“Readers don’t want a history lesson, they want a love story set in an historical setting.” Sasha Cottman.
I love reading historical romance, because the unique settings and conventions of the time provide another layer to the story.
As a contemporary fiction author, I’ve always wondered though, is writing historical fiction more difficult to write, and what does it entail?
This week I’m very excited to have an Australian author visit: Sasha Cottman, Melbourne based author of historical fiction. Her debut novel, Letter from a Rake, is published by Destiny Romance.
She shares with us why she was attracted to this genre, as well as some of the best and more challenging aspects of writing this type of fiction. And if you’re interested in a fresh historical romance, Letter from a Rake, is a great read. Her lead character Millie, is one of the more unconventional and interesting characters I’ve come across in this genre.
Why historical fiction? And what attracted you to the genre?
I have always been a history buff, if you look in the shelves of my library at home it is full of history books and biographies. Considering that I had never read many romance novels before I started trying to write them, I think I gravitated toward an area where I already felt comfortable. I enrolled in an adult education writing course and only realised when I arrived the first night that it was for romance writing. Regency writer Anne Gracie was the course lecturer. If you haven’t read any Anne Gracie, you are in for a treat, she is truly a gifted author.
The only romance book I had read before I started the writing course was Pride and Prejudice which was a high school English literature text. I do have the original BBC series on video (yes video remember those big boxy things that took up so much space?) and the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie on DVD.
After I had read a few historical romances, I knew I had a special love for the English Regency period and wanted to write stories set during that time.
Fill us in on some of the key elements required to write a successful historical romance.
Being able to seamlessly transport your reader to another time and place is crucial for a good historical romance. Readers don’t want a history lesson, they want a love story set in an historical setting.
Some of my most favourite historical romances have been those where I can really relate to the characters. Often this is because they have families and friends who are more than just a name on the page. I think this is why my stories tend to have strong secondary characters. My heroes and heroines inhabit a real world to me, so I like to see how they actually live.
What would you say were some of the most challenging aspects of writing historical romance?
Research is always the hardest (and fun) part of writing historical romances. You can literally spend hours researching books and the internet for the smallest of details. For Letter from a Rake, my research covered a myriad of areas from India, London shops and even how long it would take you to travel by coach from London to Scotland. It’s like having a history lesson at the same time as you are learning to write. The good thing of course is that once you understand that for instance trains were not invented for a few more years, you don’t tend to make the same mistake twice.
The use of modern day words is also a real problem faced by the historical romance author. It is not unusual for me to use a term in a first draft only to discover during later edits that the word or phrase did not exist at that time. Shakespeare is a godsend, if he used a word you know you are on the right track.
What are your favourite parts of writing historical romance?
While research can be time consuming, it comes with the reward of discovering all sorts of historical tit bits. So many times you think something was invented in the 20th century only to discover that it dates back a long way before then. I have a trip booked to England in early 2014 and plan to spend as much time as possible in the museums and stately homes as I can manage.
The Regency period is a great period to write about due to the social changes at the time, the war between Britain and France and of course the marvellous fashions. It was a period of great change and upheaval throughout the world. London was the biggest city in the world at that time and all roads led to London.
Another fun part of writing historical romance is the food. I have a blog on my website where I write about the varying degrees of success I have in trying to recreate recipes from the Regency period. My daughter takes the photos and my husband does the taste testing. The baked apple recipe was a particular favourite.
What sort of fiction do you read?
Apart from other historical romances, I read fantasy fiction, biographies, YA, science fiction in fact pretty much anything. I am currently reading the final novel in the Hunger Games series.
Tell us briefly about your publishing journey and how you came to be published by Destiny Romance.
My publishing journey was a very short one and I am still at a loss to explain how it happened so fast.
I finished the polished draft of Letter from a Rake and submitted it to Destiny Romance. Two weeks later I got a phone call at work, saying they loved it. To be fair they also said it needed a lot of work, which it did. Christmas of 2012 was spent doing major rewrites and checking my research.
When I sent the changed manuscript back at the end of January 2013, they offered me a contract.
Letter from a Rake was released in July 2013.
Letter from a Rake
The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn’t long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home.
When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy’s handsome brother, ‘Alex the Great’ and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie. Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness…
Can Millie and Alex overcome the obstacles in their path to find true love? Or will one miscommunication ruin everything?
About Sasha Cottman
Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.
Five years ago, Sasha accidently enrolled in a romance writing course. Other than Pride and Prejudice she had never read a romance book before. She soon discovered that the world of historical romance allowed her to combine her love of history with the passion of romance writing.
Sasha has an MBA as well as post graduate qualifications in electronic media. Having worked as an accountant in a media group for many years, she now finds herself in the unique position of having seen both the business and creative sides of publishing.
Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.
When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.
Letter from a Rake is Sasha’s debut novel and won the 2013 Book Junkies Choice Award for Historical Romance.