Interview with Louise Allen, Part II ~ Regency Romance, Heroes, and Thoughts on Writing

Book Giveaway! ~ See details at the end of this post.

I welcome again Louise Allen for the second part of my interview about her new book Walks Through Regency London ~ [click here for Part I]

JAIV:  Hello again Louise! – now let’s talk about your fiction: I have to make the embarrassing confession that I have not read any of your Regency romances! Your website says you write “Scandalously witty Regency romance” – how are you different from the other writers in this genre?

LA: I write romance, so obviously there is emotional intensity, but I have a well-developed sense of humour and I don’t enjoy writing about people who can’t laugh at themselves and the situation they find themselves in. A hero who isn’t witty isn’t quite a hero for me and my heroines, who all have a bit of me in them somewhere, are more likely to find the light side of any disaster, pick themselves up and carry on. And scandalous? Well, I’m told I write “hot” historicals – which means that I tend to have slightly older, more experienced and/or less conventional heroines who might have convincingly amorous encounters.

JAIV: What book would you suggest a “newbie” start with? [I promise to order a copy right away!]

LA:  Well, I’ve just won a CataRomance Reviewer’s Choice Award for The Lord & the Wayward Lady which is the first of a series of eight books I wrote with five other authors. I also wrote the seventh in the series, The Officer and the Proper Lady which I have to confess is a favourite of mine. Or you might like to start with a trilogy which comes out in the States later this year (August, September, November) – “The Transformation of the Shelley Sisters.” The first one is Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress.

JAIV:  You have several stand-alone titles and several titles in series – which do you prefer to write? Is it hard to let a character go when there is no sequel in the wings?

LA:  I do enjoy being able to stretch myself over a series and I love revisiting characters from earlier books. And yes, I hate letting my characters go! But it does make scheduling problems and there is more flexibility and variety with stand-alone books. My next one will be a singleton and I’m just starting it. Mills & Boon is producing a series set in historical houses owned by the National Trust, linking a fictional romance with real events and people, and I’m lucky enough to have been asked to do one. I’ve chosen Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. When I’ve completed that I’ll be writing one set entirely in India in the 1790s.

JAIV:  This National Trust series sounds intriguing! Are any of your other characters based on historical figures?

LA:  I will occasionally have real characters “walking on” – the Prince Regent or Wellington for example – but all my heroes and heroines are entirely fictitious. I try very hard to make sure historical events take place as the records show and I’m not making people act out of character.

JAIV:  What is your writing process? – do you plan ahead or as you have said yourself do “the Hero and Heroine take over and sabotage all your efforts at discipline”?

LA:  I’m what is known in the business as a “pantser” – I fly by the seat of my pants into the fog – rather than being a planner. But I need to know my characters very well before I start, then I put them in a situation and I hope I can keep control of them!

JAIV:  Do you have a favorite character? – the Hero? The Heroine?

LA:  I need to be able to identify with the heroine – and hope my readers will too. And I have to be a little bit in love with the hero (luckily my husband is secure about this!). Some heroes though, stay with me – Hal Carlow in The Officer and the Proper Lady and Jack Ryder in The Dangerous Mr Ryder for example.

JAIV:  What makes a great Hero? A great Heroine?

LA:  My heroes have to be men of honour, even if sometimes that is buried rather deeply. They must have courage – physical and moral – and they need an edge of darkness, of danger. And a sense of humour, of course! Great heroines have the reader living the book with them – and I wish there was a recipe for achieving that. I know I’ve succeeded when my editor says (in a good way) “ was in tears over x or y”.

JAIV:  Do you believe in the transformation of the Rake, his redemption? –

LA:  That depends on the rake. There were some genuinely unpleasant and vicious Regency rakes. I believe that a man who has, for good reason, become cynical and cold and destructive can be redeemed by love, but there are things I wouldn’t countenance in one of my heroes.

JAIV:  How do you come up with names? Ravenhurst, Carlow, etc…

LA:  What a good question – I wish I knew the answer! I tell my subconscious to get on with it and end up with lists and jotted notes on every scrap of paper. Then I have to try them out and see what works. Sometimes a character insists on a different name and I have to give in.

JAIV:  If you were giving advice to budding writers, what would it be?

LA:  Write, write, write – you have to learn technique and you have to build your writing “muscles”. Listen to constructive advice from agents, publishers, published writers and think about what they are saying. But never over-polish your work so that you lose you unique “voice”.

JAIV:  Your covers – do you have input or is this out of your hands?

LA:  Out of my hands!


UK cover


US cover



                                                                   JAIV:  You mention that your last work is part of a “continuity series” of eight books written by six different authors. How ever did you all come together in such a task? And how different was the writing process for your two books in this series? – what are the other titles and authors, and should the series be read in order?

LA:  The editors at HMB in Richmond, London, put us together – we didn’t know each other so it was a sharp learning curve. Fortunately we got on very well together, which was a good thing as we had to come up with the over-arching mystery that links the books, all the characters and eight plots ourselves, subject to editorial approval. For me it meant I had to plan far more than I usually do and the process was slower as we were all writing at the same time and constantly checking back and forth to ensure continuity of plot and characterization, especially as we were all using each other’s characters. But it was a wonderful experience and we are still firm friends. The books can be read alone, but if read in order you also get to follow the mystery through to its conclusion. In order they are:

The Lord & the Wayward Lady (Louise Allen)

Paying the Virgin’s Price (Christine Merrill)

The Smuggler & the Society Bride (Julia Justiss)

Claiming the Forbidden Bride (Gayle Wilson)

The Viscount & the Virgin (Annie Burrows)

Unlacing the Innocent Miss (Margaret McPhee)

The Officer & the Proper Lady (Louise Allen)

Taken By the Wicked Rake (Christine Merrill)

JAIV: I am interested in your current “work in progress” – to be set in India – you have recently visited to inspire you and help in your research – I had the good fortune to visit India a few years ago and was so moved by the beauty of the people and the culture – what were your impressions? And what works are your reading for your historical research?

LA:  As I said above, this is now the book after next. I went to India last year and used some of that experience in my “Danger & Desire” trilogy (out in the States next year) but I wanted to do one set there entirely, and rather earlier than I usually write – the late 1700s. I love India, even at its most chaotic, and Rajasthan where we were in January had the most incredible palaces and forts, many of which we stayed in. I’m reading through a pile of quite academic material on the East India Company but I found William Dalrymple’s The White Moghuls very inspiring and for light relief there is always William Hickey – Memoirs of a Georgian Rake.

JAIV:  What is the most essential tool in marketing your work?

LA:  Constant contact with readers is paramount. I keep my website up to date, I tweet and I’ll do talks wherever and whenever I can. Next week I’m speaking at a US base in Norfolk!

JAIV:  And finally a question about the publishing aspect of books vs. Kindle [etc.] – I see that many of your works are available in the ebooks format – have you seen an increase in sales because of this?

LA:  I love books, but I love my Kindle too and I’m really pleased that many of my out of print books are becoming available in e-formats. It is too early to say what impact it is having on sales, but I don’t think there is any option other than to go along that route. Having said that, I can’t see the paper book dying any time soon, thank goodness.

JAIV:  And finally, what do you like to do when not writing??!

LA:  I read voraciously, travel, go antiquing, garden and talk endlessly to other writers.

JAIV:  Anything else you would like to say?

LA:  Thank you very much for having me! And do get in touch if you are coming to London – I’d love to meet members of your Society.

JAIV:  Thank you Louise for sharing your thoughts with us – You have been most generous with your time!  To All: Please look for my review of  Walks Through Regency London in Friday’s post.

Your turn! – if anyone has any questions of Louise, please ask away! – see details for the book giveaway below… You can visit Louise’s website here  and find her on Twitter @LouiseRegency

If you would like to order the Regency Walks book, you can do so directly from her website – I can attest to the book being mailed right away, arriving safe and sound and very quickly!

Book Giveaway:  Please enter the drawing for a copy of Walks Through Regency London, compliments of ‘Jane Austen in Vermont’, by asking Louise a question or commenting on any of the three posts about this book.  Drawing will take place next Wednesday 2 March 2011; comments accepted through 11 p.m. EST March 1st.  [Delivery worldwide.]

[All images from Louise Allen’s website, except the letter-writing sketch which seems to be everywhere…]

Copyright @2011, Deb Barnum, at Jane Austen in Vermont.