Anniversary Celebration: Interview & Contest with Elizabeth Essex

Beautiful purple and gold fireworks in celebration of July 4th.

Allison & Elizabeth
Allison & Elizabeth Essex at RWA 2013

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.

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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/elizabethessex/scandal-in-the-night/ )

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

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60 thoughts on “Anniversary Celebration: Interview & Contest with Elizabeth Essex

  1. Anita H. says:

    Hi Elizabeth, love finding out more about your writing process. I’m wondering if you could write with another author, who would it be and why? Thanks for the chance to win! 🙂

    • Anita,

      What a great question. I really don’t know, because I’ve never entertained the idea. I have many authors whose work I just fall into, and whom I ADORE reading (Courtney Milan, Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas, Heather Snow) I’ve spent so much time trying to sound like ME, I don’t think I would like to write with anybody else. 🙂

      THanks so much for stopping by, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  2. laurie g says:

    thank you for the chance to win. i haven’t read any of elizabeths books as yet. but once i find work i will start buying and reading them 🙂

  3. Nancy Goldberg Levine says:

    Thanks for the chance to win. I’m anxious to read “Almost a Scandal’ because of the nautical setting–my d/h (who passed away in 2001) loved all the Patrick O’Brian novels.

    • Nancy,

      First I am so very sorry for your loss. But you are quite right in thinking that ALMOST A SCANDAL has a great deal in common with the Partick O’Brian books, except that in my story, the romance, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine is front and center, and the Navy serves as a very vivid backdrop.

      Here’s wishing you hours of happy reading time. Thanks so much for stopping by to chat. Best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

      • Nancy Goldberg Levine says:

        Thanks so much–I know I will love this book since the romance takes front and center.

        • Oh, YEAH!! And that is EXACTLY why I write ROMANCE – I am interested in what happens between people!!! Especially when they are falling in love. 🙂 ENJOY!

          Cheers, EE

  4. may says:

    I really enjoyed a Breathe of Scandal so looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Love the covers especially.

    • May,

      I am so happy to hear you loved A BREATH OF SCANDAL, And you are not alone—we are going into a second printing of the book. 🙂 I hope you will like the other stories just as much, although I will say there are all different in theme and tone. 🙂

      Wishing you best of luck in the drawing, and happy reading. Cheers, EE

    • Leona,

      I’m so glad you’ve discovered me here! 🙂

      And thanks for the cool link. I have not been to the Parco Sodibaia (and I don’t even know if it was a registered underwater park back them) since I was a student waaaaay back in the 1970’s!!! Ok the late ’70’s but still…. It was a long time ago. 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat and post the link. 🙂 Best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

    • Diane,

      As I am in the process of updating my website, I just recently worked on the chronology, and it should be part of the site within the next few weeks. (I just turned in AFTER THE SCANDAL on Friday, so I’ve been putting things like this off until I have time and brainpower to spare. 🙂 )

      Thank so much for stopping by to chat today, and wishing you best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  5. Barbara Elness says:

    I haven’t read any of the Reckless Brides series yet, but after reading this post, I’m going to have to pick the books up. I like the idea of Elizabeth’s inspiration boards on Pinterest, I’ll have to check them out. I’ve seen other author’s boards there, and they’re always fun.

    • Barbara,

      I always put a little disclaimer on my Pinterest Boards: My vision of what I was thinking about when I wrote the book may differ from yours, and your vision is CORRECT!!!! I hope people have some fun with the boards (they are my Sunday morning guilty pleasure), and I’m about to take my next board for THE SCANDAL BEFORE CHRISTMAS from secret to share-able. 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

      Wishing you best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so much for stopping by today to chat. Cheers, EE

  6. Marcy Shuler says:

    Elizabeth Essex is a new author to me, but the Reckless Brides series sounds like something I would love. Thanks for the giveaway and for bringing this author to my attention.

    bmndshuler(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • Marcy,

      I’m so glad you’ve discovered me and like the sound of the stories. 🙂 That’s music to my ears. Wishing you hours of free reading time, and best of luck in the drawing.

      Thanks for stopping by to chat. Cheers, EE

  7. Carol L says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I loved, loved A Sense of Sin. I haven’t read the Reckless Brides series yet . It’s definitely going on my TRL. Thanks for the chance.
    Carol L

    • Carol,

      I’m so glad to hear from readers who read my earlier series for Brava. My Reckless Brides are a bit less steamy than the three books I wrote for Brava, but I think you’ll still find the rich language and deep characterizations that made A SENSE OF SIN sing. (Boy, I LOVED that hero. He was bad and so, so much fun to write. )

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat and best of luck with the drawing. Cheers, EE

  8. Happy anniversary!!! Elizabeth, your books are always at the top of my to-read list, so it would be great to try SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT. You are definitely one of my fav historical romance authors 🙂

    • I am soooo glad to hear that—it absolutely makes my day. 🙂

      Which also means that you are in luck, because the next book comes out in November (although the novella will be e-readers only so put an e-reader on your Christmas wish list if you don’t have one yet) and then the next full length novel comes out in April. 🙂

      Wishing you best of luck in the drawing and thanks so very much for stopping by to chat and make my day. :0 Cheers, EE

  9. erinf1 says:

    Thanks for the fun interview and congrats to Elizabeth on her success 🙂 What is the one thing that you need/have to do while writing?

    • Erin,

      Just one thing? Well I suppose that it would be COFFEE!!!! And barring coffee, TEA. Anything with caffeine to get me going. I start writing really early in the morning—I just pull my laptop up sitting in bed, and the indispensable Mr. Essex brings me a foamy latte. I write for about an hour and a half before I have to get my kids up and out to school.

      But that’s when I get my second cup of coffee. (Which I never drank, by the way, until I became a writer, and HAD to wake up early. 🙂 )

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat this afternoon. Wishing you loads of free reading time, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

      • Nancy Goldberg Levine says:

        I agree about the coffee–need it to get going on the day job (when I’m not laid off which I am now)–then I have to get up at five.

    • Hey Wanda,

      Lovely to see you here today. And I LOVE helping to celebrate RTB’s 5th Anniversary, because it’s also been 5 years since I ‘got the call’ and sold my first book. 🙂

      So HUZZAH and CONGRATS to Romancing the Book. Here’s to another five years!

      Best of luck in the drawing, Wanda, and thanks for stopping by! Cheers, EE

    • bn100,

      I LOVE to do research. Sometimes I pick subjects just so I can research them. I love that part of the process when I’m getting background information, and wondering what’s going to be possible in the world I’m going to create. It’s loads of fun for me. 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by tonight to chat, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  10. Linda Thum says:

    Happy Anniversary & thanks to Allison for requesting to have Elizabeth interviewed. I have been wanting to read them for some time but for some reason they are either not available – I’m an international reader – or terribly expensive – make that an impecunious international reader with a love of historical romance.
    Love the sounds of Almost a Scandal; sounds like a strong & capable heroine.

    • Linda,

      I would say almost all of my heroines are strong and capable, or if they aren’t at the beginning of the story they are by the end!

      And I am so sorry its so hard for international readers to find my books. 🙁 I know they are available in Australia, and Rosemary’s Romance books carries them and will ship to you, but that just makes them even more expensive. 🙁

      So all I can say is best of luck in the drawing, and thanks so much for stopping by to chat. Cheers, EE

  11. nurmawati djuhawan says:

    howdy elizabeth…scandal in the night sounds a great book…i love the blurb but especially i love the cover 🙂
    i always want to buy book by its cover…
    can’t wait to read this one..
    thx u for the chance …

    • Thank you so much for saying such nice things about the covers! (Because I just got a note on Facebook from a reader who said she hadn’t wanted to read my books BECAUSE of the ‘bodice ripper covers,” but did read them anyway because a friend insisted, and she loved the stories! So It’s always a pleasure when the cover DOES please a reader. 🙂

      Best of luck in the drawing, and thank you so much for stopping by this evening to chat. Cheers, EE

  12. Mary Preston says:

    All of the research would be fascinating I always feel. Good thing I don’t write or I’d spend all my time just gathering info.

    • Mary,

      It’s always a danger. 🙂 I do have to stop myself at a certain point, and say enough! But sometimes I can use the research in another book, so it never really goes to waste.

      Thanks so much for stopping by this evening, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  13. JoAnne_W says:

    What a wonderful interview. I can’t wait to go back and read some of your other books. I’m currently reading A Breath of Scandal and loving it so far.

    • JoAnn,

      I am so thrilled to hear you are loving A BREATH OF SCANDAL. I will tell you that ABOS was THE first story I ever wrote, but it is not the first story I sold, because I set it aside, and then wrote another story that I felt was better. And at the time, it was. But then, after I had written and published 4 other books, I pulled the MS that became A BREATH OF SCANDAL back out of the closet and went to work on it. I practically re-wrote the entire book, but the thing that stayed the same were those two wonderful characters, and especially that fabulous, funny hero, Will Jellicoe.

      I think I fall a little in love with every one of my heroes, but I REALLY adore Will. 🙂

      Wishing you happy reading, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  14. Ada says:

    Hi Elizabeth! One of my favorite things besides the actual book itself is the cover. I’m wondering how much say do you get as an author on what your cover looks like or is it left to the publishers/editors to decide? I really love the look of your covers!!

    • Ada,

      I have very limited input. However, I have to say the cover for SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT is one of my favorite covers. Usually, my editor will email me and as for a physical description of my hero and heroine. And then they just design the cover anyway. 🙂 For SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT, I gave them a passage about how the hero feels the first time he sees the heroine, and somehow that vision of her translated beautifully to the cover. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work as well. But this one is sooooo lovely, I have a big poster of it up in my office. 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

        • Thank you, Ada.

          And I’ll have my latest up on my FB page later today. It was revealed yesterday at the Heroes & Heartbreakers site. Such great fun.

          Come let me know what you think. Cheers, EE

  15. Filia Oktarina says:

    Hi, Elizabeth.
    I still haven’t read your book, but i am very interesting with your book. And i like the cover book too. I have one your book on my collection, but still not read ir. I still find time to read all my unread collection book.

    • Filia,

      I, too, have such a huge To Be Read pile that I am running out of space. I love to read and don’t have as much time to do so as I would like. (But today I am reading—The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan!)

      Wishing you best of luck in drawing, and hoping you have hours of free reading time. Cheers, EE

  16. Gretchen says:

    Hi, Elizabeth,
    I love your book covers. I have so many historical fiction books in my library. I also enjoy reading a series. I will definitely be adding your books to my tbr pile:)

    • Thank you, Gretchen! And although mine are a loosely linked series, each one can stand alone—you don’t have to read all of them in order to find your way. 🙂

      I’m so happy to be on your TBR pile. 🙂 Best of luck in the drawing and thanks for stopping by to chat. Cheers, EE

  17. Chelsea B. says:

    Ahhh! Those covers are lush and beautiful! Blessed by the cover Gods, ye were! 😉
    Wonderful interview!

    • Thank you so much, Chelsea! (And I just revealed another cover over at Heroes & Heartbreakers yesterday afternoon).

      I have been blessed by the cover Gods. 🙂 And I really love this lush green cover. My favorite. 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by to chat, and best of luck in the drawing. Cheers, EE

  18. martha lawson says:

    Hi Elizabeth! You are a new to me author which I love finding. Your books look excellent and I look forward to reading them. I’m putting them on the wish list!

  19. mrsshukra says:

    Where have I been? I have not read Elizabeth’s novels!!!! I will remedy this and catch up! Scandal in the Night is right up my alley, thanks!

    • Dear Mrs. Shukra,

      You have been right where you belong, as you are now in a place to read all SIX of my stories, starting with SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT. 🙂

      Honestly, I am in the business of writing romance, and I discover new authors all the time. So I am wishing you many hours of happy, uninterrupted reading, and best of luck in the drawing. 🙂 Cheers, EE

  20. jeanette sheets says:

    hi elizabeth i just discovered you tonight and glad i did ,your noveld look so interesting defintley excited to buy and read ,so happy i stumbled upon u ,i will defintley be adding u to my authers list

    • Jackie:

      I am so glad you found me here, too! I’m always thrilled to find new readers, and I hope my books are a fun, entertaining read.

      Wishing you hours of free reading time. 🙂

      Cheers, EE

      • Jeanette,

        So sorry, somehow my comment went to Jackie and not to you. But the sentiment remains the same—I am delighted to find new readers, and I’m so glad you stopped by to chat. 🙂

        Cheers, EE

        • Nancy Goldberg Levine says:

          I finiahws “Almost a Scandal” over the weekend and loved it! My reviews are on Amazon and Good Reads.

          • How fabulous, Nancy! Thank you so very much. I really do appreciate each and every review posted, even if someone doesn’t like the books. It’s still very valuable to have all sorts of different reviews posted.

            But I am especially happy to hear that you loved ALMOST A SCANDAL. That was one of those ‘books of my heart’ that I had been dying to write for a long time. It was a hard sell to my publisher who thought a story of a girl on a warship couldn’t be plausibly done and still be romantic. I hope I proved them wrong. 🙂

            Cheers and thanks again, EE

  21. Jackie says:

    These books look amazing! I can’t believe I haven’t read your books yet. I am so happy that you said that you also just like to “see what happens” when you write. That’s what I like to do as well! 🙂

    • Jackie,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to find us and stop by and chat. I am thrilled to find I’m a new reader for you, because that means there are six books you can go through!! 🙂

      Wishing you all the reading time in the world this summer! Cheers, EE

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