The Meddler is out now! It’s the first book in Kate Archer’s A Series of Worthy Young Ladies. Kate was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
You can get your copy of this delightful historical romance HERE!
Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters?
It is some combination of both—I always start with a particular person in a particular situation. None of it is fully formed in the beginning, though. It seems very sensible to me to outline and fully plot ahead of time, but I’ve never been able to do it. I really don’t have my best ideas in the beginning and find that if I just start then one thing leads to another and ideas come up that I would never have thought of. Aside from primary characters, I never really know who will show up and it’s always interesting when they do! Writing into the story rather than outlining takes a leap of faith, but once you’ve jumped off that bridge enough times the feelings of doom go away. (Mostly.)
In the A Series of Worthy Young Ladies, I knew I would have six highly-placed matrons and of course they would be different personalities, though all friends. Their personalities evolved as I wrote the first book, The Meddler, and then those evolved personalities have influenced the plots when it is their turn at bat with their sponsored young lady, as well as how they drive the plot of other stories. Lady Mendleton is a rescuer of people and dogs, and she likes nothing more than some being feeling grateful. Lady Heathway appears a battle-axe, and yet she is eminently practical and tolerates an outrageous butler. Lady Easton is a little too obsessed with clocks, schedules, and orderliness. Lady Redfield is a pushover, and possibly a bit dim, though golden-hearted. Lady Featherstone imagines herself a great detective, though it is entirely in her imagination. The duchess is intrepid, condescending, and obsessed with all things noble. None of those attributes were firmly in mind until I just wrote it out.
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 LOVE research. I have an excel file with 26 pages, each one a letter. I use the letter for the high-level topic, like P for places. Then on the P page I’d have something like: Places – Portland Place— dimensions—110 ft wide, or People – Prince Regent—written signature— George P R, or Pianoforte—material—often mahogany, could be rosewood. I really try to get the details right, I recently checked a very commonplace flower I’d used in a setting and discovered it was not present in England in 1811. You never know what you’ll find out!
As for dressing Regency style, no I’ve never done it, BUT I have strong opinions about it nonetheless. I would wear a silk pelisse or a snappy riding habit all day long, but a spencer…no! They look so confining it makes me uncomfortable to even look at pictures of them. In book two of the Series of Worthy Young Ladies, it turns out Lady Heathway holds my exact same opinion on the matter.
When it’s difficult to physically travel, how do you find ways to escape?
Google Maps! You can pick out any sort of place and zoom in and drop the little man on a street corner and then you can walk around any neighborhood you like. I just took a lovely tour of Rincon, Puerto Rico – a chill surfer town. I have done the same with many of the settings in my books. I was just the other day poking around Portland Place in London and having a look at the buildings. It’s one of the great things about London – so many structures have been there for generations.
Then of course, there’s BritBox. I just watched the original Upstairs Downstairs, and then the follow-up Upstairs Downstairs. Fascinating, though the eldest son’s misogyny in the first series is pretty cringe-worthy and in the second, while I really despised the sister, I didn’t wish that end on her!
Does your writing process include any kind of ritual? Story specific playlists, tea, or candles, for example?
I believe in schedules and the one that works for me is to write all day on Saturday and Sunday. (I work in social services during the week) I like to get started first thing in the morning, and then it’s all about the drinks and lighting. I start with white tea, then a yogurt smoothie, then coffee, and then rounding it all off with a green smoothie. I would fall apart without my Nutribullet because I am a terrible creature of habit. (Never casually ask me about smoothie recipes just to be polite – I WILL send mine to you.)
As for lights, I change them up a lot but at the moment it’s a winter wonderland of fairy lights. And, I have a wonderful, large electric fireplace.
Sometimes I put on classical music, but very low. Usually, it’s just silence.
I work in a cozy corner of my living room, facing a portrait of an unknown ancestor that I think of as Mr. Bennet. I like to think he is helping me.
Saturday morning is the best moment of the week., I’ve got long stretches of writing time ahead of me.
Do you write better in the morning or evening? How do you handle the distractions of working from home, especially if you’re sharing the space with others?
I am definitely a getting started in the morning person. In terms of interruptions, in-person disruptions are not so much a problem, but technology is always waiting in the wings to interfere. I don’t allow myself to scroll Facebook or go down too many research rabbit holes—if I can’t easily find something I’ll just highlight it and go back to it when I’m not on writing time. It is all too easy to spend writing time not actually writing so I try to be disciplined about that. Also, everyone who knows me knows not to bother inviting me to a weekend brunch—I can’t, I’m writing!
I do an Intro to Writing Fiction to seniors and people living with a disability and one of the things I spend a good amount of time on is not accidentally wasting time. There is something in the creative process that your average subconscious doesn’t like, probably having to do with protecting the ego. So, if you swore to yourself that you would spend an hour writing on Tuesday at 10:00, and then when the time rolls around you are cleaning out the refrigerator you haven’t cleaned in months because you hate doing it, that’s the subconscious steering you away. Once you know that, your inner hidden mind can’t trick you into avoiding writing, which is really what you wanted to do. Your own subconscious can be the biggest distraction of all if you let it.