Saturday, 15 February 2014

In The Hot Seat Today: Regency Romance Author Sasha Cottman

Welcome, Sasha it's great to host you on my blog today before we start can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

 Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.
Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.
When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.
Letter from a Rake won the 2013 Book Junkies Choice Award for Historical Romance, and is a finalist in the ARRA Awards Best Historical Romance. Sasha is also a finalist for Best New Author.
Letter from a Rake is Sasha’s debut novel.

Q:  Can you tell our readers a little about your writing? What genres do you enjoy writing?
I am a lover of Historical Romance. When I fell into romance reading and writing by accident a few years ago, I was immediately drawn to the Regency period of romance.

Q:  Do you write on a schedule or when the Muse decides?
I am an accountant by profession, so I am very much a person who writes by schedule. I have word count goals and monthly planners on the wall of my study. When I first began writing I let the muse decide, but then I discovered she would disappear for months at a time.

Q: Can you tell us about your writing process, for example, do you write an outline first?
As you expect, I am a plotter. I like to know where the story is going so that I don’t fall into plot holes or mid-story sag. One of the lessons I learnt from my first manuscript (which I abandoned after 2 ½ years) was that I need to outline the story. For the manuscript I have just completed, I wrote a four page story outline and was then able to cut it to fit the scenes of the book.

Q:  What qualities do you instil in your heroes?
Honour and a sense of humour are probably something I write consistently into the character of my heroes. I do find the dark, tortured hero can get a little tired at times, but if he is given moments of levity I am more able to accept that he is capable of love. Writing Regency, my heroes have to be able to display the qualities of a gentleman/lord. 

Q. Coffee or tea?
Coffee the colour of mud preferably for first thing in the morning, but I do drink chai later in the evening so that I can sleep. I love the taste of strong coffee, but please hold the sugar.

Q. Beach or countryside?
Having lived in both, I would certainly say I am a beach girl. I love nothing better than getting to our place at the beach on a Friday night, knowing I will be walking in the sand come Saturday morning.

Q. Do you write about the places you know or prefer to take your readers to exotic places?
A little bit of both. Writing historical romance, takes you to places that may still exist but are different to what they are today. This of course is a research problem which needs to be overcome at times. I cannot write about some places in London for my Regency books as they may not have existed 200 years ago or have substantially changed during that time. I do love exotic locations, and I wrote the heroine for Letter from a Rake as having been born in Calcutta, India.  I would love to write more stories of the Regency period, but set in other locations.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
The characters tend to find me. I recently finished a new manuscript and the morning after I sent it to my publisher, the hero of my next book was already talking to me in my head. I had planned to take a week or so off before plotting his story, but he wouldn’t be denied. Inspiration for scenes comes at different times of the day and in different situations. Often a snippet in a movie or something someone says will suddenly resonate in my brain. I carry a small notebook with me all the time.
Q: Would you change anything in your life to make writing easier.
I am fortunate that I have been able to work at the writing/life/work balance over the past year and by keeping to a writing schedule it fits in with my busy life. The one thing I have had to make changes to, is my level of fitness. Sitting at a computer all day at work and then writing in the evening plays havoc with my neck and back, so I have to force myself to get up and go for long walks.
Q: What do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?
I write historical romance because I love it. My favourite authors are Anna Campbell, Stephanie Laurens, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn and Gaelen Foley. If I could write half as well as they do, I would be happy.

Q: Do you write one novel at a time or do you move between works in progress?
I write one novel at a time. At the moment I am writing a four part series, and I like to concentrate on one story at a time. Being part of a series does mean however, that I have to be wary of not writing future heroes or heroines into a corner. The overall story arc has to be maintained (lesson learned the hard way).

Q. What advice would you give to unpublished authors approaching an e publisher?
Find reputable e publishers to work with if you are going to submit to an e publisher. Check online or talk to other authors to find out how they have found their experiences with e publishers you are considering.
 I chose to submit to Destiny Romance because they are part of Penguin. Having worked in the publishing industry earlier in my career I knew a strong editorial and publicity team are crucial to making it as an author.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your current novel? What inspired you to write this story?
My current novel, which is my debut, is Letter from a Rake. The inspiration for the story was really the heroine’s experience in leaving her home and going to live in a new country. My family emigrated from England when I was a child and I drew on our experiences of life in a foreign country for Millie’s first reaction to life in London.

Blurb:About Letter from a Rake
The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn't long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home.

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy's handsome brother, 'Alex the Great' and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.  Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness...
Can Millie and Alex overcome the obstacles in their path to find true love? Or will one miscommunication ruin everything?

Excerpt:Chapter 1 Letter from a Rake
London, 1817
At three o'clock in the afternoon, on the eighth day after her arrival in England, Miss Millicent Ashton made up her mind.
She wanted to go home.
The snide remarks had begun the moment she and her mother entered Lady Elmore's spacious drawing room.
'So that's what an Indian elephant looks like,' whispered a blonde miss by the window. She leaned in close to another girl, who giggled.
'I wonder if she gives free rides.'
Millie knew the cruel taunts were aimed at her.
In the other homes they had so far visited, she had managed to perfect the art of removing her coat and sitting down in one motion. With luck, she was usually able to seat herself in the corner of a couch and hide partially behind the skirts of her mother.
Unfortunately, this time, Lady Elmore had greeted them at the drawing room door and Millie had suffered the humiliation of being presented by her mother in the middle of the room, where of course everyone could take in Millie's ample frame.
While the two older women remarked on how cold the weather was in England compared with India, the first of the whispers began.
The giggling misses' barely concealed mirth earned them both a steely stare from Millie's mother, Violet Ashton, who ushered her daughter to a couch to be seated next to their hostess.
Millie's heart sank. Now everyone in the room could see her. As Violet took the seat beside her, Millie gave her a half-smile, silently regretting her mother's need to make a statement.
For the rest of the two-hour visit, she sat quietly between the two women, taking the occasional sip of her black tea and politely refusing to partake of the delicious array of cakes Lady Elmore's servants had laid out on the low table before them.
With her hands folded in her lap, she focused on the pain of her thumbnail boring deep into her palm. She would poke her own eyes out before she would show any kind of response to the cruel taunts.
She retreated into the comfort of her own thoughts, slowly and methodically naming the fjords of the Norwegian coastline, and when she was done, she started on the Finnish coast. Nothing soothed her mind more quickly than attempting to tackle mental tongue twisters.
When her mother finally began making her farewells, Millie was lost somewhere in the far frozen north of Scandinavia.
A whispered 'Millie, we are leaving,' roused her.
With a well-practised curtsy, she politely thanked Lady Elmore and followed her mother to the front door. Hands clasped tightly in front, she kept her gaze firmly fixed on her gloves.
After attending several of these events since their arrival in London, she had learnt the painful lesson of what would happen if she risked one last glance around the room of vipers. At Mrs Wallace's house earlier in the week she had caught several of the girls puffing their cheeks out at her as she left. One had even managed to poke out her tongue before smothering the action with a well-timed cough. 
As soon as the carriage door closed behind them, Millie turned on her mother.
'That is the last of those horrid things you drag me to; next time you can go on your own,' she snapped, stamping her foot for good measure.
Violet let out a sigh. 'And what am I to tell the ladies of London society when my highly eligible daughter does not accompany me on these outings?' she replied.
'Tell them you have locked me in my room for swearing, or better still tell them that I went mad and you had me put me away in Bedlam.'
Millie crossed her arms, glared out of the window and continued.
'If they want to see me they can pay the keeper a coin. I barely know these people and yet they choose to judge me purely by sight. Not one of those simpering misses has attempted to speak to me. No, they would rather just make fun of a newcomer; well, that was the last straw.'
'Don't say it,' her mother replied.
'Say what?'
''I want to go home to India, I hate this place, all the people are horrid and it's cold.' If I hear those words from your lips one more time today, I swear I shall get on a boat myself and go back to India just to get away from you.' Violet pulled her coat tightly around herself and let out a tired sigh. 'Honestly, Millie, my ears cannot take many more of your complaints. Don't think I don't know how unkind those girls are, but you have to remember you pose a threat to them and they don't like it. They are trying to bring you down to their level. You just have to rise above them.'
 Millie sat staring at her mother, too stunned to speak. For the first time since their arrival, she was lost for words. How could she possibly be a threat to anyone?
Finally, she shook her head. 'How am I a threat to those girls, Mama?'
Violet gave a knowing smile and nodded her head. 'You are from a good family, your father and uncle are powerful men and you come with a sizeable dowry. A lot of those girls have only their passing beauty to catch a potential husband and most men want more than that,' she explained.
Millie scowled. 'Yes, but most men want a slender, elegant wife who stays out of their way,' she replied, knowing she would never be that sort of woman.
Her mother laughed. 'Where on earth did you get such a silly notion? Have you ever seen me shy away from your father? And believe me, I have never been thin in my life.' She leaned forward on the leather bench and brushed her hand gently across Millie's cheek.
'Darling, you will find that different men are attracted to different things. Some will find you a little unusual because of your foreign upbringing and not to their taste, but I assure you there will be someone who finds you the most enchanting creature he has ever laid eyes upon. And when he discovers the witty, intelligent girl that you are, he will give thanks that you have come into his life.'
Violet tucked a wayward lock of Millie's chestnut-brown hair behind her daughter's ear before adding, 'Of course, you will have to stop complaining about England for him to have a chance to appreciate your finer qualities, but I am sure you will soon overcome your aversion to the place; everyone does eventually.'
'Apart from the French,' Millie muttered, knowing she was testing her mother's patience.
Violet sat back in her seat and rubbed her temple. She had complained of a throbbing behind her left eye before they'd arrived at Lady Elmore's and Millie knew from the paleness of her mother's cheeks that one of her serious headaches was imminent. As soon as they reached home her mother would retire to her room and have a long afternoon sleep, leaving Millie once more alone to amuse herself.
Her mother's words of advice still hung in the air. She was right, of course: Millie would have to make peace with her new home, but, as for the other matter, her mind was wracked with doubt.
No one in London would think her wonderful or stunning. It would take a special man to look beyond the obvious and see the real Millie Ashton. From what she had seen of London society so far, she doubted that such a man existed anywhere in England.
As the carriage made the short journey to their new home in Mill Street, Millie continued to look out the window. The cobbled streets of London were a stark contrast to the dusty streets of Calcutta, the city where she had been born.
Instead of the hot windy streets full of people, animals and handcarts all attempting to progress through the oncoming traffic, London was the picture of order and civility. The few people walking on the streets of St James made their way on stone pavements, not in the middle of the road. And there were no cows wandering lazily in and out of street stalls and markets.
Millie sat back in her seat and, closing her eyes, tried to recall the cries of the khonchavala, as they walked the streets of her home city peddling their wares.
Once they'd reached home and were inside, Millie quickly handed her bonnet and coat to her maid. The house call had been long and trying, her temper was frayed, and she knew if she stayed near her mother for a minute longer harsh words would be exchanged and the whole day would be a complete shambles.
She brushed a kiss on her mother's cheek, wished her a speedy recovery and with purpose headed downstairs to the kitchens.
Millie was sitting in the big wooden cook's chair with a mug of hot sweet tea, slowly chewing on one of Mrs Knowles' mawa cakes when she saw her brother Charles' head appear around the kitchen door.
Stepping into the kitchen, he was greeted by the Indian-born Mrs Knowles with a respectful 'Namaste'. He bowed in response, before turning to his sister.
'Thought I might find you here. How was the visit to Lady Elmore's?' Charles asked, as he stopped near the kitchen table.
His gaze drifted to the plate next to Millie at the end of the table. A single cake sat among the scattered crumbs.
 'Oh dear, that bad?' he replied, running a hand through his sandy blond hair.
Millie wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin and slurped down the last of her tea. Small tears formed in her eyes and she bravely blinked them away. Rising from the chair, she managed to maintain her composure for the few seconds it took for her to fall into her older brother's embrace.
He wrapped his comforting arms around her and held her close.
'They called me an elephant,' she said as the tears rolled down her cheeks. 'None of them wanted to talk to me; they just sat and giggled behind their hands. They were simply horrid.'
Charles stroked her hair and planted a kiss on the top of her long brown locks.
'Millie, you just have to give them time, let them get to know you, and I promise things will get better. Not everyone here is horrible. You will have lots of friends in no time. We've only been here a week, you cannot dismiss all of London just yet,' he said with a sigh.
Millie sniffed back the tears and took the handkerchief he offered.
'I know, I know; Mama says exactly the same thing, but—'
'But what?'
'London isn't what I was promised. Where is the sophistication, the elegance? So far all I have seen are drawing rooms full of small-minded harpies,' Millie replied, pulling out of his embrace.
Charles shook his head. 'I hope you are not setting your mind against our new home?'
She shrugged her shoulders. 'It's just that I had hoped London might be a bit more cosmopolitan. I know many of the English in Calcutta tended to be indifferent to the rest of the country, but I suppose I expected a little more after all that I had heard of England. It is harder to find my feet here than I had expected.'
'But, you have to admit, it's not all been bad. You cannot tell me you have not enjoyed shopping for new clothes, Millie. I have twice tripped over piles of boxes in the front hallway,' Charles replied.
'No, the shops are simply wonderful. I have never seen anything like them. I am sure one could shop for days and not venture into the same store twice,' she replied, grateful for the change in topic.
'Good and what about the museums? I know you have a long list of galleries, gardens and castles you wish to visit.'
Her spirits rallied at the idea as she looked at her brother and nodded. They were both going to have to find their way through the maze of London society in the coming months.
'Thank you, Charles. You are possessed of the happy knack of finding the good in every situation. I can always rely upon you to pull me out of a miserable mood. And you are right; I shall ask Papa if he will take me to see Lord Elgin's marbles when he next has some spare time. I hear they have moved them to a new display room.'
'Good. You could ask him on the way to the party tonight,' he replied.
A wave of nausea overcame her. Whether it was as a result of the large number of spiced cakes she had eaten, or from the realisation that tonight her family were to be guests of honour at a 'Welcome home' ball, Millie couldn't tell.
Millie thanked Mrs Knowles for the cakes and headed for the door. As he passed the table, Charles snatched up the last remaining mawa cake, stuffed it into his mouth and followed his sister from the room.

Buy Link:You can find Letter from a Rake here:
Also available at Google Play, Readcloud, Angus & Robertson and Booki.sh

 Web: http://www.sashacottman.com

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