The Duke and the Lady Gardener is out tomorrow! Alissa was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
You can get your copy of this sweet historical romance HERE!
Did you always know you wanted to be an author? What is the first story you remember writing? How did you get from there to where you are today?
At the age of seven, I knew that I wanted to be an author. I loved reading everything I could get my hands on. When I was 11, I heard of a young girl who had published a children’s s book, and I promptly decided to write my own story. I handed it in to my class teacher and naively believed that this was my first step to publication. Unfortunately, Miss Haskins only pinned it on the classroom wall! But I persevered, and at the age of 19, I started writing my first book. I published a couple of Regency novels in my twenties before venturing into chick lit. Many years later, I returned to the Regency period, and I am enjoying this second foray into a world I have loved since I read Pride and Prejudice at the age of 10.
How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? Do you have any experience dressing in character or participating in living history situations or are you more a fan of libraries and online resources?
I do a tremendous amount of research as I frequently write about topics I know very little about. To write about any subject convincingly, I need to understand it; otherwise, my creativity stalls. I am a fan of libraries and second-hand bookstores, where I’ve found wonderful reference books over the years. I also appreciate all the online resources available today. So many books from the 18th and 19th century have been loaded onto Google recently… a true treasure trove! As to dressing in character, I recently created a Regency costume and dressed up as one of my heroines. It was such a fun experience and gave me a greater understanding of the clothes worn in the Regency period!
What are your favorite kind of characters to write? Do you have a specific trope you’re drawn to?
I have realized that every single heroine I’ve ever created either has a fortune or inherits a fortune later in the book. I think I have done this subconsciously in an attempt to place my hero and heroine on a level playing ground in terms of their agency. If a woman was poor during the Regency, she had very little power to direct her future. I think I must challenge myself to write a story about a woman who lacks this freedom!
Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters? Do you know where the story is going before you begin, or does it come to you as you write? Do scenes come to you fully formed or are you as surprised as the reader?
I am a character-driven author. I do try to plot my books, but I need to get to know my characters, and I can’t do that before I start to write their story. I meet my characters on the page, not in any outline, which makes it very tricky to plot a book! Having said this, I can often picture the beginning and the end of a book. It’s that pesky middle that is frequently unknown. It can be very frustrating because even if I manage to come up with a general outline, often the characters will develop in such a way that they will not do what the outline says they should do! So instead, I pay attention to story architecture. Although I may not know what happens halfway through the book, I do know that at the halfway point, I need to have a major context-shifting event. I work towards the plot points in my novel, and I know exactly where they need to be. So the story is a discovery in process, but it is done within a very clear structure. It seems to work out quite well for me! But it is a bit like walking in the mist. Often I can only see what is directly in front of my nose. I have learned to trust my process though as my brain seems to work out the plot subconsciously, and I then discover it along the way.
Does your writing process include any kind of ritual? Story specific playlists, tea, or candles, for example?
I can sit down anywhere and work. I just need a desk or a table (and a bit of peace and quiet!). When I write at my favorite coffee spot, I always order a bottle of sparkling water and a cappuccino.