Your first published novel is a Regency Romance novel, why did you choose this genre?
Actually, after a somewhat convoluted path, it chose me. Books are the love of my life. Even when I was tiny, I couldn't wait until I could read all by myself. Fortunately, I had a mother who didn't mind reading to me. I started out very early with fairytales, then myths, legends, reference books, encyclopedias, and history--always, even when very young, in search of great heroines and strong female characters.
About age ten or so, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote some truly wonderful action/adventure style females that could darn well save themselves if Tarzan or John Carter didn't happen to be around to do so. Then came Tolkien and epic fantasy, followed by epic romances via the risque Angelique novels written in France in the 1950's. I loved the romance and the adventurous females in these books, but to be honest I scanned or skipped the sex scenes. Then one day I discovered Georgette Heyer and.... "Ta-Dah!" No more skimming required.
Do you remember the first Regency romance you ever read?
That would be Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy--strong, willful, witty, matter of factly in charge and most of all, for me, both financially and emotionally independent, i.e. everything I loved in a female character.
Which Regency romance authors have most influenced you in your love for the Regency period?
Georgette Heyer, Dame Barbara Cartland, Jane Austen and actually just about every Regency that was written in the seventies and early eighties. I literally devoured every one that I could get my hands on, and especially Claudette Williams and all the authors of Coventry series. I remember they had lovely white covers graced with gorgeous paintings of couples in Regency dress.
Could you tell us a little about how you researched the Regency era for A Very Merry Chase?
I originally wrote A Very Merry Chase 35 years ago, and believe me that was a whole different world from research and writing these days--especially in small town America. I remember filling several legal pads with every historical, social, and cultural detail I could glean from the Regency novels I was reading. Fortunately, there were a two public libraries and a decent sized University library near by that I could visit. Their early 19th century collections were abysmally small, of course. So I had the public librarians borrow several titles for me from libraries in large cities to read locally. I wasn't a student at the University at that point, so there wasn't anything they could do to help me, other than look the other way while I sat there for hours on end reading. One of the big problems I encountered, even at the public libraries, was the fact that most of the books I needed to read were considered reference books and could not be checked out, so I had to read them on site. I suppose looking back on it, that the librarians I actually spoke with were amused, here I was a scrawny little old country girl with just a high school diploma, dreaming of writing books about the early 19th century British Aristocracy; but as best I can recall they were all very kind and none of them laughed at me or told me I couldn't do it.
Are there any Regency era historical figures who particularly intrigue you?
Although this was at a time when women authors such as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maria Edgeworth were starting to emerge, my favorite Regency figure is still probably Emma, Lady Hamilton. Her history is tragically sad, but fascinating, and epitomizes so much of women's history. She was literally a cultural icon and Supermodel of her day yet she died alone and in poverty, mainly because she was a woman and, in the end, powerless in a man's world.
My BA and MA are both in history, and although the university I attended didn't have a women's studies concentration per se, I personally concentrated on women's history in my research for each of my classes. To me, Emma Hamilton personifies the harsh way that the majority of women have been treated throughout history, and while this was particularly true when physical strength ruled the day allowing the males to build a power base for themselves and their heirs that generally excluded women, it really wasn't much better as time marched on and we supposedly became more civilized. Traditionally men have set the rules, and most women were punished harshly if they attempted to step outside their socially acceptable niche--particularly when their looks faded, and they were no longer perceived as desirable by the men who held the power. And that in a nutshell is pretty much what happened to Lady Hamilton.
What inspired you to write A Very Merry Chase?
I wanted to be an author more than anything in the world. At the time I originally wrote AVMC, I was young and bright but also uneducated by the standards of the publishing world. I dreamed of writing and becoming financially independent, and I suppose, becoming the same sort of strong, self-reliant woman that I so admired in the books I read. The choice of Regencies was almost a given since they were the traditionally female genre that I most enjoyed reading at the time, and to this day, when I just want to sit back and relax and read for sheer entertainment, I love nothing better than a simple pleasures of a Regency Romance. However, let me state, for the record, that I would hate living in the real Regency era, even if I were incredibly, independently wealthy and could afford all the luxuries the period had to offer. The Regency Romance era that so many readers love, is as much a fantasy as anything ever written by Tolkien or H.G. Wells. In reality, the Regency, as was much of history, was dirty, smelly and uncomfortable, and it was a particularly harsh existence for women--even those in the upper classes whose sole responsibility was to provide an heir and a spare.
Tell us a little bit about A Very Merry Chase?
AVMC is a mostly light-hearted tale with just the tiniest taste of Napoleonic era intrigue. The heroine is the Right Honorable, Lady Sabrina St. Clair, who is wealthy, beautiful, and most independently minded, and who also happens to be on the verge of becoming--according to her less generous peers--an old-maid, or in the vernacular of the times, an ape-leader or antidote. Sabrina is anachronistic in that she does some things that no well-bred lady of the Regency era would ever dream of doing; but she's not particularly blatant about it. For Sabrina, the rebellion is more passive-aggressive in style, manifested, much the same those most women actually living in the Regency (or any other historical era).
The story opens with Sabrina's traveling coach being stopped by highwaymen as she journeys to London for the season. The hero of the story is Brenton, Lord Branderly, Duke of Brensted, an unusually tall gentleman, who, after spending most of his adult life wandering the world, has returned to England in search of a bride and heirs. They meet under rather unusual circumstances, clash repeatedly and eventually fall in love--she reluctantly, he determinedly--against a comfortably Regency backdrop of witty repartee, beaux, belles,dancing, mishaps, mayhem and misunderstandings.
I actually just released an illustrated version of Jane Austen's The Widow's Tale, otherwise known as Love and Freindship(sic), which I compiled from period sources. However, now that project is out of the way and A Very Merry Chase is finally published, I'm free to revise, finish and publish some of the other books I've written. My next release will be a paranormal romance that I started approximately 25 years ago. It actually began life as a series of short stories about a trio of reoccurring characters moving through time together. Over the years it has been written, rewritten, tweaked and edited more times than I care to count; but somehow I just couldn't make myself write that final chapter until last December--and I still don't have a title for it! And then after that I have a children's fairytale that I have an artist working on illustrating, a short story collection I need to edit and publish, a horror novel I need to finish, and about a dozen Regency Romance novels floating around in my head that I need to write.
Search Amazon.com for A Very Merry Chase
Where can readers obtain a copy of A Very Merry Chase?
Both The Widow's Tale and A Very Merry Chase are available at Amazon and AVMC is also available at Barnes and Noble. You can purchase it, or download the first chapter to read for free at either location. I also have a video book trailer on YouTube and a facebook author page where you can keep up with my various posts on tidbits of Regency history.
A free E-copy of either book will be awarded to one person who comments on this post on March 31, 2011.
The Widow's Tale Cover, Free Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
A Very Merry Chase Regency Romance Cover, Free Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
My Facebook Page
My Regency Romance Era Tidbits Blogs
A Very Merry Chase Video Book Trailer
AVMC Video Trailer