Yesterday I reviewed “Her Grace in Disgrace” by Claudia Harbaugh, check out the review here http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-2Nf Today Claudia is my guest on the blog, please join me in welcoming this lovely author.
Let’s find out more about Claudia;
1) Where is your home town?
ANSWER: I was born in Middleborough, Massachusetts and lived there until I was 18, so I guess that would be considered my hometown, though I haven’t been there in decades. After I went to college my parents moved (they did, however, let me know the new address!) After I was married, my husband and I lived in Buffalo, NY for 6 years. Then, we moved an hour east to Rochester, NY where we spent 21 years and raised our two daughters there. That seemed like home, since we lived there for so long. However, five years ago, we moved to Newport News, VA and it is starting to feel like home.
2) How long have you been writing?
ANSWER: On and off for 30 years. Mostly off. I had a terrible English teacher in my junior year of high school and he turned me off writing and literature for a number of years. But, I began to write again when my kids were little. Home computers were brand new back then (in the olden days) and it was rare to own one, but my husband got one as a perk from his job, so I used it to write a novel at night, when everyone was asleep. It was not a very good novel, but I finished it. I realized something at that point, I was not good at multi-tasking. So I concentrated on raising my family. I continued to write here and there, but mostly I read. I read a lot. Then about 15 years ago I discovered theatre. My church had a drama group and I joined. Almost immediately I began to write short scripts, then plays. I have written 6 plays to date (and performed in them as well). That got my writing back in action. This year I decided it was at last time to write my novel. And I did!
3) Have you always written romance?
ANSWER: No. I originally planned to write mysteries. I cut my reading teeth on Agatha Christie. That first novel I wrote was a mystery. It’s why I have a book about poisons and another about police procedure somewhere in my house. It’s what I read pretty consistently for years. But a few years ago I began to read historical romances and when it came time to write my book, I was in the groove with them. So, that’s what I wrote. There are a few mysteries simmering in my brain for a later date.
4) What intrigues you about historical romance?
ANSWER: I have always been fascinated by history and I love visiting historical places. I’m from Massachusetts, originally and now from Virginia. Both places come with a lot of history. In fact there is lively debate whether Jamestown, VA or Plymouth, MA was the first colony. I’m Switzerland on this issue. Anyway…whenever I can I go to historical homes or re-enactment-type villages my imagination soars and I want to know everything about what it might have been like to have lived in that time period. What has struck me as I’ve aged, is no matter whether they wore dresses and I wear jeans or they rode horse drawn carriages and I zip around town in my Camry, I’m certain that today we still have the same hopes and dreams that the folk in times gone by had. We have the basic needs: food and shelter and love. And it is this love that I focus on in my books. I try to make my characters live and breathe, showing that despite the interesting differences that exist (and to me other cultures and time periods are immensely interesting) identical human emotions span the vastness of time.
5) What challengers are there today in engaging with the audience when writing romance?
ANSWER: Well, the first challenge is finding the audience. In this marketplace there is a whole slew of very good historical romances out there and it’s hard to get seen in the midst of them all. But there is plenty of room for more, people don’t only read one book! It’s simply a matter of being noticed. The other challenge I face is that Her Grace in Disgrace is quite clean, meaning that there are no throbbing body parts mentioned. It’s not my style. And these days it seems to be a trend to have lots of spiciness and explicit sex in TV, movies and novels. No aspersions whatsoever cast on anyone who does write them or read them, but it’s just not for me. If I read a book with pages of sex, I just flip through it to get to the story. To me, it’s all about the story and the characters. I did get one review that I loved that spelled it out for me. It said: “I liked the plot. A good first book. I do like more sex in the books I read but enjoyable anyway” But, I believe if you write a great story, with engaging characters, with or without explicit sex, your readers will be hooked.
6) Can you tell the readers a little about the Widows of Woburn Place?
ANSWER: I’d love to. First I’ll give a brief synopsis of Her Grace in Disgrace. It is set in early 19th century England. The Duke of Warwick is dead. As the book opens we find a group gathered to hear the reading of his will. Much to everyone’s horror we learn that the heroine, Isobel’s six year miserable marriage to the Duke of Warwick was a sham. He was secretly married to another woman and they had a son, who would now be the Duke of Warwick. Everything Isobel had worked for is stripped from her and she must begin anew. Isobel is faced with the reality of her fall from grace in the society where she once ruled and her own guilt as she confronts her past, rife with mistakes. What follows is Isobel’s journey to self-discovery and forgiveness. Along the way she also rediscovers love with a man from her past, a love she thought she would never find. In this quest of hers, Isobel discovers a few widows left destitute by their despicable or simply neglectful deceased husbands and Isobel realizes it is within her power to help them. And so they band together and make a home at #65 Woburn Place. One such widow is Laura, Lady Tyndale, and she was actually wronged by Isobel. She is the main character in the second book, where we will meet new widows, love interests, but the same group from Her Grace in Disgrace will be there as well. The widows are as varied and diverse as you might expect. There is Isobel’s Aunt Maude, who despite her fifty plus years and a disastrous first marriage, still holds out hope for love. Serena Endicott, whose status as widow is dubious, but necessary due to the existence of her two-year old daughter, Charys, is also featured prominently in “My Lady in a Quandry” or book 2. The widows are a lot of fun, despite their circumstances and a fair amount of wit is infused into the story so that the tales are not grim. These ladies are ever hopeful.
7) Tell us a bit about the research you’ve done to write a novel based in England, when you live in the USA.
ANSWER: THE INTERNET! What I wouldn’t give to spend a couple of months (in the summer, I think!) in the UK! I have been briefly to England, but long before I conceived of writing about it. But, until I sell quite a few more books, I’m going to have to spend countless hours on the computer researching and finding books to read that give me a sense of what life was like there and then. I find you have to know a whole lot about a subject, but very little of what you learn actually makes it into the book. However, you need that info for a foundation and to add verisimilitude to the story. I just got a book on smuggling in Sussex and Kent in the mail yesterday, research for book 2 (which currently has the working title: “My Lady in a Quandry”) and am just about finished with it. I’m sure all the fascinating stories I’ve read will not be featured in my book, but it gives me a greater understanding of smuggling. I also pour over maps of England and London. That’s how I found Woburn Place. I even use Mapquest or Google Maps to find out the distance between places my characters are traveling. Then I have to calculate how long that might take in a carriage or on horseback on less than fabulous roads. It’s tricky, but I actually enjoy the research.
8) You must be really pleased with the number of reviews, you have at least 76 on Amazon.com and more on Amazon .co.uk and the book has only been out a few months, tell us about your successful marketing of the book.
ANSWER: I am pleased about the number of reviews, even more pleased that so many of them are really positive. As an author you really put yourself out there, but I am so blessed with kind readers and am thrilled that most of those who read the book, really enjoy it. It was great to see a number of men write super positive reviews (only one of them was related to me). I think they were so surprised themselves that they enjoyed a historical romance that they raved about the book. As far as marketing goes, I feel like I was thrown in the deep end of a pool and I’m doggie paddling for my life! I read a few books about book promotion and have spent literally hours and hours on the internet researching, reading blogs, writing emails to blogs, tweeting, Facebooking…argghh! I also have had to spend some money on advertising. Some worth it, some not. But I think I’ve learned some things. I have so far to go to really feel comfortable with the whole promotion thing, but I’ve “met” some really great people, generous people (like Rosie) who are willing to take time to let me be highlighted on their blogs, or just give me some great advice. It’s very much a networking situation. It’s like most things in life, things that stretch you. It’s painful at first, but if you go with it and just open yourself up to learn, eventually you will look back and see how far you’ve come. You are allowed a little pat on the back at that point, I think. I’m not patting myself on the back yet!
9) How many books are you planning for the series?
ANSWER: At least three more, possibly four. Each book in the series highlights one of the widows and it depends on which of these great ladies demands their own story!
10) Do you have an expected publication date for the second book for fans to get excited about?