Let me begin by saying (or possibly repeating, if I've said it before) that I have long been a fan of Regency romances. But Regency romances have changed greatly through the years. While maintaining the unique ambience of their time period, where Regencies were once usually laced with humor, most have grown much more serious minded in recent years. This is not necessarily a bad trend. It is simply a trend.
Thus, I was delighted to discover Heidi Ashworth's Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind
reminiscent of the "classic" Regency romances that I grew up with. It is a delightful comedy of errors, filled with sparkle and wit. I read the bulk of this novel during a flight from Arizona to Utah, and literally fell into a giggling fit during one section of this book. Thankfully, the flight wasn't full and the seat next to me was empty, so I didn't have to explain my embarrassing outburst. A book that literally makes me laugh out loud is rare these days. Needless to say, when the opportunity arose to interview the author, I positively leapt at the chance! It is with great pleasure that I present to you my interview with Regency romance author, Heidi Ashworth.
JDP: How long have you been reading Regency romances?
Heidi Ashworth: I didn't start reading Regency Romance until I was about 25. However, my mother and older sisters had been reading it since I was a little girl and my first real story, written at age 10, was what I considered a regency. Looking back, it wasn't (a contemporary romance set in France is a far cry from the Regency) but I indulged myself on my "official website" by saying (as a joke) that I had been writing regency romance since I was 10 years old--I thought very few people but my family would ever see it. Little did I know Amazon would pick it up and that it would become "fact". (Groan)
JDP: What was the first Regency romance you ever read?
Heidi Ashworth: The first regency I ever read was Golden Songbird by Shelia Walsh. It is still among my favorites. If I had read Golden Songbird after reading a few Georgette Heyer's or some of my other favorite authors, I probably wouldn't have thought it so wonderful. It's so interesting to me how the order in which we read boks impacts our impression of them.
JDP: When did you first realize you wanted to write Regency romances?
Heidi Ashworth: I started reading them when I was spending a lot of time on the couch nursing a brand new baby. Nine months later and about 100 regencies later, I thought, hey, I can do this! After writing The Two Lords Danvers (don't look for it, it's not published) a friend asked me to take a romance writing class with her. I tried contemporary first because I thought that was what was expected but I made the switch to Regency and I'm so glad I did!
JDP: Which Regency romance authors have most influenced you in your love for the Regency period?
Heidi Ashworth: I think this is where I am supposed to say "Jane Austen" but she isn't really the mother of the regency genre--Georgette Heyer was. It is important to note that though the Regency genre and Austen's books have some critical points in common (for example, if the hero had but said X, or the heroine had said YZ, they would have fallen into each other's arms a whole lot sooner) Ms. Austen was writing stories that were contemporary to her time, more social commentary than romance. So, no, she's not on the list. However, Ms. Heyer most definitely is but I would have to say I favor her comedies more than those that aren't (while recognizing, at risk of muddying the waters, that most of her funniest books took place in the Georgian time period). Next would be Joan Smith's earlier books, Barbara Metzger's true Regencies (in fact, she read the galleys of Miss D which thrilled me to my toes!) Marian Devon, Marion Chesney--the grand dames of Regency romance from the 70's and 80's.
JDP: Since I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels, could you tell us a little about how you researched the Regency era for Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind?
Heidi Ashworth: Here is where I point out that the Regency romance genre, though very close to being factual based on the extensive research Georgette Heyer did for each of her books, there were some key factors that she did get wrong. However, a "true Regency" will follow the rules she cemented in her books, anyway. For example, your heroine must have an abigail, basically, a lady in waiting who took care of your clothes and followed you as you went out and about. Yet, the Regency was a morally looser time period than the Victorian era that followed and having a chaperone go everywhere with you was simply not part of the Regency maiden's life. In other words, for Miss D, most of my research was done by reading the genre--alas, this is how inaccuracies are perpetuated. I recently completed a sequel to Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind (crossing my fingers it comes out before 2010 is over) and I did a large amount of research via the internet which was, in a word, glorious.
JDP: Can you share with us your top three favorite Regency romance research books or other resources?
Heidi Ashworth: Using the web is so much easier than books because you can find what you are looking for much faster. I do have books I have read, one being Prince of Pleasure by Saul David plus countless history books about Britain in general that all pretty much cover the Regency era along the way. I am a total Anglophile! However, when I am pounding away at the keyboard, it is so convenient to just look things up online. Candice Hern, a very kind woman and Regency author with whom I have had the pleasure of personally corresponding, has a marvelous website chock full of great information and photographs. Find her at http://www.candicehern.com/regency.htm. Another great web source is Common Regency Errors at http://www.eclectics.com/allisonlane/common_regency_errors.html
a place I go to double check my facts (some of which I do get wrong from time to time) and another I use a lot is a Regency Lexicon at: http://www.thenonesuch.com/lexicon.html
JDP: Are there any historical figures from the Regency era who particularly intrigue you?
Heidi Ashworth: Absolutely yes! I did a report in the fifth grade on Prinny, the Prince Regent who later became George the Fourth, at the suggestion of my Regency-loving older sister. He was a totally fascinating character who, together with Beau Brummel, the fashion arbiter of the day, and John Nash, an architect, defined the Regency period. Also, George, Lord Byron, the romantic poet whose home I was able to tour when I visited England ten years ago. I would have to include Jane Austen on that list, as well.
JDP: Do you have an all-time favorite Regency romance?
Heidi Ashworth: "Favorite" questions are always so hard for me to answer. I can never narrow it down to just one. A lot of the ones I love best were written quite a while ago . . . they don't make Regencies like they used to (alas!)
JDP: What inspired you to write Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind?
Heidi Ashworth: I had actually written a previous Regency that was based on a dream I had but Miss D I wrote for the romance writing class. Since it was a narrow and not terribly well-read genre, I started my first class assignments writing contemporary romance (which I don't really enjoy and don't read). My teacher thought it was terrible and asked "why in the world would the hero do something like that?" I explained that I read Regencies and that a Regency hero WOULD do something like that. She insisted that I write a Regency for my class assignment and Miss D was born. I didn't write it with serious intentions to publish it and so it allowed me the freedom to have a lot of fun with it. I put in a lot of my favorite Regency flavors. In other words, there had to be the typical hero, the typical heroine, a house party, a cast of eccentric background characters, the porcelain shepherdess on the fireplace mantle . . . it sort of became a bit of a caricature and more than one reader has mentioned that they love the way I am slyly winking my eye at the genre. I have also been accused of not being terribly original but I wanted to include everything that said "Regency" to me in my book.
JDP: Tell us a little bit about Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind?
Heidi Ashworth: Miss D is less a "funny romance" than a romantic comedy with a twist of mystery. It focuses much more on the emotional and intellectual attraction between two people rather than the physical. In the end, both of the characters have grown as a result of knowing one another. It makes it a bit more satisfying than a romance for the sake of romance alone.
JDP: What project are you working on next?
Heidi Ashworth: I just shipped off Miss D Two and am anxiously awaiting word on it. Meanwhile, I am taking a break and will start on something new when the kids go back to school. I am going back and forth between another Regency (a more serious one this time) or trying my hand at nonfiction. (NOTE: JDP is not-so-secretly rooting for another non-serious title from this author!)
JDP: Where can readers obtain a copy of Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind?
Heidi Ashworth: My publisher caters to the library market so it is not found in stock at most book stores. It can, however, be ordered from any book store and can be purchased online at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Target.com, Overstock.com and many other online book outlets.
Thank you for joining us today, Heidi!
Now for the giveaway. Enter to win an autographed copy of Miss Delacourt Speaks her Mind by doing one, two, or all three of the following. (Yes, that means you can enter up to THREE TIMES!!!)
(1) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org WITH YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS. Type "JDP NEWS Contest" in the subject line, and in the body of the email type: "I want to know what's on Miss D's mind!"
(2) Leave a comment on this blog about my interview with Heidi, THEN EMAIL ME at email@example.com telling me you left a comment. Type "JDP NEWS Comment" in the subject line AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.
(3) Visit Heidi's website and send me the answer to the question: What pen name did Heidi toy with when she was 14 years old? (Check her "About Me" link) Send me the answer, with "Heidi's Pen Name" in the subject line, to firstname.lastname@example.org AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.
Deadline for entries is Sunday, August 30, midnight PST. The winner will be announced here on JDP NEWS on Monday, August 31.