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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

18 September 2007

Welcome, Christine Wells!


Scandal's Daughter
by Christine Wells
Berkley Sensation—Available Now!

An earl of debaucherySebastian Laidley, the sixth Earl of Carleton, is solely committed to his hedonistic lifestyle, until he makes a promise to his dying godfather. He must find his childhood friend Gemma a husband in three months – or marry her himself.

A lady of dubious virtueThe daughter of a notorious seductress, Gemma Maitland has the body of a siren but a mind for more practical matters. Snubbed by Society, she has just one ambition: to run her grandfather's estate.

A passion that begs to be unleashed...To find Gemma a husband, Sebastian lures her to his estate under the guise of helping with his sister's wedding. During the festivities, there is no shortage of men vying for Gemma's hand, much to Sebastian's dismay. Gemma has always been in his heart, but when she turns her wiles on him, she burns her way into his soul...

Don’t forget to answer Christine’s question at the end of the interview, as one lucky poster will win a copy of Scandal’s Daughter!

Scandal’s Daughter is set in Regency England. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?

My first introduction to Regency England was seeing the play of Pride and Prejudice with my mother when I was about ten years old. I loved the sparkling wit, the way Lizzie was such a strong character and the sheer romance of the period costume and manners. I suppose all of those things still appeal to me as a writer--the subtle subtext beneath the dialogue, that dry English sense of humour and the stiff upper lip that often conceals turbulent emotion.

That’s not to say that other eras don’t display these characteristics, but almost everything about the Regency period appeals to me – the architecture, furniture, clothing, poetry, literature, the dramatic culmination of the Napoleonic Wars and the subsequent civil upheaval, the personalities of the day, the way subtle wit was lauded, almost turned into an art-form, the larger-than-life personalities of the Prince Regent and his set.

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

All kinds of things sparked different aspects of Scandal’s Daughter, but essentially, it’s a very character-driven book. I had an irresponsible rake who cares about nothing and a heroine who cares too much. Gemma was influenced by Scarlett O’Hara and the strong, fatally flawed heroine in Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre. The land is everything to them and they will sacrifice everything to keep it. I understand the deep connection some people have to a place, but what if they are clinging to that link as a way of avoiding getting hurt by people? And what if the careless persona a man has built to protect himself has now become his prison? So in this book I explore appearance and reality, how your view of yourself can be affected by the way others see you, and what it takes sometimes to break out of the mould.

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

Scandal’s Daughter is set in rural Sussex and shifts to Cornwall . It was interesting researching the farming practices and customs of the time, though very little of that went into the book. In Cornwall , they still hold a centuries-old ceremony called The Crying of the Neck at the end of a harvest, and a shortened version of that is in the book. I also researched Japanese porcelain, medieval stained glass, and a host of other details. Jane Digby, the intrepid Regency lady who divorced her aristocratic husband and ended up marrying a Bedouin prince inspired my heroine’s mother. She led a fascinating life.

Any historical mea culpas to fess up? Anything you had to fudge or change?

Gosh, I hope not! You know, it’s very difficult to get everything right. We can only do our best. I try to research as much as I can in the time available to me, but ultimately, the story always comes first.

What/Who do you like to read?

I try to stay away from historicals while I’m writing the first draft of anything, but I can’t stay away from them for long. I read too many wonderful historical authors to name, but Georgette Heyer will always have a special place in my heart. I also enjoy reading biographies of famous historical figures like Beau Brummell, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Hester Stanhope as well as crime fiction and a bit of literary fiction here and there.

How did your writing career take off? Was it a Zero-to-Published kind of thing? Or did you have ten finished books under the bed before you sold?

It took me about five years from the time I started writing seriously until receiving that magical ‘call’. I wrote two traditional Regencies before I researched the market and discovered these wonderful novels the Americans call Regency historicals. It opened up a whole new world to an Australian who’d only read English Regencies by the likes of Austen and Heyer. The next manuscript I wrote was Scandal’s Daughter, and it was also the first I submitted to New York .

Contest finals brought me a few manuscript requests from judging editors. One of these editors contacted me wanting to buy Scandal’s Daughter. I quickly signed with an agent, who sent the manuscript to all the big houses. The following week, I had a contract with Leis Pederson at Berkley , who wasn’t the first editor to make an offer. I was pregnant with my second son at the time and I remember just before I sold I’d decided to put submitting on hold for a year or so. The publishing gods always send the good stuff when you least expect it.

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 a pantser, though I generally have an idea of the storyline and perhaps have in mind a few key scenes along the way. I never do character sketches and things like that because I don’t know my characters until they walk onto the page. I tend to write very few drafts, except for my first effort, which went through about 236 of them, simply because I didn’t want to let those characters go! Still, I learned a lot during that process.

What are you planning to work on next?

My second novel (as yet untitled) is about a duke who accidentally steals a lady's erotic diary. It's set against a background of political upheaval, when the Prime Minister declared a state of emergency and people were being locked up without trial for sedition. My heroine's brother is a country vicar thrown in jail for aiding suspected arsonists. She threatens to expose government secrets by publishing her diary if the authorities don't release him. My hero, the duke, steals what he thinks is that diary, only it turns out to contain the heroine's secret erotic fantasies. I had a lot of fun with it, and I hope that comes out in the writing.

Thank you for having me on History Hoydens today! I’d like to ask your readers what their favourite historical period is and why. One reader will win a signed copy of Scandal’s Daughter.

47 Comments:

Blogger Kristina Cook said...

Just wanted to say that I was one of the contest judges lucky enough to read Scandal's Daughter way back when, and I CANNOT wait to read the book! Congrats!!

10:38 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

Actually, now that I think about, I was also a judge of both Kathrynn's and Victoria's books, too. Monica McCarty was just here as a guest, and I judged one of hers, too. Hmmmm....I get VERY lucky with the contest entries I receive, don't I?!

10:40 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Kristina, snap! I read the first chapter in one of the Australian contests and I still think, hands down, it's the best contest entry I've ever seen. I don't think I've ever given anyone else 100%. But this was perfect - and it sparkled with life. I'm not at all surprised an editor leapt at the chance to publish SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER. I've since read the rest of the book and it's even better than I thought it would be, which is saying something.

Christine, I really enjoyed your interview, especially the character descriptions. And the second book sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to get my hands on it.

I love writing Regencies for the reasons you set out. As you say, aesthetically it had so much going for it. The men didn't have horrible mutton chop whiskers for a start! The houses and the clothes were fantastic - who, shallow? Me??!! I also think what I find fascinating about it is that a lot of modern attitudes were emerging then. Marriage for love, for example. I also love that Regency characters don't have to face a cataclysmic war in their near future. I always worry for characters when I read something set in the Edwardian period!

Congratulations on your debut book. It's fantastic!

10:44 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Welcome, Christine! We "met" on Romance Bandits?! Thanks for blogging about Scandal's Daughter with us. And I soooo love the premis of the next book...he steals what turns out to be a collection of her secret erotic fantasies? Ack!!! A heroine's worst nightmare. ;-) Or not.

Tee-hee...I bet that one is fun to write.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Tracy Grant said...

Congrats on the release of your first book, Christine! That's so exciting! The story sounds wonderful, as does your second book. I loved reading about how you first discovered the Regency when your mom took you to the play version of "Pride and Prejudice". I first discovered the Regency when my mom took me to the 1940s "Pride and Prejudice" movie when I was also very young (no, the movie wasn't in its first release, it was a theater that showed old movies :-). It remains my favorite era to read and write about. I love it for all the reasons you and Anna mentioned--the wit, the elegance, the upheaval of the Napoleonic wars and unrest in Britain,the drawning of the Romatnic age, the fact that it's on the cusp of change between the 18th century and the modern era.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Oh, Tracy, your post gave me such a smile! That was one of my late mother's favorite movies. She had a huge crush on Laurence O (odd who rings people's bells, isn't it?) and she loved Greer Garson and she loved P&P so it was like a triple whammy for her. I can remember her chortling away so happily all though the archery scene. Weird costumes, though, aren't they? Sort of 1830s! And the leads are too old. But it's got great sparkle and verve.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous bonnie said...

I love the regency for all of the reasons you mention and more. I am fascinated with the history of the period and with the mode of dress.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Kristina, what a coincidence! Contest judges have helped me enormously over the years, so I thank you for taking the time to help aspiring writers! And thank you for your congratulations. You're very kind.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Thanks Anna! You are so generous with your praise, you make me blush:)

Honestly, I don't think an appreciation for aesthetics like dress and architecture is shallow! I suppose that's one of the reasons I like being a romance writer rather than, say, a literary writer. You get to celebrate the beauty in the world.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Kathrynn, thanks for having me! And you're so right--this book, despite trying to write it with a newborn and a four year old, was incredibly fun to write.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Tracy, I loved that movie, even though the gowns were all wrong and it was 'Hollywood-ised' to the hilt. It still sparkled!

I so agree with all you mentioned about the Regency. One question I was asked--what didn't I like about the period--and I couldn't name a thing.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Bonnie, thanks for commenting! I love the dress, too, though it does become a little too fussy for me a bit later in the period. I always think I'd look like a 'sack of meal' in Regency dress--the empire line has never suited my short-waisted body--but that doesn't stop me creating an idealised version of myself in sprigged muslin or similar:)

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Tracy Grant said...

Anna and Christine, sparkle and verve are the perfect ways to describe the Olivier/Garson 'Pride and Prejudice", imo. And yes, the costumes are all wrong--1830s-ish. I love many of the later, more accurately historically detailed adaptations, but I'm still very fond of the 1940s version (since I eventually co-wrote Regencies with my mom, you could say that movie had a profound influence on my life). I too love the archery scene--it's a great example of a scene that isn't in the book but captures so much that is in the book, translated to film.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Anna Sugden said...

Popping over from the Romance Bandits to say hi and great post, Christine. I'm loving Scandal's Daughter - I enjoy the 'friends' theme as I married my best friend too!

My favourite time period isn't classed as history by the powers that be in publishing. I love the thirties and forties - WW2 era. It's so rich in ... well, everything. (Course as a Brit, I'm biased). And there are some wonderful romantic films of the time. One day ...

1:10 PM  
Blogger Caren Crane said...

Hi, Christine! Also popping over from Romance Bandits to say hello!

In books and movies, I adore the Regency era. That sparkling wit is so hard to duplicate in other settings.

However, great movies from the 1930s and 40s did the same thing. I love to imagine being one of those sassy movie heroines with the snappy comebacks, dark red lipstick and chunky-heeled shoes!

I only wish there were really great, snappy books set in the 40s. That would be great reading!

1:18 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Tracy, I love the idea of you co-writing Regencies with your mother! Mine tries very hard, but she's not really a fan of romance. I'd love to have that in common with her.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Vrai Anna, thanks for popping over! I'm so glad you're enjoying Scandal's Daughter.

I agree, there's so much 20th century history that's untapped by the romance market. It will happen, I'm sure!

1:26 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Caren, great to see you! Yes, I could see you writing one of those sassy, snappy books! That's such an interesting era, where women really came into their own. I'd love to read romance set in that time. Thanks for swinging by!

1:30 PM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Tracy, isn't it odd how the archery scene captures the spirit of the book much better than the scenes that actually ARE in the book which tend towards over-sentimentalisation in the MGM version? I now WANT there to be an archery scene in the book!

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Tracy Grant said...

Anna, I think the archery scene is a brilliant example of translating a book to flim. The same scenes that work in a book don't always work on film, and the archery scene is wonderfully visual (not that it wouldn't work in a book!).

Writing with my mom was defintiely fun--we shared the same tastes in books (and movies and plays and opera...), and our writing styles developed together. I can't imagine writing with anyone else though.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Aunty Cindy said...

Another Bandita swinging by to say how MUCH I enjoyed Scandal's Daughter! The witty repartee between Gemma and Sebastian was so much fun to read! KUDOS to you, Christine on bringing these charming characters to life. And the new book sounds like it will be a BLAST!

As for my favorite time periods... Who can pick just one? With the right storyline in the hands of a skilled writer, I can be captivated by ANY time period -- even Prehistoric! Jean Auel anyone?

(AC waves to her fellow Banditas and to our honorary guest Bandita Kathrynn)

4:47 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Aunty Cindy! Thanks so much for dropping in. I've never read Clan of the Cave Bear. It's on my list of must-reads that I never got around to.

I'm so glad you enjoyed Scandal's Daughter. Thank you!

5:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Another Bandita chiming in *g*

Wonderful interview, Christine! I have Scandal's Daughter in my TBR pile as a reward for when I finish these revisions - I can't wait to dive into your story *g*

I'm with AC, I can't pick just one time period - I love them all :-) And I agree with our Vrai Anna about the 1930's and 40's. Love those classic films!

5:32 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Beth, thanks so much for dropping in, especially in the middle of revisions! Hope you enjoy Scandal's Daughter!

6:07 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

I'm with Cindy, I can't pick one period, either.

Though as writer, I stick with Imperial Rome these days, and some of its troublesome provinces (Germania Transrhenania that didn't become one in the end, and northern Britannia that needed a big Wall to keep the troublemakers out. :)

6:38 PM  
Blogger jo robertson said...

Great interview, Christine. I can't wait to read your next book; the premise is so intriguing.

My favorite historical period is the turn of the century. I love the clothing of both men and women and the whole Gibson girl look.

6:41 PM  
Blogger jo robertson said...

Oops, forgot to say that I loved SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER. You outdid yourself fellow Bandita!

And waving to Kathrynn D., a gal who knows how to keep a secret. Remembering our dinner in Dallas, jo

6:45 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Gabriel--
I love the ancient world too, but haven't read much set in that era since high school. I'd love to read more ancient romances.

Hi JoMama!
Thanks so much for popping by. I like turn of the century, too and I love the twenties also, but then as Anna C says, you think of all those years of war they have ahead of them and worry!
Thanks also for saying you enjoyed Scandal's Daughter. You're a treasure!

6:58 PM  
Blogger KimW said...

Sebastian..I like that name. Scandal's Daughter sounds like a great story!

I got hooked on reading romance after reading a medieval historical. I read every book I could find in that period. I was fascinated with the strong heroes. After that I went on to Regency and now I enjoy all types of historical romance. I don't think I would have enjoyed living in those times, but I do like to read about them. It takes me away from life for a while and helps me to relax.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Christine -

Sorry for joining the party so late. I already have a well read copy of Scandal's Daughter so I'm out of the contest. Loved Sebastian as a hero. This was a fabulous debut, but based on your description, I can't wait for the next! Great interview -

8:04 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Even later to the party than the rest. Cannot wait to read this book. I have read so many fabulous things about it!! Since someone else already outed themselves age-wise, I have to say the great Lord Olivier in the old Pride and Prejudice film started my love affair with the Regency period. Add three years of living in England when I was at a very impressionable age (ages 9 to 12) and visiting so many of the great homes and gardens. The throw in some heavy Regency romance reading since I was in college and there you have it. I just love the elegance of the period and the gentility. I guess it appeals to this Southern girl!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Kim, I've only read a few medievals but I'd like to explore that era more. The strong heroes are a real draw to me, too and I like the way many women were given resposibility of governing their husbands' lands while the husbands were away fighting. Thanks for commenting!

9:15 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Donna, thanks for dropping by! Donna's debut, The Education of Mrs Brimley, is out in early October. It's set in the late Victorian era, and promises to be an absolute hoot!

9:16 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

You said it so well, doglady! I know I should say it's the meaty history or the gritty underbelly of the Regency world that appeals most to me, and they can be fascinating, but what really attracts me are the things you've talked about--stately homes, the gentility and elegance. Perhaps that's an idealized world, but I'm writing romance, right?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Denise Rossetti said...

Hi Christine! I'm later than everyone else, as usual, but just popping in to say I simply ADORE the evening gowns they wore in the thirties. Such elegant, flowing lines. Aaaah...

As for a favourite period in history - hmm, that's difficult. My major problem is that I'm what My Beloved refers to as A Luxury of Civilization. I need a whole raft of expert help to keep me afloat - the nail technician, the hairdresser, the trainers at the gym, the optometrist who makes the devices so I can actually see where I'm going without a headache from squinting. Not to mention all the medical advances in dentistry and contraception.

I guess I'm simply very grateful to be living now. Hot showers, coffee, electric blankets, email...

10:30 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Denise, that's far too prosaic an outlook! Of course I wouldn't want to *live* in the Regency period, when even dukes had bad teeth and hygiene was questionable at the best of times (although Brummell did introduce the habit of bathing daily). I think we agree, it's the romantic view of these eras we're in love with!

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Stefanie D said...

My favorite time period...
Well, that would be the Regency period, without a doubt. The clothes, the parties, the elegance,...
It's just as you said Christine... I love the romantic view of it! ;-)

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Hi, just popping in to say I love Traditional Regency the best. I got into historicals reading mums Barbara Cartland pieces then found Georgette Heyer, who's my favourite. I like a bit of sex in them - after all the hero has to be lust crazed doesn't he - thats his idea of love - but I don't like the ones which are little more than masturbation aids and just set in Regency England for no real reason at all. Love Almacks Brummell, the Lambs and of course
'Prinny" when they make cameo appearances.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Stefanie!--

Thanks so much for commenting--and for agreeing with me.LOL Obviously, you are a lady of taste and refinement.

Victoria--
I love Heyer, too! And I think any scene must drive the story forward and be necessary, including sex scenes. I don't mind a hot historical, myself, though! It depends how well it's written.

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Robyn Aldridge said...

Christine,
I'm still waiting to get my hands on a copy of Scandal's Daughter. I'd like to know why ikporters experience difficulty in supplying the goods.
Anyway, I'm all for Regency. Forget all about the hygiene of the era. This is fantasy and I love those larger than life characters who think they can get away with anything. But when it comes to the crunch, there's always a feisty heroine, working her way through adversity, until she has him RIGHT WHERE HE BELONGS - with her!

4:29 AM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Hi Robyn! Lovely to see you here. Yes, there is a bit of trouble getting distribution in Australia, but you can buy Scandal's Daughter at the specialty romance bookstores. I hope you manage to find it somewhere.
So agree with you about the Regency. THanks for commenting!

5:12 AM  
Blogger Bonnie Ferguson said...

I can't pick just one favorite historical period. I love Regency England, Medieval Scotland, Victorian England. The reasons I love the English Regency mirror your own, the wit, customs, and romance of the age. :)

7:11 AM  
Blogger robynl said...

Love the cover and the book sounds really good. I love the Regency and Victorian eras. The balls with the gorgeous dresses, men in suits and womens' hair done up in fancy ways.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Christine Wells said...

Bonnie and Robyn, thanks for commenting! Ah, the balls and gowns, yes, I love them, too! What is it in the female psyche that's so drawn to pretty things, much as we are modern women in other ways? It's like pink. I went shopping for a six year old girl's birthday, thinking girls probably don't like pink any more, only to me with an absolute sea of it in the girls' section of the toy shop. Some things never change.

2:11 PM  
Blogger ChristyJan said...

I like all all types and periods of historicals.

Enjoyed your interview.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

My fav is medieval... I mean it makes the book a bit more raw.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Lily said...

I love regency romances... they are usually sweet and not overly sexual.

12:59 PM  

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