Today I have the pleasure of introducing the talented author Debra Brown as part of my Saturday Historical Novelist Blog Series. Welcome Debra and congratulations on recently releasing Castles, Customs, and Kings Volume II. First, please tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
I spent most of my adult years raising children and studying many different things. I enjoyed various creative realms including painting, making jewelry, making 1920s style hats, and working for an interior designer. I was quite over the hill when I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, just for the fun of it, and it was a surprise to have it published. Then I had to learn how to promote the book.
That is where my problem came in. I learned that many writers maintain a blog to promote their books, and I decided to give that a try. I found I was having to do so much research to write a worthy blog post that I no longer had time for writing my stories. I decided to start a blog for a number of authors of historical fiction with the hope that we could publish an historical post from our research daily. “English Historical Fiction Authors” Blog was born, and we have fairly well met that goal for the last four years.
Now, however, running the blog and related endeavors take up much of my time, and my writing is again limited. I am still working ever so slowly on my second novel. But at the end of the first year of the blog’s existence, Deborah Swift suggested we put some of the posts together into a book. In September of 2013, Madison Street Publishing released Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. It has been well received, and just this week we published Castles, Customs, and Kings Volume II.
Why did you choose to write historical fiction?
As a child, I read historical fiction written by great authors in the My Bookhouse series. My family owned the six volumes from 1921, and I was constantly absorbed. This formed in me a love for the genre, but as a busy person, I never had time to realize that. It showed up from time to time in my reading selections and movie choices, but not until the 2008 recession did life slow down enough that I had the leisure to do what I wanted. So what did I want? At first, I looked for more period movies… I’d watched them all while making jewelry. I decided if I wanted another story, I’d have to write it myself. So I did.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
I knew I would want something where class distinctions in Victorian England would create the conflict. I brought large picture books home from the library to help me find a setting, and an estate and village began to form in my mind. But I wanted more than just a day to day tale; I wanted twists and turns, and I wanted a big surprise at the end. I chose an event in the life of fictional characters and worked out a way to put it right before the reader without their realizing it—until the last pages.
What are you working on now?
The second book began with memories of one of my favorite Dickens characters, Miss Havisham. I wanted a gothic feel caused by realistic mental/emotional problems. I started the story to be about such a woman but was surprised when her adult twins took over as the main characters, damaged by having been raised in her crazy, isolated world. I like the result!
Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?
We are a work in progress. I didn’t start out by studying writing. That came after The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, which needed and received much attention in a revision. I’m glad for all the writing blogs where I have picked up tips, and I am grateful to my wonderful author friends who have read my work, critiqued it, and encouraged me when I could have been stopped in my tracks by unkind words. I can’t say enough about the supportive spirit of the historical fiction authors community.
Interestingly, Evangline from my work in progress, For the Skylark, is my favorite—I guess I understand her although two readers have said she is not a likable character. I’ve really had to kick that around in my thoughts—what changes should I make? She is the product of a strange life, isolated from everyone except her brother, her mother being emotionally cold, and suddenly her brother falls in love. In her view, Evangeline has lost the only person in her life. She develops an obsessive compulsive disorder, something with which it seems my readers thus far are not familiar. If I change her much, it would not be realistic—it would be normal for her to be a wreck and to harbor resentment. She does try to overcome her issues and better herself. I think I’m siding with her, though I have to listen to the experts and find a solution so others will understand and like Evangeline.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
I am like Evangeline. I think I’ll have her start a busy blog and work on an award project to stabilize her. It really helps! J
What is your life like outside of writing?
I am helping to raise my baby grandson, which is far too much work but a great source of enjoyment. I never imagined we’d have a baby in the house again—watch out; you never know what lies around the corner. I am also the President of the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Association besides running the blog and promoting my work. As a result, I get to read very little and barely have time to write. But again, author friends have spurred me on.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
The best is the wonderful feeling creativity gives and enjoying the responses of those who love the books. The worst, I have found, when actively writing is having these wonderful friends you’ve created that nobody else on the earth knows, and so who do you talk to about them and their experiences? You are stranded, alone in their world with only them, and others are not involved. Until they read. Then, if you’ve made the characters interesting, if you’ve messed up their lives adequately, and if you’ve brought in great surprises and satisfying solutions, you are back at the best again. Life is good.
Tell us about your other books?
The two volumes of Castles, Customs, and Kings are fantastic anthologies of history posts—I promote them as bite-size pieces of British history, warts and all. Each volume has around fifty contributing authors bringing to the book fascinating true tales from their research. Many times in editing my way through the books I’ve thought—truth really is stranger than fiction.
You can read a little more about each volume on Amazon and look inside:
Castles, Customs, and Kings Volume I
(Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, and Audiobook)
Castles, Customs, and Kings Volume II
The second volume will become available elsewhere shortly.
You can find Debra at:
Facebook (Friending—do friend!)
Facebook (Author page)