Highlighting Historical Romance: Jude Knight writes what she knows—and that is quite a lot. She should. She writes about a world she created, and tells us about Raging Madness, which has been released this very day.
‘Write what you know’, the old advice goes. This saying has been interpreted as meaning we should write about places we’ve been and activities we’ve experienced. Sucks to speculative fiction writers, then, and to historical writers like me. In fact sucks to most fiction writers and the entire world of biographers. Except for those who are producing thinly veiled autobiography, we all write about events we’ve never seen, people we’ve never met, conversations we’ve never heard, or places we’ve never been. At least on the surface.
But, nonetheless, to tell a good compelling story, we must write about what we know: about details that we’ve research or people we understand because their emotions and reactions are based on observation.
Our stories suffer if the worlds we build are based on blind assumptions or left bare of detail. Historical writers do mountains of research into their chosen period and chase for days after a visual of a suitable lap desk for a duchess. Speculative fiction writers fret about whether their spaceships would implode on contact with a planetary atmosphere and whether a plant large enough to escape the earth’s atmosphere would collapse into a smear under its own weight. Mystery writers know seven different deadly poisons that can be distilled from common garden plants.
And people are still people, even if they are actually rabbits (as in Watership Downs) or three-gendered aliens (The Gods Themselves). Few of us write characters based solely on ourselves or entirely on a single individual we know. But our everyday interaction with other human beings informs our understanding of people, their behaviours, and their emotions. To make realistic characters, we take what we have ourselves experienced and observed, and graft the feelings and actions from reality onto the children of our brains.
We learn, study and observe. We imagine. And then we write
Every writer of fiction creates a world composed from elements we have researched or observed, shifted into a new pattern by imagination and story. Some create a world for each book, or for each series. I’ve bumbled into a method that suits me—an entire fictional Regency, filled with a large cast of characters.
Some characters, like my Duchess of Haverford, appear in most of my books. Her Grace (a consummate hostess and a leader of Society) is related to half the ton and knows the other half, and she loves to meddle, particularly in a love affair. Some have a part to play in just one story (although, short of resurrecting the dead, I reserve the right to bring them into another one if I need them). Some appear as a supporting character in several stories but in one story out of them all, step into the spotlight as a hero, heroine, or villain.
I say ‘bumbled’. This is how it happened. I was (in my spare time, which was laughably minute) a writer of contemporary mainstream and speculative fiction. I was also mothering two grandchildren and their disabled mother, running a busy publishing and communications enterprise, and chronically ill. This meant I had very little free time except when waiting, which was not at all in short supply: airports, bus stops, doctors’ waiting rooms, bank queues—you name it.
Each waiting period provided an opportunity for a micro-holiday. I could escape into an alternative reality by opening a book or (if I didn’t have a book or if reading one would have been dangerous) by entering my own imagination. And that’s how I came to dream up an entire Regency society, at first with no intention of writing the stories down. It was rest and relaxation for me. I’d start a story in my head, see it through to the end, and then start another, usually with one of the minor characters from the first.
By the time I began to realise I’d found the genre I wanted to write in, and opened a file on my computer to record all the plot ideas swimming in the bottom of my mind, I had more than 40 interrelated stories and hundreds and characters.
So, dear readers, while each of my Regency books is a stand-alone, with its own happy ending, they are all related. Some fit neatly into one series or another, but even then some characters won’t stay put in their own series but wander casually in and out of other people’s. I have a world in my head, and I’m writing what I know.
Jude will give a free ecopy of each of the other Redepenning stories to one random person who comments: Candle’s Christmas Chair and Gingerbread Bride (novellas) and Farewell to Kindness.
Enter this Rafflecopter for a chance to win a made-to-order story (till 13 May).
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About the Book
Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.
Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.
Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.
In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.
Alex poured the coffee, his rinsed shaving mug doing service for Jonno’s portion. Ella sat and sipped while Jonno cleared the table and pushed the serving trolley out of the way. At Alex’s gesture, he sat on the stool again.
“Now, Lady Melville. What trouble are you in, and how can we help?” And should he believe a word she said? She did not act like a lunatic, apart from appearing half-naked in his room in the middle of the night. Apart from the panicked response to her brother-in-law.
That she had taken opium in some form was beyond a doubt. The contracted pupils, the loss of appetite, the shaky hand, the restless shifting in her seat, all spoke to that. Thanks to his injury, Alex had far too close and personal an experience of the symptoms to mistake them. The bruises on her jaw hinted that the drug taking might not have been voluntary, but perhaps her keepers needed to drug her to keep her calm.
Sane or not, Alex hoped he would not need to hand her back to Braxton. Her fear might be irrational, but when she had stood at bay, begging for his help, he had been thrown back ten years. Not that she begged him then. But he left camp on a short trip for supplies, and returned to find Ella married and much changed, her fire banked; her joy extinguished. That time, he had ignored her plight, hardened his heart and left her to the fate she had engineered. And had suffered with her as the consequences quenched her vitality and sucked away the last of her childhood. Suffered, and been powerless to help.
“I have been drugged,” Ella said baldly. “Twice a day. For weeks now. They won’t tell me why. If I refuse, they force me.”
“‘They’ being Braxton and his wife?” Alex prompted.
“And Constance’s dresser.”
“Go on.” He was careful to show no disbelief, no surprise.
“I have been kept in my room. They locked the door. They took all my clothes, my shoes. I saw you out the window and so I came. Will you help me, Alex?”
“I can take you to the rector.” Even as he said it he remembered the plump little man greasing at Braxton’s elbow. Ella would find no help there.
“No!” Her rejection was instant and panicked. “He will give me back and they will send me to that place. No, Alex. You do not know what they plan for me.” She was weeping. Alex had seen her calm under cannon fire, dry-eyed at her father’s funeral, efficient and unemotional in the midst of the carnage of a hospital tent after a battle. He had never seen her weep.
He captured her hands, and kept his voice low and soothing. “I do not, Ella. Tell me.”
About the Author
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.