Inquiring readers: One of my favorite go-to blogs is Regency Ramble. Michele Ann Young never disappoints me with the choice of her topics or depth of her research about England or the regency era. In addition, the photos of her frequent trips to England provide endless and original variety. Michele is also an author, and her new novel, The Lady Flees Her Lord, is coming out from Sourcebooks in October (in about two weeks). Having admired Michele for so long, and knowing her book is about to come out, I thought this was a perfect time to have a chat with her.
Vic: Hello Michele, thank you for taking time out to answer my questions!
Michele: First I would like to thank you for inviting me to your blog. What a pleasure and a privilege. I am always so pleased when you pop by the Regency Ramble and leave me a note.
Vic: (Blush) I wish I could visit it more often, but whenever I do I look forward to reading your regular features, which you repeat with regularity, like the regency fashion for a particular month, the flora and fauna that are in season, and your travel specials. Most recently I loved your Regency footwear posts, and thought your posts about regency money were fascinating. I especially liked the images of old money, and believe it is the first time I have seen a farthing! Tell me a bit about your research in each of these areas. What are some of your favorite sources and why?
Michele: I first started the regency ramble because I wanted somewhere to keep track visually of things I thought might be useful for scene setting in my books as well as factual information. I thought others might like it too.
The regular fashion feature came about because I wanted to see how fashions changed throughout the time period (the long regency, so really Prinny), and how fashions changed month to month. So I started collecting all the fashion pictures I could find in two folders, one organized by year and one by month. I decided to put the fashions on the blog in the month in which they were worn.
A similar thing occurred with the flora and fauna blog, though it tends to be more flora and insects, because most of my information comes from a Naturists Diary and then I go hunting for pictures. I am looking for a good source for fauna but use some of my own knowledge to then search out the information on particular animals.
My special trip blogs started out fairly haphazardly, but now I carefully document each picture, as best I can in situ and then look up more information for the text. I visit as many old buildings, cities, castles as I can on each trip I make. I like to find interesting places in addition to London where I can set my books, for example Royal Tunbridge Wells and Dover.
The shoe museum was a bonus. A friend invited me to go with her for the day, and I had so much fun, because they really had lots of stuff. And we all love shoes.
As I write my stories, I discover things I need to know, and then I blog about them. It helps me three ways, one, to actually do the research and absorb the information, two, to get visual impressions that I can recall when I am writing and three, to keep track and find it again. I have scores of computer files on myriad topics, but they are often dry texts that I hunt through to find a specific piece of information. But then I have to bring them to life. And often blogging about them, helps me do that.
With regard to resources:
I am lucky to belong to a university library, so I have lots of access to diaries and books that might not be available in the general library system. I belong to the Beaumonde chapter of RWA and they are very generous with their resources and information. I also subscribe to the Moonstone Research Publication Newsletters and have received permission to post a limited number of fashions pictures from that list each month. I also collect my own plates when I can afford them. And I buy lots and lots of books, rare books, used books. I scour second hand bookshops everywhere I go.
Vic: Are you English or American? It seems to me that you naturally straddle both worlds.
Michele: I am English originally. I grew up in England and Scotland. I left there to come to Canada when I got married. I now travel back to England every year to visit family and of course to do my research.
Vic: Is your blog, Regency Ramble, a natural extension of the research you do for your novels? Or is your interest in historical detail a separate passion?
Regency Ramble definitely started because I decided to write novels in the era, because that is what I love to read. But I majored in history at college, European Economic History, primarily after the Regency era. I love all historical topics. I am fascinated with the Tudors, and the Stewarts. I like the Victorian era, but I feel it is too close to today to keep me entranced. I have oodles of general history books covering all eras. But because there is so much to learn about the Regency, it keeps me fully occupied.
Vic: When did you decide to become a writer, and how did you settle on historical romance?
Michele: I wrote my first novel in 2000. I wrote it for something to do during a period of forced inactivity. The story that came into my mind was a regency and I finished it. It wasn’t very good, but I discovered I loved the process and set about to learn about the craft of writing.
I like stories about relationships. And I like happy endings. It turns out that these are romances, although I didn’t realize that when I started. I am also writing a historical novel which does not have a central relationship, or at least not in the first book, since I am planning a single protagonist series also set in 1809 through to 1815. Whether it will sell, I’m not sure.
Vic: Tell me a little about your creative process. Do you come up with the plot first and then research the period, or do the two go together? Are you a disciplined writer or do you wait for inspiration?
Michele: I tend to get a scene in my head with one or both main characters. Usually the opening scene of the book. For No Regrets it was a picture of a man riding into a medieval kitchen that was being used as a scullery for a hunt ball. The woman in the kitchen was someone he’d been trying to talk to for a while. For my new book, The Lady Flees Her Lord, the scene was a woman trying to escape her husband.
These opening scenes pose all kinds of questions and I follow where they lead. Sometimes my research will generate that opening scene. I do a lot of reading of history books for interest. Occasionally I will research an important point along the way, if it might make or break the plot. Otherwise, I highlight something I want to double-check and go back to it later.
I write in a linear fashion from there to the end, with no idea of the plot until it happens. This often requires major rewrites, when the story takes an unexpected turn that messes up the beginning.
I am a full time writer and I write every weekday starting at 9 am until about three. I have several contracts to fulfill, so I have to be disciplined. I do email and research and promotional things later in the day.
Vic: Who are your favorite Jane Austen hero and heroine, and why?
Michele: I have to say Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I enjoy her other characters, but those two are standouts for me.
Vic: Thank you for your thoughtful answers, Michele. Before ending this interview, I have one final question. I see that Sourcebooks will come out with your novel in October. What can people look forward to when they read The Lady Flees Her Lord?
Michele: Physically and emotionally abused because she has failed to produce an heir, the plump Lucinda, Lady Denbigh, is running from her husband. A softhearted collector of strays, she rescues a street urchin on her way and posing as a widow, she seeks refuge in the quiet Kent countryside…
Lord Hugo Wanstead, with a wound that won’t heal, and a death on his conscience, he finds his estate impoverished, his sleep torn by nightmares, and brandy his only solace.
When he meets Lucinda, he finds her beautiful, body and soul, and thinks she just might give him something to live for…
Together they can begin to heal, but not until she is free of her violent past…
One reviewer said: Our author has given us a little slice of Heaven molded from a minuscule slice of Hell. Our emotions are played like a violin with endearing words, breath taking scenes and a virtuous sense of right and wrong. The authors writing style is highly comparable with Jane Austin but with more of today’s romance mentality. Lush and loving, heart wrenching beautiful, one could only hope to have a Lord Hugo Wanstead to desire us so truly and deeply.
Vic: Good luck with your new book. I wish you much success and a best seller!
Michele: Thanks so much.