Monday, March 30, 2009

Interview with Wendy Soliman

Today Joyce Moore is interviewing Wendy Soliman, originally from the UK, who writes Regency romances for Robert Hale and Samhain.

Joyce: Hi Wendy. Pour a tea and settle in. I've got some questions to ask so our readers can get to know you. Start by telling us a little about yourself. What is your typical day like?

Hi Joyce, thanks for inviting me along. I'm English and married to Andre. We have no kids but share our home with Jake, a rescued dog of indeterminate pedigree. I named him after the hero in a book of mine on the basis that they're both desirable hunks with independent spirits and naughty streaks!

Andre sold his jewellery business in England about three years ago and since then Andorra - a small principality in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain - has been home. We also spend a lot of time on the Costa Blance in Spain, which is where I am right now.

For me there's no such thing as a typical day. What we do depends largely upon where we happen to be but I get cross if we're invited to do too many things that keep me away from my computer! But yes, in spite of that, we do still have some friends left! All I want to do is write and if I can't actually do so then I'm constantly thinking about it, plotting and planning inside my head. (Dog walking is a great way to work out the kinks in plots and so is riding pillion on the back of a Harley, where no one can talk to you, phones can't ring... well, you get the idea!).

How did you break into publishing?

I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association - the British equivalent of the RWA - and a more supportive group of individuals it would be difficult to imagine. I still wonder at their generosity and willingness to share. Anyway, at one of their conferences I was told about this small independent publisher in London, Robert Hale. There is still a Mr Hale at the helm. He reads all the submissions himself, has no board to pitch his choices to and, basically, if he likes what he reads then he buys it. Fortunately for me he liked my first one and bought four more after that. The large print rights to all five have been sold to Thorpe.

What genre do you write and why?

All of my published books are historical romances, set in the wonderfully rich English Regency period which offers great scope for any writer. Inspired by Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, I have always loved that rich period in our history. Gentleman in tight breeches being courteous to ladies in public but treating them very differently in private...what can I say? It just fills me with passion, even though I know only too well that the reality of the times was far less romantic. Still, that's the great thing about being a writer, you can make your characters do more or less anything you want them to. It's a powerful feeling to have such control over the lives of fictional people that become real to you over the months it takes to complete a book. All of my books are mysteries with a strong romantic thread and the women most definitely don't sit back and let a strong man fight their battles for them! I wrote my first regency romance more years ago than I'm prepared to admit to, threw it in a cupboard and found it again about five years ago. That got me writing again and now there's no stopping me!

I am trying to get my first contemporary romance published. It's entitled Stepping on Broken Glass and features an overweight heroine who, in spite of her size, feels invisible in a room full of people because no one seems to be able to see beyond her bulk. When she loses weight it's revenge time! I've taken on a highly topical and sensitive issue, which will strike a chord with many readers for a variety of reasons, so if there are any open-minded agents out there willing to take a punt...

What do you like most about writing? Least?

As I've previously mentioned, I'm in danger of losing all my freinds because I get twitchy if I can't write for a day or two. The best way to describe it, I suppose, is to say that writing consumes me. It's like a drug and equally as addictive. I lose myself in it and find dictating the paths of my characters' lives to be empowering. If only real life was so simple!

I recently gave a talk to a local writers' group here in Spain. They wanted to know if I could inspire them to sit down at their computers everyday and I told them, no! I pointed out that the publishing world is tough and if you're not one hundred per cent committed to making a go of it you might as well find something else to do. Harsh but true!
My least favourite aspect of writing is self-promotion. It's not that I don't enjoy it but - yes, you've guessed it! - it takes me away from that precious writing time.

Tell us about your newest book.

I'm very excited to be breaking into the world of e-books, which I think is the way ahead. My latest Regency, A Reason to Rebel, is being published by Samhain as an e-book on April 21. It's about Estelle Travis, recently widowed, whose father wishes to push her into another marriage of convenience as soon as she's out of mourning. Estelle rebels and runs away to look for her missing sister. When Alex, Viscount Crawley, encounters her, what choice does a gentleman of honour have other than to offer his assistance? Little does he realise that he's leaving himself exposed to dangers that have little to do with Estelle's sister's plight...

To read and extract from A Reason to Rebel, and for an opportunity to enter a competition to win a copy of the book, please visit my website:

A Reason to Rebel - Wendy Soliman
Samhain e-book - April 21 2009
ISBN 978-1-605504-496-5 Price $5.50

I've enjoyed talking to you, Joyce, and thanks for having me here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Assyrians

The age of weaponry development led to the emergence of organized armies. The mightiest of the late bronze age armies was built by the Assyrians. They prospered into the iron age from 934 to 609BC. Scholars say this was the first Empire, made up of what is modern day Northern Iraq. The capital city was Nineveh.

This empire is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. When you hear of the Lost Tribes of Israel, it is the Assyrians who scattered them.

The land has no natural frontiers, making it hard to defend, so the people had to be tough. With superior weapons came a superior army, but over time, mercenaries infiltrated the Assyrian army.
Babylona, to the south, became Assyria's biggest enemy, but the Assyrians gained wealth by pillaging neighboring city states and taking them over.
The kings were relentless and cruel, bragging about the conquest of their enemies and how they brutalized those they conquered. Enemy heads were placed on pillars; prisoners were skinned alive, or barracaded behind castle walls. The Assyrian kings bragged about their cruelty, and carved depictions of these barbarous acts on the walls of the castle.

The Assyrian army, consisting of 300,000 soldiers, were better trained and drilled than those of Alexander, considered to be the best infantry the middle east ever had. The Assyrians had spear and archery units that worked together, aided by four-horse chariots loaded with fighting men.
They subdued Babylona and then attacked Egypt, but rebellions sprung up and it wasn't long before city states began to ally themselves against the Assyrians.

In 640 B.C. the Assyrian capital fell, and sons of the previous leaders vied for power, but by now the army was weakened and enemies were ready to strike. Facing defeat, the leader of the Assyrian army burned himself alive to avoid capture. When the entire city burned, the destruction was complete.

No one mourned the lost empire.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Medieval Costume

Since I've been blogging about period costume, I thought my readers might be interested in my newest project. The Historical Novel Society is having their annual conference in Chicago in June, and if you historical writers aren't already signed up, you really should be. They have a fantastic array of agents and editors who are especially interested in historical novels. That said, my blog focus today is on the Period Costume Pageant for Saturday evening at the conference. I decided my "persona" would be a 12th century scribe, and after reading directions on SCA websites promising that you needed no pattern for a tunic, I still wasn't convinced, being a lifelong sewer who never set scissors to fabric without a pattern. I found a site, after much looking around, which carries period patterns. (You may know that Simplicity, McCall's and the others do have what they call "medieval" patterns but the seams and construction are not authentic.) Medievalists made use of every inch of fabric, so their patterns were much more rectangular than out garments today.
I bought No. 16 medieval from Patterns of Time, and was dismayed to find about 6 sizes on one sheet of tissue, making it difficult to locate the line for my size. To make things worse, I cut a muslin pattern first, which was too large, and had to go back twice and scotch tape the pattern and recut. This took two evenings and a lot of unprintable words, but I finally got what I wanted.
Next, I decided on material, and that's a whole new blog……..'Til next time, do go to the HNS website and look around at the conference info. It's all at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Regency Gentleman's Clubs

Every respectable Regency gentleman (and a few who weren’t exactly respectable) belonged to a gentleman’s club. Some of the more popular ones were White’s, Brooks’s, (yes that is the correct spelling and punctuation) and Boodle’s. All were very exclusive.

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” If a gentlemen had been a member for 3 years, others would say “three years after his election into so and so.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

By far the most revered (and oldest) of London's gentlemen's clubs during the Regency Era was White’s. It was founded as a chocolate shop in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco, who’d changed his name to Francis White. White’s was basically conservative, which means mostly Tory membership. It’s still considered the most prestigious club. Originally, White’s was mostly a gambling hub, with members who frequently played high-stakes card games. Whist, faro, quinze and hazard were some of the most popular games played. With all the clubs, obsessive betting occurred with some frequency. The smallest difference of opinion invariably resulted in a wager and was duly recorded in a book.

Brooks’s was basically liberal, which means a large Whig membership. For a while the Prince of Wales favoured it. He changed his preference to White’s when they blackballed his close friend, Jack Payne. As a gaming club in the eighteenth century, which is just before the Regency Era, it had been in Pall Mall where the stakes had been high. It had been customary for gamblers to play for 50 to 10,000 pounds on the table! Charles Fox and his brothers had been known to lose many thousands of pounds in a single night. Hazard was their customary game of choices.

With Boodle’s, I’ve seen so many different characterizations of this one that it’s hard to say, but it seems to have offered deeper gaming than the above two. Some sources say Boodles was the club for country squires and those who road to hounds in the fox hunts. It wasn’t tied to any political party, at least not during the Regency.

Another was Watier’s which was a short-lived club started by the Prince of Wales’s (or Prinny’s) chef that specialized in fine food and very deep gaming.

There were many, many more clubs, but the above four were the ones with space in St. James's Street and thus at the core of society. There was the Beaf-steak (or Beefsteak) club, which had precisely thirty members and met once a week for a fine dinner; their building was open to members for the usual purposes such as conversing with friends, reading the latest papers, gaming, etc. The Athenium Club focused on ancient Rome and Greece; I recall hearing that only Latin was spoken there which wouldn’t have been a problem for too many Regency gentlemen, since Latin was taught in school.

There were private gaming hells, which, since gaming was restricted to members and guests, qualify as clubs. Many clubs had bedrooms that members could use during a quick trip to town.

My favorite was also the Four-Horse Club, also called the Four-in-Hand Club which, though originally a wild club of young men, had, by the early 1800s, become a respectable club for superb drivers. Great fodder for heroes, isn’t it? It was a small group with only somewhere between 30-40 members at its peak. They didn’t meet in any specific place. It began to fade around 1815 and disbanded in 1820, was briefly revived in 1822 but finally ended. The members met at set intervals to drive coaches-and-four out to Chalk Hill and back. Hard-core Corinthian exercise with a very specific uniform, but they didn’t have a clubhouse. The rest of the time Corinthians used Jackson’s Salon or Manton’s as their daytime hangout and might spend an evening in Cribb’s Parlor, but all of these places were open to anyone so they hardly qualify as clubs. I have always heard that the Corinthians hung out at the gambling hells more than at the clubs.

There was also the Alfred Club at 23 Albermarle Street. It began in 1808 and attracted writers and other men of letters. If I remember correctly, Byron was a member. It was a great success, and in 1855 it joined with the Oriental Club which was established in 1824 (just after the Regency Era) as a club for men who'd been "out East" in India and other areas.

So, to which club does your Regency Hero belong?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Roses--A Thorny Subject

The rose is perhaps the most significant of all flowers in terms of the superstitions attached to it. it is the flower of love, and in Victorian times specific interpretations were placed by lovers upon gifts of roses and certain colors. For example: a red rose symbolized passion while a white rose meant true love. This association with lovers and with the communication of secret passions also made the rose the emblem of discretion and silence. It’s image therefore is often found set into the ceilings of council chambers and other meeting places as a reminder that what is discussed there should remain private or ‘sub rosa’ – ‘under the rose’.

The red rose is said to have got its color either from the spilt blood of Christ, Venus or Adonis or, according to Islam, from the sweat of Mohammed’s brow. In ancient Roman times, roses were traditionally planted at gravesides in the belief that they had the power to protect the dead from evil. Over the centuries white rose, symbolic of innocence, have often been planted at the graves of virgins, while red roses have been planted on the graves of lovers or of philanthropists renowned for the love they showed their fellow men.

This association with death probably lies at the root of the body of generally pessimistic traditions now linked to the flower. Superstition warns that if a rose drops its petals while someone is holding it this is an omen that the person is soon to die. Roses that bloom out of season, meanwhile, are also disliked, as they are supposed to presage misfortune in the year to come.

Dreaming of roses may be interpreted as a prediction of success in love, but if they are white misfortune lies in store. The wild dog-rose is also reputed to be to be unlucky. It is thought to be unwise to make any plans in its vicinity, as its influence will blight the proposed undertaking.

One a more cheerful note, girls may use roses to identify their husband-to-be by wrapping a rose in white paper on Mid-summer’s Eve and keeping it until Christmas. Then it is unwrapped and, if still fresh, worn by the girl on her dress. The first man to admire the rose or remove it is destined to marry her. To determine how sincerely one is loved, a person has only to snap the stem of a rose—the louder the noise produced, the stronger the passion.

The rose has various uses in folk medicine, too. In England in the eighteenth century it was alleged that it could promote fertility, and women who wanted to bear children wore red roses in small bags around their necks. The gall of the rose (an abnormal growth caused by insects, fungi, bacteria or injury) was thought to be an effective cure for whooping cough and toothache if worn around the neck, and would combat insomnia if placed beneath the sufferer’s pillow.

There is a modern day saying that ‘Life is a bed of roses’. I’m certain people think that because rose petals are velvety to the touch and that roses have soothing aromas that the saying means that life is wonderful or that life is easy. However, consider that rose bushes bear thorns. Now apply that same saying to life. Rose thorns prick the flesh and bring pain. Therefore, with all of life’s beauty it also brings heartache. So given all the above information about roses, which analogy do you think is appropriate to life – pleasure or pain?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sarah Lloyd

I came across a short extract about a maid servant called Sarah Lloyd. In 1800 in England over 200 crimes carried the death sentence. This poor girl was one of those caught up in this system.
On the night of the third of October 1799, Sarah Lloyd, then 22 years old, admitted Joseph Clark, her lover, into the house of her mistress, Sara Syer, in Benton Street. She stole a watch and some trinkets while Clark set the house on fire. They were both caught.
At Bury Assizes the girl was sentenced to death for her stealing while Clark was acquitted. How unfair this system was towards women. Petitions were presented but these all failed. Just before the execution date, 9th April 1800, the governor of Bury Goal received a respite for one 'S. Hop.' Thinking this must be a mistake, and the reprieve was meant for Sarah, he postponed the execution until the 23rd of April and sent enquiries to the Home Secretary.
But no mercy was shown and the girl was hanged. Capel Lofft, a reforming magistrate of Groton, sat beside her on the executioner's cart, cut her down after hanging and tried in vain to restore her life.
When the news that it was all over reached Hadleigh, the distraught mother hanged herself too.
Sarah Lloyd's memorial is on ruined wall in Bury St. Edmunds Churchyard. It reads 'May my example be a warning to many".
I have no idea what happened to Joseph Clark; was he just relieved to be free or as distraught about the injustice as Sarah's mother?
It's a horrific thought that such injustices still happen to women today in some parts of the world.
Fenella Miller

Monday, March 16, 2009

Regency Beds

Regency Beds

Unlike the pillow-top beds with either springs or air underneath, Regency beds were very different. Mattresses were large stuffed bags, with several layers of stuffing. The poor slept on mattresses stuffed with straw, if they were lucky. The wealthy typically slept on feather mattresses. Though very comfortable, the feathers became compact, so they needed to be shaken up to regain their fluff and were usually only used on the top layer, the way a duvet cover is, similar to our pillow-top mattresses. Another common mattress filling was horse hair, believe it or not. It’s durable and has a certain give and doesn’t pack down as badly. So a Regency lady may have had one mattress of horsehair, and a thinner mattress on top filled with feathers.

Beneath the mattress, there were no springs, instead, there were ropes or coarse woven bands crossing the frame which kept the mattress off the floor and supported the person. The ropes tended to sag over time so they had to be tightened periodically; hence the saying “sleep tight.” Beds – at least those of the upper classes - were commonly surrounded by a canopy and curtains to keep the drafts out.

Because beds were often shorter than beds we sleep on today, people have theorized that our ancestors were considerably shorter than we are now. However, people back then didn’t sleep flat on their backs; they slept elevated by several pillows. There was one account of a man making reference to not lying flat on his back until he was dead. I’m not sure if the tradition of sleeping half-inclined was to aid with breathing, or what. But a feather bed piled high with down pillows sounds…well, forgive the pun, but it sounds dreamy. No wonder it was fashionable to sleep in late!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bronze Age Weapons

The Bronze age spans the years between 3300 to 1200 BCE. the time period is divided into three stages: early, middle and late. Bronze is an alloy of copper (90%) and tin (10%). The greatest ore sites are located in Britain and central Europe.

Copper and bronze weapons were superior to stone in strength, sharpnes and durability. Historians credit metal weapons with growth of urban civilizaitons by creating a class of skilled metal workers. There was greater contact with scattered people as traders traveled far abroad in search of copper and tin deposits.

With the rise of urban living came the need for armies to protect the area. Those cultures without metallurgy technology fell prey to those that did. The Bronze age covers the time of ancient Greeks, Troy, Assyrians and Egyptians, what we think of as Biblical times. Plagues and famine made some peoples vulnerable to the powerful armies that rose weilding advanced weapons.

Stone age weapons were still used but improved upon. Bows and arrows were widely used in hunting, but in many cultures, it was considered honorable to look into your enemies' eyes on the field of battle.

The sling was still popular for those who might not be able to afford a sword. This weapon worked very well for David when he went up against Goliath. The staff was popular for multiple uses, a bronze tip applied to make a spear.

Swords and daggers could be made to fit the individuals grasp. Arrow heads were now metal and the concept made a fine axe.

Clubs were made with wood, ivory or jade. Some clubs attached to the wrist by a cord threaded through a hole in the club handle. In Hawaii and the Fiji Islands, clubs were embedded with shark teeth or shaped with saw like teeth along the edge. The clubs may also be adorned with the teeth of slain enemies.

The Plains Indians of North America used a long, thin handled stick called a counting coup.

Any blow struck against the enemy counted as a coup, but the most prestigious acts included touching an enemy warrior, with the hand or with a coup stick, then escaping unharmed. It was considered more honorable to risk confronting an enemy without killing him. The coup stick might have notches along the handle so the warrior can keep count of how many enemy he confronted.

The Bronze Age yielded to the Iron age. As weapons became more brutal, its seems humans became more aggressive.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hats in History

Today I'm blogging about hats. Men's hats were worn before it was a fashion for women. Veils were the preferred headcoverings in ancient times, but in the early Middle Ages women began using more substantial headcoverings, and when the Church decreed that a woman must cover her head when attending mass, hats became more popular, even though a veil sufficed as a proper head covering in church.
Although we think of straw hats as being a more modern invention, straw headcoverings were actually in use much earlier, especially by farmers and plowmen (see picture), most likely for the same reason we wear them today when gardening.
I'm fascinated, looking through books of artwork depicting women in hats that appear to be the result of a drunken milliner; some were half again the height of the wearer, wide-angled productions that must have been an impediment to eating, walking, or even standing still.
Later, around the fourteenth century, they became, to my mind, more glamorous. Built to roughly conform to the shape of a crown, stiffened with bone, and lavishly decorated with pearls and jewels, surely they would catch the eye of any nobleman.
During the Renaissance, hats became an essential part of the wardrobe. Milliners shop sprang up, and frequently the proprietor was a woman. Sometimes the shops were owned by more than one woman. Inside, women could try on hats in relative privacy.

Personal experience has taught me that men are fascinated by women in hats. Several years ago, my sisters and I were on a moving stair in an airport. I wore a hat, as I'd recently been told to do by my dermatologist. My sisters were bareheaded. A gentleman, passing the other way on the stairs, commented on the hat, and ended by saying, "Don't let her lose that hat." The next day both my sisters bought hats.
Another time, my husband and I were seated at a gathering. A man, who according to my husband, had been seated behind us, rose to leave. On the way out, he paused at our table, said how much he liked to see women in hats, and went on his way.
If that's not enough to convince you to go out and get yourself a flattering hat, I don't know what will!

Medieval Exercises

If you thought obsession with exercise began in the late 20th century, think again. In the 1300s, Johannes de Mirfeld wrote a treatise, recommending, along with walking and riding, the following routines to strengthen the body:

(1) Keep a “stout rope” hanging in your chamber. Grasp the rope with both hands, raise yourself up , and remain in that position for as long as possible without touching the ground.
(2) Hold a 30 pound stone in your hands and carry it frequently “from one part of [your] dwelling to another.”
(3) Using the same stone, hold it in the air over your head for as long as possible, until your arms begin to tire. Also lift the stone to your shoulders and hold again until you tire.
(4) Hold a staff in your hand and let another fellow try to pull it away from you.
(5) Hold a penny in your hand, and let someone attempt to pry it out of your fingers.

Think these exercises would work today? A rope, a stone, a staff (or broomstick) and a penny would certainly save a lot of money at the gym!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wash Day in Victorian Times

As promised in my last post, I'm going to tell you about the delights of doing the laundry in Victorian times. When my children were tiny, and my husband was a student at University, our ancient, twin tub washing machine caught fire. There was no money to replace it so I bought a mangle for £3. In those days there were no such things as disposable diapers, everybody used toweling squares. I can well remember the horror of putting these through the mangle, on a winter morning, to see them emmerging the other side of the rollers frozen stiff.
The first thing we bought, when my husband started work as a teacher, was an automatic washing machine. I can well remember standing by the washing line exclaiming loudly about the whiteness of the baby's clothes, just like someone in a washing powder advert!
The unfortunate housewife in Victorian times would have thought the mangle a thing of wonder. These were only available towards the end of the 19th century when cast-iron items were manufactured in several factories. Before this clothes had to be wrung out by hand.
A farmer's wife, for instance, would sort out the dirty clothes at the weekend ready to start washing on the Monday. The fire under the copper would be lit in the middle of the night so the water would be hot first thing. Individual stains were treated with a variety of agents: alcohol,vinegar and milk to name just three. Clothes were then put in to soak.
Next the clothes had to be pummelled with the dolly stick in a fresh tub of hot water. This was backbreaking work and each load took around an hour. Clothes then had to be rinsed and mangled. Dark garments would then be hung out to dry. However, white items had to be placed in fresh water and a cube of 'blue'(a chemical that became available the same time as the mangle) was added to the water. This gave the white clothes the added brightness they needed. A lot of modern washing products have blue particles added for this very reason.
Wednesday was spent drying and airing the laundry, Thursday and Friday the items would be ironed. This would be done on a blanket on the central kitchen table. The irons would be put on the range to heat. Imagine the effort needed to iron the voluminous clothes, worn in those days, with a heavy metal iron.
No sooner had the laundry been put away then the poor woman would be starting all over again! Laundry took up 50% of the housewife's week; it is hardly surprising clothes tended to be dark so they didn't show the dirt.
I quite enjoy hand washing the odd jumper and delicate item, but I'd hate to go back to using a mangle!
Fenella Miller
The Ghosts of Neddingfield Hall is now available as a download from

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Interview with Regency Author Donna Hatch

Historical Hussies: If money were no object would you prefer domestic help or would you cook and clean yourself?

Donna:Are you kidding me? I’d LOVE to give the job of cooking and cleaning to someone else! Can I have them do the laundry, too?

HH: If you could go back in time, with whom would you like to spend a day?

Donna: I’d love to spend the day with Jane Austen, not only because she was so witty and clever, but I’d love to clear up a few historical mysteries about that time period. And I’d probably want more than just a day.

HH: What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

Donna: Would you believe I literally threw myself in front of a moving car to save my six year old son? Okay, so the car wasn’t moving very fast, but he’d been knocked down by the car and was underneath it, caught, and was being dragged along a gravel driveway, and his head was dangerously close to the tire. I think by the time I actually got in front of the car, it had stopped, but I’m still not sure about that.
Here’s what happened. Unbeknownst to us, my son Kurt was hiding in front of the car, planning on jumping out and saying “boo” when my husband walked around in front to get in. Unfortunately, my husband walked around the back of the car, started it and pulled forward before anyone knew what was happening. When I saw that Kurt was under the car, I screamed at my husband to stop, and then did a baseball slide underneath the front bumper to grab him. I was 8 months pregnant at the time with my third child. After a helicopter ride and a 24 hour hospital stay, Kurt came home with only minor injuries and a goodly number of stitches. Kurt is 19 now and except for a large, C-shaped scar on his head that’s only visible if his hair is really short, he has no lasting problems. He does have a healthy respect for cars and car safety, but he still likes to jump out and say “boo.”

HH: Have you been told you look like someone famous?

Donna: Oh, yeah, I’m a ringer for Angelina Jolie. Ahem. Okay, not really. Actually no one has ever said I look like someone famous. But in the morning with my frizzy hair, I resemble Medusa.

HH: What is your typical day like?

Donna: I get my children off to school (no small feat, considering I have six!), then get ready and do a little housework (and I do mean little) or run errands. Then I sit down at the computer and write, or edit, or do research. After lunch, I go to work at my part time job as a secretary. After dinner, we do homework (the children’s – not mine), and then I get them ready for bed. If bedtime goes fairly well, I have time to play the harp and then read my email or sometimes just read. I write or edit if I’m really in the “mood” or have a pressing line but usually I’m sorta burned out by night. Which is ironic in a way, because when my children were small, late at night was my best time to write. Must be getting old that I can’t say up half the night anymore. Having time to write uninterrupted during the day makes a big difference, too.

HH: When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published? How many stories did you finish before you were published?

Donna: I wrote my first story when I was 8, and my first full-length novel when I was in 7th grade. They were both so bad that they will never see the light of day (and neither will my husband if he ever posts them on the net!) About five years ago, I really got serious about writing, and I got my first book contract roughly two years later.

HH: How did you break into publishing?

Donna: The first thing I did was join a local chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. I took writing classes and workshops, got critiqued, entered contests, got more critiques, attended conferences, pitched to editors and agents, got more critiques, submitted my manuscripts to agents and editors, and found a critique group who I really trust. I never gave up, no matter how many rejections, or how discouraging the critiques were, and I kept working to learn the tools of the trade. Plus I got enough positive critiques that those helped me keep going. When I started winning writing contests that gave me a huge boost and I carefully considered the input I received from contest judges.

HH: What influenced you to write?

Donna: I’ve always loved to read, and writing seemed the next logical step. It seems to be some weird, insane compulsion. It also got me through some serious bouts of clinical depression. When I wasn’t writing stories, I wrote in my journal. Now I write when I’m happy, or sad, or anything in between. And I still read voraciously.

HH: What inspired you to write romance?

Donna: I feed off the euphoria of new love and I need a happy ending. It’s like having a piece of chocolate at the end of the day. Only not fattening. There are some great books out there, but if there isn’t enough romance, I’m disappointed. And if it doesn’t have a happy ending, I’m totally bummed out. Reading doesn’t feel like an escape if the book doesn’t end well and happy. Life throws so many challenges and disappointments that I need the escape of a great book with a satisfying ending.

HH: Tells us about your current novel.

Donna: The Stranger She Married is a sweet, yet sensual Regency romance with adventure, intrigue, a love triangle, and a terrible secret.

Torn between a disfigured war hero with the heart of a poet, and a handsome libertine who may not be all he seems, impoverished Alicia must marry by the end of the month. Despite a threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger of all … to her heart.

HH: What motivated you to write your current book?

Donna: I’ve always been drawn to the arranged or forced marriage situation; two good people who are thrust together, not necessarily happy about it, but learn to fall in love and make the best of it. (No, it’s not based upon my real life!) I also enjoy love triangles. I’ve always kinda wondered what would have happened if Christine in Phantom of the Opera fell in love with the Phantom instead of the young handsome viscount. Or if maybe she’d felt really torn between them.

HH: Tell us about your other works, books, stories, etc.

Donna: I have a novella coming out in April. Here’s the backcover blurb: Desperate to escape her estranged husband and a home enshrouded with and despair, Julia flees in the middle of the night. Little does she know, her determined husband is in pursuit. Along the journey, she discovers a telling revelation. But will it be enough to banish the ghosts of the past and quiet her troubled heart?

HH: What are you working on now?

Donna: Book 2 of the “Rogue Hearts Series" called The Guise of a Gentleman which is about the brother of the hero in Book 1, The Stranger She Married. There are four books planned for this series, each about a brother of the same family, but each book is meant to be a stand-alone novel. Book two is about a spy infiltrating a pirate ring whose past comes back to haunt him…and endanger the life of the lady he loves. It’s under contract and I’m finishing final revisions suggested by my editor.

HH:How do you like your fans to contact you?

Donna: I have a place on my website that says “contact me” and I’m always happy to hear from readers (as long as they don’t bring up a research mistake I’ve made. Just kidding!)

HH: Where can we find your book?

Donna: Order the paperback on Amazon or order the ebook on line at Look for The Stranger She Married under the category “Historical” or "English Tea Rose."

HH: Thank you for joining us today.

Donna: Thanks so much for the interview!