Sep 172014
 

perf6.000x9.000.inddWhen Ms. Rendfeld asked if I wanted to do an interview, honestly I had a hard time coming up with questions because of being so blown away by her story. Where the heck do I even start?! The scope of her novel is mind blowing. I was sucked into her narrative within pages. As a mother it spoke to me, wrenching my heart into knots. For a moment there, I thought it would break only to have my greatest wish granted. As a storyteller, Ms. Rendfeld wove a tale of magic, loss, hope and love.

Keep me on your list for any other advances copies, I am so interested!

 

Here we go!

ME:How did you come up with the plot for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar?

KR:When I finished my first novel, The Cross and the Dragon, I was went through an odd sort of grief that could be handled only by writing another book. I was going to feature two nuns I had met in my debut and have the Saxon family as minor characters so that I could explore slavery and the events from the side of the Continental Saxons.

I wrote a few chapters and an outline but was still having trouble with a crafting good plot for the nuns. The Saxons’ backstory of loss and betrayal consumed more and more of my interest. The Saxons were demanding I tell their story, and I finally surrendered.

ME:How did you flesh out the characters?

KR:I had a rough sketch in my mind of the characters and knew that I wanted Leova and her children to have three different reactions to the destruction of the Irminsul. Eighth-century Continental Saxons didn’t have a written language as we know it. To get a grasp of their culture and mindset, I turned to folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and reread the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.

The characters developed further as I wrote the book, my critique partners pointed out what was missing, and I made revisions. I had written a second outline but ended up throwing it away about a third of the way through. The characters hijacked the plot.

ME:What drew you to this period?

KR:I blame it on a legend. During a family vacation in Germany, we heard a tale about the origin of Rolandsbogen, an ivy covered arch on a Rhineland hill. To avoid introducing a spoiler for anyone who has yet to read Cross and Dragon, I will say only that it involves lovers separated by a lie. I could not get that story out of my mind and felt compelled to sit at a computer and write about it, never mind that I knew little about the Middle Ages.

ME:Any modern messages you want readers to walk away with?

KR:What strikes me is how much people have in common. Despite different time periods and cultures, we’ve all loved and grieved, felt great anger and great joy. I hope we can understand that even if someone disagrees with us on religion or politics, they are still human beings and deserve to be treated with respect.

Where do you get all those tiny little details? You have spells, fabrics, daily routines, etc. Wow. Your book will be how I compare all others.

I’m fortunate scholars have done research that I can use in my fiction. What I’m about to talk about is a sampling.

Daily life books such as Pierre Riché’s Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, translated by Jo Ann McNamara, and Daily Life in Medieval Times (three books in one) by Frances and Joseph Gies provide a treasure trove of information.

But I’ve turned to several other places. People on their own faith journey to practice a religion similar to the Saxons and the Norse posted their research online, including centuries-old spells. I borrowed a little language from Beowulf for one that I used in the book.

I’ve flipped through books via Google Books and, when I thought a source might be golden, used interlibrary loan. That’s how I got my hands on The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethonographic Perspective, edited by Dennis Howard Green and Frank Siegmund, and “Capturing the Wandering Womb” by Kate Phillips in the April 2007 The Haverford Journal.

I got my information about tuberculosis from Sheila M. Rothman’s Living in the Shadow of Death, an excellent book about what it was like to live with this chronic disease in 19th century America.

Google is my friend. My search of “hemlock case study” led me to Enid Bloch’s “Hemlock Poisoning and the Death of Socrates: Did Plato Tell the Truth?” in the 2001 Journal of the International Plato Society. The answer to the author’s question appears to be yes. Bloch’s paper recounts a 19th century researcher who experimented with hemlock on himself – twice. Yikes! I’m willing to do a lot of research, but I draw the line at drinking poison.

 

Thank you Ms. Rendfeld and I look forward to your next publication with great delight!

6439778You can find Kim Rendfeld at:

Goodreads

Kim Rendfeld: Outtakes of a Historical Novelist

Amazon

Fireship Press

 Posted by at 3:34 am
May 052014
 

Darren Simon, whose book Guardian’s Nightmare is about to be released, has joined me to answer a few questions regarding his inspiration, his heroine and what makes him tick.

 

 

cover200x300Darren Simon, tell us a bit about your new book, Guardian’s Nightmare:

It’s a middle-grade young adult urban fantasy novel set in San Francisco. It’s meant to be a fun, exciting read—but one parents can feel comfortable allowing their children to read. The story centers around a thirteen-year-old girl, Charlee Smelton, who is going through a rough patch in her life after the family’s move to San Francisco. The move has left her feeling estranged from her father and like an outcast at her new school, where she finds herself bullied. Then one day, she receives a gift of the ugliest bike she has ever seen, one she just can’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard she tries. And every time she touches the bike she suffers a painful electric jolt. Soon after receiving the bike, strange dreams come of a world across a dimensional divide where a princess is in danger from a dark knight. Little does Charlee know her life is about to take a frightening turn, one where she must discover the hero in herself—with the help of that hunk-of-junk-bike—to save her family, her city, the world from an evil only she can defeat. An evil she allows into this world.

 

What made you come up with the premise?
As seems to be a growing trend in my writing, I started with one incident from my own youth where I felt like something of an outcast at the school I attended after my family moved. It is kind of difficult to say whether I built the book around a character or an incident or both. Then, a key piece to the book is the bike, and I can tell you that I loved riding when I was a kid, and I always imagined what it would be like to have a bike with powers. It was just a natural fit into this story.

 

What inspired you to write the book?


I  knew at some point I wanted to write a book. That’s why I focused my education and my career on writing. I also knew I wanted to write fantasy and even science fiction for youngerjodi-harveybrown-book-sculptures readers to inspire them to read the way I was inspired when I was a boy and a teen to read. As a boy, I couldn’t wait to get enough money to go to the bookstore in the mall to purchase a book. I cannot say there was specific inspiration to write this book—just inspiration to write. Before this book, I built up about twenty fantasy and science fiction short stories. I even wrote half of a science fiction novel, which I may return to after other projects are complete, about pen pals across the universe. When I was in school pen pals across states were the big thing as a way to practice our writing. I imagined a story about pen pals light years away who decide to meet. My point is, I just wanted to write, and this particular story, Guardian’s Nightmare, just stuck with me for some reason. When I started it, I had to finish it. By the way, when I first wrote the novel, the lead was a boy named Charlie Smelton, but along the way a recommendation was made that perhaps the character might work better as a girl. I tried the switch for a few chapters and found I really did liked the character as a girl, and so Charlee Smelton was created.

 

Do you have a favorite character(s) in Guardian’s Nightmare?

Well, Charlee of course because even though she is a girl a lot of her qualities and personality are based on me. That said, I really like the character Sandra Flores because she is based on my best friend growing up—a really tough kid who was good at standing up for himself and others. Keep in mind, again, my lead character started out as a boy as did the best friend, and when I transitioned to girls, both characters kept the qualities that I had instilled in them when they were written as boys.  Writing the Sandra character was a lot of fun because it brought back so many memories of my friend. Also, I have to say that writing the villain was enjoyable as well.  Writing evil qualities is fun. The things an evil character can do and say adds to the excitement of a story.

 

2821606-ghostbusters_desktop_2000x2000_hd_wallpaper_452534What was it that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

There were a couple of pivotal moments in my life that led me down this path. First was when I was just a boy and my grandmother gave me a brown paper bag filled with old DC comic books. I don’t remember where she got them from, but those comic books turned me into a reader. I loved them, and I became a big comic book fan. And from comic books, I got into the Choose Your Own Adventure Dungeon and Dragon books, and from there I got into longer fantasy and sci-fi novels. But it was that first brown bag of comics that made me a reader and once I become a reader I also wanted to write. In school, when the teacher would give the class, a creative writing assignment, most kids wrote one page—I wrote several. I just really enjoyed it. The second moment in my life came in the summer of 1984 when the movie, Ghostbusters, was released. When I saw it, I was amazed at how funny it was and how it made people laugh. I wondered who the writers were because I wanted to create words to make people react the way they had. After seeing the movie, I went home and wrote the opening pages of my version of Ghostbusters II. More importantly, that year I started high school, and as an elective instead of taking wood shop or auto mechanics, I took a journalism class, so I could have a chance to write. My future was set because in college I majored in journalism and I became a newspaper journalist.

 

For you, what comes first in the early stages of novel plotting? (the
first line, the ending, formulating a character, envisioning a certain
scene, etc)

 

It’s the germination of the idea. That’s what comes. And it may center around a character, it may center around an incident or it may just be that I want to write a particular story – whether it be an epic fantasy, a paranormal story or even a Western. Once I have that concept, I will sit down with my little iPod Shuffle, the greatest gift I have ever received, blast my music and let my mind wander over the concept until a complete story takes shape. Then, I just start writing. I am not suggesting that you should just sit down and start writing. It certainly makes much more sense to map out a story on paper in outline form and to fully develop characters, but so far that has not been my practice. I just sit down to write and let it flow.
il_570xN.232767916How did you start brainstorming Guardian’s Nightmare? Where did your
inspiration come from?

In much the same way as I first described. I began with an incident from my own past and a character based very much on me and then let the story turn into an urban fantasy with a magical bike and a battle against a villain from another dimension. The rest of the story built itself as I started writing.
 

What do you do when you hit that proverbial wall? How do you handle
getting past it? Is there any advice you can give other struggling with
writer’s block?

When I hit that wall, that’s when I return to my iPod and just sit and listen to music and try to work through the issues I may be facing. For me it is less about hitting that wall and more about whether I reach a point in the story where a scene or an incident just doesn’t make sense or really move the story in the right direction. Then I need to think about how to fix the problem and that’s where music makes a difference in helping me ease through such moments and continue the writing process.

For those writing middle grade fiction, what advice can you give them?
Probably nothing they don’t already know, and I cannot say that I am an expert or that my advice has much merit. But I will say this. It is most critical to know the middle-grade and teen language. The best way to do that, I think, is to actually talk to people in that age group. One step I have taken, and continue to take, is that I ask to meet with library teen reading  clubs. I will sit down with them during one of their club meetings—with the permission of librarians—and talk to them about my writing project. I wlll even share with them some chapters and let them comment, mostly on the language but also on the story itself. I have learned a great deal from such meetings and I am thankful to those young readers who have taught me their language and given great insights into my story development.
Lastly, is there a book 2 in the works for your readers to enjoy?
What can we expect from Charlee Smelton?

Yes, book two is complete and should be out in late 2014, perhaps in time for the holidays. It is a much darker story and much more epic in scale. It takes the story of Charlee Smelton to the world of her bloodline—the world of Janasara. There she must really come to terms with who she really is and she must grow into the role she cannot escape. Let’s just say, tough times are ahead for young Charlee, but hopefully it makes for a great read for those who wish to follow her story.

 

cover200x300To read a sample, click on the book to download a pdf.

 Posted by at 10:27 pm
Apr 252014
 

91tbhIpy8uL._SL1500_Tell us a bit about your new book, A Touch of Honor.

A Touch of Honor is the seventh book in my highly popular Realm series, with the next one, A Touch of Emeralds, the series’ conclusion.

The Realm is a covert governmental group operating under the auspices of the Home Office during the Napoleonic War. Each book in the series features one of the members of the group. The gentlemen operatives of the group have joined the Realm either “to punish” themselves for what they perceive as their inadequacies or “to prove” their worth. The hero of A Touch of Honor, Baron John Swenton, has lived with the shame of his mother’s desertion and her infamous life upon the Continent, as well as his father’s bitter struggle to protect John as the heir to the barony. John has conducted himself with honor in all his dealings, and Swenton means to claim a woman he has admired from a distance in order to set his title aright.

 

Book Blurb:

For two years, BARON JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swenton’s instincts scream he has erred: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most appalling of situations.

SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swenton’s life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.

ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridge’s companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the lady’s husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which his baroness has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.

The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. – Publishers Weekly

 

Sacrifice and honor, betrayal and redemption, all make for an exceptionally satisfying romance. A Touch of Honor is a mesmerizing story of extraordinary love realized against impossible odds. – Collette Cameron, Award-Winning Author

 

reading0001Books in the Series:

The Scandal of Lady Eleanor (also known as A Touch of Scandal)

A Touch of Velvet

A Touch of Cashémere

A Touch of Grace

A Touch of Mercy

A Touch of Love

A Touch of Honor

 

What made you come up with the premise?

Each character has evolved throughout the series, with a bright spotlight focused on his individual development. Each man has a secret – some more convoluted than others, which he must overcome in order to build a new life and to claim happiness. For example, James Kerrington, the group’s leader and heir to the Earl of Linworth, has deserted his infant son when his wife died in childbirth, and the act has haunted him for years. Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, in book 2 means to wipe his father’s debauchery from the history of the dukedom. Gabriel Crowden, the Marquis of Godown, from book 4 had been driven from England rather than to be forced into a contrived marriage, while Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford in book 5 suffers from the news the woman he loves is married to his brother. Etc. Etc. Etc. What is unique about these books as romances is they are generally told from the hero’s, rather than the heroine’s, point of view.

 

1807RegencyRomanceEraFashionDo you have a favorite character in A Touch of Honor?

To be honest, all the Realm characters are favorites; after all, they have lived in my head for nearly three years, but there is one character, who I have disliked from her conception: Satiné Aldridge. Satiné plays a dominant role in book 3, A Touch of Cashémere, for she is the twin of the book’s heroine, Cashémere Aldridge. The three Aldridge sisters were “farmed out” to relatives when their parents died in a suspicious carriage accident. Velvet, the eldest and heroine of book 2, came to reside with her maternal cousin, the Fowlers, while Satiné went to the maternal uncle, Baron Charles Morton. Cashé had the worst situation, remaining with the paternal uncle, a conniving man who uses his religion as a tool to manipulate his niece.

Satiné’s situation places her in a position of learning all the feminine graces of ladies, but as I developed her, I found she lacked substance. My original plan was to match Satiné with Aidan Kimbolt in book 5, but I soon abandoned that plan, sending her to the Continent until I made major changes in the story’s overview. Satiné knew hardships when she was mistakenly kidnapped in place of her twin, but she thought of herself as a victim rather than as a survivor. The problem I encountered was fans of the series kept asking when I would bring her and John Swenton together, for John participated in Satiné’s rescue. A Touch of Honor is how that dilemma is resolved.

 

What about the premise speaks to your aesthetic as a writer?

I love stories with multiple layers. Every memorable hero and heroine possesses flaws and foibles, which mold them into the characters he/she has become. The back-story is often as compelling as the current situation. I love it when I hear from a reader who says, “I never anticipated…” or “I never saw that coming.”

 

Book+and+PenWhat was it that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I am first and foremost a life-long reader, literally with a book propped up before me from the time I was a babe. I taught English for forty years, and I have lived with stories in my head for six decades, but other than educational grant proposals and a brief time in journalism, all my writing was confined to lengthy letters to friends and remarks in red ink in the margins of student papers.

Then in late 2007, I was discussing the weaknesses I observed in a particular book with my AP Language students when one of my students challenged me to “Just Do It” myself. I wrote Darcy’s Passions as a response to that particular challenge. I self published it, even permitting one of my students to draw the cover, and I got on with my life. The book rose quickly on the Amazon sales list, and Ulysses Press offered me a contract. The rest is history.

 

darcy-and-elizabeth-at-ballWhat book, movie, music, etc., started your obsession of the Austen/Regency era?

Like most Austen-inspired authors, I have loved Pride and Prejudice for years. I first read it when I was 12 years of age. As a pre-teen girl who was too tall, too thin, and too intelligent for most boys my age (or even those a bit older), it was a revelation to discover Mr. Darcy fell in love with a woman possessing “a pair of fine eyes,” “more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form,” a “figure…light and pleasing,” an “easy playfulness” in her manners, and the willingness to improve her mind with “extensive reading.” What is not to love in such a man?

 

For you, what comes first in the early stages of novel plotting? (the first line, the ending, formulating a character, envisioning a certain scene, etc.)

I am very much a “pantser,” creating a story by “the seat of my pants.”  I develop a series of scenes critical to the story (recording them for memory purposes, but omitting the details), but I do not decide beforehand how I will proceed from point A to point B. Often times, the characters shout in my ear that a particular plot device is not working, and I generally find myself agreeing with them. The trick is not to include a scene simply to fill space. If in chapter six I have Darcy sentimentally purchasing lace he noted that Elizabeth Bennet favored, then I must settle the issue of the lace in a later chapter. Nothing is worse for a reader than an author not resolving all the plot points.

 

522205_A-Regency-InteriorHow did you start researching A Touch of Honor?

The Realm series begins after Napoleon’s initial capture in 1814 and covers a period of five years. A Touch of Honor is set in 1819, the year before George III dies and the traditional end of the Regency Period, for George IV comes to the throne in January 1820. After the Napoleonic War, change flooded England’s shores. In 1816, the world saw the “Year Without Summer” and the extensive loss of crops. Men left the estates for the industrial centers of the North. 1819 saw the Peterloo Massacre and Lord Sidmouth’s attempts to quash sedition in the land. It was also a time for great ideas. For example, John Loudon Mcadam, who plays a minor role in A Touch of Honor, changed how roads were built in England, making them from better materials and shaping them to drain properly. If one has ever heard of “tarmac,” he knows something of Mcadam. I regularly include historical notes at the end of my novels as points of reference for the reader.

 

What do you do when you hit that proverbial wall? How do you handle getting past it? Is there any advice you can give others struggling with writer’s block?

For me, I simply must let the story sit and find other things (family, marketing, editing, blog posts, etc.) to occupy my time. The scene will replay in my head like an old VCR tape. I rewind it and think my way through the story again and again, but I put no pressure on discovering the key to continuing. Sleep is also very helpful. More than once I have awakened from a dream to chuckle at the obvious solution to my dilemma. The longest I have ever waited was three weeks for the “secret” to make itself known.

 

tumblr_lk5ihniweh1qgnwmio1_5004For those writing historical novels, what advice can you give for their pursuit?

One thing we must remember is the vast majority of the historical fiction we admire (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Great Expectations, etc.) was “contemporary” fiction at the time of its conception.

In reality, any type of story – thriller, romance, steampunk, mystery, paranormal – can be set in a historical setting; yet, the key to historical fiction is for the history to be more than the story’s backdrop: The history must be an integral part of the story. The characters must act and speak in a manner appropriate to the time, and they must be involved in a conflict realistic to the period. The author must be true to the dialogue and create a balanced mixture of real events and fictional ones, while providing neither a history lecture/lesson or taking too much freedom with the story line.

 

Lastly, is there a new hush-hush manuscript in the works for your readers to enjoy soon?

I am writing two different WIPs (work in progress) at the same time. One is another Regency era romance, Angel and the Devil Duke, one for which the early drafts have garnered praise and recognition. I am also working on another Austen-inspired cozy mystery, tentatively entitled The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin. In the future, I have plans for books two and three of the First Wives’ Club trilogy, the conclusion of the Realm series, and several sequels to the Austenesque books I have written.

 

Regina-270x300Author Bio:

Award-winning author Regina Jeffers writes Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Honor and Hope and The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. She also writes Regency romances: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Mercy, A Touch of Love, A Touch of Honor and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy.

 

Website: http://rjeffers.com

Blog: Every Woman Dreams http://reginajeffers.wordpress.com

 

Twitter – @reginajeffers

Facebook – Regina Jeffers

(Books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Joseph Beth, Kobo, Audible, and Ulysses Press.)

 

Awards:

The Phantom of Pemberley – SOLA’s Fifth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Romantic Suspense

Darcy’s Temptation – 2009 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Long Historical

The Scandal of Lady Eleanor – Write Touch Readers’ Award – 2nd Place – Historical Romance

A Touch of Grace – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Historical Romance

The First Wives’ Club – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – Honorable Mention – Historical Romance

Christmas at Pemberley – 2011 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Inspirational Romance; as well as Second Place, General Fiction, New England Book Festival

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – Honorable Mention – Romantic Suspense; as well as 3rd Place, 2nd Annual Frank Yerby Award for Fiction

Angel and the Devil Duke – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – 3rd Place- Historical Romance

 

 Posted by at 7:49 pm
Apr 022014
 

 

OHF cover

I had the privilege of being a rest stop for those on M.M. Bennetts’ blog tour for her new book Of Honest Fame. So, please sit down, enjoy the local color as you learn more about this charming author.

1. Describe what made you realize you wanted to be a writer? Was it a certain moment or a feeling?

Before I launch into these fine questions, may I just thank you, Jen, for having me here today…

 

The truth?  I didn’t want to be a writer.  I expected to be a classical pianist from the time I was a child–Beethoven was my first love.

 

The only times I wrote anything was under duress, when it was assigned in school.  So I never would have considered even reading English at university–do you know how many essays those poor people have to write?  Golly. That sort of thing isn’t for a skiver, slacker and idler like self!  Dear me, no.  So I read history–which is lovely–sat in the back row of the lecture hall, listened, droozed, absorbed like sponge, read the many tomes and went off for tea afterwards.

 

Then, when I was preparing for my orals on Botticelli in Quattrocento Florence, and getting so fed up with Primavera I wanted to throw it in the coal fire, I found myself, er, procrastinating, shall we say?  And jotting down some story bits and a great deal of description about the farm upon which I was living…Though obviously the main appeal was that I wasn’t doing what I was meant to be doing.
2.  How has that realization changed you as a writer?

 

Well, to the extent that I know my own foibles, it’s useful.  And as a professional writer–particularly during my journalism days–I know that I will procrastinate till the cows come home, then I will stay up all night if I must, and I will file on time and to word count.  Always.  And during the time I am working, genuinely working, I will force myself to be as disciplined as I always was as a pianist, and I will work like stink until it’s perfection. However much that takes out of me.

 

3.  What made you chose to write about your subject matter? What was your inspiration?

 

Well, I was a medievalist to begin with.  And I strayed.

 

night coachI was living on this great estate with a great house, and I started to become engaged in the architecture of the house and then I started looking at the creation of Georgian London, and I was enraptured by the squares…and bearing in mind that I was there musically already with Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart…and the poetry of Keats whom I rather liked.
4.  Where/how did you start with researching your premise? Tell us a bit about your novel. Who were your favorite characters and what made them appealing?

 

I was in Paris having an utterly wretched time.  It was chucking it down with rain.  Every blooming bit of clothing I’d brought with me was in a wet or damp heap somewhere and wouldn’t dry.  My shoes were all soaked.  And naturally, I had a stinking cold.

 

So I went walkabout and ended up in the Isle St Louis at this minuscule restaurant (I am a foodie!) that was just this one low-ceiled room with trestle tables and benches in this medieval building, with the kitchen just at the back of the room, and it wasn’t what I expected of Paris–it was as anti-sidewalk cafe cool as one could find.  And after this amazing dinner, I just walked for hours through the streets there–and was sucked into this world of old Paris.  And it lodged itself in my mind forever–the smells, the barred tiny windows, the thick ochre walls, the uneven narrow streets…

 

Then, a few days later, I was in Rye in Sussex and again was walking and found myself immersed in that world–Mermaid Street there isn’t made with cobbles or macadam, it’s made of pebbles and they are wobbly-bobbly to walk on and there were all the stories of the smugglers there, (and it rained) and from those two places, the contrast of the two worlds of England and France circa 1812 began to ferment in my imagination.  So I wrote some of it down…and it grew.

 

The writing began, the research took over.  I knew there were spies–always a thrilling and intriguing premise–but everything kept evolving as the research uncovered more and more of the period and took me deeper and deeper into the murky world of Napoleonic Europe.

 

I don’t really have favourite characters though.  I’m not a planner.  (As we’ve seen.)  A book grows organically–line upon line–out of the collection of individualities who come together in it and if one allows them to be who they are rather than forcing them to fulfill some pre-ordained role, their interactions aren’t going to necessarily be what one envisioned.

 

canterAnd then there are those characters who introduce themselves rather rudely with, “Oi!  I’m here!  Not going away.”  So quite often I write in a state of surprise.

 

But I will say, one thing I really did want to do was create ambivalent characters, because I love that in a novel–the thing where you meet the character and think, “Yuck, skanksome!” But then as the character faces the challenges, as he grows and the reader begins to understand and perceive him not as one thing or another, maybe one thinks less of him or perhaps more, through observing him in action…until by the end, possibly the ‘hero’ isn’t whom one thought he was at all…

 

5.  What spoke to you about this plot line?

 

It just happened.  The research kept rewriting it.  I’d think I had this tidy plot.  I’d write my charming little precis.  I thought I knew everything.  Wrong.  So wrong.  And then I’d discover something so essential or so antithetical to what I’d thought was important.  Or even worse, I’d discover that this actual chap who I thought was here, wasn’t here, he was elsewhere…so that precis would go onto the floor over the shoulder (for dog to mangle) and off I’d go…

 

raeburn-redcoat

 

6.  What made you want to tell this story for others to enjoy?

 

I had to.  So much of it was unacknowledged and unknown history…we think of the Napoleonic wars as this glorious episode of brave soldiers in tight breeches with great sideburns, wearing very sexy uniforms whilst their women live at home near Jane Austen…but the reality of it drove me to write what I discovered.  I couldn’t not.  Though I do hope with the greatest sincerity that it is enjoyable.
7.  For those reading – what advice can you give to other historical writers?

 

It’s the same as I would give to any writer.  Learn the tools of your trade.  We don’t hire a builder to build us a house who doesn’t know how to use the hammer, nails, saw, spirit level or pour the concrete or put on the roof.  So–grammar, punctuation, spelling, character development, description, pace–these are your tools.  Learn them.  Use them. Master them.

 

Build that house so that it stands.  Because what so many writers miss is that if there’s a typo or a spelling or punctuation or grammar mistake in the first sentence or paragraph of the covering letter, the letter and MS go in the agency’s or publisher’s or the news editor’s bin.  It doesn’t matter how amazing that work is on pages 44-193.  Those pages will never be read… And if it means that much to you, then it’s worth doing properly and well.

 

For an historical novelist–keep checking your dates and your facts.  It’s always helpful and then when some troll swats you, you’ll at least know that they’re talking vermin dander and it won’t bother you so much.

hoppnerBoth M.M. Bennetts’ novels are available through www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk.  There’s a blog too at www.mmbennetts.com or you can follow her on Twitter at @mmbennetts

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Thank you for spending time with us, M.M. Bennetts and I wish you luck on your wonderful book!

 Posted by at 9:51 pm