History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

14 September 2011


I'm pleased to announce the release, on September 22, of my second nonfiction title this year:


This gorgeous illustrated hardcover book is a Barnes and Noble exclusive (so you will only be able to find it at their brick and mortar stores and at their web site). It covers over a thousand years of history, from William the Conqueror to Prince William of Wales. In fact, Prince William's wedding this past April was probably the primary reason that an editor from beckerandmayer! (the third party publisher who produced the book on B&N's behalf) contacted me just before Christmas last year and commissioned me to write the book. And while I know perfectly well that dear William is not yet a monarch (and there are other royals I profile in the volume who also never sat on the throne), B&N chose the title and was most emphatic about sticking to it.

THE ROYALS has a unique feature, which makes me feel like "history hoyden Barbie" when I peruse it: interspersed throughout the book are big opaque envelopes. Inside them are facsimiles of historical memorabilia, including (among other items) letters from Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard, an invitation to Queen Victoria's Jubilee, Edward VIII's infamous abdication speech, and an invitation (in case yours went missing in the mail last spring) to the wedding of William Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.

The book also includes historical sidebars about notable events during various reigns.

The turnaround time for this book was insane. I delivered the first draft in 28 days, and I was working on two other books simultaneously. The research was staggering, but in some cases, I was thankfully able to rely on information I already had and research I had already done for my previous nonfiction titles.

Despite my angst, I am extremely pleased with the result. It's a very pretty book and (because I genuinely do love research and royalty), I learned about several figures whose lives I hadn't delved into before, including some of the recent and current crop of Windsors (George VI -- he of the stammer; and the Queen Mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon; and QE II and Prince Philip). And of course, there's a good deal of material on William and Kate, in addition to some wonderful photos from the royal wedding.

Writers: have you ever felt like you were playing "beat the clock?" What's the fastest turnaround time you've ever had to deliver a manuscript, or revisions? Do you often find yourself juggling multiple manuscripts? How do you cope?


Blogger Isobel Carr said...

This looks so cool! Love the bonus feature concept. I just ordered it!!!

I'm a slooooooooow writer. I could never turn something around so quickly. I'm really fast with revisions and such though, because once I have the "vision" and something to work with, I can really build up momentum.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Thank you SO much, Isobel! I think you'll love the book.

I admire your ability to do revisions so quickly. Have there ever been times when an editor asked you to do something massive and you had to totally rethink several scenes or POVs and you either fought it or just said "forget it" re: your original draft and went with the editor's suggestions and vision?

8:45 AM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Congratulations, Leslie! I must buy that book; I love books with historical facsimiles.

The fastest book I ever wrote was The Shadow Guard - 2 weeks to plot and get the concept approved (and recover from the shock of having my current WIP politely declined), then 6 weeks to write. I used the motto from the TV show Chopped: sometimes when there's no time, you just have to go on instinct and experience. Mercifully it worked - and it was a book I'd wanted to write for a long time!

Fastest revisions were when the inimitable Kate Duffy called me up and said your heroine needs a different motive. Fix it. She didn't tell me how, just asked me how long I'd need. I gobbled, considered the book's structure and who I was talking to, then asked for 2 weeks. I turned the edits in on time but I hadn't really slept the last 4 days.

The only time I've ever dealt with multiple books is when 5 books were published in 1 calendar year. During the previous year, I spent 3 solid months doing nothing but edits and page proofs. I hated the time away from first drafts. It got so bad I cursed when I saw packages from my publishers.

One day I came home from the day job and opened the door to let my dogs go outside. But they took one look at the horrible Tyvek envelope lying on the stoop and fled. You see, everybody in the house - even the four legged members - knew that sometimes publishers can try one's patience just a little too far. LOL

10:51 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I've never really had an editor who muddles around in the plot once the book is done (sometimes at the proposal stage we go back and forth a bit though). Mostly they just ask for clarity or point out when things seem inconsistent or don’t work for them (aka saving my butt).

Guess I’ve been lucky. *knocks on wood*

10:54 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Wow, Diane, I guess the passion you had for THE SHADOW GUARD and the fact that it had been on your mind for a while also served you well when it came time to slamming it out so quickly. I wrote my first contemporary novel in 6 weeks but it was utter crap and it's still in the proverbial desk drawer (well, a computer file, but it's nothing submittable -- according to my agent, who politely asked "do you have anything else?" when we first started working together).

I can see how, when Kate Duffy said "jump," the right answer was "how high?" because she was one of the great Romance editors. It gets dicier when your editor is not an expert in your field, even though they might be a decent editor, so you find yourself questioning whether the changes they request are the right ones or not. And then, when they are answering to bosses higher up the food chain who might be asking them to ask you to do something that may or may not be what you initially had in mind, you have no choice but to do what the Big Kahuna wants.

This calendar year has been insane for me. In addition to promoting three releases, in the year 2011 I've had to write and deliver an entire novel and a synopsis for the next novel, plus 2 heavily researched nonfiction books (I'm working on the second now, and already got the first extension of my 10-year career ... actually, the second extension; I needed a few more weeks on the novel I was supposed to turn in in on June 15. That got turned in on the last day of July, but I was able to turn in the synopsis of the next novel in my contract the same day -- and that was on time, at least).

But writing THE ROYALS set me back, though I hadn't expected it to, because the editorial process took longer than I expected, as I was working with an editor whose bailiwick was something other than royal history, yet she would take it upon herself to change my text out of the blue, rather than suggesting edits to me, thereby creating factual errors in the manuscript that I would then have to fix with rewrites. I would suddenly see the electronic manuscript with all these weird changes in it that I never wrote.

In any case, the end product is really fabulous and I love it and I think they did a super job with it!

11:57 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Congratulations! I love the way that it is set up, with all the stuff that you can pull out. The pictures on the B&N make it look fabulous.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

It's funny how B&N put up no product description, but you're right, Kerri, about the photos. They're worth a thousand words. I love all the stuff. It's so cool. I didn't know eactly what they would get the licenses to use for the memorabilia facsimiles, so I was surprised when I got my author copies, because even when I saw the last set of page proofs, some stuff was still TBA and pending. I hadn't even seen all the photos from the royal wedding.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

The book looks like it has that cushiony feeling to the front which I like. Also the color is very pretty, with the gold leaf lettering. Very regal. You should try and get Majesty magazine to offer it, in their bookshelf.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

That's a great idea! It's more of a flat front, though, not cushiony. I wish!

2:13 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

The book looks wonderful, Leslie!

Like Isobel, I'm a slow writer. I think the fastest I've ever written a novel is about six months (as opposed to my usual year :-). But I do find juggling multiple projects can work quite well for me. There's only so much I can do on one book in a day before I need time to mull it over, but if I can switch over the different project I can often double the number of words I write.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

So, Tracy, do you find that one project feeds the other, in terms of goosing your energy and/or imagination?

I really enjoy the opportunity to write nonfiction as well as historical fiction (for one thing, I get great ideas for the latter from the former!), although the simultaneous deadlines are killers.

6:16 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

P.S. to EKM: I was told that Barnes & Noble chose the "Tiffany blue" color for the cover from the wallpaper in Buckingham Palace.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I do find one project feeds another, Leslie. Sometimes in the midst of working on one project, the solution to a plot problem in the other pops into my head.

11:55 PM  

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