May 15, 2012
Interview with Beth Elliot
Today I’m welcoming to my series of author interviews Beth Elliot.
Q: Beth, can you explain to my readers who may not know, what is Regency England, and why have you chosen this time period for your novels?
A: Strictly speaking, the Regency lasted for just eleven years, from 1811, when King George III became too ill to be capable of ruling and 1820, when he died. His oldest son, Prince George, acted as Regent during that time. However, the influences, social changes and political events of what we call the wider Regency period began about 1790 and blended into the Victorian era in about 1830.
This wider Regency period is when Jane Austen lived. Her wonderful novels inspire many writers including myself. We are all fascinated by the society she describes, with its strict social conventions and especially the situation of women. Women of the upper classes were almost completely dependent on men. They could not work, except as a companion or a governess. As a general rule they could not inherit property. Their only option was to find security in marriage, so finding a suitable partner from the same social level was vital and had nothing to do with love. For a writer, this is a goldmine of material. The delightful fashions, the vast wealth and contrasting poverty, the long war with Napoleon, the celebrities, such as Byron, Beau Brummell, even the Regent himself, all provide plotlines. It’s so easy to think: ‘What If…’ and another story just creates itself.
A: My first two heroes are two friends, who each have their own story. In 1810, moody Theo struggles to readjust to civilian life in London [The Wild Card]. Two years later, his friend, Greg, has to sort out a potential family scandal in Bath [In All Honour]. In both cases, the heroines are determined not to be married off, even though they are both poor and marriage is the only ‘career’ option for girls. April and May is set in 1804. Rose, a gifted artist, seemingly jilted by Tom four years earlier, meets him in Constantinople [Istanbul] and has to work on a secret report with him. This is a story of trust destroyed and rebuilt. The Rake’s Challenge is the tale of a summer holiday in Brighton in 1814. Giles, the bored, elegant Rake, is obliged to rescue a very young damsel in dire distress. She is determined to model her life on Byron’s Childe Harold but falls from one disaster into another. Giles rescues her each time, stronger feelings stirring when the Prince Regent shows an interest in her.
Q: Are you working on anything currently?
A: I’ve just completed Scandalous Lady . This is another Ottoman Regency story, set in Constantinople in 1811, when Lady Hester Stanhope is living there. I enjoy blending real people into my stories, although they are never the main character. This story takes place against the background of negotiating peace between the Ottoman Sultan and the Russian Czar. Again, Napoleon casts his shadow over events, but as always, I keep the tone light. Olivia is an intrepid English heroine and she encounters a half-French, half-Turkish diplomat with the most beautiful eyes she has ever seen. Cue smoulder! This story has some exotic scenes.
Q: What is your favorite part of writing ?
A: Research, especially the practical kind, is fun. I pace out routes in London, Bath and Brighton and even Istanbul to check how long it would take my characters to walk from A to B. And it’s a pleasure to visit stately homes or costume museums. Perhaps the best part is when I read through my current WIP and eagerly turn the page to see what happens next – but am brought up short as there is no more – the shock has me rushing back to the computer at once to move the story on.
Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.
A: My early life was full of sound. My grandmother used to switch between English and Welsh and I loved the rhythm of both. My parents both played the piano, and my Welsh aunt sang opera – but I never could sing a note. Words, however, came easily, whether reading or writing them. I was always telling stories. Later I studied modern languages and added one rather unusual one as my husband was Turkish. He was also a linguist and a poet. We wrote our first historical story together. We lived in eastern Turkey for some years before moving to England. I experienced wonderful kindness and hospitality during those years in Turkey, and have used that in my two Ottoman stories. I taught French and Italian and classroom teaching means a pretty busy life! One hobby is metallic embroidery, where I love overdoing the gold thread and beads, so that the finished piece shines, sparkles and gleams.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Coffee or tea?
Tea, please, anytime, anywhere.
Ocean or mountain?
I’m a Celt, so feel happier on a mountain.
Hiking or shopping?
Hiking [see above]. Shopping makes me tired.
Violin or piano?
Piano. Both my parents played Chopin, which filled the house with delicate melody. I was not gifted at that keyboard, but I still listen to Chopin as I type.
Mystery or fantasy?
I think they go together. I love both and seem to live in them. I only have to walk down a country lane in the dark to imagine fantastical creatures behind every tree or in every rustle from the leaves. I see castles in the clouds and faces on the trees. And don’t get me started on what kind of personality I imagine for the person sitting next to me on a plane or train.
Darcy or Heathcliff?
I’m a Darcy girl. Just give me the chance to pierce that stoic front he hides behind…
Love scene or death scene?
Love scene, of course!
For more about Beth, visit her blogs: www.bethelliott.webs.com
Thanks to Beth for joining me today!