Debut Author Susanna Fraser and The Sergeant’s Lady

This is such an exciting day! Our guest today is none other than debut author, Susanna Fraser! Susanna’s been a great supporter of Risky Regencies and we can truly say we knew her when she was simply Susan Wilbanks. Many a time Susan and I have waxed poetic over the Napoleonic War and gushed over Wellington. So it is a very special thrill to announce Susanna’s new Carina Press release, The Sergeant’s Lady, a regency romance set in (what else?) The Napoleonic War!

Susanna is giving away a voucher for a copy of The Sergeant’s Lady to one lucky commenter.

“…entertaining and a delight for readers.” Top Pick! Night
Owl Reviews

“Absolutely delicious and a wonderful reading
experience” The
Reading Reviewer

“If you want to read a great romance and learn
something about the Napoleonic wars, pick up this book!” The
Bookkeeper

That’s not all the buzz for The Sergeant’s Lady, either. Barbara Vey of Beyond the Book is a great fan of Susanna’s new website. Take a look !

Welcome, Susanna! Tell us about The Sergeant’s Lady.

The lady of the title is Anna Arrington, an aristocratic heiress who, two years before the story opens, marries a handsome cavalry officer after a whirlwind courtship, hoping that life as an officer’s lady will bring her the adventure and significance she’s always longed for. Unfortunately, their relationship quickly sours as he reveals himself to be an abusive, misogynistic jerk. He’s been forcing her to follow the drum in Portugal and Spain because, for reasons it would be spoilery to reveal, he doesn’t trust her very far out of his sight.

When he dies, Anna just wants to go home and put her dreadful marriage behind her, so she joins a convoy of wounded bound for Lisbon. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with Sergeant Will Atkins, one of the soldiers escorting the convoy. They know anything more than friendship between them is impossible…but when the convoy is attacked, they find themselves alone together as fugitives trying to escape across the Spanish countryside to their own army. Under such circumstances, temptation becomes much harder to resist…

We love debut authors. Tell us something about your journey to publication and especially about “The Call.”

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Riskies! Really!

I’d been writing seriously since 2001, and I finished my first manuscript in 2003. I had a full measure of newbie arrogance and was confident that publication and success were right around the corner. I was 30 in 2001, and I remember setting a goal of being published by 40, thinking that was just ridiculously easy and maybe I ought to say 35.

As of this writing, I’m 39 years and 8 months. Go figure.

I wrote the manuscript that became The Sergeant’s Lady back in 2005. With it I got an agent in 2006, and she shopped it extensively to print publishers. It came close at a few places but never quite sold. I got positive feedback on my writing, but a strong message that the story itself just didn’t fit any of the niches they were looking to fill.

So I decided that maybe there wasn’t a place for me in romance, parted company with my agent, and tried other things. I spent the better part of 2007-09 on the same alternative history manuscript, which never quite became what I wanted it to be. I think that’s the biggest mistake I made on my road to publication–too much time on that one story. If I had it to do over again, after my second draft I would’ve said, “You know, it’s still not close to right, and maybe that means that the idea wasn’t as wonderful as I thought or I just wasn’t ready to write it yet. I’ll set it aside and do something else, and if I ever want to come back to it, it’ll still be here.” If I’d done that, I’d have 2-3 more manuscripts under my belt by now.

Anyway, back to The Sergeant’s Lady. I happened to re-read it in January, and I thought, “You know, I still love this book. And the historical market seems to have shifted and broadened these past few years. Maybe I’ll submit it to a few more places.”

Here’s where the Riskies come in–around that time, the Riskies posted a Call for Submissions from Carina, with descriptions of what the editors were looking for and a Q&A with Angela James. I liked what I saw, so I decided to submit.

Fast-forward to April 1. (Yes, really, April Fool’s Day!) I didn’t get The Call, I got The Email, because Angela James was home with a coughing, sick child and was doing all her business by email that day. And it was just as well, because I had laryngitis and was letting all my calls go to voicemail anyway!

Hey, we’ll be glad to take credit for your success!
What has your experience been like with Carina Press?

So far it’s been nothing but wonderful! I feel like I’m part of a team with the staff, I enjoyed working with my editor, Melissa Johnson, and I felt like my input on the cover was truly listened to–which, from what my print-published friends tell me, is by no means the industry norm.

I’m also impressed by Carina’s marketing push, particularly how they partner with their authors to get the word out about our books on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.

Also, I was amazed by how quick the turnaround from sale to release date was for me. The Sergeant’s Lady released less than five months after Carina acquired it, which meant, among other things, that editing was a whirlwind and I had to scramble to build a web presence under my pen name. I don’t think it’s going to be quite as quick going forward, though, because their submission volume has increased. They’ve just acquired my second manuscript, with an exact release date TBD but probably Spring 2011, which feels positively leisurely by comparison!

We’re all about risky here. What is risky about The Sergeant’s Lady?

The setting and the hero. About 3/4 of the action takes place with Wellington’s army in Spain during the Peninsular War, a long way from the normal Regency world of London ballrooms and the pastoral English countryside. And Will is a sergeant who’s exactly what he appears to be–he doesn’t turn out to be the long-lost son of a duke or anything of that sort, so he and Anna have to find a way to face and move beyond their difference in station.

I’m loving Will and the Penisular War setting! Did you come across any interesting research when writing The Sergeant’s Lady?

Too many details of army life to possibly count, though I’d recommend anyone wanting to write Peninsular War find a copy of Antony Brett-James’s Life in Wellington’s Army.

One thing that surprised me was that the army didn’t issue tents for the soldiers till 1813 or so. The Sergeant’s Lady is set in 1811-12, so Will and his fellow soldiers sleep in the open, make do with whatever kind of shelter they can rig for themselves, or occasionally get billeted under whatever roof the army could commandeer from the local population.

What is next for you?

As mentioned above, Carina will publish my other Regency historical, currently titled A Marriage of Inconvenience, sometime in 2011. It’s a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady with Anna’s brother as the hero.

I hope you are excited as I am about Susanna’s The Sergeant’s Lady. I already have it on my Kindle and I’m well into it. Do you like Napoleonic War stories? Do you have any questions about the Napoleonic War, because Susanna can probably answer them. Did you read Barbara Vey’s blog about Susanna’s website? Comment for a chance to win a voucher for The Sergeant’s Lady.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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