History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

05 December 2006

Welcome, Celia May Hart

East Meets West
Celia May Hart

part of
The Harem

Aphrodesia -- December 2006

Chandari's destiny is with the Maharajah, not with the lieutenant escorting her. But as temptation grows into a hunger neither can resist, two star crossed lovers are willing to risk everything for stolen moments of sheer ecstasy...

Celia will be giving away a copy of The Harem to one lucky poster! We'll do the drawing randomly and announce the winner this coming Saturday.

Your novella, East Meets West, is set in Regency India. How did you become interested in this time period and location? What you love about it?

When I was first asked to write for the anthology, India leapt into my head. My dad was about to go on a three month trip there and I had picked up a book, “White Mughals : Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India” about this young Englishman who’d fallen for a high-caste Indian girl. Fascinating stuff and the footnotes were even more interesting. The art from this period is amazing, just amazing. (And I’m giving away a bookmark and a card over at my website that have examples of that art on them.)

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

No, I think I pretty much laid it all out there. At his age, Benedict West should have achieved a higher rank or be dead (the death rate for Europeans was spectacularly high), but that just added character complexity. Chandari being half-caste, lived in that shadowy world between cultures, and had this been a novel I would have delved into that more deeply.

When I think “harem” I think of those of the Ottomans, of Topkapi and Dolmabahce. What made you think outside this obvious box?

The women in India, in the upper classes, once married lived in zenanas -- which were off limits to men (and especially foreigners), surrounded by female relatives as well as any additional wives. The aristocracy in India at the time were of Iranian descent, so they brought their Muslim culture with them. Having just read “White Mughals” I was all “oooh!” I can do this and still have it in the Regency period!

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

Lieutenant Benedict West inspired it. Actually, I sorta brainstormed with my editor. She quoted a line from a Beatles tune and there was the story -- the lieutenant climbing into Chandari’s window on a crazy drunken bet with his fellow lieutenants.

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

I had to research just about everything. All I knew about India before this was what was in Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” and a few Bollywood films. I borrowed some background books on India history from a fellow writer friend (Lynn Kerstan), bought a copy of an unabridged “Kama Sutra” (and dealt with that unpleasantry in the novella too) and I had to research about the East India Company and their soldiers, how they were different from His Majesty’s army.

What do you like to read?

Everything except horror. That keeps me awake and scared and I need my beauty sleep. I’ll read paranormal (Robin T. Popp is a current fave), science fiction and fantasy (can’t go pass Lois McMaster Bujold or Elizabeth Bear), romance, the odd mystery, all sorts of non-fiction “research” that I’m sure I’ll use in a book one day.

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 kind of both. I know how it begins, and how it ends usually. (It completely freaks me out when I don’t know how it ends.) So I plot up to a certain point and then the synopsis reads “And stuff happens”. When I get to that point, it’s usually brainstorming how to stop that middle from sagging.

I don’t clean up as I go, but I do mark writing that is lazy or possibly anachronistic with . When I come back to do revisions, I’ve already got places marked to clean up. I do find tons more. Because I plot, there are rarely major revisions, but I have switched around scenes or rewritten them so that the “big reveal” happens later. So I think there are about two, sometimes three, drafts, the original and the minor clean up ones before it goes off to the editor. It’s amazing how a deadline shrinks the number of revisions you do. Before I sold I was constantly revising work.

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m between contracts so I’ve sent off a bunch of ideas to my editor for the next Aphrodisia (and threw a few historical ones at her as well). I haven’t heard back yet, so I picked out one of the historical ideas and am working on that. It’s set in Dark Ages Britain (because I was an Arthur nut before I discovered Georgette Heyer and the Regency period). There are a whole queue of ideas waiting for my attention including an out-and-out fantasy, but they will all get pushed back when a contract comes along!

Thanks for letting me be a part of the History Hoydens for a week!


Blogger Jennifer Y. said...

This sounds like a really good book. I find the setting and subject fascinating.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Angelique Armae said...

This book sounds awesome! You don't see many books set in this area, so that makes it even more interesting.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Celia, this is fascinating stuff. Despite an active interest in India during the early 1800s, most Regency romances don't cover the Raj and crossover cultural influences.

I'm curious what made you decide to choose the Mughal aristocracy over the Hindu aristocracy.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have that WHITE MUGHALS book in my TBR pile. I've been dying to read it, but right now I'm swamped in the slave rebellions of the West Indies (not to mention trying to craft a proposal for my third book and work on the copy edits for LORD SIN).

7:53 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Killer cover, Celia. Very unusual and eye catching colors! Beautiful.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Celia May Hart said...

Keira -- Basically it was the book I found -- on the Mughals and so I went that way. From what I can gather, there had already been some intermarrying between the Mughal and the Hindu and certainly broad adoption of the latter's culture!

Kathrynn -- I have been ever so lucky with my covers!

8:18 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Your books sounds very interesting. I enjoy reading romances set in different countries and time periods.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Celia, I'm adding your book to my TBR pile.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an amazing story...I wonder why as a modern liberated woman I've always been fascinated by the harem idea. Don't tell my husband! I love books that take me to places I haven't experienced---whether they be geographical or mental. Maggie Robinson

4:11 PM  
Blogger Karin Tabke said...

sounds tempting, Celia. I'll be sure to pick up a copy.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have White Mughals, too. I'm so glad others have found ways to write their Regencies using it--you can bet I'll be picking up yours to see how you did it! I absolutely LOVE that book & can't wait to write my own Romance With Color story :-)

11:57 PM  
Blogger Dannyfiredragon said...

Wow the book sounds really good. I have to add it to my tbb list

8:06 AM  
Blogger KimW said...

I enjoyed reading all your answers. I don't think I've read a book set in India, or none that I can think of anyway, and I love historicals. Especially steamy ones. Sounds great!

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the interview. I can't wait to read "The Harem". I seen references made in other historicals about India during the regency period but I've never read about India itself. It should be a very interesting book :).

11:17 PM  

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