Lexi: It’s hard to beat anything as sweet as a debut novel…unless that debut novel happens to also be a sweet historical romance! Lift your wine glass and help me welcome, Erica Taylor!
Erica: Thank you! Cheers from South Africa!
Lexi: Congratulations on your first novel! We are so excited for you and glad you stopped by the blog to talk about it with us. A SUITABLE AFFAIR releases on June 6th. What will you be doing to celebrate?
Erica: The day of the release, not much. Probably say a million times, “My book is out!” I wish I had a cooler answer. I’m a mom, and that is the last week of school around here, plus the week before my daughter’s birthday party, so the chaos of that week will keep my mind off the release. By the end of that week I will need a large glass of wine and a vacation! I live in South Africa, and wasn’t able to get back to the USA in June for book events (because of said crazy schedule), BUT in July, I will be stateside and I am having a signing event in Modesto, CA, Denver, CO (details on my website!), and I am participating in a signing event in Orlando, FL, at the RWA National Conference. So I get to celebrate for real, just a month later.
Lexi: We love historical romances around here. Especially when there is some cute humor involved. Which character would you say is the funnier one, Susanna or Westcott?
Erica: Westcott is certainly the more sarcastic, witty one, and he says some rather outrageous things, but Susanna can hold her own. She turned out to have a much dryer sense of humor than Westcott. It is interesting trying to write funny characters or humor, because I often wonder if the things I find amusing other people will as well. With Westcott, it was as simple as saying the things everyone else was thinking, but with Susanna, it was more trying to decide how she would respond to Westcott’s antics. Like any relationship, there has to be some humor. You have to enjoy the person you are with, and humor is the best way to achieve that. Creating that for Westcott and Susanna was certainly entertaining.
Lexi: Funny isn’t usually what comes to mind when you pick up a historical romance. But one does expect the history part to be fairly accurate. What kind of research did you have to do for A SUITABLE AFFAIR?
Erica: Oh goodness, I felt like I did tons of research! I’m a stickler for details, so I spent hours checking and rechecking the phases of the moon, weather patterns, street names, etc. A large portion of my research was about the founding of Scotland Yard. I even made my family go to the original location of Scotland Yard (and it’s in the book!) but, of course, now it’s just a street with a little dedication plaque. I came across so many fun details that I couldn’t use because they’d happened too late. What I could use, I put in the book. I invited Westcott’s government position (and that’s why it was a SECRET position!) but a lot of the other bits about the creation of the police forces in France and Ireland, and some of the people involved, that was accurate. I researched crime solving techniques, what hadn’t been invented yet primarily, as well as what they could have done. For example, sketch artists were not used (to my knowledge) to identify a person for a crime, but that’s not to say someone couldn’t just be good at sketching and try it out. Often the most minute detail could have only a once sentence mention, but it could have taken hours or days to research. I am fortunate to have a degree in history and the Regency period in England, so a lot of my research is brushing up on facts, finding the trending color for a gown, and making sure there is the correct amount of moonlight in a garden.
Lexi: How about character voice. Did Westcott and Susanna just come to you or did they formulate in your mind as you began to explore the story that would become A SUITABLE AFFAIR?
Erica: I’d written Susanna previously, so I knew her superficially, who she was to everyone else, and it was interesting to find out her motives and thoughts. I knew her to be fairly forward thinking, but with a very open heart, and generous to a fault. She would give you her last dime and smile while doing it. She has a strength inside her that reacted well to Westcott’s challenges. I knew I wanted Westcott to be overly sarcastic and funny, to hide everything about himself, and I knew the backstory of his sister’s death even before I’d formulated a plot (and before Westcott had a name!). Knowing what I did about them, they sort of came to life as I went through their story, though they were always changing, even up until the final draft. My editor came back with an “Uh, that seems super out of character for Susanna to reach that way,” and I realized the line in question was a byproduct of an earlier version of her character. Even now, as I write them in subsequent stories, I have to remind myself of the progression of their characters.
Lexi: Again, we are excited to hear about A SUITABLE AFFAIR and be able to congratulate you on your debut novel! We wish you success and hope to see you again with your next book!
Erica: Thank you! A Suitable Affair is part of a larger series about the Macalister siblings, so I will be back with more!