There are places we remember…

Jo here, pulling together Wenchly responses to the question, "Have you ever visited a place that's ended up in a book?"

Nicola

Woodbridge.I love the way in which anything from a snippet of conversation to a piece of music can inspire an idea for a book, and certainly I find that many places spark off story ideas for me. The most unusual would probably be Spitsbergen, in the Norwegian Arctic, which featured in Whisper of Scandal. Another unusual book idea sprang from a visit to Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. I love Suffolk and the town of Woodbridge in particular, and I set my Bluestocking Brides series in that area.

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Shattered Rainbows: The why, the how, the where

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

Last week I published the e-book edition of Shattered Rainbows on the major selling platforms (Nook and Kindle) and it will be at other sellers soon.  Shattered Rainbows is #5 in my Fallen Angels series (here's an excerpt), and I’ve finished proofing #6. River of Fire, which will be available within a couple of weeks.

For years, I've received plaintive requests from readers about these books, which are out of print.  So—finally, after months of work tucked in around writing new books, blogging, petting cats, housework, living life, etc,. the complete 7 book Fallen Angels series will be available in e-editions around the world.  (Book #7, One Perfect Rose, is already available in a Kensington e-edition.) 

Since a number of people enjoyed the background of how an earlier book in the series was written, here's some of the story behind this story. 

MaryJoPutney_ShatteredRainbows_200pxProofing scans of the books and making minor tweaks has been a lot of work, but also a surprising amount of fun.  I still like these characters and their stories, and I think they’ve stood the test of time fairly well.  (Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?  <g>)  

One Seriously Tortured Hero

Shattered Rainbows is blessed with one of my most tortured heroes.  Lord Michael Kenyon had a vile family life and was saved by the friendship of the other Fallen Angels he met as a boy at Eton.  He becomes a soldier and comes close to betraying one of his closest friends through the manipulations of the wicked woman he disastrously loved.  He has GUILT! 

I thought it would be a particularly hard book to write, but in fact, it flowed very smoothly even though it’s a long book with lots of plot and research and tormented, complicated characters.  (No book is easy.  But at least this one flowed well.)

I think that SR is the book where I realized that having a compelling plot makes a book easier to write.  Much harder is a very character driven book where there are fewer events for the characters to react to.

Florence Nightingale at Scutari

A Pretty Tortured Heroine, too

The heroine also has her issues.  Catherine Melbourne had married very young to a philandering cavalry officer, and she and her daughter “follow the drum” through the Peninsular campaigns.  There were officers’ wives who did this, though Catherine’s actions as a battlefield nurse owe more to the career of Florence Nightingale half a century later.  For her stunning (and unfortunate) beauty, kindness, and nursing ability, she’s known as “St. Catherine,” a label she wears uneasily because of her own deep sense of inadequacy.  So this makes TWO guilt ridden characters!  No wonder the book flowed smoothly.

Waterloo: The Road to Hell

In Regency romance, the Napoleonic wars are a constant drumbeat in the background, and not infrequently in the foreground.  Heaven knows I’ve contributed more than my share of military heroes and spies of both genders to the mix.  But Shattered Rainbows is my full-on Waterloo book. 

Face of BattleSince I have an inexplicable fondness for British miitary history, I loved researching the battle.  Huge amounts have been written about Waterloo, but one of the best sources was THE FACE OF BATTLE by the wonderful British military historian Sir John Keegan.  His books are notable for his marvelous writing clarity.  In The Face of Battle, he describes the experience of actually being a soldier on the battlefield.  He covers three battles: Agincourt (arrows and spears), Waterloo (musket balls and cannon), and the WWI Battle of the Somme (machine guns and field artillery.) 

Waterloo is called the last great black powder battle, and Keegan describes the clouds of stinging smoke that reduced visibility of the battle to almost nothing.  He explains column and squares and troop movements with vivid power.  Trampled rye crops and muddy ground, and Napoleon's last great throw of the dice.

800px-Battle_of_Waterloo_1815, Wm. Sadler

Given all the research I did for the battle, I’m very proud of myself for keeping Waterloo to one chapter of my book. Even there I cut between Michael commanding barely trained infantry troops and Catherine and her daughter tending to wounded soldiers on the streets of Brussels.  Powerful stuff, and all drawn from the historical record.  (The movie Waterloo is also a great research resource since they had real armies in front of the cameras.)

After the battle, when Michael lies near death from his wounds, Catherine and my Shattered Rainbows original coverfaithful fictional surgeon, Ian Kinlock, perform a blood transfusion to save Michael’s life.  In pre-internet days, it was very hard to find much information, but it was pretty clear that such a procedure was far more likely to kill than cure. 

It was theoretically possible that a transfusion might save someone’s life and this is fiction.  I asked two different doctors about the procedure, and they were both absolutely horrified.  (GOOSE QUILLS??!!! They knew less about the history of transfusion than I did. <G>)  As a romantic metaphor about two people who love each other but are constrained by honor to never speak, the transfusion was great!

The Road to Heaven

The second half of the book is a whole different chunk of research as Catherine learns that she is heir to a feudal island off Cornwall—but her cranky grandfather will leave the island to a male cousin if Catherine doesn’t have a reliable husband.  Catherine is a widow by now, but hiding the fact (with good reason) so she asks Michael to pose as her husband.  (Yes, it’s contrived, but being over the top is in the DNA of historical romance. <G>) 

So they go off to the island and have many wild adventures before achieving their happy ending.  The research fun came from creating my fictional island, which is based on the feudal Channel Isle of Sark. Sark is considered British, but it’s ruled by a hereditary Seigneur.  The current one is 22nd in his line, and his grandmother was Sybil Hathaway, the famous Dame of Sark, who ruled the island during the time of the Nazi occupation. 

Shattered Rainbows, riessueThis was a feast for a writer.  I named my islands Skoal (“skull”) and Bone and gave them a Viking heritage.  Two sections of Sark are joined by a narrow strip of land that rises over a hundred meters (330 feet) from the sea.  In other words, there’s a lethal drop on each side, and children used to cross the neck of land on their hands and knees so they wouldn’t blow over.  Needless to say, I got mileage out of a similar feature in my fictional islands. 

There is one last bit of real history I want to mention.  Many years ago, I visited the Outer Hebrides island of Lewis and Harris off the west coast of Scotland.  It’s a wild, primitive place, and life has always been harsh. Blackhouse, Harris and LewisWe visited an abandoned village of collapsed black houses—a primitive structure with dry stone walls and a turf roof.  The sort of place you’d share with your livestock on a cold and windy night.

This was years before I started writing, but as I looked the stone ruins, I thought it would make a great setting for a chase scene in a suspense novel.

And so it did. <G>

MaryJoPutney_ShatteredRainbows_200pxHave you ever looked at something and thought “That should be in a book?”  And since many of you are writers—have you ever put such things in a book?  If so, tell me about it!

Mary Jo, who loves the cover done by the amazingly talented Kimberly Killion of Hot Damn Designs