JDP: Welcome, Debra. What made you decide to write a Victorian romance?
Debra: The thought of writing was a feel-good thing, like chocolate, roses and tea. And if I was going to write, it would be in the genre that had stayed in my mind from my earliest memories of reading. Even my memories of Nancy Drew books are pictures in my mind of Nancy hiding in secret rooms of old Victorian houses. Great Expectations was “expected” in school, and I had always had Miss Havisham and her mansion in the back of my mind, too.
JDP: What do you find most fascinating about the Victorian Era?
Debra: Though I should say that it is because it was a time of great change and progress, with the industrial revolution and women beginning to ask for their rights, I have to be honest. I love the mental pictures of beautifully dressed women with big hats and tiny waistlines having tea together with perfect manners, gentlemen bowing to ladies as they enter and never turning their backs on them without excusing themselves, and so on. Then Charles Dickens throws a wrench in the works with his realistic portrayal of life, including the grief that was often brought on by the strict rules and standards of the time as well as the horrible conditions that a large number of the people lived under.
JDP: I guess we need to know both sides of the coin. It doesn’t hurt to enjoy a little romance, though! I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels. Could you tell us a little about how you researched the historical background for The Companion of Lady Holmeshire?
Debra: The beginning of my “research” was actually quite a pleasure. I watched period movies and TV series from Netflix for years while I was making jewelry. Over time, I began to see how the class structure was set up, how the servants lived downstairs while the aristocrats were upstairs, and so on. I thought it was very interesting, at least as entertainment, though I wouldn’t have wanted the role of such a servant in real life. Questions would arise in my mind, and I would look for the answers on the internet. When I began to think about writing a book, I checked out library books on the subject and used the internet even more. I wish I could have climbed through ruins and toured castles, but the only castle I have toured is Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley, and though it is a real castle and great to tour, it is only six years old and was never lived in.
JDP: Whoa, you’ve got a castle in California? Why didn’t I know this! Okay, that’s definitely going down on my “to do” list! Can you share with us your top three favorite research books or other resources for the Victorian Era?
Debra: Besides some large picture books which enlightened me a great deal on the areas, villages and architecture of England, I love Sally Mitchell’s Daily Life in Victorian England and Liza Picard’s Victorian London. I also enjoyed Victoria and Albert: A Family Life at Osbourne House by The Duchess of York. There are many other resource books that I have learned from, too.
JDP: Are there any historical figures from the Victorian Era who particularly intrigue you?
Debra: I like Albert. I knew some about him from the movies and books I’d read, but when I read the book on Osbourne House, I developed quite a bit of respect for him. Here he was, a man appointed for the Queen of England if she would have him, who had to wait for her to decide and to say when. It took longer than he or others expected. When she finally decided on him, he had to leave everything behind from this wonderful country life and become an unpopular German in smelly London. He was not allowed to be head of the house, at first, but he was a considerate husband and loving father. He and Victoria became very close and spent a lot of time with their children in comparison to the aristocratic norm of the day. He actually sought out a home for them away from the city, and they came to live on the Isle of Wight. He redesigned and remodeled Osbourne House for the family, and the children were able to live a nice country life there. It is Albert’s devotion to his family that impresses me. It is sad to see how, though he tried so hard as a parent, his descendents came to be enemies fighting each other in World War I. He died young, and both he and Victoria were spared watching their grandson, Wilhelm, grow up to fight his kin.
JDP: That’s interesting. We often think about what royal wives had to give up when they left their homelands to become a foreign queen, but we don’t often reflect on the reverse, when the royal consort is a man. Thank you for sharing that. What inspired you to write The Companion of Lady Holmeshire?
Debra: I decided to write a book- it seemed like a nice hobby. I assumed that I would write a chapter and then realize I did not have the time for it. However, when I picked up the large picture books from the library and thumbed through them, I saw things that I had to build a story around. One of them was the ruins of a monastery seen through naked winter branches from a castle window. It became my first paragraph and I went from there. It actually didn’t work- that first paragraph, and I eventually had to throw it out.
But the story had begun and it took off on its own without the monastery. I also saw a picture of a thirteenth century slumping chapel, which became an interesting part of my story. Class divisions also had to play a main part, and thus Emma was badly treated in aristocratic circles.
Debra: Emma Carrington was a foundling infant who grew up to become the companion of a warm-hearted countess. She had served as a servant, and so when the countess wanted to take her along to tea and banquets in aristocratic circles, she was not warmly received. Emma had feelings for the young Earl of Holmeshire, but he was engaged by arrangement to a London lady, and of course, Emma was not in his class. There are humorous romantic tribulations with a downstairs servant couple and anguish of the hearts upstairs as well. Mystery is woven throughout the plot, and to this day, no reader has reported guessing the sudden twist at the end.
JDP: Are you working on any new projects?
Debra: Yes, I am enjoying writing a second book, currently titled For the Skylark. It is very different from Companion, more emotion, more focus on a person. Companion is mostly a story about several people with a great plot. Skylark is so focused on a person that you don’t realize there is a plot until suddenly everything comes together at the end.
JDP: Where can readers obtain copies of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire?
Debra: Publisher’s Website: https://www.createspace.com/3646768
Amazon, Kindle and Print: http://amzn.to/nxH6Uh
Barnes & Noble, Nook and Print: http://bit.ly/p5fCWX
JDP: Thank you for joining us today, Debra!
Now to the giveaway. For a chance to win a PDF copy of The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, just leave a comment on this interview WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.
(If you are unable to leave a comment, you may email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Deadline for entries is Wednesday, September 28, midnight PST. The winner will be announced on September 29.
Debra asked me to include the following in relation to her giveaway:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose.
3. The PDF is available internationally.
4. The contest runs from Sept 21-28.
5. The contest is being offered by author Debra Brown, 604 NW Linden Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330 USA.
6. The prize will have one winner and will be valued at the price of the book.
7. The winner will be chosen by random drawing.