Welcome, Kate! Tell us about your road to becoming a writer of Traditional Regencies for Cotillion.
I set my first two books Langley’s Choice (Zumaya Publications) and Restitution (Cloonfad Press) in Maryland since I live here and thought it would be easiest to research in my own backyard. It was tremendously interesting to research colonial life, but not as easy as I’d expected–although my experience as a living history interpreter helped–since Maryland has not traditionally received as much study as New England, Virginia, etc. The editor of my first book observed that it was obvious I was a Jane Austen fan, so I decided to try to write a Regency before the publishers dropped the lines entirely.
I was too late. By the time I had the story revised and ready to send out, the publishers had already frozen new acquisitions, and soon they announced the end.
I was surprised to learn that Ellora’s Cave decided to bring out a traditional Regency line–after all, they’re not known for books with lots of witty dialogue from fully clothed heroines. But not only are they launching the line, they’re really supporting it with ad money and an earlier than usual print launch. They’re fighting a tough battle though, because their main print seller, Borders, says they won’t stock traditional Regencies.
What’s your Cotillion debut, A Certain Want of Reason, about?
It’s the story of a guy who decides that the best way to get out of a bad engagement is to pretend he’s crazy. The heroine, who has spent most of her life watching out for a younger brother and sister who really do have mental issues, is somewhat less than pleased when she learns that the hero would stoop so low just to break an engagement. In a way, the book shows that everyone, certainly those in society, exhibit a want of reason at times.
How did you research the topic of madness and its treatment in the Regency, and what interesting facts did you turn up?
I found an excellent, detailed history of Bedlam, or Bethlem Hospital, as the institution prefers to be known. I had no idea that the facility began treating mentally ill patients back in the middle ages, nor had I realized that by the 18th century, the physicians actively worked to cure patients. I thought they just locked them up to keep them from bothering people. My research on Bethlem provided the date for the story–I decided it should be set soon after the hospital moved to St. Georges Fields, because the layout of the buildings at that location worked better for the scenes where the heroine and her friend disguise themselves as nuns to sneak her brother out. Thank heavens for inter-library-loans!
You’re a very diverse writer. Tell us about your other projects, and your next book.
I have a three-book series of contemporary cozy mysteries coming out with Barbour Books, but since they’ve pushed back the launch of their new mystery line until next year, I’ve been able to set those aside for a while to keep working on the historicals. (And I’ve managed to sneak history into the contemporaries as well. The first one, George Washington Stepped Here, deals with conflicts between living history interpreters at a historic site. And the sequel deals with an antique gallery.)
This May, I have a book coming out about another of my favorite subjects, pirates. (And I could go on for a long time, so I won’t even get started.) I had so much fun writing Avery’s Treasure (Zumaya Publications) that I felt rather let down when I finished the first draft. I wanted to crawl into the book and live there (probably because it’s set in the Caribbean and Bahamas while I’m stuck wintering much further north). Right now, I’m just finishing the first draft of the sequel to A Certain Want of Reason. This is the story of what happens to the sisters left behind in London while everyone else is breaking out of Bedlam, etc. It’s actually as much fun as writing about the pirates, but with no rum or tropical islands.
And the Riskies question: What are the risky elements of A Certain Want of Reason?
I think some of the subject matter is politically incorrect. There are characters in a rich asylum in the country playing chess with toys and bowling in the hallways, etc. I will make fun of anyone, if given the chance. Nothing is sacred.
The book is also risky because it’s ridiculous and unrealistic. It’s a goofy, silly, Wodehouse world, and the romantic relationship is probably not any more realistic than the rest of the book. I spend enough time in the real world. When I read or write, I want to go someplace else.
Come and chat with Kate–as usual, a question or comment makes you eligible to win a copy of A Certain Want of Reason, today only!