Jen: Today we welcome R.C. Matthews to Romancing the Book. R.C., will you share a short bio with us?
R.C.: R.C. Matthews was raised by deaf parents in the Metro Detroit area, along with three sisters and a brother. Her father is a voracious reader, and that gene lives on in all of his children. Now the reading gene is sprouting in her own two sons, who love to read J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, and many others. She enjoys traveling with her family (loving husband, two sons, and a stepson), reading, downhill skiing, and playing board games.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
R.C.: Devil’s Cove is a Victorian era gothic romance with paranormal elements. This is book one in a three- book series called Tortured Souls. All three of the heroes met and bonded while serving on The Bloody Mary pirate ship under the command of The Butcher. I’ve always wanted to write a gothic romance, but I didn’t have a specific story in mind. My inspiration came from an article one of my author friends circulated on Facebook about a 19th century ballroom in an abandoned mansion. The pictures were super creepy but also awe-inspiring – perfect fodder for a gothic story. I’ve never built a story around a place or picture before. so this was a fun and unique adventure for me.
The carriage barreled along the gravel path at an alarming speed, its four spoked wheels devouring small stones under the weight of the conveyance. Grace had never had the pleasure of riding in such rich travel accommodations, and she would’ve enjoyed the experience if not for the dread blooming in her heart over reaching their final destination.
After some time passed in silence, the seat cushion beside her squeaked as Brother Anselm shifted his weight, presumably to peer out the window.
“The mansion wants only a moat and a drawbridge,” her mentor said. “Then the picture would be complete. Something out of Grimms’ Fairy Tales to be sure.”
Grace leaned closer into his side and smiled in spite of the fact that he confirmed her worst fears about Devil’s Cove Manor. He always did enjoy a scary story.
Captain Limmerick emitted a dry laugh. “You believe in witches or the big bad wolf, then? I’m sorry to hear it. You’ll not survive long in the manor. Perhaps you prefer to stay closer to your almighty God in the chapel?”
“Do not be unkind,” Grace lashed out. “Brother Anselm has faced far worse than witches and wolves. I assure you we both have. Isn’t that the reason you sought my services tonight?”
“Something like that,” the captain replied. “Pray tell, Miss Grace, what exactly does 100 pounds get me? For that price I should expect a meeting with the devil, at the very least. Or perhaps the gatekeeper to Hell?”
Grace sat up straighter, unfazed by his taunts. He was barbaric for attempting to alarm her, and stupid, too, if he truly required her services. But if he wished to tease her, then two could play at his game. “Who believes in fairy tales now? Can we expect a visit from the neighboring prince bearing a glass slipper?”
The captain’s amused chuckled filled the cabin. “That would require a ball first. I’ll see what I can do about that.”
Grace snorted and pulled her cloak tighter around her, warding off the sudden chill racing up her spine. Balls held no allure for her, and she was tired of sparring with the captain. She hunkered down in her seat, tapping her feet to promote blood flow to her frozen toes.
A foreign creaking sound filled her ears for a brief moment, and then the captain cleared his throat. “Take this blanket,” he said, placing it in Grace’s hands. “The nights grow cold in fall. We’ll be home soon, then you can warm yourself by the fire.”
She accepted it with a curt nod and set the blanket over her legs, reveling in what little warmth it offered now; for soon they would arrive at the manor and she would face the cold reality of her greatest fears.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
R.C.: I started as a pantser, and I wrote several contemporary romances with plots that were relatively simple but a lot of fun. But when I tried to write a teen high fantasy story for my fourteen-year-old son, I found that there were too many story elements and research points to keep track of, and plotting the story became essential. That was about the time that I took a Michael Hauge class at RWA and learned the 12 principles to a great story. Once I had written the story using a detailed plot (as outlined in the 12 principles), I really loved it, and now I plot out all of my stories. So I’ve gone from having a three-page outline for Little White Lies to a fifty-page outline for Devil’s Cove.
Jen: Do you have a writing routine?
R.C.: I wish I did, but I don’t. Everything I’ve read says a writer should write every single day, but I have a full-time job so sometimes I’m too tired to write when I get home. Most of my writing happens on the weekends. I write in bed, at my desk, at the kitchen table, or on the couch. While I prefer complete silence, I’ve also written to music a few times … especially the sexy scenes. There isn’t a particular time of day that’s best for writing either. But when inspiration strikes, I sit down and write no matter where I am. On the flip side, if I’m not feeling inspired, I take a break. I never want writing to feel like a chore to me, because it’s my escape.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
R.C.: Devil’s Cove is my first historical romance as well as my first paranormal romance, so I had to do a ton of research. It was a lot of fun researching how to banish evil spirits and the whole spiritual realm. I also enjoyed researching various mythologies while trying to develop an interesting background story for my villain, Josephine. With respect to the historical time period I had to research who the prime minister was in 1880 and a lot around the naming conventions for the aristocracy (i.e. what do you call a baron’s daughter, the wife of a marquess, etc.) and social graces. However, it helped that my hero is a privateer and quite unconventional. Plus, they’re in a small town. But there were so many other small things I had to research: How long does it take for a body to decompose? What were the building code requirements of the time period? Did the Ouija board exist in 1880: What about a husband’s rights to admit his wife / daughter into an insane asylum? This book required more research than any of my other books to date by a far margin (it’s on par with the teen fantasy I wrote for my son).
Jen: If this book were made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
R.C.: Oh, this is easy. Devlin Limmerick would be played by Chris Hemsworth, and Grace would be played by Alexis Bledel.
Jen: How do you come up with characters’ names?
R.C.: Well, it depends on the story that I’m writing. In the case of Devil’s Cove, I was very particular about the names that I chose. The heroine was raised by a monk, and it becomes her mission to save the soul of the hero. I wanted her name to be symbolic and so I chose Grace for her. The hero is seriously tortured and truly believes he is a bad man who is not worthy of redemption. So I chose Devlin for him (i.e. as close to devil as I could get; in fact, his nickname is the Devil). Without giving away the story line, I also chose one other name in the story because it means “of the Lord,” which fits so beautifully in this storyline. The same is true for book two in this series. The hero must survive / break an eternal curse, so I chose Victor as his name (i.e. he will be victorious). But many times I simply pick names that I like and haven’t used before. The one name I NEVER pick for a hero is my husband’s name. I’m his one and only love. But he did get a minor role in the teen fantasy book I wrote.
Jen: What’s next for you?
R.C.: I’m currently working on book two of the Tortured Soul series which is also a gothic romance featuring Victor Blackburn and Mercy Seymour (secondary characters in Devil’s Cove). The story centers on a family descendant of the Norse goddess of love, Freya, and an eternal curse. I took inspiration from the tale of Freya and the Brisingamen necklace.