1) Tell me a little about your book.
Set in Regency England ‘ A Dead Man’s Debt’ is a story of blackmail, duty and unexpected love. The heroine, Celeste Armitage holds modern ideals at odds with Georgian society. She wants to travel and control her life, not something she can do as a married woman! Meanwhile our hero, Lord Ranulf Charing, despite pressure to continue the family’s ancient lineage, has yet to meet a woman interesting enough to marry.
After deliberately humiliating a suitor Celeste’s despairing parents send her as companion to Lady Sophia Charing who is mourning the death of her favourite son. Once there Celeste encounters Sophia’s surviving son, Ranulf, to whom she is dangerously attracted. But Ranulf’s life is a façade; he is being blackmailed over his late brother’s debts…and faces a stark choice between true love and saving the family’s reputation. But when he elects to protect Celeste from his nemesis by rebuffing her love, Ranulf underestimates Celeste’s resolve to clear his name and by so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger….
2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
The painting of the young Emma Hart (who married Lord Hamilton and was Horatio Nelson’s mistress) was the catalyst behind ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’.
The painting by George Romney shows an innocent yet lush young woman, scantily clad with a hint of bosom, brazenly staring out of the canvas with an allure that is quite hypnotic. It struck me as sensational for an 18th century work, that the sitter was not prim, proper, straight backed and starchy. It must have been utterly scandalous at the time. But who would be bold enough to commission such a portrait? (As it happened Emma Hart was ahead of her time and loved to flout convention…but that’s another story.)
What a delicious idea for a story! What if the woman in the painting wanted to shock? What if, years later, this rebellious streak could now disgrace her family? What if only the son she despises can save her reputation… but at the price of his true love.
3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I lead a double life – a veterinarian by day and by night an author. I’ve always been creative and I use writing as a channel to escape from the pressures of modern living – I guess I’m a Georgian at heart. Although I’ve wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember, I still find the sadder, more emotional side of veterinary work, such as saying goodbye to animals, particularly draining. If you like, think of writing as my therapy.
4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
For me writing is an addiction and always has been. It’s not even about being published (although that is fantastically exciting) but about the escapism of creating characters, dressing them and putting words in their mouths. I also love the mechanical side of writing – the tap of fingers on keys, collecting notebooks and clippings, dreaming up ideas ….
5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I aim to write the sort of page turning, lump in the throat romance that I love to read. If a reader comes away feeling ‘Wow, I really enjoyed that’ then I’ve achieved my aim. For me success is about escapism and relaxation, curling up with a coffee and a great book…
6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I write historical romance, mainly because it’s the genre I adore reading. The Tudors, Georgians and Victorians are utterly fascinating and anything depicting these eras on the cover has me hooked.
7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Time, time and time! I need more of it. As I’ve already said I’m a working veterinarian and yet have so many plot ideas surging through my mind….more hours in a day, that’s what I need! However its amazing how much time you can claw back by not doing simple things like watching TV – I notice a huge difference in productivity when I get hooked by a TV show…so I’m learning to resist temptation, be strong and hit the ‘Off’ button.
8) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
Oh what a good question – this has set me thinking!
I like to think the Celeste and I share a common sense of purpose. We both know our own minds and once we have decided on a course of action, stick to it. With Celeste its wanting to travel, and this means not tying herself into marriage, for me it was the determination to study and become a vet. Another similarity is patience. Celeste acknowledges some things, like creating her own future, don’t give instant gratification and are worth planning for, whilst myself, I have the patience to wait for plans to come to fruition and see the longer game.
If we differ its in courage. Celeste was prepared to scandalize the Ton to get what she wanted, whereas as me…well I’m not that bold!
9) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
Have I mentioned I’m a bookaholic? I hoard books, in fact you cant see the walls in my bedroom for stacks of books. Researching a novel is the perfect excuse for collecting yet more books – I just adore research! But in answer to your question, I immerse myself in the time period – read anything and everything from books about servants, to magazines on period house décor. Then I start the new notebook in which I note down relevant facts, draw costume sketches and paste photos of people who resemble my protagonists. It’s a glorious process and I love every minute of it!
10) What about your book makes it special?
Another good question! A Dead Man’s Debt is so much my baby that it’s like asking ‘What is it about your children that is special’ – where to start!
Taking an objective step back many people have commented on the beautiful descriptions and flow of writing that transport them back to the Regency to a world of satins and silks, of stallions and scandal. That must be a pretty special thing in these times of economic gloom – a healthy dose of escapism.
13) What is your marketing plan?
When I signed the contract with Solstice I was so naïve. Little did I realize (as the cliché goes) that writing the novel is the easy bit. Luckily, promoting ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ means talking a lot about something that I care deeply about – so it’s also a huge pleasure.
I am active on many social networking sites such as Twitter (Grace_Elliot) Facebook, GoodReads etc. and the lovely thing is, I’ve made so many good, like minded friends with whom to share my passion, that otherwise I wouldn’t have met.
14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
My blog is a heady mix of romance, history and animals – all things that I’m passionate about. Nuts as this sounds it works! I’d love you to pop over and visit: http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com
You can follow me on Twitter Grace_Elliot and find me on Facebook and Goodreads.
‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is currently available from most eBook stores (including Amazon, Books on Board, Fictionwise and Smashwords) and will be in paperback in the Spring 2011.
15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
Just write! Do it for the pleasure of creativity. Don’t worry about perfection or getting published, because if you write for the love of writing then you will win through in the end! Good luck!
[Lady Sophia reveals her portrait to a friend.]
With a swoosh the drape hissed to the ground.
Georgiana’s eyes widened, flushing crimson as a hand covered her mouth.
The oil showed Sophia Cadnum stripped of her satins and silks with her natural beauty shining like an exotic flower. In just a gossamer shifts, with a rope of pearls wound round a swan like neck, she reclined in a woodland clearing, happy as a nymph. Ringlets of rich raven hair, unpowdered and unrestrained, tumbling over her shoulder to provide a modesty not offered by the transparent gown. On closer inspection, the male viewer would be enchanted to discover the ghost of a nipple peeping between ringlets.
“Well?” Sophia asked breathlessly.
“Sophia you are too bold! This portrait will be the talk of every salon. Why it, every rake and rogue hang will beat a path to your door to ogle daring Lady Sophia.”
Sophia smiled happily. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
Georgiana grew quiet, nervously averting her eyes.
“I speak as your dear friend and only with your interests at heart, but is it quite…” she glanced at Sophia then steeled herself, “…appropriate?”
Black thunder darkened Sophia’s pretty face. “And by that you mean?”
Georgiana took a deep breath. “Well, what with you being a mother now, something less… provocative… might be more correct?”
Sophia scowled. “But that’s precisely the point. Producing a son was my duty… and I won’t be made into a dowdy matron because of it. I need to feel alive and have my heart race for joy…heaven knows already the Duke talks of producing another brat for the nursery.”
Comprehension dawning Georgiana gulped. “Was it so very awful… giving birth?”
Sophia closed her eyes. “Hateful, from start to finish.”
Silence stilled the air. Georgiana cleared her throat.
“Has the Duke seen the painting?”
“In truth I don’t think he cares enough to have an opinion. As long as I serve my purpose as mother to his heirs, he won’t object.” She stroked her tightly laced stomacher, resting a hand on the barely perceptible dome of her belly. The light went from her eyes as she whispered. “Please God grant me respite from duty.”