Q&A with Kelly Lyonns

Author Kelly Lyonns discusses the discipline of writing Regency Romance and how her story evolved.

Q:  It’s a sassy read right from the first page. How did you come up with these strong and likeable characters, Charlotte and Maximillian?

I confess to being in love with Sean Bean’s Sharpe (the books written by Bernard Cornwell). Although Maximillian is not Sharpe, I knew my hero would be serving King and country. He just burst on the scene – he’s a bit like that. Charlotte needed to be his equal and able to face down the dangers of a warzone. The characters started as straight Regency hero and heroine but after a first draft it was obvious (to me) that there was more to Charlotte. Writing deep point of view (POV) helped enormously, even if the POV changed in the edits, being inside the character’s head literally leaves you no doubt about what they are going to say or do. As each character’s motivations became clearer and their backstory evolved they eventually took over their own story.

Q: How do you stay in the Regency headspace when creating and writing?

I first brew a cup of tea then I tighten my stays and binge watch Pride and Prejudice. Heh heh. But seriously, I do lots and lots of research and most importantly I ‘put on my character’s shoes’. I write from a character’s POV even if the scene is a descriptive one I imagine it from a character’s perspective. Regency romance readers are a pedantic bunch – I know I’m one. There are entire blogs devoted to undergarments – really! I’m an avid reader of regency and if I’m going to bend the rules then it’s for a very good (plot driven) reason. Do I make mistakes? Yes! But hopefully they are minor ones and have been picked up by my wonderful critiquing readers. Actually the tea does help.

Q: As a scientist, writing Regency romance seems worlds away from your occupation. What attracted you to this genre?

In a word, romance. I also write paranormal and science fiction but it is the human element which makes story more than just a chronicling of incidents – that would be a lab report. It is the passion and interaction of humans, their emotional journeys, their thoughts and feelings that make us want to know what happens next. In a way, curiosity and imagination are what makes a good scientist. You must wonder what is going to happen next and then have the imagination to wonder why it happened. The discipline of writing well is not confined to creative writing – there is a lot of scientific and technical writing that can only be described as poor communication at best. The regency romances appealed to me, because I found the contrast between what society demanded and the basic drivers of human nature interesting. In some ways it is a simpler world where science is a gentleman’s occupation and the world is still vast and (for white Europeans) largely unexplored. In the space of only a hundred years the automobile will rule the road, the industrial revolution will upend society, and the pace of life will ramp up. The historical events of these few short decades in Europe are fascinating. Also, Mr Darcy … sigh, just … Mr Darcy.

Q: How close is this novel to your heart?

As my first book it holds a special place. Just finishing the book is a surreal experience after having taken so long to complete. Charlotte and Maximillian were very patient while I learned how to craft a novel. The final book is a different story from the one I started writing so I will say that it matured as I grew as a writer. It’s more like a young adult who is about to leave home, I’m glad they are going out into the world but I will miss them. I hope they remember to call on Mother’s day.

Q: Are you, friends and family reflected in any of the characters?

I will only say, not intentionally. Although I certainly advised Charlotte a few times on her replies to Maximillian.

Q: Tell us what to expect next in the Bladewood Legacy?

The Bladewood family is large and for want of a better word, untidy. There are nine siblings and in ‘The Sailor’s Lass’ we join the second eldest of the brothers, fair-haired easy going Arthur Bladewood who serves in the Royal Navy. He finds both trouble and love in northern France, when he’s shot and shelters in the Chateau of the practical reclusive Susanna Greyson. The dark-haired English-born beauty is hiding not only her original nationality but her precognitive abilities. Susanna’s position had always been precarious but Author’s presence in her household brings danger to her doorstep. He realises he has tipped the balance and she must leave her home and return with him across the channel. But she is reluctant and both his good looks and charm seem to have lost their customary persuasive power. As Arthur’s family in England set out to look for him, Susanna’s untutored unpredictable talents attract an old enemy of the family. So it becomes a race as to who will find the unsuspecting couple first … friend or foe.

Q: For any budding writers out there, can you share some tips about your writing and publishing journey?

Some people have a writing discipline or routine, I wouldn’t embarrass either of these words by using them to describe what I do. For decades my work and family necessitated a work practice that would have made full moon Friday night Emergency Room shifts look like a sleep-in. Consequently I write almost anywhere (yes I have dropped the notebook in the bath). I write whatever scene is currently playing in my head. But, and this is very important, I also devote some of my not-so-creative moments to good old-fashioned planning. I plot out the book – sometimes it stays a rough outline for a while, but in the end it becomes a detailed guide of what has happened and a good map of where I still have to go. Do I rigidly stick to this plan? No – it’s flexible and evolves. But it sure saves me a lot of time to have a timeline that tells me my secondary characters can’t possibly be ahead of the coach because they’re still swilling ale in the pub. Let the muse loose but don’t lose track of the details.

I’d submitted my manuscript to a couple of large publishers without success and had started researching the ins and outs of self-publishing. In an amazing bit of synchronicity I was picked up by Atlas Publishing after Helen Goltz had seen some blogs I did for She Brisbane e-magazine. My advice is write; write outside of your comfort zone, write often and submit often. Opportunities come in unexpected ways. Oh, and join a writing group – I love my writing group. Their support, encouragement and honesty pushed me over the finish line.

Q: Who is one of your favourite authors and do you have a favourite book?

I have so many favourite books and authors in many genres. I have all of the Australian author Stephanie Laurens books. Mary Jo Putney is definitely also a favourite. I was just fascinated by what she has repackaged as the Fallen Angel Series (love ‘Shattered Rainbows’). When I originally read it I remember the moment I suddenly realised I was glimpsing some of the events I had just read in the previous book, but from an entirely different perspective. The previous main characters were in the background now and you almost waved to them saying ‘I know where you are going and what’s going to happen, but I’m busy following these people right now’. So clever (I’m even envious of her new website). I love continuity so Jayne Ann Kentz (Amanda Quick, Jane Castle) books featuring the paranormal elements are among my favourites. They span centuries and the Arcane Society is the linking feature. One of my very favourite books is not a romance though, it’s Alain de Botton’s ‘The Architecture of Happiness’. But this is an impossible question, it’s like asking which cells in my body are my favourite – although I do like all the cells that collaborate to let me enjoy chocolate Black Forest cake. Mmmm.

Kelly’s first novel, The Soldier’s Woman is available now in print and e-book from Amazon. Click here to order your copy.