Author Q&A: Erica Taylor- A Suitable Affair
Despite being beautiful and wealthy, Lady Susanna Macalister's marriage prospects are rather lacking. To avoid a life of spinsterhood, she decides a loveless marriage to the dull and unromantic Lord Riverton is better than none at all. But still, Susanna longs for true, passionate love, the kind she grew up hearing stories about. Enjoying a quiet walk with her insipid suitor one afternoon, Susanna is nearly trampled by the handsome Earl of Westcott as he rides through Hyde Park. Driven by his own guilt and despair, the earl embraces this chance encounter as an opportunity for vengeance, for Lord Riverton is the very man whom Wescott suspects is responsible for the untimely death of his beloved sister. But is his mission of separating Susanna from Lord Riverton simply a desire to save another unsuspecting lady from his sister's fate, or something deeper? As Susanna helps Lord Westcott investigate her future fiance, she realizes she might have found what she was looking for all along. Can the pair keep their budding romance a secret from everyone around them until the investigation is over? Or will the unsuspecting Lord Riverton win Susanna's hand in marriage before the truth comes out? A thrilling romance story fueled by secrecy, A Suitable Affair will leave readers breathless and guessing at every turn of events.
A Suitable Affair is the first in a long series following characters who will quickly become some of your favorite friends. Readers are loving this adventurous, steamy romance novel full of unexpected twists and secrets. Author Erica Taylor delights with her masterful handle on writing within the mystery, romance, and historical fiction genres. We got to go behind the scenes with Erica to talk about her love of the Regency Era, her inspiration for those sexy scenes, her relationship to her characters, and what's next for the Macalister family.
AJ: What research was most influential in sparking your creativity to write in the Regency Era?
ET: The Regency era (England 1810-20ish) is a lovely mirror of our current society. A nation at, or recovering from, a decade at war, the effects of the government’s elaborate spending and control on the economy, the laws, and the economic gap between the very, very rich and the very, very poor. The whole thing was fascinating. The king was declared insane and they put his son in charge, who proceeds to run England into more and more debt, taxing everyone lesser than him with as much as he can get away with. It was a world on the brink of industrial, economic, and social revolution and a time that bridged the old-fashioned traditions of the 18th century, and the radical forward thinking of the 19th century.
I have always enjoyed the stories in history, since I was a ten-year-old receiving my American Girl doll with a historical past to read about. To me, writing historical fiction is the same as writing fan fiction. It’s a predetermined world with set rules and part of the fun is finding a story to tell that hasn’t been told before. I don’t think there was ever one piece of information that hooked me. I’ve had stellar history teachers throughout my entire life who always managed to bring history to life. You read about history as a series of events, dates and facts, but the people living during those times didn’t see those events, dates and facts as anything significant. It was their life, and they had other things to worry about than the legacy of the history happening around them. That is probably what inspired me the most.
AJ: Where does your inspiration come from for the hot and steamy scenes?
ET: Just like a sex scene on film, creating one in a book is not sexy whatsoever. If anything, it's incredibly awkward. Often, I have children asking questions in the middle of writing, and I just hope they don't look too closely at the screen. Then I remember my mother and grandmother might read this, and I feel mortified. There was one memorable scene I was rushing to finish (no pun intended) and the second I hit save, I was out the door to pick up my daughter from school. As I spoke to her teacher, the scene was still running through my head and I just knew my face was burning red. I was grateful she didn’t know what I was thinking about while we discussed my daughter’s reading achievements for the term.
I usually write those scenes absolutely last, because their construction really does pull me out of the story. They require constant rereading to make sure people's hands are in the right spot, and that the hero doesn't have three hands magically (it's been known to happen), not to mention the constant checking of my research books and websites to make sure the period clothing is accurately removed. Women had too many layers in the 19th century!
Then there is the constant tug and pull of making it sound “pretty” enough, yet not like a health lecture, and ensure it still flows with the level of emotion and character development as the rest of the story.
As for inspiration, I read books with scenes of the same nature, especially if I’m having a difficult time figuring out how to say something, or just getting the scene started. I have a running list posted on my wall of words NOT to use. The rest is just my imagination, I suppose. I don’t think any of those scenes have been pulled from real life experience, aside from, well… I have two children so I understand how that part works.
AJ: We’re dying to know, does your husband read your books?
ET: Ha! No, he doesn't read them, not in their entirety. Romance novels aren't his thing. However, he is my beta reader for anything action, fighting, wounds, weaponry and, more recently, military and crime solving. I will read scenes to him to see if they work and flow, or for practice saying the words out loud, but the few times I’ve asked him to read for a literary opinion he suggests things to change it into a technical sounding Clive Cussler thriller.
AJ: Which character do you relate to most and why?
ET: Each of my characters have something of myself in them, so it is difficult to choose one. I don't think I relate to one more than the other. I am the oldest of my siblings, so I can relate to Sarah in many ways, especially when it comes to wanting to give my opinion about every decision they make. Like Clara, I am an optimist and often see the best in people. Susanna and I love shopping, and I do find it extremely relaxing to just wander through stores. I am as stubborn as Andrew and hate to admit when I am wrong. Ian and I are both extremely curious, nosy even, when it comes to everyone around me. Each of my characters also have something I wish I had in my own personality. Susanna has a goodness I can only hope to aspire to. Sarah has a way of putting everyone else first that I just could never manage. Ian has a loyalty and dedication to his cause that I wouldn’t have the patience for. Norah is probably the most different from myself and it’s fun to write her because of that, but she and I are very similar in other ways. She gets to say all the snarky and rude comments that I only think in my head. There are other characters, but I’m not about to spoil anything about them.
AJ: How do you go about preparing the series? Do you have it all pre-outlined or do the ideas for each book come to you as you write?
ET: This series was influenced by some of the great family series I've read in the genre. I came from a large family and my husband has six siblings, so I knew I wanted to write about a family, giving each one their own story. I also wanted each book to be different, so one became a spy novel, one a pirate novel, a marriage of convenience, a forced marriage, and so on. There are nine Macalister siblings and only eight books in the series, and I’m not telling why there is one missing.
For each story, I have the overall plot idea, and a few tropes I’d like to play with, but I don't think too much about it until it's time to write. Since they are all a part of the same timeline, I've had to keep track of people's whereabouts and stages in life, and that gets complicated, especially if I don't really know what they're doing. For example, I’m currently writing Norah’s story, and Luke is after her, so I’m not really thinking about Luke yet, except his story is directly affected by the ending of Norah’s. I knew Norah’s story was going to cover the Battle of Waterloo, so that was a set point in time I had to work around.
I wanted each story and character to deal with modern day issues. Infertility, post-war PTSD, death of a parent, anxiety, etc. The stories that stuck with me throughout the hundreds of books I’ve read in this genre are the ones that had an emotional impact on me. People, ultimately, are people, regardless of class, religion, race, or time period. People had the same everyday problems two hundred years ago that people today face. The things I try and bring into my stories are universal and timeless and I hope will resonate with readers.
AJ: Can you give us a sneak peek for what to look forward to in the next book?
ET: In A Suitable Affair, the courtship of Andrew and Clara is hinted at, but in The Perfect Duchess their story finally comes to light. Andrew and Clara have a bit of an emotional journey to travel through whilst dealing with someone who wants Clara dead. Andrew is quite extreme in his attempts to protect her and Clara isn’t all that interested in being the Duchess of Bradstone. The stories can be read in the order they were published or chronological order, whatever the reader wants. Like Indiana Jones.