Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Beth Elliot

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.

THE RAKE’S CHALLENGE is set in Brighton in summer 1814. The idea for the story began when I saw a magazine advert for a costly leather jacket. The model’s pose was so arrogant, I knew at once who he was. And at an open day at Chawton House, someone demonstrated the language of the fan, which gave me a plot idea. I also wanted to have a poisoning in the story, so why not make the victim the Prince Regent? My arrogant rake, bored with London, is on his way to Brighton when he is obliged to rescue a damsel in distress. But she’s one hell of a determined damsel and so for once he has to exert himself for another person - and she takes a lot of keeping out of trouble. It’s obvious where it’s going, but it’s the journey that makes it an enjoyable story.

Have you ever won or been short-listed in any competitions or awards, and do you think they help with a writer’s success?

My first story, THE WILD CARD, (which went through the NWS and was bought at once by Robert Hale), was shortlisted that year for the RNA Romance Prize. And the second one, IN ALL HONOUR, got into the final for the RedRosesforAuthors Christmas Award. I think it helps a lot for an author to be nominated and especially to win an award. It’s a big recommendation to the public and to publishers, as well as a huge boost to the writer’s morale.

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? 
My metallic bead embroidery, because I love all the sparkle and the gold thread. Each piece takes months to do and I make it all up as I go along. Here’s one called ‘East-West’.

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.
The Rake’s Challenge
Robert Hale
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? 

To hear more about Beth’s books, you can find her here:

Interviews on the RNA Blog are for RNA members, although we do occasionally take guests. If you are interested in an interview, please contact me: freda@fredalightfoot.co.uk 


margaret blake said...

Wonderful interview, Beth, I discovered so much more about you. I did not know you had been a little girl in Lancashire either.

Long may your well deserved success continue.

ilhan ates said...

I read Beth Elliott's two books: In All Honour and The Wild Card. They took me to a different era. In those books I felt the sharp rivalry between good and bad people, between good and bad ideas. And I willy nilly felt myself supporting the good people, the good ideas like the football fans support their teams...ilhan Ates

Rhoda Baxter said...

Great Interview! The Rakes Challenge sounds like a fun read. All the best!

Beth Elliott said...

Margaret, I still think of myself as a Lancashire lass. Whenever I go back there, the colours of earth, grass and sky are so familiar. I wonder if 'my' Library is still there... whatever would I have done without it?

Beth Elliott said...

Thank you, Ilhan, both for reading my stories and for coming to comment. I hope you will like - and approve of my next story, which is set in Constantinople in 1811.

Susan Bergen said...

The first Geoffrey Trease I ever read was "Cue For Treason". It's still a favourite. Did you know he wrote about 113 books! How's that for prolific? Lovely interview, Beth

Beth Elliott said...

113 books must be some kind of record, Susan. All his books that I could get hold of, I enjoyed.