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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 February 2007

Welcome, Delle Jacobs!

His Majesty, The Prince of Toads
by Delle Jacobs
Awe Struck E-Books, Available Now (in paperback, too)

Reviewers' Choice Favorite Romance Read for 2006!

Returning from the Peninsular War, Lucas Deverall discovers he's inherited a bankrupt title, and the only hope he has for salvation is the deceiving chit who tricked him into marriage six years before. Time to call upon his most effective weapon, and charm her into his bed and out of her money.

That's not how Sophie sees it. Now the Toad who forced their marriage is offering forgiveness, in exchange for his presence in her bed? Revenge comes more to Sophie's mind.

Lots of Regency romances are filled with fireworks and secrets, but few of them are so much fun . . . Delle Jacobs is the only author to have won three Golden Hearts, and HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS was one of them.
-- Joy Calderwood, Reviewers Choice Reviews

Delle Jacobs creates a believable page-turner. With some well-rounded secondary characters and tight emotions, this reader found this refreshing tale thoroughly captivating.
Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance

HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS is a treat historical readers won't want to miss.
Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today

HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS is set in January, 1815. How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

Originally I planned it to end at Waterloo, so the story needed to begin a few months before the battle. Then, even though I dropped the battle, I found I loved writing a winter story, so I kept it there.

When I wrote my first Regency, I didn't even know it was a Regency. I picked the time period because I didn't want my heroine to be able to strike a match. Of course I knew my research was inadequate, but I also needed to be writing, not just reading, so I wrote. Don't worry, no one but me will ever see that book. But it led me into the fascinating Regency era, and I began to discover other authors who wrote about that period. Then an editor told me Regency settings were hot, so I jumped in with both feet, abandoning my previous Medieval work. Now I have two time periods I love to distraction.

I think I love the Regency for its transitional position in time and space. It's like the world was on the cusp of change, and could go either way. I love the pre-railroad/steam/mass transportation period, so much slower and in some ways simpler. World exploration and trade were still exciting and fraught with danger. The threat of world domination by Napoleonic France had the potential to overrun and extinguish both democratic ideals and the aristocracy. Society was moving and changing in so many ways, away from the society of the group to that of the individual. Something of freedom and experimentation seems to be reflected in the styles of the times, with the powdered wigs of the previous generation left behind and restricting crinolines still in the future. I can actually visualize a lady walking across the fields in this period, but not before or after. I think it's almost as if the Regency period cherishes the parts of modern life I like, while omitting what doesn't appeal to me.

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

The constraints on women are probably what bother me most, yet intrigue me at the same time. What we really want most when we read historicals is to be back in time, yet we really wouldn't want to live the life women lived then. We don't want to read about modest, demure ladies whose major job in life was to make a good marriage and produce heirs. That's really not all that romantic to the modern, sexually liberated woman. Nor would we find men in stays with pale complexions all that attractive. We love our tanned, muscular guys. I'm a modern woman, fully aware of flush toilets, electricity, white bread, birth control, Penicillin and bad carbs, and it's hard to deal with a world that didn't revolve around things I'd never be willing to do without. I really want the fantasy with a historical gloss. And it gripes me because I want to believe I'm actually writing history. I'm not. But if I don't put in enough history to satisfy my own personal fantasy of being back there and in a romantic relationship, I know I won't please the reader, either.

Another difficulty is religion. In almost all previous European times, religion permeated everyday life and beliefs, yet romance generally elides right over its influence. I think I find religion easier to handle in medievals simply because it is so vastly different from religion today. But in Regencies, it sometimes bothers me that there's often not even casual mention of something that was so vital to everyday life. Not even going to church on Sundays, which is something one did. Period. In my last finished manuscript, I did a fervently religious adversary to the hero and heroine, and I'm seeing that he will have to

be toned down. His internal conflict between his jealousy and his sincere religious beliefs just makes him too strong a character, too sympathetic, and detracts from the romance. Sigh. My one attempt to touch on religion accurately. But it has to go.

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

It all started with a joke, way back in 1996. Self-actualized, enlightened princess meets male chauvinist pig frog prince. Remember it? A friend sent it to me, and I re-wrote it as a fairy tale. Here it is:

Once upon a time, a beautiful, intelligent princess lived in a lovely kingdom by the sea. One day as she strolled in her garden alongside her favorite fountain, a frog leaped to the fountain wall beside her, startling her.

"Good morning," said the frog as he strutted along the wall (no mean feat, considering the shape of his legs). "I have come to rescue you."

The princess studied the frog quizzically, for she had never seen a talking, strutting frog before, and certainly could not imagine why she might need rescuing.

"I am not really a frog, you see, but an enchanted prince. One kiss from you and I shall return to my former glorious state, whereupon I shall save you from spinsterhood and carry you off to my castle where you can cook my meals, do my laundry, and bear me dozens of sons who will all be as handsome as I am."

That evening the princess sat down to supper at her table, set with the finest china and Waterford crystal, and smiled as she speared her Frog Legs Forestiére with her golden fork.

Oh, that was Lucas! I just had to write him and see him get what was coming to him. Yet at the same time I knew he had in him what it took to become a man worthy of Sophie's love. I needed to give him his chance to prove it. And he did.

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

Lucas's war days took me into studying the Peninsular War far more deeply than I had before, for I needed to know what he had been through that made him the way he was. I discovered David Hamilton-Williams' Waterloo; A New Perspective, and became fascinated with that battle and how it changed the world. Unfortunately, I cut Waterloo out of my story, but it will come up again someday, I'm sure.

But researching Sophie's hidden past as the half-English, half-German daughter of a diplomat took me into completely new territory. I came across an interesting set of books called Picturesque Europe which is now quite valuable as well as intriguing. Although written and illustrated in 1876, I found fascinating information about 19th Century touring in Switzerland and how the Chamouni Pass had been very little known and used by the outside world until the very late 18th Century. The perfect place for the tragic ambush of Sophie's family. Then my husband brought home a book published by the City of Hamburg, Germany, celebrating its history. In it, I learned how the city nearly starved when the French closed down its port, and how people were smuggled past the French occupiers in 1806, simply walking across the border into Altona. That completed Sophie's backstory and gave me Sophie's terrible secret.

What/Who do you like to read?

For fiction, I read almost entirely historical romance, but some paranormal and occasionally contemporary. I love straight historical fiction, too. I sure wish I could see more medieval and ancient historical romance. I have such a wide variety of favorite historical authors, it's almost impossible to name any. Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Mary Balogh, Lynn Kerstan and Jocelyn Kelley always grab my attention. Diane Perkins and her alter ego, Diane Gaston, thrill me, as does Janet Mullany with her really sexy Regencies. And I'm crazy about Colleen Gleason whose first Regency-set vampire story has just hit the stores. I've already read the next one that isn't out yet, so I know she's going to be hot.

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?

Well, how about both? Most of my stories have begun with a strong outline, but sometimes I just haven't known where a good beginning will take me and I've had to keep writing until I found the end, or more likely, the middle. But while I love that creative flow when I just let things go, I find I'm often misled and influenced too much by my current mood ot events around me. Then I'm off track and have to do it all again.

I do multiple drafts, so this doesn't bother me all that much, but it really is hard to whack out what I think is wonderful writing just because it doesn't belong. And even when I have outlines, my stories often take me in directions I hadn't planned, and lead to endings that totally surprise me. I usually don't truly understand my own story until at least the second draft, so I might as well just write writing straight through. I enjoy using the Book In A Week technique, but in my case it's more like a month. I make notes directly in my manuscript in BOLD CAPS on any changes I'd like to make in the next draft.

What are you planning to work on next?

I'm doing a paranormal medieval right now, combining the dark fantasy of sorcerers and demons and other creatures in a head-on collision with the real historical world. It's a great era for really scary stuff, and the mythology of the period is full of possibilities, to me, much like Lord of the Rings. My current heroine is a halfling faerie, but believe me, she is no ordinary Tinker Bell, and she does a lot more than kiss hobbits on their foreheads. No wings, either, but she sure can kick butt. It's a very sexually tense story, too. The hero is the biggest challenge for me this time, because it takes a really strong heroic hero to be worthy of such a strong heroine.


9 Comments:

Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks for posting, Delle. Love the "Regency revenge" concept for Sophie's story! I like it when romance blossoms out of the heroine's attempt at pay-back. Let the fireworks fly!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I can't wait to read this. I've been dying to find the time for ages now. I bought an eBook of it, but I'm going to order the paperback copy today, as I much prefer physical books. LOL!

Congrats on the Reviewer's Choice thing. We've all known for years that your writing is amazing, and it's nice to see you receiving the acknowledgment you so clearly have deserved for ages!

9:24 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I'm fascinated by your comments on religion, Delle. You're right; there's so much we skim over. Has anyone, in your opinion, done interesting stuff with this in Regency romance? (I can think of Nita Abrams' wonderful Couriers series, but there religion is more a matter of culture and identity than faith.) And are we even allowed to have stated atheists (of which the times boasted many)?

And big congrats on the Review's Choice Award.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Delle, Welcome!!!!

I picked the time period because I didn't want my heroine to be able to strike a match.

Oh, my God, I LOVE THIS! This sounds like the way I fall into stories. Ha! I chose my current time period (1840's) because I didn't want to write Regency and I needed to avoid the Civil War for the books that traveled to America. *snort*

Sounds like a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it. (Or the other hundred on my TBR list. Knowing all these wonderful authors is hell on my book pile!)

6:48 PM  
Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Congrats again, Delle!
I'm kicking myself for not including your book in my most recent amazon order...until someone produces an affordable waterproof ebook reader (for the bathtub) I much prefer real books.
Good point about religion, too. Of course it permeated people's lives and church going was as much a social event as it was a moral duty, and the very beautiful language of the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer would have influenced speech.
My hero Adam was an atheist, but I realized after the fact that he would have been kicked out of Cambridge as Shelley was. Oops.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Judy Wiebe said...

Hi Delle,

I can't wait to read it. A feisty heroine and an arrogant hero...does it get any better than that? I love the fairy tale.

Congratulations on Reviewer's choice, that's pretty fine company you're keeping!

1:34 PM  
Blogger bridget said...

Delle, this was a wonderful book. I'm passing it on to my dad, who loves this period of history, not only because it's simply fab, but because I know he won't be able to find any fault with the setting and should be able to enjoy the story without distractions!

2:25 PM  
Blogger Heather Hiestand said...

Thanks for including the fairy tale. I've read Toad, but not the genesis of it!

3:50 PM  
Blogger Jacquie said...

I have Prince of Toads and can hardly wait to read it! I hope everyone buys a copy. You're a wonderful storyteller, Delle. Thank you.

2:45 AM  

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