Thank you so much for inviting me!
What do you do when a new idea jumps out at you while you’re still working on a book? Do you chase the squirrel (aka “UP syndrome”) or do you finish your current project first?
I’ve always been a restless individual looking for new adventures (contrary to being a stolid Taurean) so I love following new ideas. These days I use deadlines that are locked in stone (such as an Amazon pre-order deadline) to ensure I have a book finished in a timely fashion. I try to pace myself but it’s not always easy. With my latest book, Devil’s Run (due to release next month) I have 3 weeks to finish and have edited 25,000 words. Until a few weeks ago I wasn’t even sure of the main source of conflict or how it would end but after brainstorming it with my critique partners I’ve got it nailed and can’t wait to write to the end so I can pick up my next story – another vignette in my Fair Cyprians of London series.
Who is your favorite character to write, and why is that person your favorite? If picking a favorite character would be like picking a favorite child, which character seems to be the most demanding or your attention and detail as a writer?
I adore writing villains. In fact, without consciously setting out to create a villain, it comes as a great surprise to me to analyse the fact that every book of mine has a real, fully-fleshed-out villain. Either they are a surprising villain, or one who could go either way – be redeemed by a good woman or who is simply irredeemable. My villain in The Duchess and the Highwayman was my entrée into the book itself. He appeared in a linked book, Cressida’s Dilemma, and I’d tried hard to make his connection to this book completely obscure or surprising.
Describe your writing process. Do you outline, plot and plan, or is your writing more organic?
I start with a ‘what-if?’ or set up. If I plotted the book too much beforehand it would spoil the joy of the writing for me. So, for example, in The Duchess and the Highwayman, I thought: “What if my heroine is completely at the mercy of the men in her life and has never had a moment’s autonomy, ever. She’s been coerced into marriage, coerced by her husband into having an affair with another man to produce an heir for him; separated from all society. At what point might she crack, rebel and run away? And how will she survive? What compromises will she make when the only compensation for being powerless and coerced is her status as a duchess? And when that status is stripped from her and she’s nothing but a lady’s maid, then what?
Have you been able to incorporate your previous experience in your writing?
My next book in a different genre – Diamond Mountain by Beverley Eikli – will incorporate the flying experiences of my husband who was a bush pilot, from Norway, whom I met in Botswana. He did lots of flying in remote parts of Africa – in the safari business and, later, with me in survey when I worked the computer equipment in the back of the survey plane. Those experiences will be incorporated in Diamond Mountain, together with themes of medicine murder and illegal diamond buying which are based on the experiences of my father who prosecuted these crimes when we lived in the mountains of the remote African kingdom of Lesotho.
What has been the toughest criticism you have received as an author? What has been the best compliment?
A writer has to develop a thick skin and yes, it can sometimes make you feel utterly horrible to get bad reviews. But, as my husband says, “If you’re going to launch your book out there, you have to take the bad with the good.” Some of my writer friends who haven’t developed a thick skin will only concentrate on the negative reviews but if I did that I’d never have written 18 books and for me, I just love the whole writing thing. I can’t not write.
As for the worst reviews, I have one-star reviews along the lines of: “I don’t normally read Regencies and I couldn’t get further than two pages. At least it was free.”
Some of my other favourite one-star reviews are: “Bunkum…my budgie can write better than this!’ and “Where’s the zero star choice? If I could give this story negative stars I would!”
However, my two series (Daughters of Sin and Scandalous Miss Brightwells) have a 4-star average so the people who like my books outweigh those who don’t. And, of course, you’ll never please people who don’t get the reading experience they thought they’d signed up for. For example, I try to make it clear in the blurb that my books are not sweet romances and that very often there’s a twisty plot with some nasty characters trying to blight the happiness of the good characters and that there’ll always be a Happy for Now or a Happy Ever After. The bad reviews are usually from readers who think there’s too much sex or too many unlikable people.
A recent Goodreads review I really liked went into great detail, including these sentences about Her Gilded Prison: “I was disbelieving of the blurb describing this story cycle as a Regency-era Dynasty, but now I can see why…. Add to the mix a massive bankroll, an estate without a proper heir, hints of Napoleonic traitors, & compromising scandals attached to the family — plus Sybil’s guilt over her Cougar Feelz for a guy her spoiled, bitchy daughter Araminta is also hot for — & you do indeed have soap of the highest order.” So, yes, I have my daughters of Sin series which is ‘Regency soap’ but I also have more intense stories, such as The Duchess and the Highwayman which one reader described as a social commentary on nineteenth century women’s powerlessness.
People have such different reading tastes so it’s good there are so many authors to cater to the mix.
A duchess disguised as a lady’s maid; a gentleman parading as a highwayman.
She’s on the run from a murderer, he’s in pursuit of one…
In a remote Norfolk manor, Phoebe, Lady Cavanaugh is wrongfully accused by her servants of her brutal husband’s murder.
There’s little sympathy in the district for the duchess who’s taken a lover and made clear she despised her husband. The local magistrate has also vowed revenge since Lady Cavanaugh rebuffed his advances.
When Phoebe is discovered in the forest wearing only a chemise stained with the blood of her murdered husband, she persuades the noble ‘highwayman’ who rescues her that she is Lady Cavanaugh’s maidservant.
Hugh Redding has his own reasons for hunting down the man who would have Phoebe tried and hanged for murder. He plans to turn ‘the maidservant with aspirations above her station’ into the ‘lady’ who might testify against the very villain who would see Phoebe dead.
But despite the fierce attraction between Phoebe and the ‘highwayman’, Phoebe is not in a position to admit she’s the ‘murderous duchess’ hunted across the land.
Seizing an opportunity to strike at the social and financial standing of the man who has profited by her distress, Phoebe is drawn into a dangerous intrigue.
But when disaster strikes, she fears Hugh will lack the sympathy or understanding of her unusual predicament to even want to save her a second time.
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“The doctor doubts Ulrick will make Michelmas.” The lazy drawl of her husband’s cousin punctuated the silence as Phoebe resumed her position in an armchair by the fire.
Wentworth raised his cut glass tumbler to the light as he sighed in appreciation of Ulrick’s best brandy. He took a sip and smacked his lips, meeting Phoebe’s eye across her sleeping husband whom she’d made more comfortable in his large leather armchair with the tasselled cushion Phoebe had embroidered to support his neck.
The odious creature could not help but interpret Phoebe’s critical expression correctly, but there was no defensiveness in his tone as he chuckled. “The old bastard can’t enjoy his riches when he’s gone.” His teeth were white; sharp and wolfish beneath his black moustache and Phoebe looked away, pretending concentration on her handiwork while her stomach clenched with revulsion and fear. She would not dignify Wentworth’s grasping remarks with a response.
For a few minutes Ulrick’s wheezing, rattling cough and the hiss of the fire broke the silence. The harsh caw of a raven in the darkness made Phoebe jump but she kept her fingers busy with her embroidery and her head averted from Wentworth’s hard stare.
Tonight? Would Wentworth insist on claiming her tonight, with Ulrick so very ill and likely to need her?
Wentworth drained his glass, placing the empty vessel clumsily upon the low table beside him. Empty vessel. It’s what she’d always been made to feel as Ulrick’s wife. “Ulrick was always mean with his liquor. A good supply for his heir, then, eh, Phoebe?” Ulrick’s Heir. Wentworth imbued the word with the disgust he’d always felt for the fact that Wentworth was not Ulrick’s heir. It was hardly better than the reproach that had always hardened Ulrick’s tone in the days he could speak and implied that Phoebe had failed in providing him with a son to continue the family line.
Phoebe glanced up and saw Wentworth’s thin lips were pursed, observing fleetingly that he looked like a malevolent raven, his dark eyes glittering in the face she’d once thought so handsome. She tried not to show her fear.
“How long do you suppose it’ll take my brother to drink the lot once he inherits?” There it was. The bitterness he didn’t bother to hide.
“Hush, Wentworth. You’ll wake Ulrick.” Phoebe cast the sleeping invalid a nervous look.
“The doctor opines that our poorly Lord Cavanaugh will not last three months.” Wentworth didn’t trouble to lower his voice. “My guess is he’ll be gone long before Michealmas.”
Phoebe could bear it no longer. She dropped her handiwork into her lap and sent her husband’s regular and increasingly unwelcome guest an imploring look. “Please, Wentworth. He’s not dead yet. Have the good grace to keep such thoughts to yourself. What if he hears you?”
Wentworth gave a short laugh. “What do I have to lose by my graveyard talk? It’s not as if Ulrick’s in any position to deny me what my imbecile brothers already have simply by virtue of them being alive.”
How many times had she heard the same complaints? Phoebe forced aside her weary frustration and rose. “I’m going to bed.”