History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

31 January 2007

Women in the Victorian Village

While working on my latest historical (tentatively titled A Rake’s Guide to Ruin), I needed to research a wide range of topics. The hero is a rich, elegant duke--pretty familiar territory for most of us--but the heroine. . . She’s a piece of work.

Her life starts on a grand (if run down) estate but from there she moves to a small country village, then to London, and finally a tiny, remote cottage on the Yorkshire coast. While she was running about, I spent a lot of time at the university library.

A book called The Victorian Village by David Souden paints a fascinating picture of the English village during the changeable Victorian era. For the village women, of course, there was washing and cooking and mending and cleaning inside the home. She tended the children and the garden, which provided most of the food for the family. The average adult ate only twelve ounces of meat a week, though "average" might be a meaningless word. Men earned the hard money, and they were treated with preference at the table. The father was served first, then the sons, and mother and daughters came last.

In the first half of the Victorian era, it was also common for women to work the fields, but the Industrial Revolution changed that. As farming became more automated, agricultural jobs grew less plentiful, and women were forced out except in times of high demand like harvest season. (Does that sound familiar?)

But most regions of England had some sort of cottage industry. Women made lace and buttons, gloves and stockings. They wove and spun wool and plaited straw for hats and baskets. Aside from the money, the work was a much-needed outlet for the women, who would often gather together in one home to work and socialize. The money wasn’t bad either; some of the extremely skilled women could earn more than their husbands.

So where were the children? Well, unless they were still nursing, they were probably hard at work too. The very young girls watched the babies. In The Rural Life of England, William Howitt wrote, "The little creatures go lugging about great fat babies that really seem as heavy as themselves. You may see them on the commons, or little open green spots in the lanes near their homes, congregating together, two or three juvenile nurses, with their charges, carrying them along…" When they got older they worked alongside their mothers in the home, in the fields or wherever else they were needed. But all of this changed with the Industrial Revolution.

Whole counties of England lost their cottage industries to machines in cities that made lace and buttons and textiles. In 1851, there were 10,000 lacemakers in Buckinghamshire; in 1901, there were 789. There were 20,000 straw-plaiters in Bedfordshire in 1871. By 1901, there were only 485.

At the start of the Queen Victoria’s rule, two-thirds of British people lived in the country. By the end of her reign only a quarter lived in rural areas. The granddaughters of those hard-working village women might stay in the country, but their only opportunity for work would likely be as servants. The age of the idyllic English village was over.

Though I read lots of books featuring Englishwomen with daring occupations (Alexandra from my book To Tempt a Scotsman manages her brother’s estates), I think there are some stories to be found in these cottage industries of the nineteenth century. What about a heroine who takes over the family business of dealing in fine lace? Or a young woman who organizes the women of her county and makes them enough money to find some independence?

(Btw, I will post another euphemism blog soon, but I'm waiting until Kalen is back in the US. She's the only other Hoyden I'm sure is as dirty as I am. For all I know, the rest of you are perfectly dignified and ladylike.)

30 January 2007

Welcome, Cheryl St. John

The Lawman's Bride
by Cheryl St. John
Harlequin Historicals--February 1st

Kidnapped as a child, sold to a con man, she'd fast learned how to sweet-talk her way out of trouble. Now all Sophie wanted was to be left alone to build a new life—one that was honest and decent, based on truth, not trickery.

Clay Connor was the last man she should care about. Upright and honorable, the town's marshal deserved better than a woman with a tainted past. But if only Sophie could learn to trust again, she might find this lawman would make her new life complete.…

The Lawman’s Bride is set in Newton, Kansas. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?

I did quite a bit of research of the Harvey Girls for a previous book, The Doctor’s Wife, and always wanted to revisit the town and some of the characters. The Lawman’s Bride was a heroine on the run story I’d been wanting to tell, and this was the perfect setting.

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

On occasion I get a little weary of the farm/ranch life and can’t make my heroine perform one more tedious chore. That’s when I create an off the wall heroine or write a contemporary.

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

It was definitely the characters. I’m a character-driven writer. Once I get a concept of a person in my head, I figure out who will be the “perfect” (read: most unlikely) person to pair them with. Since Sophie Hollis is on the run from the law and the villain, the hero had to be the city marshal.

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 researched the town and the hotel and restaurant for a previous book, so I brushed up on the Harvey Girl ettiquette, the clothing and menus and stuck my map to the wall. I have a great city map of Newton, Kansas that the historical society gave me. I also have a city directory, so I know names and locations of business owners. The rest…I make up.

What/Who do you like to read?

I go in spurts where I read everything by one author, then another, then backlists, then old favorites and then I make myself read something from the best seller list. Since I’m a Americana/western fan, my favorites are probably similar to anyone else who loves the genre. LaVyrle Spencer, Maggie Osborne, Lisa Gregory, Megan Chance, Jill Marie Landis, Lorraine Heath, just to barely name a few. I love Sharon Sala, Janet Evanovich, Susan Wiggs, Anne Frasier, Dean Koontz, and too many to mention.

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 start with a story grid where I have my character traits in hand, know the conflict and their backstories, decide the main plot points, and from those I write the synopsis which sells the book. Once I start writing, I refer to that synopsis, keep the main turning points in mind, and the characters lead me from scene to scene. My synopsis usually says “and a series of events leads them to understand” and by the middle I’m wondering what that series of events was and why I didn’t think it through better. That’s where I do some adjusting, read from the beginning and get out my handy-dandy list of Twenty Five Things That Could Happen and push forward. I keep my page count in mind and check off my daily and weekly goals by pages written.

On Mondays I edit what I write the week before and move forward. By the time I reach the end, I’ve read it the whole thing through several times, so do a spell check and make sure the chapters are formatted. It’s clean by then and ready to submit.

What are you planning to work on next?

I have a July release, The Preacher’s Daughter, which is again set in Newton, Kansas and is about Benjamin Chaney, Ellie’s younger brother from The Doctor’s Wife. So many readers wrote and asked for this story. I’m currently writing a Christmas novella for Harlequin Historical’s Western Anthology 2007 and am also contracted for the 2008 anthology.

29 January 2007

The Riad

That's right, I'm in Morocco! Yeah, my day job sucks. LOL! I had no idea when I got here what a riad was. I mean, I knew it was a house, but I didn't understand what that really meant.

When you enter the medina (the twisting, turning, maze that makes up the heart of every major city; the old city that exists behind what were once the defensive walls) you enter a secret world. On the outside it can be dingy, dirty, even repulsive (as the streets of Fes were today, due to the overflow of the tannery, oh the stench!). But behind those same walls is a secret . . . the riad. The heart of the Moroccan
home. This is the street face of La Maison Bleue, the first riad turned hotel in Fes, and thus the oldest riad hotel in all of Morocco. Seeing it you have no idea what you are about to find . . .

You enter into a tiled hall that leads to a three story central chamber with a giant sky light (I've been in eight riads now, and they're all like this). Rooms off to either side of the "great hall" have things such as built in book cases or doors to hidden gardens. The steep, circular stairs lead up to the chambers behind the windows . . .

These are amazing rooms with tiled floors that look inward to the "great hall", as do all traditional Muslim houses. At right is the view from my room. It's amazing that all of this is hidden inside the median. Over and over. A plethora of stalls selling everything from cheap dolls from China to extremely expensive antiques crowd all around you, the smell from the tanneries blends with rose water and mint tea. Children swirl around you. Beggars hold out their hands. All of it unchanged from the time when the city was built, hundreds and hundreds of years ago . . . I'm feeling inspired to write a story set here.

My guide today told me what the small, concave, wooden shutters were for, and I can feel the story forming . . . he said they were so that the woman of the house could see who was knocking without her face being seen, and if it was someone she wanted to enter, she could drop the key through the hole in the bottom of the window. So much room for a story, don't you think?

28 January 2007

Lynna Banning: The Pre-history of Ireland

By 30,000 B.C., Native Americans were walking from Russia to Alaska by land bridge. While land bridges did link Ireland and Britain, there is no archeological trace of people in Ireland until 10,000 B.C.Archeologists have found evidence of flints worked into ax heads as early as 7000 B.C., when hunter-gathering tribes began arriving either by land bridge or boat (coracle or the larger curragh). These people settled in bands of about 25, built shelters, and domesticated the Irish wolfhound. By 4500 B.C. the first farmers started to migrate in gradual waves from southwest Scotland. The land was covered with pine, oak, elm, and hazel trees and by bogs. Immigrants trickled in, family by family, over a period of a thousand years at a time when Jericho, Sumer, Egypt, and the Indus Valley were developing urban centers. The newcomers formed small farmsteads of 10 or so people.At most the population of all Ireland during this era was only a few thousand; 200 building sites have been discovered, usually located near water, either the coast, lakes, or rivers. The inhabitants built round huts 20 feet in diameter out of tree branches and animal skins, andthey survived on fish (mostly salmon and eel), plus domesticated pig, hare, wild birds, nuts, and wild pears. They grew wheat and barley, fenced their fields with dry stone walls, and raised pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle. Cattle ownership later became the primary source of status. Ireland was not homogeneous at this time; instead it was a potpourri of differing customs, rituals, and pagan religions which co-existed. By the Bronze Age, 2400 B.C., copper was mined and craftsmen worked in gold, though no gold mines have been found. The few weapons discovered indicate a peaceful lifestyle, with status deriving from ancestral lineage and only later from ownership of prestigious material goods. Religious festivals were held among circles of “standing stones.” Writing did not come to Ireland until the 5th century A.D. with the arrival of Christian monks. Instead, scholars memorized and recited history and Brehon law.In 1159 B.C. a single environmental event occurred (shown by painstaking study of tree rings)–possibly a volcanic eruption-- which brought 18 years of failed harvests, disruption, and chaos throughout Europe, lasting until 1141 B.C. Interestingly, under the stress of that era, the Irish tribes and other peoples across Europe became both more warlike and more religious. This later gave rise to the growth of rival Irish kingdoms and, even later, to the concept of a “high king.”
–Lynna BanningPrimary source: Carmel McCaffrey, In Search of Ancient Ireland

24 January 2007

Veterinary Arts in the 19th Century

I thought I'd talk a bit about the state of veterinary arts in the 19th century, as it was a field that was developing and growing and really coming into its own during this time. I had to research the field quite a bit for my first book, UNLACED, as the heroine, Lucy, was a 'horsey girl' learning veterinary arts second-hand from a student at the Veterinary College in London.

Not surprisingly, it was a difficult topic to research--after turning up only tiny bits and mentions, I finally resorted to visiting the college's web site (now the Royal Veterinary College, London) and finding a contact e-mail address, then e-mailing, explaining the situation and asking if there was any sort of college historian who could answer some questions for me. 'Lo and behold, they e-mailed back with the name and e-mail address of someone on staff there who could answer such queries, and a wonderful e-mail exchange followed. As if that wasn't helpful enough, those lovely people across the pond also offered to copy the pertinent pages (dealing with the college from 1794-1839) from a very hard-to-find text, The Royal Veterinary College London by Professor Ernest Cotchin, and mail them to me, which they very generously did.

I learned that, in 1817 (the year UNLACED was set) the college was at the Camden Town location (on the banks of the River Fleet), and I was able to get a good visual from drawings of the college buildings included in the pages they sent me. Approximately 70 students were enrolled at any given time, concentrating mainly on the diploma course centered around the horse. Students lived in, and the annual holiday was August 15 through September 30. Lectures (anatomy, dissection, surgery, materiae medica, chemistry and dispensing practice in line with current knowledge) were held from 9 - 1 and 4 - 7 with independent studies and reading the rest of the time. Sundays were a day off and church attendance was obligatory Practictioners were not called 'veterinarians', though the term 'veterinary arts' was used to describe their studies. Indeed, their diplomas warranted that they were "deemed competent to practice veterinary arts."
Practitioners were often disparaged as cow-doctors, cow-leeches, quacks, farriers. The term 'veterinarian' started to emerge mainly in the 1830s when "the profession" was getting fed up with their lowly position in life (and demeaning treatment from the human surgeons) and they began to think of forming a professional association.

Their practice-handbills then tended to reflect what they perceived their market needs to be--be it horse disease, racehorse injuries, cow/livestock disease. Slightly cynical, yes, but there was strong competition from the self-trained, those like my character, Lucy--who, because of her gender, was not allowed to study at the Veterinary College, despite her skills.

Indeed, the first woman 'graduate' from a predominantly large-animal course to receive a Members diploma from the College, did not do so until 1922. Yet I just read recently that the majority of veterinary school graduates are now women.

Anyway, this leads me to the question, how do you feel about heroines who aspire to break free from the sphere dictated by their time and place in society--the Scarlett "Why can't I run a lumber mill? I'm just as smart as a man" O'Hara types? Or those like my Lucy who could never actually study veterinary arts, but longed to?

Personally, I like them--but think the key to making them believable characters is making sure that the other characters' reaction to them remains in keeping with the times--i.e., "Scandalous! Scarlett, running a lumber mill as if she were a man?" and not "Scarlett running a lumber mill? Oh, how lovely!"

22 January 2007

Pet Peeves of the Modern Regency

by Doreen DeSalvo

I've learned a lot about history from reading fiction. I enjoy soaking upinteresting details about the stewardship of a great estate (Mary JoPutney's The Rake) and how chocolate was made (Laura Kinsale gives alovingly detailed account from her chocoholic hero in Flowers from the Storm). Historical novels give me a picture of what it was like to livein aonther time.

I love history so much that it drives me crazy when basic details are wrong. It's not necessarily the authors' fault -- some of us have read the same misconceptions so many times, in so many novels, we accept them as fact.I've been pressing Kalen to address this topic, but it's probably time to tackle it myself.

No doubt about it, Queen Victoria brought an air of gentility and sexual repression to English society. But the Regency was considerably bawdier andmore open. The rake flourished right alongside the debutante. Any young ladyreared on a country estate would have seen the breeding of animals and put two and two together. Jane Austen's heroines were well aware of what it meant when a young lady "ruined herself." Some of them, such as Lydia Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, thoroughly enjoyed their "ruination," and felt not a whit of guilt about what her actions cost their family. A Regency lady might have maintained her virginity until marriage, but she probably didn't go to her marriage bed ignorant of the mechanics of sex.

Although women were relatively knowledgeable about the facts of life, Regency gentlepersons were sticklers for proper etiquette. No one with any breeding would presume to call a person by first name unless they were extremely close friends of long standing. Friends were addressed by title or as "Mr. Danvers" and "Miss Collingswood." Only among family members (including cousins) were first names were more acceptable -- although it's worth noting that the Bennetts in Pride and Prejudice always refer to their cousin, the heir presumptive, as "Mr. Collins." According to some sources, the majority of married persons refer to their spouses as "Mister" and "Missus" even in private. That probably sounds cold to most of us, and might not fly in a current historical romance, but it's worth noting that people in general were much more formal in their address than modern Americans.

I'm always amazed to read stories where titled men roam around the Continent as royal spies, or even more outrageously, join the army. Titled men were not jobless -- their jobs were running their estates, and most men too the care of the family lands very seriously. Rent from the land was usually his only source of income, and he had many dependents too support (unless, ofcourse, he was a complete wastrel). Overseeing the management of crops and cattle, necessary land improvements, repairs on the main house and cottages, dealing with tenant farmers, and making sure the income was properly reported added up to a full time job. There wasn't much time left over to gallivant around the country solving crimes for the Crown.

The lady of a large house was responsible for managing the servants, the household itself, and the health and social welfare of the tenants. She also made sure the servants weren't stealing from the household, and she directed the planning of meals and parties with the staff. She also kept abreast ofthe health and social welfare of the tenants, making sure the sick and elderly were properly cared for.

The Season was tied to the sessions of Parliament, not to the seasons of the year. Although many members of the House of Lords left their country estates for London just after Christmastime, the real social Season didn't begin until the members of Parliament returned to Town from a brief Easter holiday -- bringing their marriageable daughters with them. This was typically in May.

No well-bred person would dream of visiting a friend, no matter how intimate, before 1:00 in the afternoon. If you were only passingly acquainted with a person, you made your call between 3:00 and 4:00; more intimacy allowed for calls between 4:00 and 5:00; and if you were a great personal friend, you could call between 5:00 and 6:00. Regardless of the time of day, all of these visits were referred to as "morning" calls.

Except in the most unusual of circumstances, well-bred ladies could not get jobs. Virtually all Regency women were dependent upon a man for sustenance, be he father, husband, brother or distant relation. Women with no close male relatives often ended up as "poor relations" -- little more than unpaid servants in the homes of distant relations. Many Regency women were a blink away from prostitution. This sad fact is evidenced by the contemporary fiction of the day, including Austen: in Sense and Sensibility, theMajor reveals that when his parents discovered his attachment for a young, impoverished ward of his father's, they cast her out and she was forced to become a prostitute to survive.

Until Queen Victoria made them popular, white wedding dresses were not derigueur for a lady's first marriage. Most Regency brides simply wore one of their favorite dresses, in any color she liked. Another interesting note is that until the late 1880s, weddings were required by law to take place inthe morning.

Special Licenses could be obtained from only one source -- the archbishop ofCanterbury. Because the licenses were granted at the archbishop's discretion, they were only available to well-connected people. The expense was also prohibitive. In 1850, the reported cost for a special license wastwenty-eight guineas.

I'm by no means an expert when it comes to history, so I don't mean to sound like I have all the answers or that I always write an historically perfect book. But it does bother me when rather obvious facts about history are misrepresented.

What about you? Any pet historical peeves?

19 January 2007

The Lady -- and the Era -- in the Picture

Like Colleen Gleason, I get a lot of my history from period art and literature.

And like all historical writers, sometimes I just plain get lucky. As with all the stuff I've been learning about the cynical "silver fork" society of the later Regency, from the painting on the cover of The Slightest Provocation.

It actually isn't the painting NAL first suggested. But their initial choice just didn't seem right to me. That lady was blondish, and I thought she looked too French.

OK, my editor countered, do you have any suggestions, Pam?

Something by Sir Thomas Lawrence, I replied. Not that I knew much about the Georgian/Regency society painter, except that he was good at making things look English and that I supposed he must have have done some wide-eyed, brown-haired girls. I found a few on the web and emailed the jpgs to my editor.

This one was my second choice, but luckily the folks at the NAL art department know their business and chose it: Margaret, Countess of Blessington, now hanging in the Wallace Collection in London.

Here's the original. Didn't the cover artist do a canny job of cropping it? It's also been used for one of those Darcy's Daughters books, but I don't think the covers will be mistaken for each other.

In any case, after I got an advance copy of the book itself - and after I could stop myself from staring at it, stroking it, and almost rubbing the lavender foil off the lettering - here's what I've learned: about the painter, the painting, and the woman.

Lawrence was the most fashionable painter of his day; his portraits commanded a price of seven hundred guineas and there was a waiting list for those wishing to be immortalized, and for those needing a little help the way to eternity (according to historian Venetia Murray, Lawrence "specialized in flattering 'improvements).'"

Lady Blessington's portrait was the most talked-about piece at the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1821 - perhaps, as a (male) reader of mine recently suggested, because of the angle from which the artist chose to survey his subject. I can see his point; sometimes there's something refreshingly direct about the blunt masculine take on reality.

Reportedly, Margaret didn't need any of Lawrence's celebrated "improvements." One journalist's account of the 1821 Exhibition tells us that the original "fairly 'killed' the copy" when she stood beside it.

As the second wife of the indecently wealthy and spendthift Earl of Blessington, she lived a life of erotic scandal and outrageous luxury; after the Earl's death she became a noted literary hostess. Silver fork novelists Bulwer and Disraeli, as well as the young Dickens and Thackeray, were frequent dinner guests. From beyond England's shores came Byron's last mistress Teresa Guiccioli; Hans Christian Anderson came to meet Dickens. The décor was splendid, as were the dinners (at least up until the end). To pay the bills, Margaret became a minor writer herself.

For although she'd inherited enough to live quite well, she lived far better than she could afford to. At the end of her life, she beat a hasty retreat to France to escape her creditors. When her possessions went up at auction (this objet had belonged to Marie Antoinette; that one to the Empress Josephine), the gavel was wielded by the same auctioneer who'd disposed of Beau Brummell's stuff a generation before.

But enough about the chatchkes, I hear you saying. Tell about the erotic scandal.

Don't mind if I do. Historical erotica writers please take note: Like Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Emma Hamilton before her, Lady Blessington was part of a much talked-about threesome.

In Margaret's case, the third party was the French Comte d'Orsay, as much the pre-eminent dandy of the late Regency as Brummell was of the period's early years. During the Earl and Countess of Blessington's seven-year-long vacation on the continent, the Earl not only bought Josephine's firescreen and Marie-Antoinette's clock, but a dashing young French aristocrat, the epicenely handsome Comte D'Orsay.

OK, bought does sound cynical, but there's really no other way to put it. Members of the Comte's family had been ministers and mistresses to the ancien regime, Napoleon's arriviste aristocracy, and the restored post-Waterloo Bourbon monarchy, not to speak of the "bourgeois king" Louis-Philippe who'd come to power in 1830. (I'm only beginning to get the succession of French governments straight myself, by following the fortunes of this tough breed of political survivors.)

Anyway, when the rich, generous, good-humored if not-the-brightest-jewel-in-the-coronet Lord Blessington took a liking to D'Orsay, the young man's father drew a hard bargain. The Earl rewrote his will to leave a lot of money to D'Orsay, provided he agreed to marry either of the Earl's daughters from his earlier marriage (Margaret didn't have any children). That's right, either daughter, sight unseen - in case you need proof that the very very very rich are different from you and me.

Where do I sign, the Comte D'Orsay asked. (The marriage did happen a few years later; needless to say it ended in separation after four unhappy years.)

While as to exactly who had bought whom for whom (love those pronouns) - the facts aren't clear and the on-dits had it every which way, so historical erotica writers can have it any way they like - or all ways - and be within the accepted bounds of theorizing. Suffice it to say that D'Orsay and Lady Blessington lived together for some twenty years after the Earl's death - though convention demanded that he live in a separate "cottage ornée" on the grounds of her house in London for some of these - and they're buried in the same tomb in France.

I'm not sure what to make of all this, but I do find it somehow different from late Georgian or early Regency biographies. Flashier, perhaps a bit tackier. From an era grown tired, overripe... Or have I simply internalized a romantic vision of those earlier years. What do you think?


18 January 2007

Research and the Paranormal Historical

by Colleen Gleason

I’ve been asked many times about whether I research before writing my historical novels, or as I go. The short answer is: I research as I go. But that's partly because I've been writing, reading, and watching historical fiction for a long time. So, I already have at least a sense of the era.

I know the basics about what the people wear, how they travel about, what conveniences they have and don't have, etc., so when I sit down to write a book set in the past, I have enough information just to be dangerous.

But the fun part comes as I'm writing, because that's when things start to happen. Usually, I have the bare bones of a plot, but not the details. And the details, in my opinion, are what make a book. And the details are what I research when I'm in the process of writing.

When I have to make decisions--about what someone is wearing in particular, about where a certain house or building is located, about what they might eat at a ball or fete, about a political event that's happening--that's when I do the research for that particular thing. I stop writing and start searching.

I think this works partly because it keeps the whole process from being so intimidating. I don't have to know everything before I start! You can't eat the elephant all in one bite, as one of my bosses used to say--and that's a great mantra for historical research.

For example, in Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of the Phantom of the Opera (my August release under the name Colette Gale), I didn't have the best sense of 1887 Paris. I had enough to start off (I'd read the book, seen the movie), but I didn't have the details. So when I had Christine and Raoul take a drive through Paris, I had to find out what it might have looked like, and what they might have seen. I was able to answer this question by using three tactics:
  1. Googled "Paris 1887" and got lots of stuff
  2. Looked at paintings of Paris that were done in the late 19th century
  3. Read fiction set during that time period

Paintings particular were helpful to me, because I'm a visual person, and seeing a picture of Paris with the Eiffel Tower just being built gave me an image to work from. And reading fiction written (and set) during the time in question is really valuable. I can hear how people speak, what words they use, and often get little details that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

So it was fun for me to learn, through this research, that in 1887, the Eiffel Tower was just being built and the Parisians hated it. They thought it was a monstrosity. And so I found a way to include that little tidbit in the book.

And that brings me to another serendipity about research, and why I do it as I go: it's the gems I find. The little nuggets of detail or information I'm not looking for, but I find accidentally. If I did all the research up front, I may not find these pretty little things.

Here's another example: I'm currently writing the third Gardella Vampire Chronicles book, which opens in Rome. I had to decide where a particular church that is important to the Venators (the vampire hunters) is located. I guess I didn't really have to exactly identify where the church was, but I wanted to. It gives me a better sense of place, too. So I spent about three hours, literally, poring over a book about Rome and then validating my decision to locate the church of Santo Quirinus in what is called the Borgo.

When I started researching the Borgo, I found a lot of interesting information about that area; details that I included in the setting: that the umbrella makers were relegated to this quarter because the wet silk they used smelled so bad, that rosary makers lived in the Borgo, and I even found a painting of the area.

Another question that I’m asked a lot in regards to research, since I write paranormal historicals, is whether the world-building in a non-contemporary time period is more difficult than in a modern one. I don't think that paranormal world-building in a historical setting is any more difficult than it is in contemporary settings. In fact, in some ways it might be easier.
It's a lot of fun to take a historical fact and twist it to fit my world-building. A perfect example occurs in Rises the Night. I introduce John Polidori, who is the author of The Vampyre (the first book that really portrayed vampires as aristocratic, mysterious creatures that lived amid Society).

My research taught me that John Polidori died in 1820, which is the year in which my book is set. How convenient is that? I also learned that there was some mystery surrounding his death. Hmmm. Some said he died from poison. Others said he died in an accident. I decided that he died from a totally different reason--related to the world I've built--and made that an event in my book.

So, to sum up, let me just say that for me, as far as research goes, once I have the basic idea of the time period, the research is just for little details. But the little details (hopefully) are what give the book its flavor and color and authenticity, and paint the picture.

I don't use everything I learn. I don't describe my characters' dress every time they come on the scene, or every single carriage or room. I give enough to paint a wide swath, with a few well-placed details, and that usually works to give a good flavor of setting without bogging the book down.

17 January 2007

Quick and Dirty Guide to Colors in Medieval Art

A heroine in my current work in progress is a painter. In my research, I've come to realize that the medieval painter was a bit of a chemist. This list is by no means extensive, but here are some common colors and their sources.

Black: several types of black were used. Ink could be made with either (1) A suspension of carbon or (2) a suspension of black organic salt iron mixed with salts in solution which became black actor use.

Vine-charcoal black: made from young shoots of grapevines. Nowadays called blue-black.

Brown: introduced later in medieval history.

White: made from lead.

Bone white: made from the wings or legs of fowls. Not as good to paint with as the white made from lead.

Red: made from the deposits formed by the weathering of iron ores or from the choicest red earth from the Pontine city of Sinope.

Minium: a bright red color made from orange lead.

Natural cinnabar: a bright red color.

Azurite: a copper ore of dark blue.

Indigo: a blue dye extracted from plants.

Woad: a shrubby herb which contain the raw material of a blue dyestuff.

Greens: usually made from malachite, green earth, or verdigris, an acetate of copper.

Iris Green: made for the juice of iris flowers

Yellows: usually made from yellow earth or berries. Brighter yellow made from Orpiment (a stone)

Bile yellow: made from the gall of the large fish.

Gold: sometimes actual gold, sometimes imitations like saffron.

Mosaic gold: a yellow sulfite of tin. This color was called aurum musicum.

16 January 2007

Welcome, Colleen Gleason!

The Rest Falls Away
Beneath the glitter of dazzling 19th-century London Society lurks a bloodthirsty evil....

Vampires have always lived among them, quietly attacking unsuspecting debutantes and dandified lords as well as hackney drivers and Bond Street milliners. If not for the vampire slayers of the Gardella family, these immortal creatures would have long taken over the world.

In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy, and this time, Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the eve of her debut, to carry the stake.

But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her enigmatic ally, Sebastian Vioget.

And when she comes face to face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make the choice between duty and love.

"A promising, enthusiastic beginning to a new paranormal historical series, Gleason's major label debut follows the adventures of a conflicted young vampire hunter in Regency England. . . Though it might seem familiar to fans of Teresa Medeiros's Regency vamp series, Gleason quickly establishes an alluring world all her own. Her Buffyesque lead (Gleason has acknowledged the inspiration) is similarly afflicted, but the change of setting makes an intriguing, witty and addictive twist." --Publishers Weekly

"Four Stars!" --Romantic Times

Welcome to History Hoydens, Colleen! The Rest Falls Away is set in Regency England. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?
Many of my favorite authors write books set in the Regency, so it was a natural setting for me (although I will admit that my first choice of historical setting would probably be Plantagenet England, during the time of Elinor of Aquitaine and her husband and sons).

What fascinates me about the Regency is the balls, the debuts, the excitement of The Season, and the oh-so-proper manners…all of which thinly veil undercurrents and tensions and intrigues. I love knowing (or pretending) that there are a lot more things going on than meets the eye.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?
The things I like least about this period is partly due to the amount of fiction set then—it’s just so overdone, it’s hard to stay fresh when writing in this time period. Also, there aren’t a lot of really exciting things happening, historically, in my opinion, in those few short years of the Regency.

Yes, there are a couple of wars (but soldiers dying can be so unromantic!), which leads to stories about spies and so on…but that, too, is a popular plot device and as much as I love it, again, it’s hard to keep it fresh.

Give me knights in shining armor, storming the castle, and jousts and melees and court drama any day!

This series blends the darkness of vampires with the glamour of Regency London. Did you find it difficult to meld the two genres? Did your vampires fit easily into nineteenth century society?
For my purposes, yes, the vampires fit in perfectly. You’re probably aware that the first depiction of the "romantic" vampire—ie, the mysterious aristocrat, aka Lord Ruthven—was actually first published in 1819 (the very year in which the first of my books takes place). It was the first time a vampire had been portrayed as something other than a horrific, blood-sucking, zombie-like creature, and it was in a serialized book by John Polidori entitled The Vampyre.

The main character, Lord Ruthven (who was a thinly-disguised Lord Byron), was handsome and romantic and was also a vampire—and he moved about in just the society in which I’ve set my books. So it was a natural fit, since that was the first time a vampire had been portrayed as a member of society. (Bram Stoker’s Dracula came along later.)

Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really intersting that you didn’t already know?
The bulk of my research actually lay in the realm of vampire legend and mythology. Yes, I had to do research about details for the time period; but as I was already quite familiar with it due to reading about it, and also having researched for an earlier novel, it wasn’t terribly time-consuming.

On the other hand, the research about the undead did take a lot more of my time—as I wasn’t as familiar with vampire mythology. I don’t read vampire books as a rule, and I haven’t seen all that many vampire movies, so that was an area that I wanted to make sure I knew all of the "accepted" information so I could figure out where and how I wanted to deviate from it.

The interesting things I learned about vampire mythology include the information I described above about the first "aristocratic vampire" being a relatively new aspect of the mythology.

Also, I found it fascinating that there are legends about vampires—or vampire-like creatures—in all cultures, in many different time periods, both before and during our Common Era. It makes me realize there must be some truth to these many variations of the same legends!

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
What sparked this book was wondering how Cinderella might have handled herself if she’d been a vampire hunter. (I’m a big Cinderella fan, and in fact had begun to write a Regency-set historical romance as a tribute to Cinderella.)

In that big, full gown of hers, it would have been easy to hide her stake…but when I ended up setting the book in Regency-era England, where the gowns were made of much filmier material and were very clinging, I had to give it some more thought!

The other obvious connection is the fabulous Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is what really started me thinking about a woman superhero.

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)
Hmm…well, when I first wrote the book, I think I had a man’s shirt with buttons…but I think that’s been fixed. I’d say my heroine’s corset is probably a little more accommodating than it would have been in real life, and it was maybe a little easier to get her out of her clothes than it really was…but other than that, I think the rest of the book holds together well.

What/Who do you like to read?
I love an array of authors, but some of my favorites are J D Robb, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Roberta Gellis, Liz Carlyle, and Jane Austen.

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 of the I’ve-been-writing-for-too-long-to-admit club! I wrote eight books before my ninth book sold, but along with that sale was also the second in the series. Then about four months later, I sold an erotic historical (a twist on The Phantom of the Opera, due out in August), and then six months after that, I sold two more Gardella books and another twist-on-a-classic erotic historical…so once everything got going, it really took off.

I’d been working with my agent for two years before we sold the first Gardella book, and she’s been absolutely marvelous during that whole before- and after-sale time.

What are you planning to work on next?
Right now I’m working on the third Gardella book, due to be released in early 2008 (the second Gardella book, Rises the Night, will be out in June). Then I’ll get working on the second classic-twist erotica, which will be released in August 2008.

Thank you so much for coming by! Please visit Colleen at www.ColleenGleason.com! Colleen, we'll see you back here on Thursday!


13 January 2007

Castles Defined

Quickly, without putting on your scholar's cap, what does the word CASTLE call to mind? My first image is the Disney Castle but then I was raised on Walt Disney every Sunday night. When I asked my niece what words she would use to describe the way a castle made her feel she said: safe (and beautiful but that is a another subject entirely)

Not bad for a ten-year-old. Sir Charles Oman in his book "Castles" defines it as “a fortified dwelling intended for purposes of residence and defense.” It takes four pages of fascinating reading to prove his phrase.

Timber and Earth castles were the simplest castles to bear the name. They were not much more than a raised earth mound and a small house-like structure surrounded by a wooden palisade. Usually made of oak, they could withstand attacks but were built for security and not to impress. I'd love to write a story where the bride is told she will live in a castle and arrives to find "timber and earth" and not one iota of elegance.

Scholars used to think that timber and earth castles preceded stone castles Now it is thought that both were built at the same time, the determining factor being how quickly the castle was needed and what materials were available (source: "Castles of Britain and Ireland" by Plantagenet Fry).

Dating from 1066 to1200 timber and earth castles or their stone counterparts were built for the purpose of controlling newly claimed property and the people who lived on it. There were two types of castles according to Oman: royal and baronial.

The king had a series of castles built to protect his interest. To intimidate the populace, to defend from an external enemy and those built to protect critical rivers, roads and passes. Oman estimates that before 1100 William had some thirty royal castles.

Baronial castles were spots chosen by the new Norman landholders as the best place to site their building, both for defense and convenience of travel. Not being the most trusting king in the world, William rarely bestowed a whole region on a single man. If a knight had more than one castle they were nowhere near each other, each castle protecting a separate holding. The exceptions were in the great frontier areas such as Shrewsbury.

Uusally, castles were built near population centers. There are hardly any castles dating from the Norman conquest in “the long stretch in the wooded weald of Kent and Sussex between the line of castles north of it and those near the sea.” (Osman) The same is true of the moors, fens and bare downs.

One of those classed as ‘near the sea’ by Osman is one of my all time favorite castles pictured at the right – Bodiam Castle. It was built in one complete operation in the 1380’s significantly after the Norman Conquest. It is ironic that the license permitted the knight to build the castle because of the real threat of French invasion. In his book, Fry gives a wonderful description of the interior of Bodiam, clearly built for comfort and defense.

Bodiam’s defenses were not “severely” tested until it was threatened with bombardment during the Civil War – the owner promptly surrendered.

For my book LOVER'S KISS, the art department, in a moment of complete mind-meld, designed the prefect castle for the Pennistan family. When I saw the cover I knew that this was the place the Pennistans had called home for hundreds of years. The rounded part is the original building, built for defense, complete with a partial moat. After the Civil War the square section was added for comfort.

One last thought: palaces were built for lavish comfort and not for defense. The words castle and palace are not interchangeable even though some castles grew into very comfortable houses.

What comes to mind when you think of a castle? Do you have a favorite?

(This is an updated version of a subject originally discussed on January 13, 2007)


12 January 2007

The Well Dressed Horse

Bards, trappings, housings, and caparisons. All are names for the glorious coverings used to adorn the well-dressed destrier in western Europe, circa 12th and 13th century. Trappings at this time often covered the horse’s head, neck, shoulders, rump and flanks. They stopped at the horse’s hocks and knees, or extended all the way to the ground. Many covered the rider’s legs as well. A horse’s bards were often embroidered with heraldic arms and are usually depicted in brilliant colors with contrasting linings. Horses were adorned in bards for tournaments, jousts and war, and special state occasions. The luxuriant horse coverings served to identify the rider, display family pride, prowess on the battlefield, and great wealth. The functionality beyond identification of the knight is questionable . . . but hey, it’s fashion! To learn more about this topic and see some wonderful images, check out Madonna Contessa Haria Veltri degli Ansari's website.

10 January 2007

Not to be Crass, but. . .

(Note: Getting this past Blogger censors will be a challenge, but I have to try for the sake of our art.) Kalen and I once participated in a wonderful discussion about the lack of good euphemisms for a very important female body part. I hope we will recreate the discussion here soon. Maybe for my next post?!? Hmm.

Anwyay, during this discussion, I started pouring over a book called Sexual Slang by Alan Richter, PhD., and I found that there were very few slang words for the most important female body part (ahem) and lots of names for the male sex organ. Lots of them. Lots and lots. I came to the conclusion that most men spend too much time thinking about their own body parts and not enough about their woman's. But it was fun all the same. In the name of education, here are a few of the best. I've left out many of the obvious, aggressive names like dagger and cutlass and sword and stick. *Vicki rolls her eyes* Enjoy!

Very early:
weapon – 11th century
pintle – 12th century
member – 13th century
yard – 14th century

15th Century:

16th Century:
"his affair"
little finger
rubigo (Scottish)

17th Century:
carnal parts
carnal stump
potato finger
torch of Cupid

18th Century:
old horny
rule of three
silent flute

19th century:
best leg of three
Captain Standish
fancy work
fixed bayonet
goose’s neck
jiggling bone
lamp of life
Saint Peter
sensitive truncheon
sugar stick

"Potato finger"? Wow. Needless to say, my favorite is "best leg of three", followed closely by "sensitive truncheon". "Carnal stump" is just wrong, wrong, wrong. But seriously, I hope your heroes never use most of these, though they may come in handy for villains or maybe older brothers. In reality, I prefer to use the good old "c*#k" word in my books. I think it's historically accurate for most of our time-periods, and I also think it can be sexy as hell. What's your favorite euphemism? What's your favorite BAD euphemism? Come on, let's share!!!

08 January 2007


As many of you know, I’m a reenactor. So on top of making historically accurate clothing, I sometimes need to make historically accurate food. Recently some friends and I had an 18th century Afternoon At Home. We all brought a “kickshaw” to share. I made mine out of Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels. If you’ve any interest at all in the food of the Regency period, I highly recommend this book.

Kickshaws, an English bastardization of the French quelque chose, are basically the same thing as hors d’oeuvres or amuse bouche. They’re tiny things one might put out for guests to nibble on.

I made Maids of Honour (p. 41-42). According to Grossman and Thomas, these were also known as “cheesecakes”, which is odd, as they haven’t any cheese in them. But they are eaqsy to make, really tasty, and they went over great.

Puff Pastry (I bought mine)


2/3 cup almonds, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 drops rose water
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch salt

Preheat oven 350°

Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin. Roll the pastry out on a floured board to 1/8”. Cut rounds slighty larger than the top of the muffin cups (a fluted cookie cutter is pretty, but a cup will work just fine). Put one round in each cup and press down gently to the bottom. Spoon the filling into the cups, almost all the way to the top.

Bake 25 mintues.

05 January 2007

The Green Man

Images of the Green Man, carved in stone as gargoyles or incised reliefs as small as 2 inches high, are found in medieval churches in England and Europe as well as on buildings in Turkey and India. The image speaks to us across thousands of years of cultural history, reminding us that the forces of nature were worshipped long before the advent of more formal religious beliefs.
“Donned in green branches and leaves, the self-proclaimed ‘green man’ dances around the fields symbolizing the fertilizing of the earth and the start of new growth.” (Carmel McCaffrey, In Search of Ancient Ireland). Nigel Rushbrook [The Search for the Green Man] takes it one step further, describing the Charing (England) Green Man with “ ... vines issuing from his mouth, an obvious symbol of fertility. His hair resembles a field of corn, the tuft in the middle is like a sheaf. His ears are like the embryonic shapes in the paisley pattern, which are the ears of corn.
”The leafy visage of this pagan image is an enduring archetype of a male fertility figure, representing the theme of death and rebirth. Hawthorne and acanthus leaves sprout from his face and cheeks; vines spill from his mouth. He represents the energy contained in vegetation, which is transmitted to humans through the food we eat, the flowers we smell, the trees we admire.
Researcher Phill Lister [“Who is the Green Man?”] adds: “John Barleycorn, celebrated in song, shows the same themes of death and rebirth, as does the Green Knight in the Arthurian story of Sir Gawain. Medieval legends of the Wild Men–dressed in leaves, living in the forest and venturing forth to take food-- have also been connected with the Green Man. In some stories of Robin Hood, the robber and hero dressed in green, he attains godlike status and links with the Horned God Herne.”
A shape-shifter, the Green Man is the god Pan of Ancient Greece, the spirit of nature, the horned god of the forest, even our 20th century Jolly Green Giant.
Lynna Banning

04 January 2007

Going Native with Kate Pierce

I’m lucky. Not only do I get to write historical romances for a living but I grew up in Great Britain within a family of avid readers and a mother who was a history buff. By the time I was a teenager, I’d visited Brighton, Bath, Westminster Abby, the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral-you name it, my mother had walked me round it.

When I’m setting a scene for my latest work in progress, I tend to place it in a location I’ve been to. I find it much easier to write about the Brighton Pavilion, for instance, because I’ve been there at least three times and loved it. Bath is another favorite place of mine. Due to the diligence of the town council and county, most new buildings have to conform to exacting design standards which prevent the use of materials which wouldn’t blend with the traditional Bath stone. If you ever get to visit there, you’ll see that the elegance of the Regency town has been retained. It’s easy to imagine Jane Austen popping out for a visit to the Roman baths or to get a sticky Bath bun!

I was even lucky enough to get to stay in the extremely posh hotel on the Royal Crescent as a goodbye present from my husband as we left to live in California. It was an experience I won’t forget! Of course, I also do proper research for my books and often rely on the amazing talents of the RWA Beau Monde chapter, whom I swear know everything about the Regency period and put me to shame.

I don’t always write about London society. My family has roots in Wales and I’ve been able to set some scenes involving smuggling on the south coast of Wales around Worm’s Head near Swansea. Having struggled to walk across to Worm’s Head on the low tide and get back in a limited amount of time before the strong tides returned and closed off the Causeway, I was able to translate that sense of urgency into a dramatic conclusion to one of my books. For me, these first-hand experiences help make my writing visually stronger.

One of the best things about doing research is when one question leads to the discovery of another link to my own personal history or locations I’ve lived. When I was researching smuggling, my mother, still a keen historian showed me documents about her family stretching back to 1801. Several of my ancestors were the often reviled customs officers and my grandfather was actually born in the custom house in Cardiff docks.

Another simple question about the stage coach time from Dover to London led to the discovery of a site with timetables for coaches to London from Epping and Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire and Essex-both places I have lived. Many of the posting houses listed still stand today and haven’t changed very much at all!

Of course the danger is that having lived somewhere, it’s easy to get lazy and skate over some of the details. I’m always totally impressed by the American writers, such as the ladies on this list, who have taken the time and trouble to build up such an immense depth of knowledge about the Regency time period. It’s truly admirable.

03 January 2007


In honor of the New Year, I thought I'd talk a bit about liquor and spirits in Regency England--or, more precisely, what I've learned the hard way. First...a confession. There's a glaring anachronism in my debut book, Unlaced (and I'm sure there are plenty more; this one, however, was brought to my attention by a reader on a message board who declared it a 'wall-banger' error as far as she was concerned--egregious enough for her put down the book then and there and not finish it!).

What is it, you ask?! I had my hero, in 1817 England, drinking whisky at White's! Honestly, it never even occured to me to research what liquor and spirits would be available in Regency England--I knew whisky had been around since long before then, and wrongly assumed that it was fair game. Turns out, after 1707, whisky--produced in Scotland at clandestine stills such as the one pictured above--would have had to have been smuggled into England illegally, and therefore not likely served at a public establishment like White's (though I'm sure it was in many a gentleman's home, particularly those who also owned property in Scotland). It wasn't until the Excise Law was passed in 1824 that whisky became 'legal' again in England. An interesting 'history' of whisky can be found here.

Which led me to wonder, just what liquor and spirits *were* available to our Regency gentlemen? What *did* they drink at their clubs? The answer is...I'm still not entirely sure. Brandy, imported from France, for one. There were several wine and brandy merchants on Piccadilly Street alone during the Georgian era (the Walkers at Number 18, Peter Darlot at Number 45, among others). Additionally, men imbibed wine, claret, and fortified wines (i.e. bolstered with brandy or another heavy liquor) such as port (an after-dinner drink, historically only for men), sherry, and Madeira (generally a dessert wine). Gin was certainly available, but seems to be more of a staple with the lower classes or gentlemen in financial straits. A mulled wine called Negus (cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg/fruit peel added to a mug of wine/sherry/Madeira and heated) is frequently mentioned as a refreshment at Almack's (along with Orgeat, an orange or orange/almond flavored cordial, and Ratafia, an almond flavored cordial), though a Regency gentleman might have turned up his nose at such insipid drinks. A gentleman who took his meals at the Eating Room at his club might be offered malt liquor, cider, or spruce beer (a dark molasses beer flavored with spruce) to accompany his meal.

So, there you have it...at least all that I've been able to discern! I must say, I'm very sad that my poor hero couldn't have whisky at White's--it just seems so much more 'manly' than the alternatives, doesn't it?!

02 January 2007

Welcome, Kate Pearce!

Antonia’s Bargain

by Kate Pearce

Ellora’s Cave—Available Jan 10th, 2007

Since the suicide of his first wife, Lord Gideon Harcourt has avoided sexual encounters with women in favor of less emotionally draining liaisons with men. When he unmasks ‘Anthony’ Maxwell and finds he is, in fact, Antonia, he is still sexually intrigued enough to want to bed her.

A reluctant heiress, Antonia knows she has to marry but she intends to do it on her own terms--her wealth in return for a husband-free bed. Gideon offers to help her infiltrate the world of the ton dressed as a man so she can see her potential suitors in their natural habitat. In return, she agrees to allow him to teach her every trick in his sexual repertoire as long as he doesn’t take her virginity.

Her fear of marriage and pregnancy is a puzzling barrier that Gideon, despite his exceptional skills, finds difficult to penetrate. As they become more scandalously intimate, he has to decide whether to help Antonia face her fears or walk away from the only woman he believes he could ever love.

Antonia’s Bargain is set in the Regency period. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

-I’ve always loved this time period. I think that’s Jane Austen’s fault. I read all her books in my teens and all Georgette Heyer’s and I was hooked!

For me, the fashions, the character of the Prince Regent, the darkness of the political situation and the war with France make a fascinating if uneasy time period to study.

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

-I wrote a short book for Ellora’s Cave called “Eden’s Pleasure” (Nov 05) which had identical twin brothers in it. I always intended to write about the second, older, darker twin. It was a struggle to stop him taking over the first book and a lot of readers and reviewers seemed more worried about what would happen to him than about the happy ending of the main couple!

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

-I’m fairly familiar with the Regency period, but I did do some research about the different types of gaming establishments so that I could include them in the book. I’m also lucky enough to belong to the RWA Beau Monde chapter who are wonderful if you need to know something quickly.

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

-I try very hard to be historically accurate to the period. I’m english and I have a degree in history so I take my research fairly seriously! I don’t let my heroine’s run around unchaperoned in Society, I don’t try and impose modern ideas back onto them. One of the best reviews I had said that my heroine was a woman who understood the constraints of her time all too well and yet still found ways to be a strong independent woman. That’s very gratifying.

What do you like to read?

-I’m a voracious reader and will read anything if I have to. Obviously, I read historical romance and straight historicals. I also love paranormal and futuristic novels, especially Laurell K Hamilton and Catherine Asaro. I also like to pop across to literary fiction and particularly love Ian McEwan.

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 true pantster. It’s a lot harder for me now because I’m able to sell on proposal and that means I have to know where the story is going and, quite frankly, I don’t. My synopsis tends to run out of steam about a third of the way in!

I write quite quickly and quite cleanly, chapter by chapter. I normally write 2/3 drafts of each chapter and then pass it to my cp’s. When they’ve finished ‘correcting’ it, I rewrite and put it away until I have a complete novel. I write for about 2 hours a day and work on 3 different manuscripts at the same time.

What are you planning to work on next?

-I write for three different publishers in three different romance sub-genres. At the moment, I’m committed to write a futuristic erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave, a contemporary erotic romance for Virgin Cheek and two Regency-set erotic romances for Kensington Aphrodisia.

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