Welcome Eileen Dreyer!

Librariangraphic Pat here, playing librarian and introducing you to Eileen Dreyer, author of Barely a Lady, the first book in the Drake's Rakes Regency series. Eileen is a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller with 36 books in romance, suspense and paranormal written as Eileen Dreyer and
Kathleen Korbel. She was the


4th member inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame, so she's been winning the hearts of readers since the beginning of her career.
Eileen always has a lot of fun things to say, so let's dive right in–

How did you start writing?  Were you making up stories in kindergarten with a pencil clutched in one chubby fist, or did you come to the trade later? 

I can actually remember the exact day I started writing. I was ten, and I had just found out that not only
EileenDreyer had I read every Nancy Drew book in the library, but that there wouldn't be another one out for a year. I was devastated. What would I do without Nancy? (my mother wanted me to read Dickens. I was not enthusiastic). And then, the light literally went on. "Wait," I thought, just as millennia of writers did before me. "I can write my own book. And I can make it turn out the way I want." So I did. By seventh grade I figured out that if I wrote adventure stories about my friends and famous people(the Beatles), I would always have somebody looking for me in the morning.

 
2.  How did you become interested in writing Regency?

Actually, I came at it via Richard Sharpe.  Years ago I stumbled over the Sharpe series about the
Sharpe Peninsular Wars and was hooked on the period. (I know. Not the traditional route to Regency. I didn't read Heyer til I was 35. But it's important to remember that I was raised in a house with seven men. I can tell you every movie John Wayne died in. I had no idea who Shirley Temple was until she was delegate to the UN.) (Pat note–another wordwench gratuitous photo of Sean Bean as Sharpe!)


  I found it to be a fascinating era. The world was in turmoil, balanced on the edge of the industrial revolution, at war, but still with very definite rules and social mores to define society. There was frivolity, but there was also wit and passion and sacrifice. And they bathed. Very important to me in a romance. I've been wanting to write a book in the period since, but haven't had the chance til now.

3.  What was your first book, and how well do you think it characterizes your latest work? 

 
KorbelMy first book was a Silhouette Desire entitled Playing the Game that I wrote as Kathleen Korbel. I believe that the main thing that characterizes both that and my latest work is the strong heroine. She's in a different time period and facing different challenges, but she meets them head-on. She's the person I hope I would be in that situation.  And it has a hero I think worthy of my heroine, who doesn't just love her(madly), but respects her.

4.  What was the biggest mistake you made when you first began writing?

 Oh, I made them all. The two that are probably most common were beginning my book three chapters before it really began(I know you've heard it. "This book really starts at the beginning of chapter three, or four. The rest is backstory). I rewrote the opening of the first manuscript I attempted twelve times, until I'd whittled away all that excess exposition, and the book started with the action. The second mistake was that I didn't research enough about publishing before sending my stuff out there. I sent my proposals to the wrong houses, the wrong editors and in the wrong form. There was no RWA near me when I started, and so I was winging it on my own. It didn't take too many terse rejection letters to figure it out.
 

5.  Which of your characters is your favorite, and why?

  Oh, lord. There have been so many, and I can't even remember all their names. But I tend to love the characters in my most recent works the best, simply because they're fresh and alive, having just
Eileen's cover stepped out onto the page. And while I love Olivia, who I think is one of my most complex heroines, in fact, I just finished the second book in the trilogy, NEVER A GENTLEMAN, about Olivia's friend Grace Fairchild, and right now Grace is my favorite. She is a plain woman. Not the typical romance 'she is transformed into a beauty by a new hairstyle and dress' plain. Fatally and unrelievedly plain. The daughter of a general who's spent her life following the drum, she finds herself coerced  into an untenable marriage with dilettante Diccan Hilliard. She has such quiet courage, loyalty, and, yes, grace. And a surprising sense of humor(at least to me). (Pat note–Huzzah! A plain heroine, finally! Thank you, thank you…)


6.  Which book, if any, was the most difficult for you to write, and why?

All of my suspenses, because although they are also character-driven, they are much more plot intensive. Considering the fact that I only have a vestigial left brain, wherein the linear plot lives, it is much more difficult, especially the middle of the book, which I call, "laying out clues, picking up clues,
SinnersandSaints200h deciphering clues," which by necessity all has to be done with a certain amount of linear logic.
 

7.  What do you consider key elements of a great story?

Compelling characters caught in a compelling conflict (hmm. I seem to be having an alliterative moment). As Susan Elizabeth Phillips says, create characters you want to root for and put them into terrible trouble.

8.  Are there any trends you hope to see in romance in the next few years?

I love light, frothy romance. But there was a long time when that was all we got. I hope that the industry will support more of a  mix, so that we can also enjoy the more complex, deeper emotional books as well. (I'm sure that's not because that's what I write). After all, romance is a smörgåsbord. Don't limit us only to deviled eggs. (hear ye, hear ye, o gods of fate!–Pat)
 
9.  What is the best part about being a writer?  The most frustrating?

 Are you kidding? Do you know what my job is? I daydream for a living. And then, when I come up with an idea, I get to go learn about something I don't know, be it Tactical EMS (yes, I am trained to be a SWAT medic) or Waterloo.  And I've been able to travel to great places and learn things most tourists don't know, because I can say, "I'm an author, and I'm researching….". It continues to amaze me how generous people are with information and time.

The most frustrating? I think it's that nobody really understands what I do every day but another writer. Even my husband, who gives me unconditional support, really can't get his head around the fact that I often spend days just wandering aimlessly as words chase around in my head. Once he came home from work. "What did you do today?" he asked.
I was feeling full of myself. "I know why the bad guy did what he did!" I crowed.
He nodded. "What else did you do?"
My face fell. "That took me six weeks!"

When I called my critique partner Karyn Witmer-Gow and told her, her answer was. "Let's drink!"

So let's drink to creativity and writers and new books by giving away an autographed copy of Barely a Lady to a randomly drawn commenter. Does anyone have questions for Eileen while she's here?

 

A busy blogger!

NYTmiracle Hi, this is Jo. I've been goofing off down in the West Country — Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset — and so I'm scrabbling together this blog at the last moment. My organizational skills aren't helped by doing a number of other blogs just now.

Romantic Times Blog. Romantic Times  has a new web site and they're celebrating with a number ofg author blogs. They wanted one from me on my favourite heroes from my books. Click here to visit that one. There's supposed to be a poll attached so people can vote for their own favourites, but I can't see it yet.

RomCon Blog. I've also just written one for a blog on the RomCon site, which will appear on the 29th. I wrote about the magical appeal of romance novels.  RomCon is the big romance reader conference to be held in Denver in July. There's more about that here.

Adventures in travel.  As a sidetrack distraction, I've just booked the main leg of my trip over there. Even without volcanic dust shutting everything down, it's not easy getting anywhere from Whitby, but there is a small airport not that far away, Durham-Tees. It doesn't have many flights, but it does have a connector to KLM in Amsterdam, so that'll be a whole new flying adventure for me. I hear great things about the Amsterdam airport.

I'll actually be flying into Memphis because later in the month I'll be in Nashville for the Romance Writers of America annual conference and Memphis is the closest direct flight with KLM. You can find out about the RWA conference here, and if you live around there, note the Literacy signing on Wednesday. A great event for a great cause.
Tsdbroch

The New York Times Bestseller List. And in addition to all that, I'm celebrating two weeks on the NYT list for The Secret Duke, and hoping for another. You can see last Sunday's list here.

Edenp That explains the photo op above, taken in Westward Ho! (which yes, is actually a place.) From the linked article above, I quote, "The village name comes from the title of Charles Kingsley's novel Westward Ho! (1855). The exclamation mark is therefore an intentional part of the village's name. It is the only such place name in the British Isles, although Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Quebec, shares the distinction of having an exclamation mark in its name." I've passed signs to Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!. You can go to the article above and follow a link to an explanation for that name. It seems to link to ha-ha as a French term for a barrier, which is why a ha-ha is a concealed trough in landscaped garden to keep deer and such out of the ornamentals. There's one at Rothgar Abbey.

Being on the NYT top 20 wasn't really a miracle as the other two Secrets books were, too, but it was too good an opportunity to miss. Excuse the windblown look — Westward Ho! is that sort of place. That's Billy, all cosy in his winter jacket still, but with his whirlygig, which certainly got a work out that day. We were joking that the world could be saved by Cabbage Patch power!

The Eden Project. That's actually an ad for the Eden Project, which is wonderful. We visited there the next day and I snapped this pic of Ken, Charlie, and the domes.

So I'll spread the questions here as well. What do you think is the core magic of a romance novel? What makes them one of your favourite forms of fiction? And what 3 qualities make the best heroes for a romance novel?

Or you can comment on some other aspect of this hurried blog.

A copy of The Secret Wedding (the previous book) to a randomly picked commenter.

Cheers,

Jo

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Pat here!      6f36

I have spent the week attempting to end the book That Would Not End. I had an emotionally cathartic dark moment and an exciting climax with waving flags and cheers and…the hero and heroine walked off in different directions. I could have just swatted them! So I've spent days knitting them back together again, pulling threads from all sections of the book, but…but…I need another book. I really do.

So while I was pouting and throwing tantrums over this ending, I asked the other wenches for stories of ending books, and really, the last minute rush to an ending does resemble Mr. Toad's Wild Ride upon occasion! Here's a few examples:                                      

From Sarah Gabriel/Susan Fraser King: I've been through some versions of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride while finishing up books … like the time I had one day to write the last chapter of my Sarah Gabriel historical romance, To ToWedAHighlandBride_SarahGabrielWed A Highland Bride, to get the book in on time — just as my college-age son and his friends decided to brew their first batch of beer in my kitchen — but I learned enough about the mess (and the stink!) of the "barley bree" to inspire the whiskey-distilling hero of The Highland Groom!Highland Groom Reduced
JPG

When Laird of the Wind was imminently due, all three kids got strep, requiring multiple trips to the doc and pharmacy, and more story reading, board games and vats of chicken soup at home. The only way to finish that book was to go without sleep for days…but it got done!

Now and then I resort to off-the-cuff, frantic last-minute writing, hoping the last chapters make sense as I race the clock…and yet those wild pages can turn out to be some of the best stuff in the book!

From Mary Jo Putney:

I don’t have extravagant stories about ending books while driving across prairie vastnesses, nor beer being brewed in my kitchen sink.  Just tales of me becoming ever more crazed and hostile as deadlines Oneperfectrose150 thunder down.

I used to think in terms of finishing a book in time to do a final read-through to tweak and fix.  I’ve given up such elusive goals.  By the time I finish my book, I’m hysterical and sick of it.  (Someone said that you know a book is done when the thought of it makes you want to throw up.  There is truth to that. <G>)
 
By the end, all I want to do is hurl the manuscript into cyberspace, moving it from my desk to my editor’s.  Since I’m an edit-as-I-go writer, this generally works out okay, though the last chapter is invariably rewritten after I’ve had time to calmNeverlessthanalady150 down and think about it.

But I have one technique that virtually always goes into ending a book.  When I’m several chapters from the end and feel like I’m juggling chain saws, I sit down with a yellow lined tablet (wide space, letter size) and a blue felt tip pen, and I write down all the events that need to happen before the story is over.  What is the logical action sequence?  What event A needs to take place before event B can happen?

Slowly, working in longhand and probably accessing a different part of my brain, I figure out how the puzzle pieces go together.  When that’s done, I can write the ending of the book.

Then I hurl it toward New York.

And then I sleep. <G>

——————

From Anne Gracie:


I usually think I know how a book will end. I write slower in the
beginning of a story and by the time I get to the end I'm usually
galloping. But then in the last fifth the story tends to explode, a bit
like a mushroom cloud, getting bigger and bigger. Which is quite
panic-making as a deadline looms. When I've finished,  I usually have
to go back and prune a lot of words from the book. The cutting is
necessary, as these days publishers encourage writers to write shorter
books rather than longer – mainly to keep the pr
AG-PWaltzice affordable. If one
ignores one's editor's gentle hints about the desired word count, the
print in the final book gets shrunk, which makes it harder for people
to read. (If you haven't noticed this, go and look at some recent
 books by different authors and compare the print size and line
spacing) So I cut. The book is always better for the cutting anyway, I
think, so I don't mind at all.


As
a reader I like a story that ties up all (or at least most) of the
loose ends, so I try to do that, too. I also try to give the reader a
sense of how the couple will go on in the future — not those
"report-in" kinds of epilogues, such as "Bert and Flossie were married
for 63 years, had seven happy, kind  blue-eyed children, three of whom
were senators and one a world famous mime artist," etc. I much prefer a
scene from their not-too-distant future, and if I can tie up a loose
end as well, I'm happy.
Probably
my favorite ending in one of my books is at the end of Perfect Waltz,
where the secondary romance is tied up as well as the main one. The
hero makes his best friend eat his words from the opening of the book,
which starts, "
But she's got no bosoms! You can't marry a woman with no bosoms!" You can read it here:

http://www.annegracie.com/extracts/WaltzExtract.html

From Jo Beverley:

I always seem to finish a book in deep immersion and in a rush. I build a book
slowly over most of a year, but then the end seems to have to come like that.
Long days tucked in my study, at my writing computer, in my Aeron chair, Winnipeg
everything else ignored….

Tricky, then, when my deadline came around during our drive across Canada! I
tried to get The Secret Duke finished before the end of July, when we set off from Victoria, but for me, forcing a book is like pulling on a plant to make it grow. So  I wrote in the car and in motels, appropriately fueled. 

I think perhaps this gave the traveling parts of the book extra oomph!

Cara Elliott/Andrea Pickens:

I am a slow writer, so the idea of having a mad rush to finish a book terrifies me. I try to make sure my contract allows for plenty of time, and then I tell myself that the book is actually due a month before. I'm pretty good at hitting my required pages per week to keep on schedule, and with extra time built in Cara for any unexpected emergency, I haven't yet had to resort to duct tape—or whips and chains—to spur me on to a finish.

Saying goodbye to a character is usually not hard—by the time a book comes to an end, my hero and heroine are like house guests who have overstayed their welcome—I'm ready to boot them out the door! That said, I had a real soft spot in my heart for a secondary character in my Spy trilogy (Lord Lynsley, the spymaster), and was dying to write his book . . and in fact did a good chunk of it before my publisher decided they wanted to move on to a whole new series. It's still sitting there in a file, and I stop by to visit him every so often. Someday, I hope to write "The End" on his story.

Pat back again:

Now that you see the wild and wacky world of writers, how do you meet deadlines? Are you the kind who packs their suitcase a month in advance for vacation or are you still throwing things in as you walk out the door?


Spies in Regency England

B5f8 Pat here:

Before we get started today, go fetch your rotten tomatoes so you’ll be prepared when I start griping about spies in Regency historicals.  Those of you in Florida ought to have lots of mushy fruit available. The rest of us may have to go for squishy bananas and old Christmas oranges because tomatoes are too expensive to waste.              Rotten-Fruit-

Okay, if you have your ammunition ready—England in 1792 was so ill-informed that they didn’t even realize Europe was on the brink of war. They were celebrating peace. The notion of monitoring foreign governments was reserved for the monarch and perhaps a secretary of state or two. Communication was limited to diplomatic pouches, and the public—when they could read—relied on news sheets more interested in business than France. The paranoia necessary to develop intelligence networks simply did not exist.  That changed when France began beheading aristocrats some years later, but England still had very little interest in foreign affairs as long as they didn’t interfere with shipping, and people counted on the admirable Admiral Nelson to take care of that little matter.
Horatio_nelson_first_viscount
  Even after Nelson’s ships set out to guard against French rebels, the only naval intelligence available to the navy was from their officers after a night on the town. Since Emma Hamilton acted as the queen's correspondent on affairs in Naples, it's not a wild guess to assume that she was not only Nelson’s mistress, but she was as close as it came to a spy. Whispered pillow talk hardly qualifies as secret agent derring-do, however—and is probably the reason most English people thought spying was déclassé. Breaking trust by revealing state secrets was in dreadfully poor taste, suited only to wanton women.

Meanwhile, the French already had semaphore towers in 1794 to allow for almost instantaneous land transmission of messages so they knew what their enemies were doing at all times. The English managed to install a few by 1806 which considerably increased the ability of the Navy to communicate with the Admiralty as long as it wasn’t nighttime or foggy. And even then, there was no centralized office beyond the Admiralty to which the message could be forwarded. England didn’t have an intelligence office. It barely had a foreign office, Semaphore and its duties were nebulous. The king (and during the Regency, it was more likely the queen or the prince) and the prime minister and a few secretary of states were the only authorities available to act on military Sailing ship intelligence. You can imagine how often they got involved, after the message had been riding across land and water and kicking around in offices for a few months.  Sailing-ship

So don’t blame me completely when I say I don’t read too many historicals that carry a back blurb about a famous English spy. Our own Cara, as Andrea Pickens, has written some great spy fiction—but that’s what it is, fiction. There are tons of Spy silk well-known romances involving spies. I think Amazon even carries a list. I fully realize we’re writing gripping stories, and that a race across battle-torn Europe makes a better story than a military officer picking up a useful bit of gossip in the local tavern.  But I simply cannot suspend disbelief and buy into a subplot of spies unless the story offers me a riveting romance and an intriguing personal conflict. I have to trust the author before I’ll pick up a spy book.

That said, she says with a heavy sigh, I have somehow managed to incorporate a French baddie into the current WIP.  A very small role, mind you. I resisted. I fought it hard. Only— I had a French code wheel, which I’d painstakingly researched. And I didn’t want to take my characters to France. And if you’ve got a code, someone needs to break it. And someone needs to try to stop them. Code wheel
So one thing led to another, and there I am, a spy at the end of my book. The shame of it. The things we’ll do for our romantic couples…

So how do you feel about histor
ical fiction that takes liberty with reality? (Okay, so I’m the one who invented an invisible island in the English Channel, but I never pretended it was real history!)  Should we start calling our genre by another name? Instead of historical romance, maybe we’re writing “Romance written in a historical time period without regard to fact”?  Does anyone still care about history? With vampires and zombies romping through Austen these days, have we given up all pretense of seeking reality? And if so, why?

Ready, aim, fire tomatoes!

Special Order or Mass Market

B5f8  Pat Rice here:

Today, I’m cheating. Wench readers have sent several excellent questions lately, but none of them provide quite enough basis for me to write a whole blog and some of them touch on topics we’ve discussed in the past.  But combined, they present an interesting pattern of where reader thoughts are traveling, and I want to acknowledge that we read your questions, even if we can’t always answer them. Or I can’t, but perhaps another wench can in the future.

Jeanine Pellerin asks about relatively unknown authors.
Nina Paules would like to present readers with the world of e-publishing.
Jane Irish Nelson asks why illegitimate children have become a plot point for Regency romances lately.
And Joey Binard thinks today’s historical romances have been “dumbed down.”

The topics don’t sound related, do they?  But in fact, they are to some degree, and it’s all because of the publishing market and the economy and realllllly boring factors you probably don’t want to know BookStack about.

KISS answer:  Today’s mass market fiction must appeal to a very broad range of readers, which means eliminating any topic that doesn’t appeal to roughly 50% of the readership of that genre. Conversely, anything that DOES appeal to them, must be included.  Because of current market conditions, any book that doesn’t appeal to that middle-of-the-road readership ends up unknown or with an e-publisher. 

IE: If more illegitimate children are showing up as plot points, then apparently the majority of readers have voted with their dollars for illegitimate children. (That’s why Harlequin sold “secret baby” books for years—people bought them by the armload.)  If historical romance has been reduced to dialogue and sex, then that’s what the romance readership has demanded by shelling out their money for those kind of books.  It’s not as if there aren’t Money dozens of other books every month from which to choose, but the market follows the money.

The other readers, the ones who want all those different, quirky books, who want historical detail, who want to let their imaginations roam, have to scrounge around the outskirts of bookstores, hunting for books that aren’t on the drugstore or Walmart racks.  Now the question becomes, how do readers find the kind of niche book they want to read?

That’s the question I’m opening to our readers—How do you find the books you enjoy?  How can authors who write quirky or detailed, who write e-books, or who aren’t well known, reach the audience who wants their kind of books?  Hundreds of romance books are published each month.  How do you find new authors? Maybe we need to start a special order bookstore for the discriminating!

And how can authors reach readers like Joey who thinks new books are dumbed down and has resorted to pulling out old favorites instead of buying new? We’ll never show publishers that readers love intelligent books if no one buys them. Only bestsellers get attention. So, how do you find a good book if it’s not a bestseller?

And by all means, if you know an author or book that our readers might enjoy, include the name and title in your comment (just click one of the sign in links under “comment” below).  Our readers love to learn about authors new to them.

Mad_marias_daughter I'm adding a link to my "blind heroine" book, a very old Signet Regency that has just recently been reissued at www.RegencyReads.com. The original editor decided she was tired of ill and maimed protagonists and refused to accept a blind heroine, so I had to make her lame instead.  I've edited and edited to get rid of all the sensory description that made sense for a blind heroine but it's still hilarious.  But as the discussion in our comments indicates, this is another "middle of the road" decision!