Today I'm interviewing my Regency writer friend, Alissa Baxter. She lives in South Africa so we first met online, but she inspired me to travel to South Africa twice to visit with her and her family, and once to speak to ROSA, the wonderful South African Romance Writers group. Yes, romance really is everywhere!
Alissa is having a very busy year, and will have four new Regencies published in 2023– and ALL FOUR of the heroines are scientists!
Her first book of the year was The Baronet's Lady Biologist, the third in her Linfield Ladies Trilogy. And that is the author on the cover! Alissa, can you tell us how you came to be your own cover model?
Alissa: I’m so delighted to be here, Mary Jo. Thank you to you and the other Wenches for graciously hosting me today!
Back to your question. . . My agent suggested I dress up as a Regency lady for publicity purposes. I wondered if one of the photos from the photo shoot might work for the book cover and my publisher liked the idea. So one day, I went to a fabric shop with a friend of mine and found a pattern and some material. Then I found a tailor, who made the dress and helped me with the hat. Then I found a shoemaker who made me some Regency half-boots.
I found the "reticule" in a shop, the gloves were from a friend and my husband made me the butterfly net using an old net his parents used to use (they're entomologists). I thought it was a bit cheeky to pretend to be an 18-year-old girl so I chose a photo where my hair is covering my face. So there we have it!
MJP: You're now embarking on a new venture with Dragonblade Publishing. Dragonblade is a relatively new historical romance publisher founded by medieval romance author Kathryn Le Veque. The aim is to produce a variety of historical romances at affordable prices and the ebooks are only available on Kindle.
Different DB imprints have different levels of heat, You're writing for the traditional Sweet Dreams line, where the bedroom door is closed but the romance is very real. Your first Dragonblade book, The Duke and the Lady Gardener, was published yesterday at a bargain introductory price of 99 cents. Can you tell us about the story?
Alissa: The tagline is Love blossoms for a Lady Gardener when she robs a Duke. . . then steals his heart!
Alexandra Grantham is a Lady Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to provide for the local farm workers in the district as well as growing fruit and vegetables for them in the hothouses at Grantham Place. When Mr. Robert Chanderly, her new neighbor, arrives in the district, Alexandra holds him up at gunpoint in his coach, narrowly escaping after he disarms her.
She is relieved that he doesn't recognize her when they next meet. Then her grandmother, Lady Longmore, arrives at Grantham Place to take Alexandra off to London, and her ladyship recognizes that Robert Chanderly is actually the Duke of Stanford–a leader of society with the power to ruin Alexandra's reputation. But instead of blighting her social chances when they arrive in London, the duke decides to bring her into high fashion, and she takes the ton by storm.
Enemies abound in the Capital, however, causing trouble for Alexandra at every turn. So when an old adversary of Stanford’s threatens to reveal Alexandra’s dangerous secret to the ton, the duke must do everything within his power to defend the honor of the woman he loves—or lose the only lady he’s ever wished to make his duchess.
MJP: Tell us more about the rest of your Dragonblade trilogy.
Alissa: The Duke and the Lady Gardener is the first book in The Grantham Girls series about three scientifically inclined sisters. The next book in the series is The Baron and the Lady Chemist, which releases in August 2023, and the third book is The Lord and the Lady Astronomer, which will be released in November 2023.
MJP: By my count, you will be publishing six books in a row about lady scientists! What draws you to these subjects?
Alissa: Actually, I’ve written five books about lady scientists. There’s one lone desperate lady novelist amongst all the lady scientists spread out over The Linfield Ladies and The Grantham Girls series! (The Viscount’s Lady Novelist is all about Harriet who hates anything to do with science. However, she falls in love with a scientist so science pervades that book as well!)
I’m actually quite surprised that I wrote a series about lady scientists in the Regency period. I’m no scientist myself, and I’ve been on a steep learning curve these past few years as I immersed myself in the world of geology, entomology, biology, horticulture, chemistry and (at the moment!) astronomy.
What started this series of books about Regency scientists was an article I read about Mary Anning, the fossil collector. When I realized she had lived through the Regency period, I was inspired to write a book featuring a lady geologist, living in Lyme Regis (The Earl’s Lady Geologist). And that book set the ball rolling for the rest of my themed novels. It’s been fascinating learning about so many scientific fields. I found original books/journal articles from the period on Google, which guided me in my understanding about what was actually being discovered at that time in each specific field.
One last thing. . . My husband is a scientist and I do believe he inspired some of my heroes 😉
MJP: What do you think you might do next? More lady scientists, or a lot of resting up after so much writing intensity?
MJP: LOL! You mentioned that you'd be offering a book giveaway to blog commenters?
Alissa: Yes, I'll give away a paperback copy of The Duke and the Lady Gardener and an e-book copy of The Baronet’s Lady Biologist, to readers who leave comments for this blog between now and midnight Thursday May 24th. (US readers only, unfortunately, because sending internationally has become very difficult.)
MJP: Thanks so much for visiting today, Alissa, May your lady scientists learn and conquer!
Alissa: Thanks so much for having me!