Romance...beautiful, wonderful romance.
The Scribbler is fortunate to have an author of historical romance as our guest this week.
Thank you for having me on your blog, Allan!
To introduce myself, I’m Victoria Hanlen and I write Historical Romance.
In 2016 I published two novels with HarperCollins:
The Trouble With Misbehaving and The Trouble With Seduction.
I was fortunate to have a father with a flair for storytelling and a mother who was a schoolteacher. Dad would entertain us with witty stories about the farm he grew up on and the places he'd traveled. Mom made sure we learned our three R's and encouraged the love of reading. As a kid, I enjoyed the Nancy Drew Mysteries and fairytales with happily ever afters. In junior high we were assigned to read Wuthering Heights, and I’ve been a big fan of historical romance ever since.
I've written all my life and later worked in jobs that required strong writing skills. Along the way, I sang in professional opera and performed in Shakespeare and regional theater.
Eventually, I started writing short stories and then novel length. The cross training in theater applied well to character motivation and scene development. I especially love improvisation and the concept of saying 'yes' to a crazy idea and building a scene on the spot. I also find it thrilling when my characters come alive and say or do something outrageous.
I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, RNA, The Beau Monde RWA, and Connecticut Romance Writers. I live with my husband and a host of wildlife in rural New England, U.S.A.
HANLEN Guest Post
A question I’m often asked is how I came up with the idea for my stories.
Let me tell you about my novel The Trouble With Misbehaving.
I can’t say the story came from any one big idea. Rather, it evolved through research, family history, travel, and from previous stories I’d written. Out of that research, I realized there were a lot of stories about the American Civil War from the American prospective, but we rarely see one written from an outside viewpoint.
This started me thinking. What if Misbehaving is approached from a UK point of view, since both North and South were buying their guns, munitions, ships, etc. from the UK? Sometimes the purchasing agents for both the North and the South sat side by side in a UK company’s outer office, waiting to place their orders! Additionally, many of the blockade-runners were formerly in the British Royal Navy.
I also had a very persistent character running around in my head. C.C., the heroine in Misbehaving, was a villain in one of my earlier books. She’s such a dynamic, interesting character and kept insisting she was misunderstood, demanding I tell her side of the story!
When I toured Marble House in Newport Rhode Island, U.S.A., pieces of the story started to fit together.
Alva Vanderbilt, the woman who had Marble House built, was born in the South (Alabama) to a family that suffered untimely deaths and unstable fortune. She was determined to marry well. And so she did. She married William Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in the United States at the time.
She also had lofty social ambitions and intended to be one of New York society’s leading lights. Initially, however, as new money, she was snubbed by the older factions of New York City’s High Society.
Bullheaded, intelligent, and courageous, she challenged convention and used her husband’s vast wealth to maneuver the society leaders into doing her bidding.
She had Marble House built (they called the gilt-lined jewel box a ‘summer cottage’) on property right next to the ‘summer cottage’ of the queen of New York High Society. And Alva spared no expense in making it the grandest around.
Later, Alva’s divorce from William Vanderbilt (in an age when divorce was rare) rendered her an outcast. She regained her social position by marrying off her beautiful daughter, Consuelo, to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough.
C.C. and her mother, Delia, have similarities to both Alva and Consuelo.
The story is set at the end of the American Civil War (1864-1865), a period of enormous struggle and strife. It was also a time when captains could demonstrate their brazen nerve, technical skill, and shameless audacity.
A quick recap of the story: Following a horrid scandal in New York City, C.C. is sent to London to live with her father’s relatives. She is told to find and marry a titled lord so she and her family will be accepted back into NYC high society. Untimely deaths make C.C. the sole heir to her father’s fortune and with it she decides to forge her own path.
The American Civil war begins and then drags on until the South is in desperate straights. When she receives a letter from her mother begging her help, C.C. must find a captain who will take her to North Carolina to save her family.
With the dangerous tightening of the blockade, C.C. knows she must hire the best captain available. Notorious Captain Beauford Tollier is such a man and one of the most successful blockade-runners to sail the seas. He also happens to be her cousin’s brother-in-law, and the third son of the Earl of Grancliffe. The only problem is, Captain Beau has just been released from a Union prison and is beset by battle demons. He’s vowed to quit blockade running.
C.C. must convince him otherwise. He’s wily, commanding, and stubborn, and he will not be cajoled. He presents more of a challenge than C.C. bargained on.
Captain Beau has aspects of a real captain, Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden (later, Hobart Pasha) the third son of the 6th Earl of Buckinghamshire who was a very successful blockade-running captain during the American Civil War.
The story takes place in England, The Bahamas and North Carolina, U.S.A.
My husband and I took trips to research details about the history, setting, and language people used. The trips themselves were a great experience.
We spent three weeks in England touring the country at the time of year when certain parts of the story take place.
We took a cruise from New York to the Bahamas in December, the time of year C.C. and Beau would have sailed. I wanted to know what it would have been like for Beau and C.C. to sail on a blockade-runner from the Bahamas to Wilmington, NC—the only Confederate port still open at the time the story takes place.
The Royal Victoria Hotel where C.C. and Beau stayed in the story was a real hotel in Nassau, the Bahamas (a famous blockade-runner hotel), built in 1861 and closed in 1971.
It was a short walk from Nassau’s wharf. I have a picture of it’s famous gardens and a memorial plaque on my website. victoriahanlen.com
On visits to family in North Carolina, we took side trips to Goldsboro and Wilmington, NC to explore the towns, historical homes, plantations, forts and railroad museums.
It’s been over 150 years since the American Civil War, but the language people use to refer to it in the North vs. the South still continues to be distinct.
The Trouble With Misbehaving was a finalist in eight Romance Writers of America contests. When I entered it in Harlequin’s ‘So You Think You Can Write Contest’ I didn’t win the big prize, but I was given a two-book contract!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Allan! It’s been great! J
Thank you Victoria for being our guest this week.
For all you readers, Victoria would love to hear from you by visiting these links.
A special Thanks to you Awesome Visitors for stopping by the Scribbler. Please leave a comment before you go.
Nice interview, thanks for sharing the inspiration of your stories, BonnieReplyDelete
What a lovely and charming post. Thanks, Allan. I wish you all the best, Victoria. Shared this across my pages.ReplyDelete
Thank you Tina and Sue for visiting and leaving a comment.ReplyDelete
Thank you Tina and Sue for stopping by, sharing, and your good wishes.ReplyDelete
And I so appreciate you inviting me to discuss my books on your blog, Allan!
All the best to you,
It's great to have you as a guest Victoria. Hope you'll be back in the future.Delete
Just an add-on comment that you have one of the best blog sites I've run across. And, I agree: Dennis Lehane is tops on my fiction list.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your kind comments Walter.ReplyDelete