Today ladies and gents we are chatting to Historical Romance writer Francine Howarth. I seem to be coming across a number of period writers recently and I just got curious about this genre again.
I was very happy when Francine greed to join me for a chat about her writing.
Get hold of Francine
That’s not as easy to answer as one might think, not for moi. Though “time” as opposed to “era” allows scope for overlapping of favoured periods. Thus the 1600s through to early 1800s meets the criteria for favourite times of greatest interest. All were times of great changes in the political and military sense, not least the English Civil Wars, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
What genres do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
My reading tastes are eclectic, across the full spectrum from Contemporary to Historical, though if given the choice of two books put before me, being that of a C or H, I can say the H would win!
One of the ultimate writers of the regency period, more than any other is Jane Austen. Why do you think romance readers love her books so much?
Austen affords a rose-tinted perspective of Regency society, in that she avoids the harsher aspects of her time. But, with intelligent humour, Miss Austen exposes the shallowness of middle-class mothers, and in some cases, the daughters, who judge a suitor by his means: being that of yearly income. Also, for some bizarre reason, feminists’ have latched onto Miss Austen and acclaim her to be Ms Austen a woman of their own heart. She was not as “Independent” as feminists would have us believe. She never left home, and if not for her family having raised the money to get her first book published her eventual publisher may never have heard of J.A. Incidentally, Jane Austen fell out of favour in Victorian times, when darker storylines by the likes of the Bronte sisters and Dickens were in Vogue. Thank goodness she became popular again during the Edwardian era, or we might never have encountered her books.
Who, in your opinion is the ultimate Romance Writer of all time?
I think all romance writers have contributed to the genre in their own unique way, but if I must name one, of which I can’t, because for me Daphne du Maurier and Georgette Heyer inspired my love of the genre alongside Miss Austen.
Have other people’s books ever influenced your writing in anyway?
Both du Maurier and Heyer, respectively, taught me to be sparing on wordiness = make every word count in moving the plot forward.
Do you enjoy happy endings, bitter sweet or tragic?
I can live with open-ended storylines, and such, give scope to imagination!
When and how did your writing career start?
Back in the early 90s I wrote a steamy historical novella, which I subbed to a publisher and it was classed as erotic. They published it within a collection of erotic shorts (publisher Masquerade New York). And so my writing career began.
As one who writes within the historical romance genre, how do you come up with fresh ideas for your stories, to avoid redundancy?
I don’t sit and “think up plots”. They just happen, and for the most part portraits inspire curiosity. It’s only natural to ponder what a sitter was thinking whilst the portraitist was painting. I’ve often pondered why her/his eyes appear to be laughing etc., and yet the face is purposely lacking nuance of emotion. Hence, my conscious stores info, and the sub-conscious takes control of overnight dreams. Subsequently, characters walk centre stage in cinematic glory to reveal their stories. My task then arises in painting moving images with words. That is how my novels are written.
Which of your books would you say was most challenging for you to write?
A 17th century swashbuckling romance “Toast of Clifton”, in which a rape occurs followed by the sudden death of the rapist. There is much trauma for the victim, and those who rally to her aid keep an unspoken vow, that the incident shall remain secret, but what if, what if his fellow troopers get wind as to how he died? This was a deeply touching story to write, not only because families are torn by divided loyalties to King or Parliament, women are torn with keeping secrets from loved ones.
What do you think about the issue of factual accuracy in historical fiction? How important is it?
If authors can’t be bothered with factual correctness then don’t write historical fiction. Write alternative fiction. Factual correctness is the perfect backdrop for fictional characters to blend as historical events take place. Without sense of true time and place a historical story is effectively a fancy dress outing!
What do you do when a historical fact does not work or flow well with your story if you’ve ever come across this?
I haven’t experienced the former, and doubt it will occur in the future. One can mould fiction to fit time, event and place, but to distort history is to rewrite it, and in doing so an author can mislead the unsuspecting/unknowing to believe what is writ is true fact.
How much time do you spend in research for each of your books?
Research is dependent upon what I garnered from studying history, from reading private journals, diaries and state/ecclesiastical papers to finite details of times and dates, because I’m lousy at recalling dates of various minor battles et al: that heroes may have fought in. So, research could amount to a few days to that of weeks of in depth reading. As for equines, carriages and livery, these things I have personal knowledge of so no problems on that score.
I suppose by now you have an established fan base, what would you say your readers have come to expect from your books?
Who knows for sure? If Amazon reviews are a guide, it’s a mixed response on my Georgian and Regency novels. Good response on my steamy swashbuckling musketeer type novels.
What kind of feedback have you received from other writers about your writing and books?
Good, Mediocre, but mainly crap on Georgian and Regency lines! But you see, “The Bonnets” are a competitive bunch - as Miss Austen pointed out with wit and candour – and little has changed!
What do you think is key to the success that your books are enjoying?
There is no accounting for why a book can be a top seller on Amazon one week and fall foul of the doldrums the next. Success is akin to walking a tightrope: you pray!
I am an aspiring writer who hopes to get the self publishing process write too. What piece of advice do you have for me?
Tenacity - believe in yourself, watch listen and glean what you can from those who’ve walked where others feared to tread.
At the end of this year, when you look back on your writing journey, what would you like to have accomplished?
Where I’m at: in complete control of my writing destiny. I have no regrets in dumping my American publisher.
Please tell us what the winner/s can expect from the book/s you will be sponsoring to gift one or two commenter’s to this interview?
By Loyalty Divided