by Anna Campbell
I'm always over the moon when I can introduce the lair to a long-term friend who has recently sold her debut novel. Beverley Eikli's LADY SARAH'S REDEMPTION is out in the U.K. from Robert Hale on 29th May. Huzzah!
It's easy and economical to buy the book from The Book Depository in the England who will post any book in their catalogue anywhere for FREE! http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/browse/book/isbn/9780709087779
Bev and I first met at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne in 2002 and we've been firm friends ever since. Our relationship was cemented by me sitting down next to a stranger at the first workshop and saying hello. Stranger introduced herself as Beverley Eikli. I asked what she wrote. Bev said historicals. I said historicals. I asked what era. She said Georgian. I said Georgian (at the time, I was working on the endless Hungarian prince saga). Clearly this was someone I had lots in common with! Interestingly enough, we both now write Regencies!
You can find out more about Bev and her amazing life and her books on her website. While you're there, make sure you check out the beautiful photos of colonial Africa and Bev's travels. That's where the lovely shot of the animals and her family home in Lesotho came from in this blog.
Bev, congratulations on the release of your debut historical romance, LADY SARAH’S REDEMPTION. Can you tell us about this story?
Thank you, Anna, I’m delighted to be here. LADY SARAH'S REDEMPTION is a deception/redemption Regency Historical romance about society beauty Lady Sarah – initially a little vain and self centred - who assumes the identity of her ill-fated shipboard companion to avoid an arranged marriage. Masquerading as governess to the sixteen-year old daughter of deeply principled British MP Roland Hawthorne, Sarah falls madly in love with her employer. Hawthorne is on the other side of politics to her own politically minded and beloved papa, so she finds him very fascinating.
The story is set mostly on Hawthorne’s country estate except for the danger and adventure part which takes place in a London bawdy house where Sarah tries to redeem herself in Hawthorne’s eyes after he discovers her deception. Yes, an unlikely place to seek redemption, but it’s where Hawthorne’s daughter is being held as part of an elaborate extortion plot engineered by Hawthorne’s old enemy.
Of course, the feisty, beautiful Sarah gets into all sorts of trouble as she tries to play the grand heroine and prove she’s brave and loyal, not spoiled and vacuous.
Suffice to say that Roland Hawthorne, my sexy, passionate but very serious hero is deeply humbled by Sarah’s actions. In order to restore her honour and standing in society he resorts to rather unconventional means to publicly vanquish the villain – and, of course, win the girl.
Can you tell us about your writing journey? I know you’ve led an amazingly peripatetic life, including stays in Africa and the Solomon Islands. Has all that travel fed into your writing?
My writing journey? Hmmm. It’s been a convoluted one. When I met my husband, Eivind (pronounced Ivan)– a Norwegian bush pilot around a camp fire in Botswana at the luxury safari lodge I was temporarily managing - I told him about my writing. (I also told him I was leaving for Australia the next morning to marry my boyfriend of 8 years, but that’s another story).
Eivind said he wanted to read the book I’d just finished writing, so I posted him the floppy discs. Yep, this was 16 years ago and technology has changed a lot since then, but technology is one of Eivind’s passions and he has always made sure I had my own laptop - and checked that I was taking regular backups! When we were both employed in the airborne geophysical survey business, I was able to type away at my stories when Eivind was on a different contact or I was the only female on crew and not in the mood for hobnobbing with the boys.
For four or five years I operated the computer equipment in the back of survey aircraft as we contoured the Greenland Ice cap at 200ft above ground, or the jungle of French Guyana - the ‘steaming broccoli’ we called it - or surveyed the Skeleton Coast of Namibia where we spent the most fabulous year.
Many of the stories I’m now working on, including LADY SARAH'S REDEMPTION, were developed during this time, but of course, the road to publication is a long one…
Nowadays, with a three-year-old livewire running around, my only writing time is 5am to 7am before the household wakes and makes its demands. However, during a very pleasant 18 months in the Solomon Islands, despite my eldest daughter being two at the time, I finished a couple of novels - thanks to a nanny, maid and gardener – in between liquid lunches at the Honiara Hotel, my volunteer work on the Honiara Beautification Committee (the capital was very battle-scarred after the recent coup) and the many embassy and other social functions which made our small expat community so much fun.
As far as the experiences feeding into my writing, I think one’s work is always unconsciously borrowing from life experience. Not the physical environment in my case, obviously, since I write English-set historicals, but the study of personality. I worked closely, for many years, with a lot of interesting and sometimes very curious personalities – mostly men - which I’m sure comes out on the page in ways I don’t even know.
I know you worked long and hard to achieve publication and I wondered if you had any advice for unpublished writers.
The most obvious one, for me, was perseverance. I was 17 when I wrote my first full-length novel – a painful 550 page epic in which my heroine drowned on the last page. Thankfully only my mother ever read it! – and it was more than a quarter of a century before I got a publishing contract. However, my second piece of advice is to join a writing organisation and benefit from the mentoring or critiquing of one’s work, or the ‘egging on’ one may need to enter competitions and submit. It was only after I joined Romance Writers of Australia that I learned how to make professional approaches and started winning competitions and getting editor requests for full mss. Not to mention all the craft techniques for adding power to my writing that came from attending conference workshops.
Oh, and definitely, grow a thick skin! Competition feedback and regular critiquing are a great way to develop one.
When I first met you, you were writing in the Georgian era, whereas Lady Sarah’s story is definitely set in the Regency (in 1819). Can you tell us what appealed to you about the two different eras and why you eventually settled in the Regency? Do you have any yen to set books outside this time?
I was writing in the Georgian era because I loved panniers! When I realised how much more adventurous and active my heroine could be in a simple high waisted sprigged muslin I changed to the Regency.
No, but seriously, a political or otherwise important historical event always provides the setting for my stories. I chose 1819 for LADY SARAH'S REDEMPTION because the harsh treatment meted out by authority during the Peterloo Masscacre in August that year was something my privileged hero was up in arms about. It gave him a social conscience which appealed to my heroine and made her rethink her own values.
I have another three Regency Historicals on the go but I’d love to set a story during the Georgian era. What a great backdrop for a heavy political or sexual intrigue. DANGEROUS LIAISONS, the film based on the book LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSESES by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, immediately comes to mind. It’s one of my all-time favourites, together with Karleen Koen’s THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, which is set during one of history’s worst financial crises, the South Sea Bubble, around 1711.
As for other writing ventures…. I’m just about to hand in my second Regency Historical, WIDOW IN WAITING, about a woman, Olivia, whose vengeful late husband has stipulated in his will that their son is to be brought up by the husband’s cousin, Max. Olivia’s growing love for Max is complicated by her knowledge that her son, by being a bastard (her terrible secret!) has usurped the title and wealth that Max should, by rights, have inherited. I find it fascinating to explore the psyche of women in a time when they had absolutely no rights – even to their own children.
A big writing deviation I’m excited about is a medicine murder romantic thriller. Early next year I’m commandeering my dad into returning to Lesotho, the mountainous kingdom landlocked by South Africa where I spent my early years and where dad was private secretary to Chief Leabua Jonathan, the country’s first Prime Minister. During the 1950s and 60s dad was a District Commissioner with magisterial duties and his stories of medicine murder and the intriguing expatriate life he and Mum lived there would make fabulous fictional fodder.
Yes, it would be a huge departure from what I write now, and may not come to pass as I’m totally fascinated by the 18th and 19th centuries and all the romantic possibilities resulting from usurped inheritances and fallen women needing rescuing.
…And the clothes! I’d miss the clothes which are such an integral part of a woman’s behaviour. The heavily corseted eighteenth century heroine would be far more restricted than her Regency counterpart but I’m planning to set my next romance in the mid 1700s.
To help me out, I’m curious to know how adventurous and spontaneously amorous you think my Georgian heroine could be wearing panniers that extended 2ft on either side and laced stays made with up to 40 pieces of whalebone?
Bev has very kindly offered a signed copy of her debut historical romance LADY SARAH'S REDEMPTION to one lucky commenter today. I read this book in manuscript and loved it so good luck, people. Whoever wins has a treat ahead of them!