I first met Margaret through Facebook and her first series of books which were more paranormal with time travel to and from the Regency and fell in love with her sense of humor and her heroes. She’s since joined The Beau Monde chapter of RWA® and I finally get to meet her in person this summer at Nationals in Orlando! And honestly, I’m not in the least bit surprised to find we share a love of Lynn Kurland’s time travel romances!
Behind every good man is a great secret.
Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom, and to introduce his sisters to London Society-his worst nightmare come to life.
He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.
Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.
Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?
If you want to go grab yourself a copy of The Demon Duke, we’ll be ready to learn a bit about Margaret Locke as she answers some tough questions below. Thanks so much, for taking the time to answer them, Margaret!
1. What drew you to writing Historical Romances in general and specifically to setting stories during the Regency Era?
The first romance I ever read (at age ten!) was a historical, and the setting entranced me as much as the story. I’m a history geek and always have been, so combining history with romance felt a natural fit, both for what I prefer to read and what I wanted to write. Not to say I can’t appreciate a great contemporary, but something about imagining life in the past hooks me every time.
As to why Regency? Because authors like Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, and Sarah MacLean drew me thoroughly into the society via their excellent romances. Because it’s the perfect setting for stories that combine fairy tale elements with a world familiar enough to identify with. Because it’s so close but yet so far from my own American society, with the Regency’s heightened awareness of social position and rigid social rules and restrictions. Because it fascinates me endlessly.
You’d think I would have chosen to write about the medieval period, considering I was a former doctoral student in that field (I did all but finish the dissertation)! I do still love the period and would consider writing something set in medieval Germany at some point, but my heart belongs to Regency England for now.
2. What’s the strangest bit of historical trivia you’ve picked up in your research?
I don’t know if it’s the strangest, but mourning jewelry from the period fascinates me.And I stumbled across this skull necklace:
It rather inspired The Demon Duke, actually, in that I decided my Damon Blackbourne, Duke of Malford would wear similar (though more ornate) skull pins in his own cravats.
3. These next few questions assume that time travel is possible, which is old hat for you after your Magic of Love series which explores both magic and time travel to and from the Regency Era. What inspired that series?
I had always intended to write Regency romance, as it’s the era that most enthralls me. So imagine my surprise when, after confessing to my husband I really wanted to give writing romance a go, the first idea that popped into my head was not the least bit historical, but rather contemporary and with paranormal elements. It was this question:
What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?
I sat down and sketched out a story, and A Man of Character was born.
But I needed a way to get to the Regency, and preferably a way to tie this odd contemporary in with future books (in hopes of building an audience). I decided to send a sidekick character from A Man of Character to the Regency – and voila! I had A Matter of Time.
It fits in some ways, because I love reading time travel romances, too (especially Lynn Kurland’s). I love the idea of having to figure out how to fit into a foreign yet familiar environment like that. (In fiction, at least, where I know there’s a happy ending: plop me down in ancient Rome or medieval Germany right now, and I’m sure I’d be utterly terrified.)
A unifying theme in all of my books is finding one’s place in the world – especially when one doesn’t feel they fit in. It’s easy to weave this theme through paranormals, time travels, even Regency tales. It inspires me every day, as I still wrestle with that on a daily basis.
4. What modern conveniences would you miss most? What would you miss least?
Definitely air conditioning and central heat. My temperature comfort zone is pretty narrow! Also kitchen and household conveniences like refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, vacuums… I’d love to imagine I’d be high enough in society I wouldn’t have to deal with cooking or cleaning, but let’s get real – I’d very likely be in service, rather than commanding servants.
Oh, and modern plumbing. No toilets with running water and toilet paper? No hot showers? Now I know some people in the Regency found ways to have these things, but again, they were the rich!
What would I miss the least? That question is much harder than the first – I certainly do appreciate many of things that make life easier and more comfortable here. Maybe I would say the constant inundation of news and information. It’s wonderful in some ways, but really, I’d likely be less anxious day-to-day if I weren’t always bombarded with the bad things happening all over the world.
5. What would be the hardest thing for you to adapt to in the Regency Era?
I have to pick just one? My first thought was bodily hygiene issues – the toilet thing, the less frequent bathing, dealing with menstrual periods, and likely the smell – of people, of horse dung, of it all. My second was lack of medicine. No ibuprofen for headaches? No pain relief for toothaches or broken bones or childbirth? The thought terrifies me.
But in truth, it might be all of those societal rules, though they fascinate me now. I’m a very casual person – polite and hopefully aware of most social conventions for interacting (can’t claim complete finesse, though!), but I definitely prefer t-shirts and knit pants to anything formal. I go barefoot as much as possible, and my hair is often yanked back into a less-than-flattering ponytail.
Having to dress in certain ways at certain times, having to observe all those rules dictating social position, having all the dos and don’ts for women – I’m just not sure how well I’d deal with that. Though I would be interested in seeing it firsthand, as I know much of our view of the period has been distorted via the even-more-restrictive lens of the Victorian period. When one digs into research, one does find women active in scientific societies, in the arts, in all sorts of activities the general stereotypes today would deem as having been forbidden to women.
6. Where would you fit into Regency Society?
A duchess, obviously. Or at least a blue stocking, right? A well-educated, spoiled daughter of an indulgent, highly placed, rich family, given the freedom to pursue her intellectual pursuits, whatever they might be. Oh, and I’d be gorgeous and svelte, too.
Yeah, likely not. I’d most likely be in service of some sort – a maid in a grand house, or perhaps a baker. Just don’t make me a seamstress – my fingers are not nimble with that kind of thing, and I can’t stand the monotony!
7. How do you balance your writing life with being a wife and mom?
If I ever figure this out, I’ll let you know. Truly, I find it one of the most challenging things. Being an author is easily a full-time job and more, but I don’t have full time to give it. I have two kids at home, and though they’re older now, 11 and 16, they still need me. I also have a husband who likes attention once in a while.
I did decide last year that although I’d like to publish something every six months, to keep up as much as I can with the Amazon algorithms and reader wishes and the like, it’s just not possible at the moment. I want to produce my best work, and given my limitations with family obligations, outside obligations, and my own fluctuating energy levels, I have to stick to a production schedule more reasonable for where I am in life – which may mean one book a year for now. If I can go faster, now or in the future, I will.
8. Are you reader? What are some of your favorites books or authors?
Absolutely! I’ve been reading romance from a young age, and often indulge in mainstream fiction, classics, historical non-fiction, biographies, and non-fiction on topics that interest me, like cats and sugar and genealogy, etc.
Ironically, now that I’m an author, I’m reading less than I used to and far less than I’d like – unless one can count the times I’m reading my own stuff, or reading critique group submissions, etc.
Still, I try to read every day for at least five minutes, and one of my primary summer goals is to take that up a notch (or five) as I dive into some of the fantastic books author friends such as Tamara Shoemaker, Taryn Noelle Kloeden, P.A. Duncan, Nicole Evelina, Kathryn Barrett, and Elizabeth Johns (just to name a few) have published in the last year or two.
Favorite non-romance fiction author: Margaret Atwood.
Favorite classics author: Jane Austen.
Favorite modern romance authors? The list is long:
Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, Lisa Kleypas, Sarah MacLean, Julia Quinn, Erin Knightley, Shana Galen, LaVyrle Spencer, Johanna Lindsey, Bettina Krahn, Catherine Coulter, Betina Krahn, Katy Regnery, Pamela Morsi, Victoria Alexander, Teresa Medeiros, Mary Balogh, Cathy Maxwell, Loretta Chase, Jude Devereaux, Jane Feather, Jo Goodman, Laura Kinsale, and …
Names I plan to add to that list, since I have their books in my TBR pile: Grace Burrowes, Joanna Bourne, Tessa Dare, Maya Rodale, Elizabeth Boyle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Valerie Bowman, Julia London, and …
9. How long have you been writing? What advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning novelist if you could? Would this advice differ from what you’d say to an aspiring author now?
I started writing my first real novel in 2011, but recently discovered some story ideas I’d sketched out in my early twenties. I also wrote a romance short story for an English assignment in high school, but it’s long since lost – and that might be for the best!
What would I tell myself?
- Read more craft books first
- Have more confidence and don’t take so darn long to finish that first draft! (I started writing in the fall of 2011, got a third in, and abandoned it for a nearly a year out of fear of not being good enough)
- Connect earlier with other romance authors. I did eventually join RWA and VRW and The Beau Monde, but it took a few years. Then again, if I did that right at the start, maybe I would have been intimidated out of writing, seeing all those successful people!
I think the advice would be the same I’d tell anyone. Find a writing community and plug in, but write for yourself first. Don’t worry about editing, about market, about getting published as you write. Just write. Finish the draft. You can’t do anything until you finish the whole book. If you’re going indie, make sure you get your book professionally edited and get a professionally done cover.
And realize it takes time. All of it. The writing, the production, the building of connections with readers, with other authors, with the industry. Read about craft and read about market. And one thing I’m still working on? Be okay in not knowing everything or not being good at everything! I don’t think I’m particularly business-savvy, but I keep pushing on.
The reality is, whether you publish traditionally or independently, it’s not always an easy road. There’ll be times you hate it, there will be elements that are always your least favorite, but don’t give up. Because there’s nothing like holding your own book in your hands for the first time!
10. What do you find to be the most challenging part of being a writer?
The crippling self-doubt and the time management.
Anxiety is my constant companion and having it present in my writing life is nothing new, but it certainly can keep me from sitting down to write, to plot, to do anything.
And there are so many brilliant writers out there, it’s easy to think, “Who am I to think I can compare?” But there’s always going to be someone better than I am, no matter what the comparison is (better writer, better marketer, better mom, better wife). I actually cling to the latter to get myself to “just do it.” Just do my best; it’s all anyone can do anyway, right?
I do make efforts to read about craft and watch other authors and all of that, but at the end of the day, I just need to do what I can do and let the rest go.
Also, I’m not good with time/energy management. I’d love to get into a regular schedule that I stick to (I’m good at drawing such a schedule up, but terrible at following through), but for now, I still seem to be a binge writer. I fantasize that once the kids are grown and living on their own (will that ever happen?) I’ll be able to regulate myself more, but, well, we’ll see!
About the Author
As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.
Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.
Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.
To connect with Margaret, please visit: http://margaretlocke.com