CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What inspired your interest and passion for Regency romance?
In my twenties, I stumbled across a few books by Georgette Heyer and instantly fell in love with the genre. Jane Austen’s works strengthened that love, augmented greatly by the Hollywood adaptations. I started really wanting to see the regency setting in a book with a Christian worldview. The longer I waited for someone else to write one and it didn’t happen, the stronger my passion grew to see it occur.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How did you come up with the concept for The Country House Courtship?
The “concept” has been with me a long time—that of a period love story set in a large English country house. And in this instance, the main characters in the book have been waiting patiently for their story to be told. : ) Lots of readers will delight in finally seeing Mr. O’Brien happily settled.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Is any part of The Country House Courtship factual?
I did a great deal of research into the 19th century Anglican church, since the hero in the book is a clergyman. There’s also a detailed description of the interior “treasures” one can find in an old church, and that came from research, including a great guest article which ran in my own ezine. The references to problems in the church, the poor parishes in London, are also fact-based, but the story is purely fictional.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How closely is The Country House Courtship based on your life experiences?
Hmmm. The only thing I can claim may have been based on personal experience is how the heroine, at the opening of the book, is so sure she knows all she needs to know to make decisions for her life and future, but then slowly discovers otherwise. She has a great deal to learn about the true value of things. Also, there’s a scene with Ariana (the heroine of the first two books) where she falls into a very melodramatic view of herself and her circumstances, which is really rather funny—a thing I used to do habitually, but never realized the humor of it. Fortunately, she has Mr. Mornay there to help her re-gain perspective, and coax her out of it.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How did you choose the location for the setting?
Since Country House is a sequel, it was really chosen long ago, in Before the Season Ends. The action takes place on Mr. Mornay’s country estate, the family home that has been theirs for at least two generations. It was great fun to choose an architectural style for the house, at that time, and it continued to be really interesting to explore the inside of a great country house in this book.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How long did The Country House Courtship take you to complete?
Well, I was playing with ideas for about eight months, but the actual writing was four months—a record for me! I remember one day in particular when I was at the keyboard morning til night and I wrote more than 10,000 words! Nearly all of that ended up in the finished manuscript that I sent my editor. I should state that I had a busy speaking calendar ahead, and I was purposely trying to be done ahead of my deadline. (Yes, I made it!)
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Do you have a favorite character in The Country House Courtship? Why?
This is a tough question—I really love all the main characters, but I suppose Mr. Mornay would be my favorite. By the end of the book I think many readers will agree with me. He behaves in such an endearing way that you just have to love him! If there’s anyone with any lingering doubts about what he’s really like at heart, this book will lay them to rest in a really satisfying way. I love the way this side of his character (which I can’t say more about without giving a spoiler) came out more and more as the story progressed.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How much research did The Country House Courtship take?
More than I anticipated. Finding out about the inner workings of the Anglican church was tricky; Most regency writers who have gone before me did not address the clerical vocation as I have, and it just isn’t generally known (among most regency researchers, that is) how a man “climbed the ladder” in the church; who had to be notified of a change in a living; who needed to give approval, (the Bishop) and so on. How tithes worked, livings, benefices, glebes—lots of fun new stuff. It took me more than a week just to draw the conclusion that a clergyman of that day didn’t wear any special attire except for when he was actually performing services. He might have had a tendency to choose dark clothing at other times, but this was not a given.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing The Country House Courtship?
Actually, the most interesting fact to me didn’t make it into the book at all; which is that the Prince Regent liked to create Viscounts more than any other title, and in fact gave out many during the period. (In response to some sort of service to the crown, for example.) He decides he wants Mornay to take a title and thereby get a seat in the House of Lords, so the issue comes up. But I had a baronetcy in mind, until I discovered this little fact.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: How many books will be in the London Regency Series?
Most likely we’ll be leaving it at three. But there is always little Lucy (the youngest Forsythe daughter, Ariana’s sister) who will eventually need to be married off, you know. : )
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Like any working person, I have to balance my time with household demands, my five children, my marriage and church and friends. With regard to writing, my challenges are getting the research right, keeping my characters firmly within their century, and protecting periods of intense writing. I don’t write a little every day, for instance, unless I’m close to a deadline. I’m much more likely to concentrate on marketing or networking, and then do a great deal of writing in a short time.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love meeting other writers—especially those who write historical romance—and having this instant “camaraderie.” I love that I can give workshops to newer writers and be of help to them. I love getting email from readers who have been touched by my books. (I also really enjoy when a reader who has resisted getting one of my books—for any number of reasons—finally reads it and then just can’t praise it enough and rushes out to get the other one! Call it a guilty pleasure, if you will. I like winning someone over.)
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in-between?)
I guess I would fall into the “in-between” category. I do a rough outline, meaning I know the beginning, middle and end. And then I go back and forth between brainstorming and plotting, and writing and discovering.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?
They do to some degree. I haven’t yet had a character who really surprised me in a big way, however.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m planning on finishing up The Honourable Miss Tavistock, a stand-alone regency (with a couple of cameos of characters from the other books), and I’m trying to carve out time to re-work a Regency Christmas (non-fiction) ebook I’ve written. I have a new regency-era short story I want to complete for my e-zine subscribers, and there are still a couple of unfinished manuscripts sitting in my files that I hope to wrap up. Next month, I’m doing a luncheon presentation on Jane Austen’s Regency for a JASNA chapter here in Ohio, and I can see myself doing similar presentations for as long as people are interested.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What message would you like your readers to take from The Country House Courtship?
One of the messages I see in my writing is that we cannot anticipate the strength of the heart; we can’t plan for it, plan around it (without severe consequences) or reason it away. God works on our hearts and turns them where He will; and we are somewhat powerless when faced with the truth of our deepest, heart-felt convictions. In my books, I try to show the power of coming clean, of being totally honest with ourselves and with God, and the way that can change a life.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What is your greatest achievement?
No matter what else I do in this life, my greatest achievement is giving birth to five children, five eternal beings, and living day-to-day as a Christian mom.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What is your goal or mission as a writer?
I believe I have a three-fold goal.
One: To use my writing to show the gospel in its simplicity. God is only a prayer away. Anyone can “choose” (even if only in God’s secret will, perhaps) to give their heart to Christ.
Two: I strive to give a chuckle or two during the story, and always, always, leave readers with a smile or a very contented sigh.
Three: To make the regency come alive, and bring characters of real faith and conviction before the reader so that they can grasp the very real power of the gospel in a believer’s life.
CHRISTIANBOOK.com: What do you do to get away from it all?
Oh, that’s an easy one. I start writing…..: )