Today we’re kicking off our anniversary celebration with a visit from Elizabeth Essex. When I asked the staff to name their favorite authors, Allison immediately asked if we could get Elizabeth to guest with us and was thrilled that she was able to interview her for our party. Before we get to their interview, let’s learn a little about Elizabeth first.
Elizabeth Essex is the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed Reckless Brides historical romance series. When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in her garden or simply messing about with boats, Elizabeth can be always be found with her laptop, making up stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than she. It wasn’t always so. Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics and Art History, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University. While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.
Her books have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and RWA’s prestigious RITA Award, and have made Top-Ten lists from Romantic Times, The Romance Reviews and Affaire de Coeur Magazine. Her fifth book, A BREATH OF SCANDAL, was awarded Best Historical in the Reader’s Crown 2013.
Elizabeth lives in Texas with her husband, the indispensable Mr. Essex, and her active and exuberant family, in an old house filled to the brim with books.
Allison: Is there anyone in real life who has inspired a character (or characters) in your books?
Elizabeth: I have been inspired by too many real life people—from my friends to my children—to count. There are bits and snatches of real people I know in ALL my characters. But I’ve mostly been inspired by real people from history, including the revolutionary writer Mary Wollstonecraft (who helped inspired the heroine of my debut romance THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE), and an intrepid journal keeper named Fanny Parkes Parlby, who wrote a brilliant memoir called Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque During Four-and-Twenty Years in the East. Many of Fanny’s experiences and viewpoints helped form my latest Reckless Bride heroine, Catriona Rowan, in SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT.
Allison: Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants? If you are a plotter, what is your process for laying out the plot?
Elizabeth: I am an inveterate ‘seat-of-my-pajamas’ and ‘lets-see-what-happens-if’ writer. But more than anything else, I write from character first and let the story evolve from what I know about the character. But once I’ve decided upon the character and the setting, and write about 50 pages of the story, then I plot a bit, and make a rough plan of where I think the story should go. Sometimes the narrative moves just the way I thought it should, and sometimes I’m completely surprised by the direction the story goes! I think that’s one of the joys of writing for me—I’m discovering the story just as the reader does.
Allison: In Almost a Scandal, what made you decide to have your heroine take her brother’s place on board ship?
Elizabeth: I had just always thought it would make a great story to have a girl be aboard a Royal Navy Warship and have her really be a superior sailor. So I decided to increase the plausibility of that premise by having her come from a family immersed in Royal Navy tradition. What better way to make her competent, and get her aboard, than have her come from a family of sailors, one of whom—the youngest brother—refuses to take his place? So in stepped my heroine.
The other reason I really, really wanted to write ALMOST A SCANDAL was that I had sailed a great deal in my youth, and understood the character’s love of sailing and the sea, and I also had an academic background in Nautical Archaeology and maritime history, so I never thought twice about setting the whole story on a ship. In fact I loved it!
Allison: How much and what type of research do you do for historical romance?
Elizabeth: Generally speaking, I do a great deal of research for every novel, but some stories require more work than others. For my current release, SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT, I needed to do a great deal of research because I chose both a new period and a new setting—pre-Raj India. I read journals from the period (see Fanny Parkes, above). I read stories set in the period, like some of the short stories in Rudyard Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills. I looked at Mughal art and architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. And I read histories. I surrounded myself with images and sounds all designed to let my imagination run free so I could think of what it might have been like for my heroine Catriona Rowan, to leave Scotland and start a new life in India.
Allison: Do you have a “go to” place for inspiration for characters, settings, etc.?
Elizabeth: I don’t have one single ‘go to’ place for finding inspiration, and I go down a lot of rabbit holes that start as innocent Google searches! But I certainly love to collect my various inspirations at Pinterest. I make inspiration boards for all my books there, and found it a really useful to keep track of different media in one place. (http://pinterest.com/
Allison: How do you keep track of cross-over characters between books?
Elizabeth: I tend to think of my characters in the Reckless Brides series like children who’ve gone off to college—they aren’t there every day, but they are still on my mind, and I’m still keeping a casual eye on them. More practically, I keep a sort of chronology of all my books so I don’t get too lost, or lose any characters. For example, the hero of SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT, Thomas Jellicoe, is the brother of Will Jellicoe, who was the hero of A BREATH OF SCANDAL. Will first appeared in ALMOST A SCANDAL as a friend and shipmate of the heroine, Sally Kent. Sally and Will’s captain, Hugh McAlden, was first the hero of THE DANGER OF DESIRE, before he reappeared in ALMOST A SCANDAL. Confused? Now that I think on it, perhaps I should add that chronology to my website!
Allison: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth: Next is something old and something new: new because it will be a digital-release-only holiday novella, and old, because we remain in my Reckless Brides world of the Royal Navy, and revisit a character, Ian Worth, we first met in ALMOST A SCANDAL.
I’m excited new novella will be titled THE SCANDAL BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and will be released in November 2013 as part of a wonderful Christmas promotion by St. Martin’s Press and the site Heroes & Heartbreakers.
After that, my 5th Reckless Bride will come your way in early April 2014. That story will be titled AFTER THE SCANDAL. Then there will be at least one more Reckless Bride before I decide what I’m going to write next.
I want to thank Romancing the Book and Allison for having me here to visit with your readers today to kick of your Anniversary!!! Happy Anniversary to RtB! To help celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT to one lucky commenter chosen at random! Thanks so much for stopping by to visit with me today. Cheers, EE