Shores of Desire

After an unexpectedly busy day yesterday, I just posted the winner of the ARC contest for The Paris Affair. Sorry for the delay and thanks so much to everyone who posted!

Over the past week on Facebook I highlighted the Lescaut Quaret, my four linked historical romantic suspense novels which are now available as e-books. I realized I don’t post about them much here and thought I would repeat my thoughts on the blog. Though the emphasis is more in the love story in these books than in the Malcolm & Suzanne/Charles & Mélanie books, they also contain a balance of adventure, suspense, and romance set against the Napoleonic Wars. In writing them I was experimenting with a number of themes, settings, and historical events which I later used in the Fraser/Rannoch books.

DarkAngelDark Angel, the first of the four, begins in Spain in 1813 in the midst of the Peninsular War. There is a social divide between the heroine Caroline and the hero Adam, which plays out in a different way between Malcolm and Suzanne. And the book introduces the French spy Robert Lescaut. In my mind, Suzanne/Mélanie is connected to the Lescaut family…

ShoresOfDesireCover Shores of Desire is my first attempt at writing about Waterloo and post-Waterloo Paris. Not to mention a hero and heroine on opposite sides in the Napoleonic Wars, though it’s the hero, Robert Lescaut, who’s the French agent while Emma Blair is Scottish.

ShadowsOftheHeartCover The French Revolution is so important to the back story of so many of my books, and Shadows of the Heart really gave me a chance to explore that dynamic. It’s also the book in which I wrote about pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for an infant long before I went through any of it myself (I was relieved on rereading it to find it rang pretty true). And the conflict between a radical journalist and a stylish aristocrat calls to mind scenes from this season of Downtown Abbey

RightfullyHisCover Rightfully His is a novel in which I explored political intrigue, the early days of railroads, and the complexities of a marriage of convenience. Charlotte and Francis are very different from Suzanne and Malcolm, but both couples are adjusting to a sudden marriage that is not all it seems from the outside. And this book features one my favorite villains I have ever created…

If you’ve read the Lescaut Quartet, do you see echoes of the Fraser/Rannoch books? If you haven’t read the quartet, what questions do you have about the books?

This week’s Fraser Correspondence letter is from David to Charles. Writing it gave me some insights into David’s father, Lord Carfax, who figures prominently in my WIP…

Céline asked me to do my next writing craft post on research. A welcome suggestion as research is one of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction. As with many facets of writing–plotting, character development, drafting–i do my research in layers. Often it’s a piece of research from an earlier book that gives me the original idea for a book. My fascination with the Congress of Vienna. My research into Waterloo and the White Terror for the backstory of various books (and the central plot of Shores of Desire). An intriguing historical character like Wilhelmine of Sagan or Dorothée Talleyrand. As I plot the book, I need to do more research, and that research in turn inspires plot developments. A duel between Dorothée Talleyrand’s husband and lover became an important sequence in The Paris Affair. One of the early things I do is make a timeline of historical events for the period of my book (Scrivener makes it easy to keep the timeline and other notes handy0. Then I can layer my fictional events in with the real ones as I plot.

When I’m writing the first draft, I do more specific research, particularly into settings. For instance, with Vienna Waltz I knew enough about the Carrousel to know it would be central episode in the book, but I didn’t research it in depth until I was writing those scenes.

With later revisions, as now with The Paris Affairohv , there are details to check like whether or not there were benches in the Luxembourg Gardens in 1815 (which resulted. after inconclusive hours, in me having the characters sit on the ground).

I like to use primary sources–letters and diaries and other accounts by people who were actually observers of or participants in the events I’m writing about. I used to spend a lot of time at the Stanford and University of California, Berkeley, libraries. i still use those libraries, but I can find more and more on the internet now. A lot of the books I used to check out are now available through Google Books (mostly free because they’re in the public domain), so I have a research library I can carry with me. And I can highlight and type notes in the books. much easier to decipher than my handwritten scribbles. Some details that don’t make it into a book end up in the Fraser Correspondence as in the letter i just posted where Mélanie/Suzanne writes to Simon about a military review.

I also gather up nonfiction books by contemporary authors about the events I’m researching. Then there are some resources I return to again and again like my Oxford English Dictionary with historical usage examples, so I can see when a word came into use and how it was used. even though I’ve been writing in the same era for all of my writing career, there are always new things to learn. which is one of the challenges–and one of the delights.

Research is one of my favorite things to talk about so do ask any questions you have. Writers, how do you balance research and writing?

Photo: Raphael Coffey Photography