfth Night Tale – Diane Gaston
One impulsive night of love changed Elizabeth’s life forever. Now, ten years later, Elizabeth and Zachary meet again. Will their second Twelfth Night together see their happiness reborn?

Romantic Times gave the book 4 stars! : A talented trio of authors brings together a triptych of heartwarming holiday stories perfect for the season. Though short stories, they are long on emotions and the true spirit of the season: redemption, forgiveness and love. When you need a pick-me-up from the holiday rush, grab one of these and you'll be rejuvenated and ready to celebrate the joy of family and friends. . . Rolls' "A Soldier's Tale" is Beauty and the Beast with a twist. A scarred war hero finds the love and compassion he needs -- not from the heiress his family wants him to marry, but from his poor cousin with a heart of pure gold. This story will make your heart sing with joy.

* * *

A Soldier's Tale is set during the Regency. Your website states that (like so many of us) it was Heyer who got you hooked on the period. What else kept you hooked?
Well, to be perfectly honest with you, it took me a while to realise that anyone else had ever written Regencies. Blushing madly here in South Australia. Let me explain; I read and adored Heyer from the time I was about twelve, starting with The Conqueror which I filched from my mother’s bedside table, and then I think I met Friday’s Child in the library. They really switched me on to being interested in history generally. By the time I left school and went to university I’d read all Heyer’s available books, but it never occurred to me that others might have written Regencies. And there were plenty of other books I enjoyed reading so I read them. Lots of them. But by then I was fascinated by the whole late 18th early 19th century period, especially the Napoleonic wars, and started reading more about it. Dad was in the army and his father was a military historian, so it was sort of inherited. And the more you read, the more you want to read . . . so by the time I found more Regency set romances I was already hooked. Also, I really liked the houses – my grandmother always had old copies of Country Life and This England lying about. As a child I loved looking at the real estate pages and imagining living in some of those places.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?
I don’t find the period in the least constraining. If I did it would probably mean that my characters weren’t suited to the period for some reason. Even if I do have to plot around things it doesn’t bother me. If I’ve had to plot around something then it usually makes the book stronger. I’ve had a couple of shots writing contemporaries and I think I can safely promise that they are going to remain in unmarked graves in the depths of my hard drive. Despite being a reasonably contemporary woman with the sort of feminist opinions that occasionally gave my poor conservative father apoplexy, I simply can’t get my head around creating convincing contemporary characters – love reading them, just can’t write them. I must find our times constraining.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
You do like to ask the hard ones, don’t you? What sparked it . . . well, my editor asked me straight up to write a Christmas novella, but that didn’t spark the story itself. It got me thinking of course and on line looking for information about Regency Christmas celebrations and reading Jane Austen’s letters – again! along with James Woodforde’s Diary of a Country Parson and various other diaries and memoirs. And then as I was sticking Jane’s letters back on the shelf I noticed Mansfield Park, which started me thinking about plays, and how one might entertain a smallish houseparty over the Christmas season. By this time Dominic had marched into my brain and was standing there glaring at me while I floundered about looking for his story. I knew who he was and what had happened to him, but it wasn’t until I hit on using the Beauty and the Beast theme that the rest of the plot took shape.

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?
Mostly it was finding out enough about Christmas traditions. As usual very little of what I found out made its way onto the printed page. Very often it’s more a matter of me knowing so that I can get into the characters’ heads more easily. One thing I did discover that I’d heard of but forgotten, was the game Snapdragons. This involves snatching raisins out of a bowl of flaming brandy . . . and, no, I didn’t try it. I was going to use it in the story, but in the end had to cut the scene.

Any historical mea culpas to fess up? (things you found out were wrong when it was too late to change the book or things that you used knowing they were wrong or anachronistic)
I did have to alter the time setting of the book when I realised just how different the earlier concept of Christmas was. Nowadays we have decorations appearing for sale in the shops by October, and once Halloween is over and the Melbourne Cup – a horse race that stops Australia dead in its tracks on the first Tuesday of November, the Christmas season is on us in full force. Back then the decorations didn’t go up until Christmas Eve and the whole festival ran until Twelfth Night. The only thing I fudged a bit was the way Dominic’s man of business got hold of a rather vital document for him. I’m trying to be discreet here since I don’t want to give spoilers on my own book. (I drive my children nuts too by refusing to tell them who dies in any of the Harry Potter books.)

What/Who do you like to read?
Oh, lots of different stuff. I love Tolkien and CS Lewis, JK Rowling and Diana Wynne Jones. Jo Beverley is a huge favourite, along with Mary Balogh and Anne Gracie. Heyer obviously and Jane Austen, but I also enjoy Dickens and Wilkie Collins and I love the poetry of John Donne. I love reading biographies as well. I have too many favourites to name them all and I panic when people ask me which ten books I would choose if I were to be banished to a desert island. The idea is too horrible even to contemplate. Trust me – I’d cheat somehow. My bookshelves are groaning. My husband gave me Geoffrey Robertson’s account of the trial of Charles I, The Tyrannicide Brief last Christmas, and I thought it was a stunning book. Just now I’ve been reading Kathy Lette’s How to Kill Your Husband (and other handy household hints). I’m a little uncertain over whether or not I should sneak that into my husband’s tottering TBR pile.

How did your writing career take off? Was it a Zero-to-Published kind of thing? Or did you have ten finsihed books under the bed before you sold?
I’m afraid it was a zero-to-published kind of thing. I sold my first completed manuscript – a confession which has frequently put my life at risk. It did undergo a couple of major rewrites though, if that helps. I wrote The Unexpected Bride as a way of switching off in the evening’s from a stressful job. In the end I let a fellow lover of Regencies read it. She made some brilliant editorial suggestions and then persuaded me to try and have it published. I was quite shocked when it was accepted.

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?
Yes to all of the above. I do plot quite extensively, but I find that the characters generally insist on the story moving in rather different directions from my initial vision. I usually find that subplots appear in the course of writing the story as I get to know my characters and their goals and motivations better. I do write character notes but need to actually start writing the story so that I can listen to them. Frequently this causes major realignments. I try to clean up as I go, but sometimes when major alterations are required it’s easier to copy the document, call it Draft Two, or Three, or whatever, and then do the surgery on the clone. If surgery doesn’t work you can always resurrect the original and try again. I’d love to be more organised about it, but I’ve discovered that, for me, trying to write logically does more harm than good. It’s the finished product that counts, not how you get there.

What are you planning to work on next?
At the moment I’m revising one book, a sequel to His Lady Mistress, and finishing another Regency also involving a secondary character from HLM. I’ve also started another with a few murders thrown in and I have this idea for another novella . . . I have plenty to be going on with.


Blogger Unknown said...

Well, Elizabeth, you're not the only one that didn't know that Heyer wasn't a one-off. LOL! I'd read and reread Heyer for years before I discovered (while trapped in an airport of all places) that there were MORE of these kinds of books out there.

I'd love to hear more about Regency Christmas traditions. I totally fudged that part of my book. I gave my family their own set of traditions for the holiday, but Snapdragons sounds just like something my boys would play . . .

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth - I loved your story in Mistletoe Kisses!

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the story, and I love that Domonic just showed up, like Tolkien's Faramir. Yes, I love Tolkien and CS Lewis and Rawling as well.

I'm curious if you find it easier to write novellas or novels? And do you find they come in bits and spurts or do you have a set writing routine?

~~ Judy T

10:55 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks for blogging with us, Elizabeth. I loved your story in Mistleoe Kisses, too. It has such a "Beauty and the Beast" universal appeal!


11:45 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Y. said...

This sounds like a really good book! I love Christmas-themed books.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

LOL! Kalen. I thought my boys would love playing Snapdragons too! Which is why I decided not to try it out. I live in South Australia and since Christmas for us is the height of the bushfire season, I figured it was not the sort of thing a responsible mum should do.

Judy, a novella is certainly faster to write in some ways. Less actual typing. But it has its own constraints. Sometimes less is more. They can be harder to plot because you have to write to such a tight frame. I had to cut heaps out of this - the Snapdragons scene, the one where Althea's sons are taken ice skating and the ice breaks, the one where Hermione has a last ditch attempt to oust Pippa from the role of Beauty and locks her out on the roof . . . the list goes on. In the end the play provided all the incident and emotional connection that Dominic and Pippa needed.
It's lovely to know that people are enjoying the book. Of course one of the fabulous things about doing an anthology is getting to be one of the first to read stories by wonderful authors like Diane Gaston and Deborah Hale. I loved their stories and was amazed at how we had all come at Christmas from such different angles.


2:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I meant my made up boys. LOL! No danger of bushfire from imaginary Snapdragons. But it’s so the kind of game I can see my Georgian rakes teaching the younger set.

I went looking for Mistletoe Kisses at lunch, but couldn’t find it. *GRUMBLE* I’ll have to look again at a larger bookstore this weekend.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! How frustrating to write all that and then not be able to use it! Do you save those little bits for other stories? I'd hate to think they're lost forever.

It really was amazing how each of you took completely different perspectives on the same theme. I truly enjoyed all three tales. Thank you again for Pippa's and Dominic's story.

~~Judy T

3:19 PM  
Blogger Alice V said...

I'm another Georgette Heyer fan. I discovered her when I was travelling in Europe and desperate to find something written in English -- watching TV in Italian just wasn't working. The only book store in Cortina that handled English titles was *not* into Harlequins but I found Georgette Heyer's "Frederica" and fell in love, both with the author and the heroine. I believe I have her complete collection and I refuse to lend them out!
Your story sounds like a winner, Elizabeth. Here's hoping Santa reads my list!

4:13 PM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Hi, Kalen, Elizabeth and everyone! I loved reading this interview. Of course, I had a vested interest in the subject matter--I'm the third author in the anthology, Diane Gaston.

I'd met Elizabeth at one of the Romance Writers of America conferences, but I haven't yet met Deborah. Believe it or not, the three of us never collaborated about our stories ahead of time. We didn't even know who the other authors would be.

We have been getting to know each other with the book's release, doing joint promotions, but this interview did show me a lot more about you, Elizabeth.

Of course, it didn't recount our previous contact around a Regency era condom!!!

Diane Gaston
"A Twelfth Night Tale" in Mistletoe Kisses

4:48 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

ROFL! I forgot all about the condom, Diane! That was actually there right at the beginning of Chapter Two in the final draft but editorial had a slight conniption about it. Dominic was supposed to drop it on the fire, but I was persuaded to remove it totally. I think they felt it came under the heading of Too Much Information.

Diane sent me photos of 18th century condoms from an exhibition in the British Museum. I'd been wanting to use them (metaphorically speaking) for ages.


5:21 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Welcome, Elizabeth! Even though I posted your interview, i just got the time to read it. Trying to finish a manuscript. . . You know how it is!

I’m afraid it was a zero-to-published kind of thing. I sold my first completed manuscript – a confession which has frequently put my life at risk. HA! You crack me up. Yeah, I wouldn't go announcing that in a dark hallway at a writing convention!

This book sounds wonderful and I love, love, love a good Beauty and the Beast story. Thank God for Amazon Prime. I'm ordering it right now!

6:33 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Elizabeth, I really enjoyed your interview. Although I'm sorry, anyone who gets their first manuscript published isn't on my Christmas card list! It's always so interesting seeing the different way other historical writers work and how we all came to what we do through different paths. I'm with you on John Donne - sexiest thing in black and white, I think! Good luck with the new book.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Anna, were you the person at my first Australian conference who told me how unfair she thought it was??
Actually Lilian Darcy gave a fabulous talk on the Gold Coast last year on the benefits of NOT selling your first manuscript. I was wincing with her all the way - amongst other advantages that ms is not out there to haunt you twenty years later and by going through the whole submission/revision/rejection cycle you actually know something about the industry when you get there.

Victoria, I'm a great fan of Beauty and the Beast. There's something about the Beast that gets me every time. I love a wounded hero!


8:22 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Ha! Yes, that was me - I bet I did a really good whine too. I think all my stories are Beauty and the Beast, actually, so I'm with you and Victoria on that one.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Diane, good to see you over here! I love your books and Risky Regencies!

Elizabeth, I too sold my first MS, so if you come to Dallas we can guard each other's backs in the halls. LOL! I think I’m having sophomoreitis right now, trying to get back into the swing of my third WIP after six months of revisions on my first two books. I’ve lost all the threads, and it’s hard to pick them up again.

I think my next post is going to have to be on birth control . . . I did way too much research on this (all my scandalous widows and divorcees are not going to fall pregnant without a fight).

8:04 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Birth control, eh, Kalen? The post I'm sending you shortly should have something familiar for you then!

Good to hear that we can look out for each other's tail feathers if I make it to Dallas. Which is, I am afraid to say, in the realms of "When *I* run the country -!"


1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so nice to hear that people are already reading and enjoying Mistletoe Kisses. I know I loved both Elizabeth and Diane's stories!

I've wanted to write a Christmas novella since I sold my first historical in 1998. Looking back, I realized I put significant Christmas scenes in four of my thirteen HH novels. I guess the editors finally took my hint! ;)

If anyone is interested in reading those excerpts or finding links to historical Christmas foods, music and traditions, you're welcome to visit my Christmas page

4:25 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What about the New Zealand Romance Writer's conference in August? I'm hoping to present at it (and see my brother who moved to Auckland last year).

10:28 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Kalen, have you thought of coming to the Oz conference when you're down here? I think it's the weekend before NZ and we'd love to see you! We're a really friendly bunch, if a bit on the noisy side.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Great idea, Anna!
Kalen, you'd be mad to come all the way to NZ and not do the extra hop across the ditch. The conferences are literally on consecutive weekends and we'd love to see you.

And I promise faithfully to guard your back from Anna. Actually her first book will be out by then so she'll probably be so stoked we'll be safe anyway!


12:25 AM  

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