History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

23 December 2013

Happy Holidays

Yes, I said holidays, as I'm counting Christmas and New Year's. Hope everyone who celebrates has a lovely time (and everyone who doesn't treats themselves anyway!).

See you in 2014 for more history!

18 December 2013

Welcome, Erica Monroe!

A Dangerous Invitation
Available Now!  

One fatal mistake cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved, spiraling him toward drunken self-destruction. Now sober, he’ll have to prove he’s innocent of the murder he was accused of three years ago. But pistol-wielding Kate Morgan hasn’t forgiven his sins.

Torn from her privileged existence by her father’s death, Kate Morgan has carved out a new independent life in the Ratcliffe rookery as a fence for stolen goods. Daniel’s invitation to assist him jeopardizes her structured existence. Yet Kate can’t resist his touch, or the wicked desires he stirs within her.

As their renewed passions grow reckless, their investigation takes them through the darkest and most depraved areas of the City. To catch a killer, they’ll have to put secrets behind them and trust only their hearts.

Today my friend Erica Monroe is visiting with us. Her debut is something you don't see all that often: Gritty Historical Romantic Suspense. Erica is going to give away an eBook copy, so don't forget to include your email in your comment! 

A Dangerous Invitation is set in 1832. Is there a particular reason you chose that year?

In December of 1831, the resurrection men-turned-murderers May, Bishop, and Williamson were arrested. They had killed a young Italian street peddler, and then sold his body to one of the surgical colleges for anatomization. Because of the Italian Boy’s age and nationality, London became fascinated by the case. After all, it was only four years after the Scottish serial killers Burke and Hare were arrested for the same type of crime.

I wanted to place A Dangerous Invitation in the winter of 1832, after both Bishop and Williamson were executed for their crimes. I imagined this made other grave robbers anxious that their crimes would be discovered—and from that I created the villain of ADI, Jasper Finn, a man I decided should be rumored to have ties with the Italian Boy’s killers.

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

I originally set this novel in 1815 after reading Donald Low’s the Regency Underworld. I was morbidly fascinated by the idea of people disinterring corpses to sell them for medical research—something that sounds so strange in our time period, where people donate their bodies to science willingly. I grew up reading a lot of Agatha Christie mysteries, and so the suspense elements of resurrection men hunting with spades in the dark intrigued me.

When I found the cases of Burke/Hare and the Italian Boy, I knew the novel had to be moved back 15 years. Then, the more I dug into the 1830’s, the more I became enamored. So many political changes take place in this period. There’s the Catholic Question, there’s may different Reform Laws, and the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. I love the idea of people finally figuring out that the old way isn’t going to work anymore and they need to accept change. It’s a slow progress, but set against the background of the rookeries I like to see how these modifications filter down.

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

As much as I love the many different changes, it was harder for me to work around because I had to keep double-checking facts. The fashion threw me for a loop, as it’s definitely not what we’ve got in the technical Regency.

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

The cholera outbreaks in Jacob’s Island. Technically, there’s outbreaks in 1830 and then again in the 1840’s. But I really wanted to be able to work with these outbreaks later on in my series when I deal with the brothel that Sally Fletcher (one of the characters I introduce in ADI) works at. There’s probably also not omnibus routes from London out to Sussex, but I’m pretty sure I reference one.

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*

The eARCs I released didn’t have copy edits, so there were a few historical changes that my amazing copy editor Meghan Hogue suggested. The first was the changing of the term “autobus” to omnibus. Secondly, she found out that the Claddagh ring I reference Daniel giving Kate, while it’s a ring shape that was made in Ireland in the 1830’s, wasn’t actually termed a Claddagh ring until much later in the century. Also, she had me revise a description of CPR as it sounded too modern. I changed it in the final version to being closer to rescue breathing and the chest compression is accidental, wrought out of anger at the person’s almost death.

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

Daniel O’Reilly grew up mostly on his uncle’s farm in Dorking, Sussex. This is a completely foreign idea to his heroine, Kate Morgan, whose entire life has been spent in London. He’s kind of caught between that farm upbringing and what he knows of London—skilled at manual labor, but also taught to use his head when he becomes Kate’s father’s shipping assistant. For me, Daniel was a fun character to write because while he’s fiercely protective of Kate, he also doesn’t want to step on her independence. So he’ll often let her take the lead because he knows it’s important to her. I liked the give-take of their relationship.

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

I am primarily a heroine-centric writer. While I loved the idea of resurrection men as villains, what actually spurred this book was a visual of a woman out at night in a back alley in a bad part of town. But instead of being afraid, she thinks she can handle herself because she’s got a pistol and she knows how to use it.

From there, I liked the idea of her being face to face with the very man who left her years ago when she was a society debutante. I wanted to work with two people who are changed so much from their past, but still find this spark that brings them together.

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

Definitely because prior to this book, I had mostly been researching the Napoleonic Era. One book I’m completely in love with is Sarah Wise’s The Italian Boy, not just because of the case, but because she gives such a great idea of what it was like to live then. Then I went and read the first-person accounts provided by Henry Mayhew in his The Victorian Underworld. The number of different types of thieves, beggars, and prostitutes astounds me—there’s definitely a social order to each group. With the thieves, the ark ruffians that kill and then throw the bodies of their victims in the Thames seems terrifying to me.

What/Who do you like to read?

I read across a lot of subgenres of romance, and often 6 books at once. It takes a lot to hold my attention. I used to read a lot of 19th century British literature for college, and so that was where my background was. Now, my favorite modern-day historical romance authors are Meredith Duran, Lisa Kleypas, Cecilia Grant, Delilah Marvelle, and Deb Marlowe. My to-be-read list is astronomical. Right now I’m listening to Resurrection Row by Anne Perry and One for the Money by Janet Evanovich on audiobook, and I’m reading Whiskey Rebellion by Liliana Hart.

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 definitely a plotter, but my plots develop and change too as I go on. I not only write multiple drafts but I’ll fix plot elements as I go because I’m easily confused. I struggle with moving on when I know something’s wrong.

What are you planning to work on next?

Next up for me is the novella that bridges between Books 1 and 2 of The Rookery Rogues. Tentatively titled Secrets in Scarlet, it features Daniel’s sister Poppy and Thaddeus Knight, a Metropolitan Police Sergeant. Poppy has got a secret to protect and she certainly doesn’t need a Peeler poking into her life—yet there’s something about Knight she just can’t shake. 

Buy it now:
CreateSpace [paper]

13 December 2013

Entering a New Era

In my historical nonfiction, I've spanned the centuries from the Middle Ages through current events and the marriage of Wills and Kate. But in my historical fiction, apart from my first novel, THE MEMOIRS OF HELEN OF TROY (written under the pen name Amanda Elyot), my AE and Juliet Grey novels have their roots in the 18th century, either in England or France. And my contemporary women's fiction was all set in present-day New York City.

My latest historical novel, a work-in-progress, is set in another era entirely. I began my research for it well over a year ago, reading numerous biographies and visiting various faraway locales on the Internet, (both in terms of literal distance as welll as time travel into the past). And I find myself just as immersed in this new time period, for me, as I was in Ancient Greece or Georgian London, or Marie Antoinette's Versailles.

It was daunting at first to sail into, for me, uncharted territory. But once I got into my groove, I remembered that research is research and my process is the same. I am, as always, inspired by visuals. When I see a photograph of a place my characters lived, I imagine them in the rooms. I pore over images of my characters, searching for the thoughts behind their expressions. I study their garments.

So, while this new venture (which I won't discuss in detail at present) represents a departure for me, in many ways, after researching and writing 20 books in 11 years (where did the time go??), I'm finding that, as far as my creative process goes -- as we used to say when we were kids,  "it's the same, only different."

Are your books set in more than one era? Do you find the transition from one period to another easy? Is your creative process different for books set in one time period than for those set in another?

09 December 2013

Sense Memory & Evoking the Past

Lately, I’ve been struck by the way smells and sights and sounds bring feelings from the past welling to the surface, even before my mind consciously frames the memory. The whiff of jet fuel as my daughter Mélanie and I walked to the gate on our recent trip to New York brought the anticipation of childhood travel. The sight of autumn leaves clustering on trees and lying in drifts on the ground while bare branches make a tracery against the rose gold sky (in Ashland, Oregon, in New York, at home) evokes thoughts of pumpkin lattes, crisp days at football games, evenings by the fire, and a whiff of anticipation of the holidays, along with the more grown up reminder that there’s a lot to get done before the end of December. The taste instant hot chocolate takes me back to skating rinks and ferry rides. The smell of fresh cut evergreens can't but evoke the holidays for me. Lately, whenever I walked downstairs in the morning, the cool air combined with the heat rising from the ground floor instantly conjures up the wonder of Christmas morning. When I blogged about this topic on my own website, readers brought up wonderfully evocative sense memories such as crisp apples, music, cold air and candlelight, train whistles, and fog horns.

I try to weave in all of the five senses when I write. Sometimes I even make lists of what sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells I can use in a particular scene (I did this a lot years ago when I was consciously making an effort to do more with the five senses to evoke my settings). But I don’t know that I think enough about how the five senses can evoke memories from my characters’ pasts. Without consciously trying to, I did use a scene in the theatre in my forthcoming The Berkeley Square Affair to bring up Suzanne’s childhood memories:

Even an almost empty theatre had its own smell. Sawdust, the oil of rehearsal lamps, drying paint, the sweat of active bodies that could never quite be banished. After all these years, it still sent an indefinable thrill of magic through Suzanne. Jessica seemed to sense it from her mother, for she gave a crow of delight in Suzanne’s arms and waved her hands.

I’m going to try to do more of this, evoking memories specific to different characters’ pasts. The autumn leaf image could translate to many historical settings. So could the cold air and warmth of a banked fire. What would evoke the excitement of travel? The jangle of bridles? The smell of carriage leather or horses? The thud of portmanteaux being loaded? The smell of tallow candles or rush lights could take a character back to an impoverished childhood. The rustle of silk skirts could bring memories of a mother coming in to say goodnight. A particular perfume or shaving soap could evoke a lost lover. My WIP has a character who has been long exiled both from England and from a childhood in India. A sip of tea could conjure both for her.

What specific sense memories evoke the past for you? What conjures up thoughts of autumn and the holidays? Writers, do you try to use the five sense to evoke your character’s pasts?

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