FOLLOW THE HEART: Who? What? Why? Where? When? How?
How long did it take to write?
- I came up with the story idea in August 2010 and wrote up a proposal which my agent started pitching. In January 2011, I wrote three sample chapters at the request of a few publishers. But I didn’t write any more than that until August 2011 when I signed the contract with B&H. I turned the manuscript in the first week of May 2012. So it was almost two years from concept to completion, but about nine months of actual focused writing.
How did you get into the mindset/history of the era?
- I had a basic knowledge of the mid-19th Century in England through studying both history and literature in college. But I really started learning about it in earnest when I became fascinated with the Great Exhibition several years ago and decided it would make a great backdrop to a series. I tend to first start getting into an era by watching costume-drama adaptations of novels written or set during that time and in that location. In this case—lots of Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, and lots of bio-pics about Queen Victoria’s early life/rule. Can it get any better? Being able to watch North & South and The Young Victoria over and over and over again and call it “research”? Then I start reading the books on which those movies are based. I “collect” interesting words and turns of phrase, look for methods and manners to behavior and social interaction, get a feel for the way the English language was used by those who knew it best during that time. I also find nonfiction research books that can explain the household, society, gender politics, travel modes, fashion, etc.
What interests you most about the Victorian era?
- I love that it still has the sensibility of the Regency era—from the activities like balls and dinners to the formality of courting customs—yet in 1851, the world is on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution: train and steamboat travel, telegraph, indoor plumbing (“retiring/refreshing rooms” with pay toilets at the Great Exhibition!). I also love that women were starting to come into their own a bit more. Still not considered equals, but at least starting to get some recognition for their contributions and accomplishments in society.
Which character in this book is most like you?
- I’d probably have to say Kate, though, and not just because we share the same full first name. Like Kate, I tend to take on a lot of responsibility and feel obligated to do things because I think it’s my duty. I don’t want to disappoint others, so I’ll work myself literally into a sickbed rather than delegate or let something slide.
Why did you choose to set this series in Oxford, when the Great Exhibition took place in London?
- I read at least three or four British-set historical romances each month—and without fail, the majority of them are set in London. It’s a setting that has become over-exposed. Also, with a landscape architect as my main hero, I needed the action to take place at a country house, not in the city. By the 1850s, Oxford was a large enough city to have railway service to all of the other major cities, but still quaint/small enough to give the small-town feel that I love to use in my stories. Plus, there was a lot of chaos happening in London in early 1851 due to the final preparations for the Great Exhibition, and I felt like that could overwhelm what I wanted my story and settings to be.
Readers, what questions do you have about this book or this series? Questions about the characters, the setting, the Great Exhibition—all are welcome!
On May 1, I will be giving away FIVE signed copies of Follow the Heart.
Beginning Monday, April 15, 2013, and ending Tuesday, April 30, 2013, I’ll be doing a series of blog posts on the background and inspiration for the Great Exhibition series and Follow the Heart. Each comment you leave on every post between 4/15/13 and 4/30/13 will earn you a name in the “hat” for the drawing. (Posts will be closed to new comments after 24 hours, so be sure to check in daily—subscribe via email above, or check my Twitter or Facebook page, as each new post gets announced there, too—for the latest post to comment on.)
Comment early, comment often!