“This cleverly orchestrated, unconventional romp through the glittering world of the Regency elite-both admirable and reprehensible-is filled with secrets, graced with intriguing characters, laced with humor, and plotted with Machiavellian flair. A joy to read…” The Library Journal, on The Courtesan’s Daughter
Risky Regencies is pleased to talk to Claudia Dain, whose new book The Courtesan’s Daughter is an October release from Berkley!
Hello, Claudia! First things first–tell us about this book!
I wish I was good at talking about my own books, but I seem to lack that ability! Uh, it’s a Regency romance? How’s that for descriptive! I can tell you that it took me two full years of research and pondering to create the character of the courtesan, but once I had her in my head, The Courtesan’s Daughter demanded to be written and I’ve been a captive ever since. Believe me, I have no complaints! This world and the people who inhabit it have consumed me completely and I love them for it.
The Courtesan’s Daughter is about a young woman who wants to make a good marriage, but is hampered by her mother’s salacious reputation. Lady Caroline’s prospects for a suitable match are severely limited by her mother’s infamous past. Before Sophia Dalby became a countess and entered London society, she was a highly desired courtesan. What man of title, position, and wealth would marry a courtesan’s daughter? Sophia’s solution is to purchase a husband for Caroline—in the person of the Earl of Ashdon, agreeing to settle his gambling debts if he will take her daughter’s hand. Insulted, Caroline refuses the match. She won’t have a husband who was bought for her.
But after meeting the fiery Lord Ashdon, Caroline begins to wonder if it wouldn’t be so very satisfying to have him pay for *her*, perhaps with a priceless pearl necklace? Who better to turn to for advice than a former courtesan? With Sophia pulling the strings, Lord Ashdon may get more than he bargained for and Caroline may get just what she wants.
And this is the first in a series?
This is most definitely a connected series, though each book can stand alone. I have a complete character arc in my head for Sophia which will span many, many books (fingers crossed) so it’s a good thing I’m enjoying this world so much.
The next book in the series is out in May of 2008 and is titled The Courtesan’s Secret. Once again, we have a young woman of title and privilege who needs just the right sort of help to bring the right man to heel and to the altar. Sophia Dalby is exactly the right sort of help. Of course, when Sophia’s involved, you’re never sure exactly what’s going to happen next.
How did you think of writing this particular book?
I’m not really sure how ideas come together in the mind of a writer, but it is a fascinating process. A little bit of this, a snatch of that, and an idea is born. I do remember thinking that I wanted to go in a different direction, to cover some history of the period that isn’t given a lot of attention in general, so instead of focusing on the battles taking place in Europe, I turned my attention to the American continent. It was a volatile age, especially for what was becoming the British Empire, and there was turbulence on almost every continent.
I (Amanda!) have always really loved the way your books “transport” the reader to another time and place. What kind of research did you do for this book?
I do love a satisfying setting! I spend a lot of time reading, immersing myself in the facts of the time period, but also in the cultural mindset of the period. This is key, I think. What’s the point of creating a perfect description of a carriage if you can’t get the worldview right? What people think, how they think, how they act, how they feel things changes through time. Getting that right, that sense of how that character you’ve created would behave and think in their precise moment in history, that’s essential to me. I have to have that down before I can write a word.
And I love doing the research. It feeds every creative cell I have. I think I must have read 50 history books before I started The Courtesan’s Daughter and sections of 100 more. I’m still researching, reading non-fiction all the time. It’s absolutely essential to my process; it’s a way of ushering me into that world and every history book I read gives me a new idea for either plot or character. I gave up having a book budget a long time ago!
A book budget? What is this unfamiliar phrase?? As you know, we do love “risky” books here! What is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book?
Oh, this is a great question. I definitely felt that I was taking a huge risk with The Courtesan’s Daughter, but I’m not sure I can explain how or why (because I’m terrible at describing my own writing, remember?). The tone of the book is very bawdy, humorously and overtly sexual, with lots of dialog loaded with innuendo. There aren’t any poor vicar’s daughters, no disinherited sons, no spies, no starving widows. The heroines aren’t sweet and the heroes aren’t rakes in need of redemption. You can see why I was nervous!
What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
My writing process seems to veer off the normal (sane) path in that once I have the main character formed I sit down and start writing. In The Courtesan’s Daughter, the only character I knew inside and out was Sophia. Caroline and Ashdon developed as they appeared on my computer screen. In fact, the only thing I know when I start to write is who the heroine is. The hero just appears. Scary, but what can I do? That’s how it works for me.
Because of this strange mental defect of mine, I can’t write a synopsis. It kills the story before it’s even been formed. I’ve had to admit to myself that I can’t think my way through a story, I have to *write* my way through it.
And what’s next for you?
I’m going to keep writing the next book in The Courtesan Series. I’ve finished The Courtesan’s Secret as well as a novella for an anthology titled Private Places that covers one night in Sophia’s life as a working courtesan in Georgian England. That was fun! I’m currently at work on the third book of the series, untitled as yet, and once again being surprised on every page by what’s happening next. I thought I knew who the hero was. Turns out, the heroine picked someone else. I had no idea she was so headstrong!
Thank you so much for giving me the chance to ramble on about The Courtesan’s Daughter. I’ve had such fun!
Be sure and comment for a chance to win a copy of The Courtesan’s Daughter! And visit Claudia’s website at http://www.claudiadain.com