Today, I’m delighted to be joined by Susan Lodge, to talk about her historical fiction novels.
So, Susan, what first attracted you to the era(s) you’ve written about?
I have worked in Bristol, Bath, Portsmouth and London so have always been lucky enough to have a wealth of Regency architecture and naval history close by. Inspiration for my stories has been gained by wandering around such places as Nelson’s flag ship, Buckler’s Hard, the Bath Assembly Rooms and Jane Austen’s house at Chawton. So it’s not surprising that both my historical romance novels, Rebellious Cargo and Only a Hero Will Do, are set in the early nineteenth century and include some time aboard ship.
What sparked your first foray into historical fiction?
I started to read some Georgian/Regency fiction and got hooked. As well as enjoying the wit and authenticity of Austen and Heyer, I also like more modern day Regency authors such as Julia Quinn. But the idea to set my historical romances against a naval background stemmed from enjoying the wonderful stories of the late Patrick O’Brian. He portrays naval life with colour and humour as he examines the relationships forged amongst the disciplined and diverse community in the confined world of a naval ship. The detail in his writing of the period is incredible.
But as a romance writer I needed to inject some female characters on my ships and I wanted them to have a role whilst aboard. In Rebellious Cargo, Jane Charlesworth is a skilled code breaker wanted by the Government to solve her father’s last dispatch. But Jane’s past has been blighted by terrible events which have left her with nothing but contempt for the Royal Navy.
Tell me a bit about your research process – are you able to stay focused, or do you find yourself distracted by new, interesting snippets or stories?
I am constantly sidetracked by research, e mails and social media. The temptation to check facts as I write is very distracting with all the information just a few clicks away. And I find I can easily be overloaded with too much choice and end up trawling through data which I don’t need. I have wasted hours going to web sites which gain my attention but side track me from the task in hand – which is usually to write a new chapter or two
When I first started writing books I would spend Saturday afternoons in the reference library collecting and checking information, thereby treating research as a separate activity. Then at home I could just write the story. Sadly libraries aren’t the nice quite places they used to be when the librarian would give a warning scowl if anyone dared as much as to wrinkle a sweet paper. Last time I visited my local library it was a hub of activity with lots of distracting activities going on.
The truth is I need deadlines. I am much more productive when I am forced to use time efficiently. I really believe, it is not how much writing time you have but how you use it.
Which is your favourite of any real historical characters who have appeared in your writing?
I don’t have real people in my stories but I often use them to add to or illustrate a storyline. I also think it is a good way to keep the time line accurate and inforce the authenticity of the period. For example here is an extract form Only a Hero Will Do where I use the scientist Humphrey Davy as a talking point.
“Doctor, how did your trip to London go?” the Captain asked. “Did you and your colleague, Mr. Davy, make further progress with your experiments? A new gas, wasn’t it? Reduces one to a state of merriment, I hear.”
“The effects are startling,” Doctor Withington replied, “but a great deal more research needs to be applied before the full merits of the gas can be assessed.”
Hetty looked up in interest. “I understand it was a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen.”
The conversation halted and the whole gathering looked her way. “Mr. Davy’s new gas…” She faltered at the sudden silence. Had she spoken out of turn?
Doctor Withington broke the silence. “You follow scientific developments, Miss Avebury?”
“I read an article in the newspaper,” she mumbled. She had encroached on a male subject that was unsuitable for female comment. It had been a common reprimand at home. Mentally cursing, she tried to make light of the subject. “I hear it is quite the thing at the most fashionable ton parties for gentlemen to inhale the mixture for entertainment.”
“It’s a dangerous gas to play with outside the laboratory,” Doctor Withington replied with a frown, “but Davy is unscrupulous in his research, and the idle pursuits of the ton provide excellent unsuspecting recruits for his observations. It also has interesting possibilities for medical application, but I fear Davy will have trouble convincing the Institute of that fact.”
“I can’t see what good it’ll do in the sick bay,” the Captain said. “I can’t imagine anyone chuckling under the knife.”
The conversation moved on, and Hetty concentrated on her meal. But she couldn’t help a grin at the thought of the usually sombre doctor in a state of gas-induced laughter.
Have you ever had to include a real historical character you’ve really disliked?
No, not yet. One great thing that I enjoy about being an author is that you get to seal the fate of the villains. You can’t have that indulgence with a real historical character.
If you could visit any historical event or period (as a witness only, no changing things!), which would it be, and why?
Piccadilly Circus, London when the VE Day celebrations were in full swing. It must have been such an emotional scene, signalling the return of loved ones and the end of hostilities.
All that partying and unrestrained joy is something I would like to have experienced.
Finally… You’re allowed a whole afternoon to yourself with anyone from history. Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
I would like to be the guest of Admiral Nelson on HMS Victory. Maybe one afternoon during the weeks leading up to Trafalgar after he joined the British fleet off Cádiz. I would ask him about his most challenging moments of command, and what is the secret of keeping a well-motivated and disciplined company. After a stroll around the quarterdeck we could then take a glass of something warming in the ward room. Perfect research material.
Thank you for your time!
To celebrate the launch of Only a Hero Will Do, Susan’s historical novels are on sale at 99p/99c from 10th to the 22nd December 2015.
Susan Lodge’s first publishing success was a story purchased by The People’s Friend. She described the arrival of the acceptance letter as, ‘A moment of ecstasy’. This breakthrough gave her the confidence to secure a publisher for her historical romance novels.
She includes large doses of humour in her Regency stories and believes the romance genre lends itself superbly to funny moments, as love can make people act very strangely.
Susan has a science degree and always wanted to be an astronaut. She would love to secure a seat on Richard Branson’s space flight. However, to find the funds she needs to either write a best seller or win the lottery.
She has a husband, two children and lives on the south coast of England.