I wrote my first book in 1979, as a way to postpone getting a "real" job. I'd had many and various temp and part-time jobs, from construction to writing and editing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology. Then, after moving constantly, we settled down and bought a house. It was time to get serious.
At least, it was time to look as if I were getting serious. I sat down at the kitchen table with a pad of lined paper and a ball-point and started writing.
Why Regency? I'd reread Georgette Heyer's often enough to know what was coming on the next page. I wanted more, so I started reading some that were written around that time—late '70s—and they were so awful, I reckoned I couldn't possibly do worse. I didn't really expect to write an entire book, still less to get it published (Warner), let alone for it to lead to a 35-year career and still counting.
In case the term "Regency" means nothing to you: Strictly speaking, the Regency was the period between 1811 and 1820, when George III was mad and his son became the Prince Regent. Jane Austen's books were being published. It was a time of rapid change in Britain, as improved roads and carriages made travel easier, and simple fashions allowed women more freedom of movement. The 20th century Regency genre was the creation of Georgette Heyer—light-hearted romances, mostly with strong-willed heroines, sometimes dramatic and occasionally melodramatic but without explicit sex or violence.
Because the genre encompasses a short period (about 1800 to 1821, in fact), Regency lovers—who often don't read any other kind of romance—tend to learn a lot about the history, mores, and language, and to jump on errors. Having failed history at school, I had to dig in and master the details of life in the early 19th century.
I was lucky enough to have flexible editors who didn't confine my heroes and heroines to the drawing-room and the English countryside. Most were set in England but I also ventured to France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, Turkey, the Balkans, and even Costa Rica. Among my 32 full-length Regencies and dozen novellas, one was time-travel, one had a character who was a ghost, three were rewritten fairytales, magic and all, and many had elements of mystery/adventure/suspense.
And no, my heroes are not all dukes, or even lords, though there are a fair number of the latter.
I enjoyed writing Regencies, I knew I could sell them, and I might have gone on writing them forever, but within six months of each other, both my publishers (Walker and Harlequin at that point) dropped their Regency lines. I'd been thinking for some time that I'd like to try something different. That was the kick in the pants I needed.
Thus was Daisy Dalrymple born.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.|