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Thanks to Natalie Damschroder for tagging me in The Next Big Thing blog hop. I’m new to this, and I hope the tour will lead you to some great reading and inspired writing in 2013! Any feedback or questions you’d like to leave will be very much appreciated.

street view of Leominster

A contemporary view of Leominster, Herefordshire. ‘Memory’s Bride’ is set in the nearby countryside.

What is your working title of your book?
“Memory’s Bride.” The sequel (yes, I’m deep into planning the next one!) at the moment is titled “The Inconvenient Bride,” so I hope this title sticks.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
 Where do so many writer’s ideas come from? The great “what if!”

The Victorian age fascinates me because of its peculiar blend of social constriction and growing opportunity for women. Marriage – or lack of it – still was the central question of a woman’s life, yet at no other time in Western culture were middle- and upper-class women kept so utterly ignorant of what marriage involved. Prostitution was rampant, while men put wives, sisters and daughters on a pedestal of blind virtue. Meanwhile, divorce and property laws were beginning to favor women and, for the more daring, educational opportunities were opening the door to professions just a crack.

I also love the novels of Anthony Trollope. A frequent character type for him is the conventional young woman thwarted in love. The action stems from how she deals with her situation. Some of the more interesting are Glencora M’Cluskie (“Can You Forgive Her”), who must choose between running off with her true love or making the best of a forced marriage with a rather cold, but more suitable, fish; Lily Dale (“The Small House at Allingham”), who allows her narrow understanding of love to ruin her life when she’s jilted by her fiancé; and Nina Balatka (“Nina Balatka”), who defies society, convention and religion to follow her heart.

Coming back to “Memory’s Bride,” my heroine, Claire Burton, is inspired by a number of such characters. In “The Prime Minister,” for example, there’s Emily Wharton, a typical “yes, Papa, no Papa” passive-aggressive miss who somehow finds the strength to dig in her heels when she falls in love (with an unsuitable man, of course), even if it means never marrying. And in a more obscure novel, “Miss MacKenzie,” Trollope creates a stereotypical Victorian spinster and then gives her an unexpected fortune.

What would happen, I asked myself, if these two came together in one? Throw in a mystery, a murder and a disappearance and it gets really interesting!

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical suspense. “Memory’s Bride” is set in western England, circa 1875.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I thought long and hard about this question before realizing I can’t answer it. It’s said Margaret Mitchell intentionally created Rhett Butler to be played by Clark Gable. Luckily, it worked out — but what if Gary Cooper hadn’t turned down the part when it was offered? (For that matter, did you know Vincent Price tested for the role of Ashley Wilkes?)

To me, a big pleasure in reading is being able to take the writer’s description of a character and then complete the picture with someone I’d like to know or fall in love with.  We all generally agree on who is handsome or beautiful, but individually, certain features beyond that turn us on. Attraction is personal and often a puzzle to onlookers. If the story says — as a book I once read did — “The moment Amber laid eyes on Rance, she thought of Pierce Brosnan” and the actor does nothing for me in the heat department, I’m just distracted by the lazy writing.

If you want to imagine Leo DiCaprio or Nathan Fillion playing the men in “Memory’s Bride,” go ahead. But only if I’ve given you enough to go there. And if the heroine is tall, blond and womanly, like Claire, please don’t imagine her as Kim Kardashian!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Claire Burton’s fiancé dies and leaves her a fortune, including a country estate far from London, the 26-year-old spinster seizes the opportunity to escape her stifling home, only to find herself entangled in a web of mystery and deceit; to unravel the truth and save her life, she must let go of the past and open her heart to love again.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s too soon to say.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
More than a year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I am a big fan of Jennifer Donnelly (“The Tea Rose” trilogy) but would never suggest I’m in her league. She creates complex, believable characters within the context of their time in a masterful way I can only aspire to.  I also like D.J. Taylor (“Derby Day”) and I’ve just discovered Jane Eagland and am anxious to read her “Wildthorn,” set in a Victorian-era asylum!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
At the risk of being repetitious, authors I love. If I can’t have more Trollope or more Daphne DuMaurier, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels (though I haven’t given up on her!), then I have to write my own. Keeping in mind, of course, that I live in the 21st century, with 21st-century sensibilities that are bound to shape my work. Just as I’m by no means writing by gaslight with a pen dipped in ink – or even a typewriter – I can’t expect my readers to plow through flowery language or ignore the fact that we all aren’t more liberal, or honest, in how we depict relations between men and women on the page.

I strive to avoid anachronisms, both in language and fact, but also acknowledge that in many ways sex in the Victorian age wasn’t much different than now. It just wasn’t flaunted. Vital records show Victorian courtship hadn’t changed much from the more libertine 18th-century or Regency periods; in comparing dates of marriage and dates of birth for a couple’s first child, social historians found that the rate of “prenuptial” pregnancy remained steady — around 30 percent!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The setting – 19th-century Herefordshire – should be one attraction. It’s beautiful country but isn’t overrun by tourists, who tend to bypass it for Wales or Cornwall. The area is rich in history and folklore, yet even today, it is still the least populous county in England.

I hope readers will fall in love with the characters, especially Claire. Like most of us, her intentions are good, but good intentions can lead to some pretty bad decisions at times.