Sarah: I write clean romances that take place in Regency England (think the first two decades of the 1800s: Napoleon, Jane Austen, Mad King George). The endings are always happy, the characters are usually funny and my mom thinks they are amazing.
Margaret: Where do you begin a book, plot or character?
Sarah: My books always begin with a character, oddly enough. The plot and setting develop around him or her. I write romances, so the next step is deciding what kind of person would be the love-interest for that character. Then I flesh out where and exactly when within my time period these people live, their circumstances, etc. Those things which come in the way of their being together are usually obvious at this point—if not, I figure that out. So, my ideas come from people. This is probably the primary reason I have no friends — everyone is afraid they’ll end up in my next book. It probably doesn’t help that I tell them about this possibility.
Margaret: How long have you been reading Regency romances?
Sarah: Like a lot of people, my Regency romance education began with Jane Austen. I think Pride and Prejudice is probably the first Austen most people read, but I began with Sense and Sensibility–what can I say? I like the letter “S.” I flew through the rest of Austen’s fantastic collection of novels only to feel thoroughly depressed when I finished because she hadn’t written any others.
About seven years ago I stumbled across Georgette Heyer and very nearly hyperventilated—there were, in fact, other romances set in the Regency era of English history. I devoured every Regency I could find at every branch of the library in my hometown. I was hooked!
The first “historical” romance I read set in this era was Georgette Heyer’s brilliant work, The Corinthian. I actually found a version of it at a thrift store about a year ago with a fabulously beautiful cover for only $.50. It has a place of honor on my bookshelves right next to my leather bound Complete Works of Jane Austen.
Margaret: When did you first realize you wanted to write Regency romances?
Sarah: That’s actually a really good story. I had been reading Regencies more or less nonstop for a year. In those 12-months I began 127 Regencies. I say “began” because I couldn’t always finish them—either they were offensive to my sense of morality or to my intelligence.
I was griping to my mother one day that too many romances, even the historical ones which one would think would be “safer,” were smutty or stupid. In that way that only mothers seem to have mastered, she casually said, “You should try writing one without the smut and stupidity. You’d probably do better than most of what’s out there.”
Her response stuck with me. Being the kind of stubborn person that I am, I decided I’d try. Even if it didn’t turn out to be very well written, I figured it would at least be clean and reach a minimal level of intelligence. So, about six months later, I presented my mom with the manuscript for my very first Regency, The Ramshackle Knight. The rest, as they say, is history. (Thanks, Mom!)
Margaret: Could you tell us a little about how you researched the Regency era for Courting Miss Lancaster?
Sarah: I have always been something of a history fanatic. I love watching documentaries and reading historical accounts, especially first-hand accounts from people who actually lived what they are retelling. Even before setting out to write my very first Regency, I was elbow-deep in history texts, 19th Century journals, Parliamentary minutes from this time period—yes, people, I have read dry-as-a-bone records of government business—paintings and drawings and love letters. I can walk blindfolded directly to the section of the library where the books from this era are shelved.
I have studied maps of London, the toll roads, the Great North Road. I have read law books on inheritance, marriage, guardianship. I have studied playbills for London theaters, accounts of London’s Season and the Society.
How have I researched? Like an obsessive, reclusive, insomniac. And I’ve loved every minute of it.
Margaret: Can you share with us your top three favorite Regency romance research books or other resources?
Sarah: Wow. There are so many, and they vary depending on the story I’m writing.
The Public Records Office of the National Archives of the United Kingdom—They have an on-line searchable archive that has been a life saver
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, by Daniel Pool—A great resource for some very basic information on this time period, like: who goes up a flight of stairs first, a gentleman or a lady; who is introduced to whom as opposed to the other way around; what were the rules of popular card games, etc.
As part of my research for a manuscript I finished recently, I had the privilege of reading a heart-wrenching letter written on July 3, 1815 by Lieutenant William Turner of the 13th Light Dragoons in which he recounted his experiences and feelings at the Battle of Waterloo. It was one of those invaluable moments where the people and events of this time period became excruciatingly real to me.
Margaret: What inspired you to write Courting Miss Lancaster?
Sarah: My novel Seeking Persephone, which was a finalist for a 2008 Whitney Award, featured a supporting character whom I fell absolutely in love with—Harry Windover. He’s the wise-cracking, perpetually optimistic, best friend of the cranky, acidic hero in Seeking Persephone and was invaluable in bringing about that book’s happy ending. I finished that manuscript almost desperate to see Harry have his own happy ending. He finally gets it in Courting Miss Lancaster.
Margaret: Tell us a little bit about Courting Miss Lancaster?
Sarah: Harry Windover adores blonde, green-eyed Athena Lancaster, but alas, a penniless man like himself has no hope of winning a young noblewoman’s hand. To add insult to injury, Athena’s brother-in-law and guardian, the Duke of Kielder, has asked Harry to assist Athena in finding the gentleman of her dreams. But the lovesick Harry is cunning as well: as the weeks pass, he introduces Athena to suitors who are horrifically boring, alarmingly attached to their mothers, downright rude, astoundingly self-absorbed, and utterly ridiculous.
Athena can’t comprehend why she is having so little success meeting eligible and acceptable gentlemen. Indeed, her circle of admirers couldn’t be less admirable–nothing like the loyal, gentle friend she’s found in Harry.
But how long can Harry’s scheme be hidden before it is discovered? And what will Athena do when she uncovers Harry’s deception?
Margaret: It sounds like a delightful story! What project are you working on next?
Sarah: I am writing a sort-of-sequel to Courting Miss Lancaster. Athena Lancaster comes from a relatively large family, including a timid younger sister who keeps very much to herself and lacks the confidence of her siblings. Their guardian and brother-in-law, the Duke of Kielder, has taken a liking to the shy Daphne, however, and becomes very protective of her. The manuscript I am currently working on follows Daphne’s misadventures in the world of love and courtship and, because of the age difference, takes place six years after Courting Miss Lancaster.
Margaret: “Courting Miss Lancaster” sounds like great fun and I hope people will hurry and get a copy. I know they’ll be glad. The fabulous trailer is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCNGPBmmYfQ Sarah Eden’s new book is a must-have among readers who like historical, and anyone who loves funny, quirky, lovable characters. Her new book, “Courting Miss Lancaster” pairs her deliciously snarky humor with her gift for raising the heart rate of her readers. Thank you for sharing your writing world with us today, Sarah!
SARAH: It’s been fun, thanks!