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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

24 October 2006

Welcome, Laurie Alice Eakes!

Family Guardian
by Laurie Alice Eakes
Avalon - August 2006

Surrounded by the most beautiful scents and potions in the world, The Honorable Miss Clarissant Behn toils away, unconcerned with romance. She doesn’t spend her days planning a wardrobe for the Season or wonder who she will marry. Against all conventions and Society’s rules, Miss Behn spends her days engaged in trade.

If anyone learns that her perfume business is the source of her family’s prosperity, the scandal will ruin both her business and her chances of marriage. Years ago she loved her sister’s forbidden betrothed, Tristan Apking. But he disappeared five years ago and is presumed dead.

But when Tristan returns to England, alive and mysteriously prosperous, keeping secrets could cost Clarissant his love and possibly their lives. Overcoming his deep sense of loss at her sister’s heart seems to be an impossible feat. Juggling everything for everyone else, Clarissant tries to keep the balance while finding love and happiness for herself.

Lovely Original Traditional Regency: Every so often if one is lucky, they will come upon a rare jewel when they least expect it. Finding FAMILY GUARDIAN by Ms. Eakes was one of those lucky finds.
—M. Rondeau (Amazon Top 500 Reviewer)

FAMILY GUARDIAN, has a Regency setting. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

The date is 1817 to be specific. Because of the background of the hero, it needed to be post the Napoleonic wars. As to when I got interested in the time period, I think it was when I was fourteen and read my first Georgette Heyer. Then, in the 80s, when the Regency was so very popular, I read every one I could get ahold of. Later, I started reading nonfiction about the time period. Actually, I love the whole Georgian era. It's such a time of transition, of moving to an age when class started breaking down, people started having rights and freedoms. An awakening.

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

Mostly the formality of the language and address. Titles don't bother me, but the constant Miss This and Mr. That is difficult to keep writing and hard on the reader, so I fudged a bit. The language is a little less formal—contractions—and the forms of address a little more familiar than would have been completely proper at the time.

Have you ever gone to any reenactment events to conduct research?

Not for the Regency. I did sail on an eighteenth century frigate to get the feel of the sea for another novel which, being an American Revolutionary War tale, will likely never see the light of day.

What/Who do you like to read?

Jo Beverley hands down is my favorite author. Patricia Veryan, though, sadly, she is no longer writing, and an English historical novelist Gillian Bradshaw. Lots of others creep in and grab my interest, and these two authors have managed to sustain quality throughout their careers. Other than Regency and Georgian, I read lots of other historicals, though westerns don't do much for me. I also love women's fiction and romantic suspense. I also read considerable amounts of nonfiction from modern politics to historical treatises written centuries ago.

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 am more of a plotter in that I have a structure, a framework that I follow—i.e., my main plot points, lots of info on the goals and motivations internal and external, romantic and spiritual, of the characters, and definitely the dark moment and the conclusion. Within that, I make a list of everything that needs to happen. Literally a list. Then I start working out scenes, outlining those in detail before I write each one. I try to outline a few in advance, following the goal, conflict, disaster or reaction, dilemma, decision routes. This has cut down considerably on my rewrites. I used to do four. I still may do four of the first chapter, but not the whole ms. I prefer to write all the way through then edit.

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

I haven't a clue. I read some stuff about perfume and wanted to write about it, but didn't want research to take over the story, and I wanted characters who weren't the usual lords and ladies of the time. I sought for little twists to give the characters some interesting backgrounds... And it just started coming together. This is also a kind of boy-next-door, best friend turned love interest story, and I have always loved those next to bad boy stories.

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 did a lot more research than the story ends up showing, mostly about scents. I learned lots of fascinating facts about fragrance like their herbal and floral compositions, how perfume wasn't made with chemicals but essential oils, until Channel came along, how fragrance affects our senses... It all got me really interested in Aroma therapy.

Any historical mea culpas to fess up to?

Nothing that stands out, and I am sure that at least one reader will point them out to me. I did run into a copyedit problem where the copyeditor changed Spenser to Jacket. I asked her to change it back to be historically accurate, and I confess that I haven't had the courage to see if they did this. I'd probably be depressed if it still says jacket.

What are you planning to work on next?

I am working on a Regency-set historical for Steeple Hill, the inspirational line for Harlequin. I have a few other projects to get out there, too, and this is my main focus—this series for Steeple Hill.

14 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Hey Laurie, so good to have you here with us! One of the first posts here was about perfumes, soaps, and scents.

I'm really intrigued by your Inspie Regency. I had a discussion about this being a possible direction for some of the writers who were invested in writing Traditional Regencies while we were in Atlanta.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Cathy Writes Romance said...

Laurie,

This sounds so intriguing! I am already pulled in by your heroine and all her responsiblities and dreams.

Kalen, I haven't visited this blog before, but wish I had sooner. It's beautiful and infinitely readable...adding it to my favorites.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Hello Cathy. Welcome. We're still pretty new, but I think it's going well. The whole idea was to offer a little something more than just puffing off our own books (though of course we’re doing that, too LOL!).

I love that Laurie's book is about someone who WORKS. These kind of stories are a hard sell right now, but I've always liked stories about real people, with real concerns, and real problems.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I love the cover, Laurie. Did you have any influence over it?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Laurie Alice Eakes said...

No, I had nothing to do with the cover. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, actually, and I was really pleased.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Laurie Alice Eakes said...

RE: Inspirational Regency: It's a tough cell in the CBA unless you have a name. Most CBA--Christian publishers--want American-set historicals, if historicals at all these days. One editor loved a Regency of mine, but the upper guys said they couldn't sell a REgency--and this was even a mystery in 1805. Love Inspired Historical, an imprint of Steeple Hill of Harlequin/Silhouette, should open this door.

An inspirational romance is more than cleaned up, though. One needs to fully understand--and have--a Christian world view. I suppose one could fake it, and readers would find out eventually. It was a difficult decision to make for me, as it likelycloses other doors, and I felt this was the direction I wanted--and should--go for now anyway. We'll see what happens with this one I'm writing.

There is a kind of Regency coming out next summer from Revell by a talented author named Jane Orcutt. I'm about halfway through the manuscript, and it is delightful. I think she pitches it as Crouching Tiger Meets Jane Austen. Intelligent, sheltered, and naive heroine wants to be a missionary in China so badly she stows away on a China-bound ship and... Well, it's funny and poignant and, no, is not preachy. I don't think a novel should be preachy. It's real people dealing with real issues just like in any othe rnovel; they simply deal with them on a faith-based perspective.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I think as long as your books aren't preachy that your readership really shouldn't be limited. And I love the idea that this subgenre might expand it’s scope a bit. Think about Jane Eyre, what if she’s fallen in love with St. John and gone off to Africa with him? That could be a great romance!

Look at Shelly Bates (RITA winner for her Inspies) or Deeanne Gist. Both of these women write books that are published as "inspirational romance" but their books aren’t so deeply religious that I—as a non-Christian—was turned off by them (and I have read some contest Inspies that went places I just couldn’t follow).

1:21 PM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Laurie, your blurb states that your heroine is "the Honorable", meaning the daughter of a viscount or baron. Can you go into what led you to take her into trade and how you made that choice work for the world she lived in?

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Susan Wilbanks said...

That's interesting, Laurie, that inspirational Regencies are a tough sell. I'd always envied inspirational historical writers because, based on what I see in the library and on my mom's bookshelf, it seems like y'all have such a wide range of eras and settings. I mean, I'd love to try my hand at early colonial era or American Revolution or Civil War, but those are rare indeed in secular romance, and I'm the wrong flavor of Christian to write an inspy. I guess the grass is always greener.

I'd wondered in the past if the reason you don't see many inspy Regencies is the CBA rules against positive portrayals of drinking and dancing, what with those activities being such staples of the Regency world! Are those rules not as strict as I'd believed? If they are, how are you working around them for your Steeple Hills?

I'm really looking forward to reading Family Guardian, BTW!

3:47 PM  
Blogger Michele Ann Young said...

Great Interview, and fascinating background to the plot, so I will definitely look out for it. Love Jo Beverly too.
Good luck. I am sure your book will be a success.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Laurie Alice Eakes said...

Kalen asked how I managed to have the daughter of a viscount be in trade. It is actually an intigral part of the conflict for the heroine. She does it as the only way to keep her family from losing everything, and has to keep it an absolute secret, for she and probably her entire family, will be ruined if she does not. The hero doesn't even know. In fact, only her old governess, who is a sort of companion now, and her elder sister and brother-in-law know about it. And her manager. She doesn't actually manage things except from a distance.

I know that it will still likely annoy some Regency readers, and I have come to the conclusion throughout the many years I have been on and off the Regency Yahoogroup that readers will complain about any book at some point. Someone the other week said they disliked Beverley's My Lady Notorious. I didn't think anyone could dislike that book, yet someone did. So, if criticism bothers me, I just hold the book in my hands and smile that I got that far because a lot of people liked it, too. :-)

5:52 AM  
Blogger Laurie Alice Eakes said...

Inspirationals--preachiness and setting

I believe that inspirational fiction, like the lives of persons of faith, should give its message through the characters actions, through the values they hold and the choices they make, not by presenting sermons and Bible studies, which I have read in some inspirationals. That, to me, is not appropriate in a novel in most situations. Some authors have actually pulled it off, but usually I am turned off, so I can imagine how others feel.

I started going back to church because of the people's lives reflecting their faith, not because they preached to me, and I hope to reflect this in the things I write. I am new to this genre and haven't quite got my writing in it where I want it yet, so I am as yet a bit untested. Editors are simply interested at this point.

As to settings for inspirationals... Yes, the dancing and drinking are problems to a point. Some publishers have let persons have their characters doing both. Dancing in historicals isn't really taboo. I have even read them dancing in Heartsongs, which are the most conservative books in the genre. Drinking is a little more touchy. I tend to have my characters just taking tea and coffee a lot when they would probably be drinking madeira at the least.

As to setting: American Revolution, colonial, and Civil War are actually pretty out in the CBA, too. A talented writer, Louise Gouge, has some post Civil War books coming out. The first is out Then Came Faith. Right after the war in New Orleans. It's very well done.

I am hoping that Deeanne Gist's success with Bride will open up the colonial era. Mary Lou Tyndall has a pirate novel out. I believe it is seventeenth or early eighteenth century. I am ordering it, and everyone says it is excellent. Redemption.

6:04 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Love the secret business endeavor angle. It's kind of like when the hero has a printing business or something (I know I've read that). Very cool. You rarely see this with the heroine (or I rarely see it done), and having her be “the nose” as they say in the perfume biz is really intriguing.

And yes, there will always be people who don't like a book. Blows me away that not everyone loves the books that I think are KEEPERS (and that some books that are huge hits are unreadable IMO). But I think it’s a good thing that pretty much all writers will have their loyal readers.

Please keep us posted on what’s going on with the Inspies. We’d love to have you back when those come out!

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Susan Wilbanks said...

As to setting: American Revolution, colonial, and Civil War are actually pretty out in the CBA, too.

Huh. I guess I wasn't paying as close attention as I thought--and, come to think of it, library collections and what my mom reads aren't necessarily the most reliable indicators of trends!

I'll never get why some eras, including the three listed, aren't a lot more popular than they are. I mean, I think they're fascinating, and surely my tastes aren't that weird!

8:48 AM  

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