Kaye Dacus is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there. She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through jer blog and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear. In June 2006, she received her Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her thesis novel, Happy Endings Inc., beca,e her first published novel, re-titled Stand-In Groom.Romance novels were amongst the first books Kaye Dacus read, so it was natural when she started writing as a young teen, that would be what she penned. Kaye, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, is a Jane Austen fanatic and loves watching and discussing British costume-drama movies with friends.
1. How long have you been a writer? Correct that, how long have you wanted to be a writer and have you always wanted to write Christian romance novels?
I’ve always had a very active imagination, making up my own internal stories, complete with characters, my entire life. Around age twelve or thirteen, I wanted to be able to remember what I’d been imagining, so I started writing it down on paper. And even though I majored in English/Creative Writing in college, it wasn’t until my late 20s/early 30s that I realized I wanted to pursue publication and learned not only how to finish a novel, but the craft and skill that goes into writing one that’s going to catch a publisher’s eye.
I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to write “Christian” romance novels. Everything I’ve written has always had a romantic theme to it. They happen to have a spiritual worldview to them because that’s my own personal worldview. Therefore, it was logical to seek publication in the Christian publishing industry, since that’s where they fit best. But pretty much, my goal is to write stories that entertain and uplift—and that I can let my mom and my grandmother and my fourteen-year-old niece read without worrying about offending them.
2. What is a Christian romance novel exactly?
There are actually a few different levels of religious content within books that are considered “Christian”—those that are published by CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) publishers. The first is “moral” fiction—those that are clean (no foul language, no sex on the page—it only happens behind closed doors and between married couples) but without an overt spirituality/religious flavor to them; they may not even mention God or any kind of religion at all. The next is what I write, which is “inspirational” fiction—those that are spiritual, but the characters usually start out as Christians—it’s just a normal part of their daily lives—and though there is a spiritual lesson that a character must learn in the course of the book, the spiritual theme takes a back seat to the plot of the novel. The final is “Christian” fiction, in which the spiritual theme is one of the driving forces of the story, the entire gospel message is usually verbalized by at least one character, along with sermons and Bible verses, and at least one character will “come to Jesus” in the course of the book—in fact, the entire plot may hinge on that person’s becoming saved for the story to have a satisfying conclusion.
3. You chose Portsmouth as the setting for Ransome’s Honor. Describe your process of deciding on a setting and how long you research a book before actually beginning to write.
I chose Portsmouth as the setting for Ransome’s Honor because it was the home of the Royal Navy, and it’s the city that my initial research pointed toward as being a logical place for the story to happen—a city where naval officers would be in abundance in 1814. My research process is a little different, because the idea for the story stemmed from two distinct arenas—my literary criticism thesis as an undergraduate and falling in love with a particular character in the Horatio Hornblower movies/books.
My senior year of college (when I had gone back to complete my degree as an adult learner), I wrote my lit-crit thesis on the topic of “Wealth and Social Status as a Theme in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Jane Austen is my favorite author, and while Persuasion is my favorite of the six major novels, background information and critical essays on P&P were much easier to come by. So through writing that thesis, much of my research on the era—on the social norms, on the lifestyle, on the economics (both public and private)—was already done. But doing the research for that paper put so many good resources into my hands that delve into so many other aspects of the era, and I read most of those for pleasure. Then, A&E aired the final two Hornblower films (Loyalty and Duty) released. I’d never seen any of the others, but as soon as I watched those, I was in love . . . not with Horatio Hornblower, because I almost never fall for the hero. No, it was Lt. William Bush, the side kick, who caught my eye. Which led me to the books. And because Persuasion is my favorite JA novel, and because Frederick Wentworth is my favorite of all the Austen heroes, I naturally started dreaming of a Royal Navy captain as a hero for a book of my own. Because I started the story somewhat on a whim my second year of graduate school (when I was in heavy revisions on my contemporary romance novel, Stand-In Groom), I didn’t do a lot of heavy research at the beginning. But when I realized the story had teeth and might actually go somewhere, that’s when I started really diving into the research on the Royal Navy and its ships and officers. And I knew it was the right era for me to write about—because the more I learned, the more I wanted to know and pass along to others in the form of a fictional, romantic story.
4. This is a trilogy. Did you plot out the three books before you embarked on Ransome’s Honor?
When I first started writing the story, I thought it would be a single book. But then, the further I got into it, and the more interested I became in the era as well as the characters I was developing, the more I realized there was way too much story for just one book. And a two-book series, believe it or not, is a harder sell than a three-book series. But I had to be sure I would have enough story to support a trilogy, so I sat down and just started brainstorming the whole thing out. The middle book of the three (the one I’m writing right now) scares me the most, because it’s all about following up on the consequences of things that happen in the first book and setting up what’s going to happen in the final book—while still giving a complete, satisfying story in and of itself. I started the book three times (writing/rewriting six to ten chapters each time) until I hit on the right opening and the right pacing for the story.
I am a loose-plotter when it comes to writing. I have to know where I’m going, and what my key, pivotal conflict and action scenes will be. But when it comes to the rest of the story—everything that fills in between those scenes—I’m very much a “seat of the pants” writer. I listen to what my characters want to tell me and let them drive the narrative. (Yes, it’s true about authors and the “voices” in our heads!).
5. I see in your publicity that you were inspired by Jane Austen and Horatio Hornblower. If a movie were to be made of your book, who would play the major characters?
Originally, the character of Captain William Ransome was based on the Real World Template of Paul McGann in the role of William Bush in the Hornblower films. But since my William is only supposed to be in his 30s, I could see Jack Davenport in that role. The character of Julia is based on the RWT of Anna Friel, especially with the way she looks in the movie St. Ives. Charlotte, in looks alone (because I’m not really fond of her as an actress) is based on Natalie Portman. And Sir Drake is based on Adrian Paul, though I believe that Blake Ritson or Jude Law might make an acceptable alternative, since Adrian isn’t as young as he was in his Highlander days, which is how I was picturing him as I wrote. And of course, Admiral Sir Edward Witherington is none other than the inimitable Sir Robert Lindsay from the Hornblower and Jericho films.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Kaye, and good luck on the success of your book. I look forward to your second installment of the trilogy.
- Gentle Reader, order Ransome’s Honor at this link.