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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Guest Author today: Isabella Hargreaves


Joining me today is author, Isabella Hargreaves     

          
 Hi Elizabeth, thanks for inviting me! I'm an Australian author of historical romances. My stories are usually set in my favourite eras, both in Australia and England. I've been interested in history all my life, so much so that I’ve been working as an historian for the last seven years.  Recently Steam eReads published my first historical novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, after it was a prize winner in their 2013 ‘Some Like it Hot’ Romantic Fiction Competition.

Q:  Can you tell our readers a little about your writing? What genres do you enjoy writing?
A: I write historical romance, usually set in the Regency period, but my latest two are set in the 1920s and in Anglo-Saxon England.
Q:  Do you write on a schedule or when the Muse decides?
A: I try to write every weekday, usually while commuting by train to work. Other than that I write on school holidays when I’m home spending time with my daughter.
Q: Can you tell us about your writing process, for example, do you write an outline first?
A: I write an outline so I know where I’m heading, but it’s not scene by scene – more like: chapter by chapter – deciding what each will do for the plot and/or characterisation.
Q:  What qualities do you instill in your heroes?
A: They have to be strong, decisive and secure enough in their masculinity to be empathetic, caring and tender-hearted.
Q. Coffee or tea?
A: Tea, please.
Q. Beach or countryside?
A: I love both. Walks along the beach or in the country are so relaxing and refreshing.
Q. Do you write about the places you know or prefer to take your readers to exotic places?
A: Generally I write about place I have visited – in England and Australia.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: My inspiration often comes from reading biography.
For my current work in progress, inspiration came from an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
These are only starting points, but they get me thinking about how someone in a certain set of circumstances would react or whether a different outcome for their life might have been possible. I give my character that different life – with a happy ending – of course!
Q: Would you change anything in your life to make writing easier.
A: Not working full-time would make finding the time for writing easier… but isn’t likely to happen any time soon!
Q: We have all suffered submission rejections. How do you cope? Do you have any advice to other writers on coping with rejection?
A: Yep, one can’t be a writer without receiving rejections It’s a disappointment to receive one, but it’s also a sign that maybe that publisher wasn’t the right one for the story, or that something needs strengthening in what I’ve written. If comments have been given, I read them, put them down for a while to get over the disappointment, then come back to them with fresh eyes later to consider the suggestions and either make the changes or even dismiss some of them. It’s important to move on to the next submission. With each rejection, you’re learning something either about your story or that particular publisher and what they’re after.
Q: What do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?
A: I like to read historical romances (of course) and contemporaries (although I just can’t write them). My favourite authors are: Mary Balogh, Mary Ann Shaffer, Liz Carlyle, Jennifer Crusie, Jane Austen and Noelle Clark.
Q: Do you write one novel at a time or do you move between works in progress?
A: Usually I write one novel at a time so I can submerge myself in it, but I have been known to start another story when I get a great idea and I’ll write the premise, synopsis, first chapter and book outline. Then I have to decide whether to keep going with the new story or go back to the first.
Q: Do you have times when the Muse is away on holiday?
A: Oh yes! Then it’s a matter of just keeping going. She will come back unless I’ve got so far up a dry gully I need to go back and seriously rethink the plot or conflict.
Q. What motivates you to write?
A: Wanting to tell the story and to write something I would want to read.
Q. What advice would you give to unpublished authors approaching an e publisher?
A: Same as for a print publisher – polish your manuscript, have it critiqued or evaluated – make sure it’s the best you can make it and then send it and get on with the next project.
Q: Is there anything you would like to share with us about upcoming releases?
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Q: Can you tell us a little about your current novel? What inspired you to write this story?
 A: Sure.  Inspiration for my recent novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, came from reading about the life and writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and asking ‘how would a supporter of her views cope with falling in love?’
That someone was my heroine, Jane Brody, a member of an educated and intellectual family, who not only absorbed Wollstonecraft’s views but advocated them as well.  Jane is an intelligent woman who wants to lead a purposeful life and be treated as an equal by men. She thinks that marriage and motherhood robbed her mother of many things and ultimately, her life. She doesn’t want to marry – ever – for fear that she will lose the things she values. What she doesn’t realize is that LOVE was the reason for her mother’s choice to marry and to have all those children, and that it is a powerful motivation. Like Wollstonecraft, she falls in love and in doing so tries to find a way to retain her principles while committing to her love. Jonathan Everslie, Marquis of Dalton, knows he has to marry soon but can’t quite commit to marrying one of the facile young women he meets. Then he meets Jane…
Blurb: Jonathan Everslie, Marquis of Dalton, knows he must marry soon to provide an heir who can take care of his large family. His Aunt has already written a list of suitable ladies for Jonathan’s attention. Miss Jane Brody, daughter of a clergyman, is not on that list. As a member of an educated and intellectual family, who advocates the rights of women, Jane struggles to retain her principles as she finds herself falling for Jonathan.
Excerpt:
Prologue
Grosvenor Square, London, August 1817
The door to his library opened abruptly and swung back on its hinges crashing into the bookshelves behind. An erect, grey haired lady dressed in the latest Parisian fashion marched into the room and stood before him as he sat behind his oak desk, bathed in early afternoon sunshine Jonathan Everslie, Marquis of Dalton, gave her his full attention as she wanted and smiled in amused anticipation.
Without hesitation she launched the frontal attack he knew was coming.
“You must marry, Dalton, you must!” Lady Lucinda Mulgrave was emphatic. “You have a large family of dependent aunts and cousins and there is no heir to follow you. Do you want them thrown out on the streets when you die?”
“I must have an heir somewhere Aunt Lucinda. It only stands to reason. If I were to expire, I’m sure he would be found.” The new Marquis of Dalton attempted to calm her with logic. “And would look after his dependents,” he added as an afterthought.
The elderly lady raised her chin and stared down her aquiline nose at her nephew, her mouth set in a disapproving line. “There may be a cousin in New South Wales from my youngest brother who was sent there in exile - but his mother could be a convict for all we know. It is your duty to marry and beget an heir, and soon.”
“Let me be clear. I know it is my duty to marry, and soon, Aunt Lucinda, but I won’t marry anyone I consider unsuitable.”
Doggedly, Lady Mulgrave ploughed on with her lecture. “This is not the time to be fastidious. There are myriad young ladies every Season, more than suitable for the task – with impeccable backgrounds and some with money to match.”
The Marquis was placating. “And I will consider them. However, the Season doesn’t begin for another seven months, so this conversation is premature.”
“Nonsense, there are many families with eligible daughters whom you could visit, or invite to stay at Everslie in the meantime.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?”
“You have your secretary write invitations and send them, Jonathan.” She glared at him.
“How do I know who these candidates are?”
“I have a list already written.” She produced it with a flourish and laid it in front of him on his desk. “I expect to be presiding over a house party for these ladies and their families at Everslie by Christmas.”
Having delivered her message and assuming agreement, Lady Mulgrave nodded to her nephew in conclusion and sailed from his presence.
In frustration, the Marquis ran his long fingers through his hair, pushing the short brown curls from his forehead. He picked up the list and cast a knowing eye down its length. He had met them all and been bored to the point of irritation by their simpering ways. He groaned then crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it into the empty fire grate.
“Stevens!” His man of business arrived quickly. “Send to the stables for Nate to saddle my horse. I’m going out for a ride. I believe we have concluded today’s business.”
“Yes, we have my lord, but have you forgotten that you promised to take your sister to a lecture this afternoon, as Lady Mulgrave is unavailable?”
Vexed at the impediment to his escape, he sank back into his chair behind the desk. “Ah, yes, I do remember. We shall be gone for the afternoon. Thank you Stevens, continue with your work.” He changed his mind. “No – send word to my solicitor that I shall see him tomorrow morning.”
“May I tell him what it concerns, my lord?”
“Yes, I wish to trace the whereabouts of my uncle in Australia, or his family, should he have met his maker.”
Stevens nodded compliance and left to follow the Marquis’ orders.
Alone again, Dalton sank into a reverie about the onerous obligations that befall those who inherit titles – that of producing heirs for the benefit of their families. Of course, he mused, it shouldn’t be an onerous task to find a wife and create a family - it should be a pleasurable duty. Why wasn’t it turning out that way?


One
He wanted her. Only her.
The Marquis of Dalton shook his head. Was he mad? Where did that idea come from?
The room came back into focus and her words swirled around him. The drawing room in the modest townhouse, leased by The Reverend William Brody, was awash with late summer light streaming through its tall arched windows. An assortment of well-loved chaise longue and chairs were grouped around the simply dressed young woman who was expounding in her low-pitched voice on a better way to educate young women to take their place as men’s equals in society.
She had drawn quite a crowd for this unfashionable time of year. But then again there wasn’t a fashionable person in the room. Instead, when he looked around, those he recognised were doctors and the committed few society people who devoted themselves to philanthropic causes. To his left was Mrs Courtice, an eccentric elderly widow who supported every charitable cause in the city. Her bird-like form was clothed in an outmoded dress. That was deceptive. She was neither timid nor wanting for money. In fact, he knew that her husband had left her extremely wealthy as there was no entailment on his property and no children to support.
What was he doing here? In answer he glanced at his sister beside him. Her pale face contrasted with the dark circles beneath her eyes. She had urged him to accompany her to this important talk for women.
Oh, he had resisted of course. What man in his right mind wouldn’t, especially a peer of the realm? To entertain such notions was to upset the established balance of the world as it was known. His role was to keep things stable. Bad enough that the working classes were threatening to rise up against their masters.
Nevertheless, he couldn’t resist a plea from his sister Elizabeth for long. Her sweet disposition had always meant that he gave in to her requests - the precious few she made. Involving herself in charity work from the time she had left the schoolroom, she had pulled him into supporting her causes with generous donations. Occasionally he accompanied her when she needed a chaperone other than their aunt, but he had not escorted her to this residence before.
He focused again on the speaker. Miss Jane Brody was petite, confident, and articulate. She had the most beautiful open and earnest face with clear blue eyes. Her wavy golden brown hair was formed into a severe knot at the back of her head, emphasising her high cheekbones but not improving her attractiveness at all. He began imagining how her loosened hair would curl around her slender shoulders. How far would it drape down her naked back? The audience listened in silence, intent on her message, unaware of his lascivious thoughts.
Soon the talk ended. For a moment there was stillness then polite applause began. As hostess, the speaker invited all to join her for tea, which two servants brought in on cue. A hubbub of conversation followed as a number of guests surged towards her. Elizabeth took Jonathan’s arm and urged him forward into the throng around the woman now presiding behind the large teapot.
Apparently Elizabeth knew the speaker. She skirted the chairs, guiding him to the young woman in her daffodil yellow summer dress Jane Brody looked like sunshine and he was being drawn to her. The thick carpet hushed his highly polished Hessian boots but the tassels swished against them as he strode forward, catching her attention he noticed as she looked up at their approach. Her gaze openly admired his form and air.
Elizabeth introduced them in her breathy voice and Jonathan courteously responded. “Charmed to meet you Miss Brody. My sister insisted that I accompany her to hear your views.” And I will certainly do so again after seeing how very much more attractive you are close up.
“I’m delighted to meet you Lord Dalton. I trust I have convinced you that women have voices which ought to be heard. This fraternity needs people in high places such as you to spread the word and convince men that women are entitled to equal rights.”
Surprised by her calm expectation that he was a supporter of her women’s cause, Jonathan felt compelled to disabuse her. “I’m afraid that I do not yet believe there is reason or need for women to demand an equal place in our society.”
“If they do not need equality of rights, then why do women die every day from too many confinements weakening their health?” she demanded quietly.
“Unfortunately they do die,” he replied. His face was impassive. “But that is an issue for man and wife to debate and settle – not society as a whole. And surely not a subject for an unmarried woman to concern herself with?”
“And how do you expect women to control their reproduction if they are not permitted to discuss the question and the means before they are wed? Afterwards it becomes a fait accompli, does it not?” she queried.
Her smile was still in place and her voice was calm but, Jonathan noted, there was a look of fierce determination on her face. He expected she may be a formidable opponent if pitted against him.
“So I can count on your maiden speech in parliament being on the topic of women’s rights my lord?” she added.
Good God; had she left hold of her sanity like old King George? “I’m afraid not Miss Brody, I will not be lecturing my peers on such a personal topic.” He hoped the conversation was at an end, but he saw a battle light in her eyes and suspected she would not let him off the hook.
She spoke quietly. “I took you for a man of greater moral fibre my lord. I see I was mistaken.” She turned to his sister and then Mrs Courtice on her right offering them tea and cake.
He was dismissed – as if of no further interest or use to her. It was an unfamiliar feeling – of being ignored by an unmarried woman, or by anyone else for that matter. Stunned, he stepped back from the group and strode away to talk with Dr Logan, the middle-aged doctor who aided a mission in Wapping for unmarried mothers. It was a charity to which Jonathan had given funds for some time but in which he had never taken a close interest, preferring instead to let his money do the work. He listened distractedly to the doctor but his mind was churning.
This woman, this Miss Jane Brody, the daughter of a clergyman, had challenged his very usefulness in the world and found him wanting. Anger flared in him. By what right did she feel she could do that? Did she truly believe that women were the equal of men? Obviously she did. He cast his eye around the room. Did all these people hold the same belief and expectation? It was a sobering thought.
The anger died as quickly as it rose. Why be angry at being called to account? Better to be curious and find out more about her ideas like the man of letters which he was. He vowed to investigate her and her writings, find the flaws in her beliefs and make sure that she could never put him on the back foot again.
His eyes were drawn to her slight but womanly figure seated at ease amongst the China tea set. She looked so right there; as did most ladies of his acquaintance. It was a charming and attractive sight. But she wasn’t chatting about the weather and fashions and events for the upcoming Season like others. Instead she and her fellow bluestockings and philanthropists were discussing ways of changing the order of things in society.
She was a disturbing phenomenon.
***
Jane seethed. While smiling and serving her guests she sensed Lord Dalton’s eyes on her. He was the most annoying man. First his narrow-minded attitudes and now his steady brown-eyed gaze upon her. He was every inch the Corinthian, from his short brown hair swept upon his brow and his tall athletic body clad in the best of men’s fashion, to his shining Hessian boots. Obviously good looks, a wonderful physique and enormous wealth did not ensure intelligence and manners!
What a contrast to his delightful and thoughtful sister. Jane had met Lady Elizabeth a number of times at meetings of charity groups over the last few months. The last encounter had been at a ball when Lady Elizabeth had been accompanied by her aunt, Lady Lucinda Mulgrave. The aunt had seemed a typical society matron intent on pushing her niece forward into a suitable match. It appeared the brother might do the same.
Having met two examples of the family Jane hoped these traditionalists were not pressuring Lady Elizabeth to accept the usual role for women before she was old enough to think for herself.
Jane had one sister already married and the next one, Anna, was keen to find a husband. Jane couldn’t understand the haste or the reasoning - she was glad to be unshackled by husband and children who would claim every moment of her day. Instead, she enjoyed devoting her spare time to charitable work when not supervising her father’s household and organising her three youngest siblings who were still living at home. Now nineteen, Anna required only escorting to public events from time to time, while the younger pair still needed tutoring, which she shared with her father.
Her other sister Charlotte had married about a year ago, at what Jane felt was the very young age of twenty. Despite all her counselling to wait a little longer, until she was at least of age and better knew her fiancé - a cavalry officer - Charlotte had persuaded their father to give his consent to the marriage. She was now residing near Portsmouth close to the cavalry regiment’s encampment. Too far away for frequent visiting, leaving only weekly letter writing between the sisters as their means of communication.
Eight years after his wife’s death her father, the Reverend Brody, had not recovered his zest for life, nor much interest in the people and events around him. He seemed to have shrunk inside his clothes; his hair had gone white and his laughter rare. In the interim Jane had taken over much of his charity work.
Marshalling her thoughts, Jane involved herself in the conversation between Mrs Courtice and Lady Elizabeth going on beside her. “Have you been well, Lady Elizabeth?” asked Jane.
“Yes, much improved since the cloudy, foggy days have gone,” she responded. “As long as London’s sky remains clear my cough is non-existent. If the weather changes I may have to retreat to the country again, like last Spring. My brother keeps a close eye on me and whisks me away if my symptoms start.”
“Indeed, he is a very caring, solicitous brother from what you say,” Jane conceded.
Lady Elizabeth nodded. “I do wish I could convince him to take up your cause now that he is to take his place in the House of Lords. The rights of women need to be recognised so that we may have some chance of independence in these tumultuous times.”
“Yes, we need a champion in high places if we are to spread your message Jane,” agreed Mrs Courtice. “It is not enough for us to just perform charity work to help women who have fallen on hard times. We need to change the way society thinks of women. We are not inferior to men. We ought to be educated to assume our rightful place beside them.”
Her look pierced Jane. “You must continue to write your pamphlets about our cause Jane. It is valuable work.”
“I hope never to stop until our aim is achieved Mrs Courtice,” Jane agreed. “But we still need a patron – preferably a man of influence.”
“Then you must try to convince my brother to take up our cause Miss Brody,” said Lady Elizabeth. “If anyone can do it, it is you. He has always been complacent about social issues but now that he has inherited his title, he has the ability to effect change. He needs a good shake up.”
“How should I go about that Lady Elizabeth? He seemed quite adamant that he was against women’s rights when I spoke with him a little while ago.”
“Don’t let one failed attempt put you off! Come to see me tomorrow morning. He is always in his study working with his man of business before luncheon I will ensure that you get the opportunity to talk with him there.”
Jane wondered why she felt as though she would be bearding the lion in his den when she visited the handsome, yet reactionary, Lord Dalton to convert him to their cause.
Author’s links: www.isabellahargreaves.com