Beth Elliott was already making up stories before she could read. Later, the only girl in a tiny Lancashire village, she read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and so began a lifelong love of Jane Austen. Beth says that writing her own tales set in the Regency era is much more fun than her previous career of teaching modern languages. So tell us, Beth, what is it about the regency period that so excites you, and how do you set about your research?
I was twelve when I first read Pride and Prejudice. It opened the door into a world I found entrancing, perhaps because there is still so much evidence of that period all around us. For research I read biographies, visit stately homes and museums, study pictures - and enjoy all the Austen films. I’ve paced out my characters’ journeys in Bath, Brighton and London and even in Istanbul! I love travelling and where I go, so do my characters. Tourism is not just a modern phenomenon. After reading about Byron’s travels in the eastern Mediterranean, I set my latest story in Constantinople.
Are you ever inspired to write about real people in your historicals?
I love doing that. It’s an exciting challenge to put real people in my stories and blend them in, while respecting what we know about them. The Prince Regent appears in The Rake’s Challenge; in fact, the heroine nearly poisons him. And Lady Hester Stanhope plays a vital role in the story I’ve just finished.
Much as you may love writing, what do you do when the going gets tough?
It’s essential to keep writing through these sticky patches and not put it off. The characters won’t leave me alone, anyway. Mostly, writing seems like going away on holiday with my characters. But when they dig their heels in I get so frustrated. After a brisk walk and a bit of bad language I write what I hope is the next scene - and sleep on it. In the wee small hours I wake up, knowing that it’s all wrong. So I try a different viewpoint or an alternative place or reason. One hero was left with his elegantly booted foot on the fender for nearly three weeks until the way forward was suddenly obvious.
Tell us about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.
Have you ever won or been short-listed in any competitions or awards, and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
So who is your favourite hero?
Am I only allowed one? Apart from Mr Darcy and John Ridd, it’s Rupert Carsington in Mr Impossible. Tall, strong, too handsome for anyone’s good, irresistibly attractive, practical and always fights fair.
What was your favourite book as a child?The Hills of Varna by Geoffrey Trease. It was set in about 1510, and had a marvellous there and back quest across Europe, with a bold, brave heroine. No wonder I love travel and languages.
I loved Geoffrey Trease too. He wrote such exciting stories. Apart from writing, of which accomplishment are you most proud?
Which authors do you choose to read for pleasure?
Loretta Chase, she’s so witty; Mary Balogh; Roisin McAuley; Wilkie Collins; Jane Austen, I can always find something new in there.
Lastly, if you could escape somewhere, to write, where would it be?
Ax-les-Thermes in the foothills of the Pyrenees would be a good place. Beautiful scenery, walking through history, local cuisine - plus the spa when needed. And the chateau which features in my new novel is close by. Thank you so much for sharing your pleasures in writing with us today, Beth. I’ve so enjoyed talking with you, and wish you every success for the future.
Giles Maltravers, the rakish Earl of Longwood, is weary of society life, duels and even his mistress. Anna Lawrence, nineteen and inspired by Lord Byron's poems is determined to seek a life of travel and adventure. Both decide to flee society. They meet when Giles rescues Anna from her first escapade. Anna is resolute in demonstrating her independence, but, somehow, she always ends up in trouble. His own pleasures forgotten, Giles rescues her from one potential disaster after another. He knows he cannot live without her, but he meets an unexpected obstacle, for Anna has a secret that means she can never be more than a friend to the man she has come to love with all her heart. Is there any way for their love to prevail?
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