Archive for 'research'

Interview and giveaway!

I’m delighted to be featured on the blog of the wonderful Lenora Bell, with an interview and a giveaway celebrating the release of my latest book!

What was the favorite part of your research for the book?

My hero, Alasdair Penhallow, lives in an ancient castle — renovated to state-of-the-art elegance and comfort circa 1811, but still, it’s a castle. Très romantique! I spent quite a few happy hours on the web studying Scottish castles and estates.

Authors often have all kinds of influences and allusions in their stories. What about in The Laird Takes a Bride?The cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Yes, they’re definitely in there! Here are a few examples.

  • My heroine Fiona’s first (and lost) love was based on the charming, fascinatingly slippery Morris Townsend in Washington Square.
  • A strong-willed secondary character, one of the “contestants” for Alasdair’s favor, was modeled after Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a movie I saw ages ago and which — obviously — made a deep impression on me!
  • The work of Stephen King inspired a scene in which Fiona is frightened by memories of being told bloodcurdling tales about a ghastly creature called the Sack Man.
  • In Chapter 12 you’ll find a tiny tip of the hat to Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, and in Chapter 16, a bit informed by Little Women — specifically, the scene in which Amy and Laurie confess their love, a passage I found thrilling as a kid. (And still do.) Look for Fiona saying, “It fits,” and Alasdair’s reply.

What’s the funniest/strangest thing a reader or a relative has said to you about your books or your writing career?

Romance writers everywhere know the look — a little sheepish, a little roguish — and the question that inevitably follows: “So, uh, did you do your own research for the, uh, racy parts?” I love the response Beverly Jenkins shared during a speech she gave at last year’s Romance Writers of America conference. When people ask this question, she told us, she’ll reply, with exquisite and tantalizing brevity: “Yes.” And we all cracked up laughing.

What’s up next for you? What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, which releases next spring. It features Captain Hugo Penhallow, who appears toward the end of my first book, You May Kiss the Bride. He marries a childhood friend, Katherine Brooke, a brilliant and complicated heiress — and their marriage is quite complicated also!

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Would you like to enter the giveaway for a signed print copy of The Laird Takes a Bride? Stop by Lenora’s blog or her Facebook page and say hi!

For more info about The Laird Takes a Bride, click here.

 

 

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My interview with RT Book Reviews

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by RT Book Reviews, in which I dish about You May Kiss the Bridemy writing inspirations, my favorite things to research, and more. Please enjoy. :)

Congratulations on your debut historical! Have you always been a fan of historical romance and the romance genre in general?
 
Thank you! Oh yes, I’ve loved romance novels for a long time. I can easily trace my path toward becoming a romance novelist back to when I was 14 and I read Georgette Heyer’s Lady of Quality, which my mom had gotten from her book club. I was hooked. I went on to become an English major and read voraciously in all kinds of genres, but historical romance has always held a special place in my heart.
 
Who are some authors who inspired your writing?
 
Along with Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen is also a big influence of mine. There’s so much to admire about her work, and as a writer I’m very inspired by how her heroines fight for personal happiness despite the heavy pressure of pragmatism — in an era during which most women had  few opportunities for independent choice. 
 
In Pride and Prejudice, for example, practically speaking Elizabeth Bennet really should accept Mr. Collins’ proposal for the sake of her family’s security, and as for Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price turning down Henry Crawford — how incredibly daring! So I too try to create strong female characters within the historically accurate context of their time. 
 
We love a rags-to-riches story, and Livia is in terrible need of a bit of luck. As an orphan sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle — who do not want her — Livia doesn’t have any beautiful gowns or a dowry to win over a husband. How does missing her mother, father and grandfather affect her relationships?
 
Livia sees herself as someone who’s fundamentally alone, and in a world that’s not particularly welcoming, either. This viewpoint is reinforced when she’s forcibly thrust into the Penhallow family, who initially don’t want her either … So it may seem that her luck has gone from bad to worse! 
 
It’s that very proximity, though, which permits love to blossom — love that will allow Livia to connect deeply with Gabriel Penhallow, and to finally feel that she’s a part of a family, living in a home where she truly belongs.
 
My favorite thing about Livia is her sense of humor — especially when she tricks Gabriel early in the novel! Is there anyone in your life who helped inspire Livia’s antics?
 
Yes! My friend Liz, a quick-witted actress and writer, can easily slip in and out of any persona, and she’s also blessed with a strong sense of self and a wickedly funny sense of humor. I could totally see her tricking Gabriel like that.
 
Gabriel Penhallow is very wealthy and very handsome, but he’s also nearly as stubborn as Livia! How on earth will these two find common ground?
 
Their common ground is actually their differences. I know this sounds paradoxical, but just as Mr. Darcy is intrigued by Elizabeth Bennet’s feisty personality (and fine eyes!), Gabriel Penhallow comes to realize that Livia’s strength, intelligence, and defiant spirit are precisely what he needs to shake him out of his aloof and arrogant mindset. Livia, for her part, finds in deep, steady Gabriel her rock … someone who loves and accepts her for exactly who she is.
 
Livia has good reason to fear horseback riding, but she’s urged to learn regardless. Do you have horseback riding experience?
 
I did a little bit of riding when I was a kid, but nothing that would ever put me in the category of “equestrienne.” I’ve always liked horses, though, and I certainly enjoy reading about them. In fact, I recently reread National Velvet (which I do every couple of years) and still have the same sense of awe and appreciation. Oh, that piebald! My horse hero!
 
Gabriel’s grandmother is the strict and commanding family matriarch, but she also has very sad moments. Where did you draw inspiration for her from?
 
Here again I thought about Jane Austen, and her indelible character Lady Catherine de Burgh in Pride and Prejudice. She’s a grande dame who seemingly has everything — and yet there’s also something a little empty, a little pitiful, about her. My Henrietta Penhallow is like that too; if you look hard enough, past and through her needle-sharp arrogance, you’ll see there’s a big hole in her heart. 
 
What’s your favorite thing to research when it comes to history?
 
Oh my goodness, everything. Food, fashion, manners, terminology, medicine, current events of the time, scientific breakthroughs, transportation, fads and trends, jokes and puns — I love it all. But if you were to insist that I pick one thing? The clothing. Gowns, petticoats, corsets, shoes, bonnets … Styles that are so exotic to us now, and to my mind incredibly sensual.
 
Do you have any advice for writers out there who may be struggling with their own first book?
 
Well, it’s not original, but it works for me. Keep going. Word by word, one after the other. It’s such a simple strategy and yet so profound. As E.L. Doctorow once famously remarked, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So, yeah: Keep going.

 

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In which my heroine goes to the Upper Rooms

A scene in You May Kiss the Bride that was very fun to write has my heroine, Livia, going to the Upper Assembly Rooms in Bath, where she meets a mysterious — but very affable — stranger. (More about that another time.) I wanted to get a strong sense of what the setting would be like and was glad to find a wealth of information about it. I particularly liked a post on the Jane Austen’s World blog, which included the photograph below. It really sparked my imagination; I loved imagining my characters here.

A photo of the Upper Assembly Rooms in Bath, England. Via the blog Jane Austen's World.

via Jane Austen’s World

You can read the post here.

 

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Pretty Shoes

Another reason to love writing historical romance: I get to research the different types of shoes my characters might wear. Here are a couple of examples that I looked at while working on You May Kiss the Bride.

Regency-era shoes.
Regency-era shoes.
Regency-era shoes.

Images via English Historical Fiction Authors.

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