Denise: What inspired you to write a historical romance about a young man of the church?
Charlotte: I didn’t originally start out with the intention to write this particular vicar hero. I started another novel in which the heroine is emotionally damaged and falls for a vicar as he helps her work through her pain. The character wasn’t very interesting though, and I soon gave up on that book.
While writing yet another book, the character of William began forming in my mind. He kept telling me tales of his mercy missions in the seedy parts of London. He told me about how he was given a living in a small village, but that he would much rather be sailing the seas to adventures in exotic lands. I was moved by his compassion, his earnestness, and his heart. I knew I had to give him his own story.
Denise: Had you read many books from the Regency time period?
Charlotte: Yes, in fact traditional regency romance is one of my favourite genres. I fell in love with Jane Austen’s novels as a teenager, then discovered Georgette Heyer. I have read many modern/sexy regencies as well, but I prefer the more old-fashioned ‘comedy of manners’ style.
Denise: Why is William Brook, your protagonist, eager to establish a church in a foreign land? Isn’t he afraid of illness or aggressive forces?
Charlotte: While he should be seriously considering the potential risks, William is single-mindedly focused on escaping his situation. He wants to get as far away from England as possible, preferably in a country peopled with dangerous heathens! He thinks his motivation for going is to spread the gospel as well as having an adventure, but throughout the course of the novel the deeper reasons why he longs to escape England become clear.
Denise: So when he is assigned a parish in a small village instead of an exotic land, does he feel that it’s only a temporary mission? That he may still achieve his goal?
Charlotte: Yes, he does think – or rather hope – that it may only be temporary.
Denise: Cecilia Grant rather paint than consider marriage and its endless responsibilities. Why doesn’t she long for what every woman wants?
Charlotte: Cecilia is a unique woman who sees marriage as a trap which will limit her freedoms. Most marriages she has seen are not based on love, so she dares not hope for that. She did try to make a match during her season in London, but she was inexperienced and awkward, and in awe of the polished gentlemen she met.
Denise: Why is no man interested in her?
Charlotte: On the contrary, men may well have shown interest. She is a very pretty young woman who keenly perceives her world – when she chooses to. The problem, as mentioned in the previous answer, is that her limited exposure to society was overwhelming and she would have appeared tongue-tied or aloof in her awkwardness. Her small dowry is also limiting.
Denise: What makes the new vicar so appealing to her? How did they meet? Do they have anything in common?
Charlotte: The new vicar is appealing as he may be the first man who has ever seen who she truly is – and accepted her. They meet when she is instructed to take a housewarming gift to the new vicar, who she assumes is elderly like the last one. She is shocked to find a vibrant young man, although he snaps at her rather rudely as the last thing he wants is the attention of country misses.
They have common interests in helping the local people, and they both appreciate art. They are also both the younger children in their families, a point which has caused William much pain in his life. Cecilia helps bring him out of himself, to focus on the good things in life, and he helps her to see that she is perfect just as she is.
Denise: Why does she think he’s running away from something?
Charlotte: That’s because each time they converse, William is ardent in his desire to get away from England. Something in his manner tells Cecilia that perhaps his resolution is more to do with running from something than to something else.
Denise: What draws William closer to those that reside in the village and Cecilia?
Charlotte: As William begins to perform his duties as vicar, he can’t help but become involved in their every day dramas and also to develop affection for them. It’s in his nature to care about people, and his attempts to keep distant are futile.
The same could be said for his resolve not to love Cecilia – try as he might to restrain his feelings, her gentle warmth wins him over.
Denise: What did you love writing about this book? What did you find difficult?
Charlotte: I loved developing the characters – getting to know them and their pasts just like the reader does. I adored the dynamic between William and Cecilia as they try to keep their feelings under control. I relished creating the villain, and tying all the plot strings together.
At one point (just after NaNoWriMo) I became stuck, unsure of how to go on. As I don’t write chronologically, I need my imagination to keep filling in the gaps. I stopped writing for a few months and worked on studying the craft instead. At last the pieces clicked into place and I off again!
Denise: Did you have to do a lot of research? How long did it take to write and edit the manuscript?
Charlotte: As with any historical novel, there was a lot of research to be done, particularly regarding the clergy. I know I won’t have everything 100% right but I have done my best with the resources available… and no fiction is completely accurate as it would probably be boring!
It took a couple of years to write and edit the manuscript, with life getting in the way on several occasions.
Denise: Did you self publish? What was this process like for you?
Charlotte: Yes I did indie-publish. I attempted traditional publication, but although agents loved the book they thought they couldn’t categorize it neatly enough to pitch it to editors.
The process of indie-publishing was a huge learning curve… not for the faint-hearted! You can read more information about my journey in my blog, on my website.
Denise: How are you promoting your book?
Charlotte: I have reached out to a long list of book reviewers and communities to promote the book.
I am a member of my local romance-writers association and use their channels to get the word out. I am active on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and engage with readers and fellow writers.
Denise: What was it like to hold the book in your hands for the first time?
Charlotte: It was a dream come true!
Her website: http://www.charlottebrentwood.com/p/books.html