History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

23 September 2013

Welcome, Erin Knightley!

Available Now! 

I met Erin at the Anaheim RWA Conference when I tagged along to a dinner that ended up including some of the rudest service ever, but also some of the most charming company (and GIANT margaritas!). As writers, we're always being told "what the market wants", and often, I find myself thinking, really? One of the biggies currently is that "sweet" only sells in the Inspirational market. Which I though was crazy, considering that the Trad Regencies were almost entirely "sweet" and there were a LOT of readers out there looking for that same read. 

Well, Erin has proved that if you do it well, "sweet" sells! 

(If you haven't read Erin yet, don't miss the link and code at the end of the interview to get her novella, RUINED BY A RAKE, for free!)


Sir Colin Tate has never imagined marrying for money. But debts left by his artist father have put his siblings’ futures in danger. To wed an eligible heiress, this independent-minded Scot must play by restrictive rules—until an irresistible lady dares to pursue her passion for art…and him.


Lady Beatrice Moore can spy a fortune hunter as expertly as she captures subjects on canvas. But when she meets the striking son of Britain’s most celebrated painter, the attraction is instantaneous—blinding her to the possibility that he could ever be one of those schemers.…

Flirting with Fortune  is set in Regency England. Is there a particular reason you chose that year/era for the series?

 I’ve been a Regency fan for over a decade! It’s always been the era that most completely captures my imagination.

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it? 

There is something so compelling about the Regency world. The gowns, the wit, the societal structure—all the things that take me from my modern day world and transport me into a fantasy world that still actually existed. More or less, lol. I am not extremely strict with the time period. For me, I enjoy characters and storylines that I can relate to, accented by a historical flavor that sets the tone.

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

I least like the same thing that I love about it: the strict rules surrounding courting couples. Yes, it makes for tension and compelling story lines, but it’s darn difficult to come up with fresh and unique ways to get your hero and heroine alone together!

I know that in a world where they say “sex sells”, you’ve carved out a successful niche with “sweet” books. I’d love for you talk a little about that. 

 I’ve always skimmed the sex scenes in romance novels. I have nothing against them, they just aren’t my cup of tea. What I love—what I live for when reading—is that slow, glorious build of sexual tension and chemistry. To me, a long awaited kiss can be every bit as intimate and heart-pounding as falling into bed. I figured if I felt this way, that others might as well.  

To this day, after five books/novellas published, I still get a big goofy grin when readers and reviews marvel that they didn’t even realize the hero and heroine hadn’t slept together until after they had finished reading. And that’s my goal—I don’t want anything to be missing. If that were the case, then I didn’t do my job. I want my readers to feel fully content and satisfyed 

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why? (I always find this one fascinating!). 
 Oh yes, I have fudged along the way! Although, I don’t know if I’m going to point them out—that’s kind of like telling someone about the feature you most dislike about your body. That will be the only thing people will see! Suffice it to say, I have glossed over some things in order to keep the plot streamlined. If I made everything 100% factual, the books wouldn’t be the enjoyable escape I wish for them to be.  

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh* Pool chalk. Bane of my existence. 

 LOL – I’ve had a few gaffs along the way! In RUINED BY A RAKE, I somehow wrote Tory when I meant Whig. Apparently, a reader thought I should be tarred and feathered over that one! *shrugs* I’m human, and I’m going to make mistakes. Sorry in advance for anything like that that may pull you from the story! 

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

Actually, I was reading about the famous writer, Sir Walter Scott, and was amazed to learn that at his death, he was in debt over fifty thousand pounds! I was fascinated by the fact that he actually managed to pay them off posthumously via the sale of his works, though it took many years. I suddenly wondered what it would be like if a straight-laced, no-nonsense, practically estranged son inherited a mountain of debt from his famous, eccentric father without ever having suspected that his father was up the River Tick. With no way of providing for the family that suddenly depended on him, how would he fare if he was suddenly thrust into society in order to find an heiress bride?

The fact that talented painter and reluctant heiress Beatrice despised fortune hunters and adored Sir Frederick was the perfect combination to make this book come to life.

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

I decided to make Colin a barrister in training, and I was fascinated to learn how the system worked. You didn’t go to law school like we do now. Instead, you studied and ‘took your meals’ at the Inns of Court, which meant that you attended a certain number of dinners in the company of men of law in order to learn more about the profession. 

It was also fun to learn about the painting methods of the day: the sable brushes and the pig bladder paint holders, the primed canvases, the smell of linseed oil, the hassle of mixing paint from pigments—it was all very interesting to me.

What/Who do you like to read? 

 I try to read fairly broadly. I enjoy many in my own genre (Heather Snow, Susanne Enoch, Sabrina Jeffries, to name a few), as well as YAs (Veronica Roth, Kassy Tayler, Sophie Jordan), and even some contemporary (Marquita Valentine, Sandra Brown, Susan Mallory). I also like nonfiction, usually to do with health and nutrition. The only thing I generally stay away from is paranormal—just not my thing.

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?

 Ha! I used to be a plotter, and then I sold to a publisher who expected things like outlines and synopses, lol. Now I’m a bit of a planster: I know the overall arc of the story and the general goals, motivations, and conflict, but the rest forms organically as I write. 

The only thing that is sure about my writing is that I NEED a deadline. As much as I hate it, I can’t seem to get any good writing done until it’s down to the wire!

Scrivener? Yes? No? Or What is that? 

 Maybe! I’d love to learn, but so far the classes haven’t been convenient. Someday I might find the time and check it out. For now, I will stick with my physical poster board and sticky notes.

What are you planning to work on next?

I am in the middle of writing my second series, Prelude to a Kiss. It follows three female musicians who form a trio during a music festival in Bath. Anyone who has read my first series will recognize the pianoforte-playing heroine, Charity, in the first book of the series titled THE BARON NEXT DOOR, due out in June 2014. I’m totally loving writing these books—they’re all like friends to me now! If only I didn’t have to drag them through their dark moments ;)

Thanks so much for inviting me to joint you today. As a treat for your readers, I’m happy to offer my novella, RUINED BY A RAKE, for free! Simply go HERE, choose the format best suited to your e-reader, and use the following code at checkout: NA85T

16 September 2013


I'm buried in copy edits for my forthcoming The Berkeley Square Affair, so I thought I would repeat a post from my own blog that deals with the opening of this book and openings in general. Openings are tricky. One wants to start with something that will grab the reader’s attention. But what i tend to forget is that even with an action opening,one has to take the time to set the scene and characters, to give the reader of sense of who the story is about and what is at stake. This doesn’t necessarily mean a whole chapter devoted to establishing the characters and setting. it can be integrated into the action. I originally started Vienna Waltz with Suzanne walking into the room to find Malcolm kneeling over Tatiana’s body. then i realized I needed a few paragraphs first to set up who Suzanne was, how Tatiana had summoned her, and the sort of marriage Suzanne and Malcolm had. Still later I decided I needed the Prologue to set up Tatiana and some of the other key characters.

In Imperial Scandal, Malcolm has a few moments of interaction with La Fleur and Harry before the shots ring out. And the ambush at the château is intercut with Suzanne at the embassy ball in Brussels so that (hopefully!) the suspense of the action sequence balances the talkier scene at the ball.
With The Berkeley Square Affair, set in London in 1817, I once again forgot about the need to establish the characters and the stakes, even in an ongoing series. I originally began with a wounded Simon climbing in through the library window of Malcolm and Suzanne’s Berkeley Square house. here’s the original opening paragraph, which is still in the book:

A thud on the window glass cut through the whisky-scented shadows and candle-warmed air. Charles dropped his book. Mélanie nearly dropped baby Jessica. Charles sprang to his feet, disrupting Berowne the cat, and moved to put himself between Mélanie and Jessica and the window. Mélanie tightened her arms round Jessica. Old defensive instincts sprang to life, like hairs responding to a shock of electricity. The Berkeley Square house, still so new, had perhaps never felt so much like home than now, when it was threatened.
Berowne hissed and arched his back. The window scraped against the sash. Charles snatched up a silver candlestick. Jessica released Mélanie’s breast and let out a squawk.
“It’s all right.” A slurred, strained voice came from the window. “It’s me.”

I then decided i needed to show what happened to Simon, so I added a scene which begins:
The lamplight shone against the cobblestones, washing over the grime, adding a glow of warmth. Creating an illusion of beauty on a street that in the merciless light of day would show the scars of countless carriages, horses, and pedestrians. Much as stage lights could transform bare boards and canvas flats into a garden in Illyria or a castle in Denmark.
Simon Tanner turned up the collar of his greatcoat as a gust of wind, unusually sharp for October, cut down the street, followed by a hail of raindrops. His hand went to his chest. Beneath his greatcoat, beneath the coat he wore under it, he could feel the solidity of the package he carried, carefully wrapped in oilskin. Were it not for that tangible reminder, it would be difficult to believe it was real.

Still more recently, I realized that the reader still didn’t know enough about Malcolm and Suzanne and what was at stake for them, and that with the action of the opening with Simon, I could afford a conversation that set up Malcolm and Suzanne  (catching readers of the series up with where they are at this point, introducing them to new readers) before Simon climbs through the window. So I added a scene that begins:
Malcolm Rannoch glanced up from his book and tilted his head back against the bronze velvet of the Queen Anne chair.  “There was a time when I thought we’d never have a quiet night at home.”

Suzanne Rannoch regarded her husband over the downy head of their almost-one-year-old daughter, Jessica, who was flopped in her arms, industriously nursing. “There was a time when I thought we’d never have a quiet night.”

His gray eyes glinted in the candlelight. “Sweetheart, are you complaining of boredom?”
“You mean do I miss outwitting foreign agents, getting summoned by the Duke of Wellington and Lord Castlereagh at all hours, sitting up into the morning decoding documents, dodging sniper fire, and taking the occasional knife to my ribs?” 
Malcolm picked up the whisky glass on the table beside him. “Something like that.”
Finally I felt I had a shape for the opening that balances action and character revelation.
Writers, how do you approach openings/ Readers, what are the openings of novels that you find particularly effe3ctive? is it action or character that catches your attention?

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09 September 2013

Welcome, Elena Greene!

by Elena Greene

Having fallen on hard times, Emma Westfield provides for herself and her young brother by teaching at the school in their village. Life has taught her to hide her passionate nature, but her resolution wavers when a handsome aeronaut crashes his balloon nearby and is brought to her cottage.

Estranged from his family, Captain Gilbert Manning has spent most of his life in the British army, campaigning from India to Waterloo. Now that the war is over, he supports himself and veterans of his company by giving balloon exhibitions.

Emma learns that the outwardly devil-may-care rogue recovering on her sofa bears inner scars as grim as those on his body. Gil knows he’s not an eligible suitor, but he longs to teach Emma to embrace life despite all its tragedies. Although they struggle against it, their passion sweeps them along, taking them on a scandalous flight across the English countryside.

They must marry, but can they make a life together?

I fully admit that I'm filled with glee and envy that Elena has written a book with a balloonist hero.  I've had an opening scene for just such a book stuck in my head for years now, but have yet to find the book it belongs to. Elena has generously agreed to give away a copy of FLY WITH A ROGUE today, so please remember to leave your email in the comments so we can contact you!

Fly with a Rogue  is set in 1817. Is there a particular reason you chose that year?

I wanted it to be about two years after Waterloo, time for my hero to recover from his wounds and start his new endeavor, giving balloon ascensions.

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

My mother loved Georgette Heyer’s novels and traditional Regency romances. They were all over the house and, as a child, I devoured them. In third grade, I got in trouble with a nun at school for having Venetia in my bookbag. I don’t think she realized how much vocabulary I learned from Heyer’s books and that’s why I won all the spelling contests! Later, in my teens, I learned to appreciate Jane Austen and I also started reading Regency-set historical romances by favorite authors including Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney. Now that I’m writing in the period, I particularly love reading Regency era letters, diaries and memoirs. What do I love about the Regency? The visual beauty of clothes, architecture, and the landscape. The history: the Napoleonic Wars, the changes going on in society, how these things affected people as individuals.

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

There are things I wouldn’t like to live with: limitations on women’s opportunities for education and public life, for instance. But these constraints in the period can contribute to story conflict, so I don’t plot around them. I strive to write heroines who are strong, or who come into their strength in the course of the story, despite the challenges posed by their position in society. That’s a tension that’s still relevant now.

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

To set up my hero’s backstory, I changed what happened in one part of the Battle of Waterloo, replacing two real captains of the Rifle Brigade with my hero and another character. It’s at the level of detail many people wouldn’t notice, but Sharpe fans might. I included an Author’s Note because of that, also because I like to keep the record straight when real people were involved.

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

None that I know of at this point, but I always worry! It’s the things you think you know that bite you.

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss. 

Not only does Gil know how to pilot a hydrogen balloon, he also juggles. Though not as well as he pilots the balloon, or he and my heroine, Emma, wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

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

I’ve had the idea of a balloonist hero since I started going to the local Balloon Rally and Spiediefest (in upstate New York we have a festival to celebrate grilled meat on a stick). At first I pictured a hero who was very fun,  the right sort of man to shake up a heroine who takes things too seriously. By the time I got to work on the story, years later, Gil had taken on more depth, but there’s still a lot that’s fun about this story.

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

This is the most research-intensive book I’ve written so far, between the military backstory and the ballooning. The stories of the early aeronauts were sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic.  People who’ve read about the first crossing of the English Channel by balloon may know that the two aeronauts, Blanchard and Jeffries, had to strip off most of their clothing to avoid landing in the water. I didn’t know until I’d delved further that they also relieved themselves over the side to lighten the load. Sadder was the story of Madame Blanchard, who gave balloon ascensions after her husband’s death but tragically died after setting off fireworks from her balloon.

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m still thinking about it. One idea is to do stories about the four foundlings in an earlier release,  Lady Dearing’s Masquerade. As adults, they would face interesting challenges, since society held a stigma against foundlings.

Thanks for this opportunity, Hoydens!

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