Today I am delighted to welcome romance author, Jo Beverley, to my blog.
Jo is the NYT bestselling author of over thirty-nine historical romance novels, all set in her native England. Her novels have won the RITA, romance’s top award, five times and she is a member of Romance Writers of America’s Hall of Fame.
Publisher’s Weekly declared Jo Beverley as “Arguably today’s most skilful writer of intelligent historical romance…” Her work has been described as “Sublime!” by Booklist and Romantic Times described her as “one of the great names of the genre.”
Welcome to my blog, Jo and thank you for taking time out of your busy day to chat. Just for fun, which five words do you think best describes you?
Five? I can come up with laid-back and creative, but I’m really not self-analytical.
What inspired you to write your very first book?
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Vocation, perhaps? I always had stories in my head and started to write them as a child. I fiddled around, with my efforts becoming longer, until we emigrated to Canada and I had time on my hands, and then one poured out. I do feel that I have always been a writer, just as I have not been an athlete, a musician, or an inventor. I’m fortunate to have found the way to be what I’m meant to be.
What are the challenges (research, literary, psychological or logistical) in bringing a book to life?
I suppose, being true to it. I don’t pre-plan my books, so sometimes I find myself hurtling along and have to stop because though it’s fun it’s not true. Then I have to toss the rubbish out and dig deeper for what’s really going on. In addition my books always hit a spot about half to two-thirds through when I’m sure that this time it’s not going to work. My husband calls it “the time of the book.” The only thing to do is carry on.
I don’t get writer’s block, though I sometimes find the energy weakens on a book. In that case I start something new, or return to an old project, sometimes just for fun, and return to the other one later. I do believe in preserving the fun in fiction, in all senses.
What books/authors have influenced your writing or writing style and why?
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That’s a tricky one because I’d have to say all of them. I’m sure everything we read has some effect. I’ve never been a great one for how-to-write books, though some have been helpful along the way. Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block was helpful. I read it early in my writing life and it liberated me to do just that. I didn’t have to “write what you know” or be literary-serious about this. I could invent people and places for the sheer joy of it and hope others would enjoy reading my stories.
By the way, the SF writer Orson Scott Card clarified the “write what you know” for me when he pointed out that he knows more about the books he’s read, the films he’s watched and the stories other people have told him than what he was doing as a teenager.
While you are writing, do you ever feel as if you are one of the characters?
No, but I’m often inhabiting them, if that makes sense. Mostly I see what’s going on as a video but I also get inside their heads and share their emotions in order to share all that with the readers. There have to be bits of me in my characters, but I’ve never been interested in writing disguised autobiography.
Tell us a little about your latest book and why you chose that story-line/setting?
I assume you mean the MIP? (Masterpiece/mess/monster in progress.) It’s a marriage of convenience story, which is a favourite of mine. I also write linked books and this one, The Viscount Needs a Wife , rolls out from last April’s Too Dangerous for a Lady . In that one the hero has a friend who’s a town dandy.
Braydon was in the army, but we’re past Waterloo and he’s sold out and is enjoying his money and his leisure. Being a bit bored after a year of gadding about he’s happy to become involved in Lord Faringay’s anti-terrorism activities. (Yes, that does make sense in the Regency.) So he has the life he wants — London-based, but with challenging government work. Then he unexpectedly inherits a title and, worse, a country estate. When he arrives at Beauchamp Abbey he also finds the previous viscount’s mother and daughter, both intent on making his life worse.
So, as the title says, The Viscount Needs a Wife, in particular one who’ll look after the estate and deal with the troublesome women so he can return to London. A friend suggests a widow, Mrs. Kitty Cateril, who turns out to be sensible and forthright, and so he settles on her. The novel follows their relationship as they learn about one another and make necessary adjustments, but there’s an external plot about an attempt to kill some of the royal dukes — the king’s sons.
The story opens just before Princess Charlotte died in childbirth in November, 1817. Despite George III having seventeen children, she was the only legitimate grandchild, so the royal succession was in peril. Braydon’s called upon to find the culprits and keep the royal family safe.
It sounds really interesting. You have written many books during your illustrious career and experienced many book launches. Do you still get excited or nervous when your latest book is launched?
I’m not sure books launch these days so much as flow out when the sluice gate is raised. With the promo build up and many readers pre-ordering copies online to be delivered on the day, the actual day doesn’t mean much. The reviews are in, as are the orders from the major booksellers. My editor, agent and I all watch the bestseller lists, but part of our attention is on the future.
I find that time is odd in a writer’s life. When Too Dangerous for a Lady was released my mind was deep into The Viscount Needs a Wife, and we were already discussing the back copy and cover. Too Dangerous for a Lady was important, but not at the top of my mind. In addition, these days all my backlist is available in e-book, and mostly in print, so I have thirty-nine “live” books, plus a number of novellas. If I get an e-mail from a reader it’s as likely to be about one of my backlist as about the latest one.
Are there any words of wisdom you would give to your younger self at the start of your writing career?
Well, about ten years ago I should have claimed back some rights to books that weren’t truly in print, because I could probably do better now publishing them myself. Now the publishers have realized their value and are less likely to release them.
At the beginning? Perhaps I should have tried harder to get my first book published back in the late seventies. On the other hand, I don’t think I was a good enough writer, and I’m not sure I was ready then in other ways. By 1988 there was much more support and education for romance writers and I learned. Also, word processors and computers were becoming available. I don’t think I could have written many books on a typewriter. Not long after I sold my first book, the internet became more available and I had access to writers around the world. So I think I did all right in the end.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I write for your entertainment and pleasure. If ever I dissatisfy, it’s not for want of trying. But I also have to be true to myself, my characters and my stories, so it is what it is. And thank you.
Thank you for a candid and informative interview, Jo. I’ve really enjoyed it.
For more information on Jo’s books, please visit Jo Beverley’s website by clicking on this link .