Hi Sandra! Thank you for taking the time to appear on Let Them Read Books!
Thank you for hosting me, Jenny. It's always a pleasure!
The Daughters of Hampshire trilogy marks a bit of a departure from your previous novels. What inspired you to take on the Gothic genre?
I love reading Gothic romances, but have found it difficult to find many new ones that were written with the "traditional ingredients."
I did want to update the concept a little for modern readers. I like more of the hero on the page than was present in quite a few of the Gothic romance novel of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little stronger minded than was popular then. I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith. But I tried my best to stick to the elements readers expect from a Gothic romance:
- A large property, in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.
- A Byronic hero, who might be questionable, but is always conflicted.
- Characters around that are trustworthy . . . or not. Especially servants.
- Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.
- A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.
Can you highlight some of the different challenges in writing about fictional characters versus famous historical figures?
On one level, writing about historical figures is easier because much of the world and life building is done for you. However, in that case, you're also battling the expectations readers have about a real person, someone they have likely met many times, in books, and for me, I want to stay true to the history. So it's developing something that has both fidelity and freshness.
Fictional characters allow much more leeway, though of course they have to act and think true to their time. You have to develop much more of their back story and convey it because your readers won't know much as they would with a historical figure. I love writing both kinds or characters.
Women in the Victorian Era were defined and constrained by strict social mores and expectations. Can you talk a bit about creating a heroine from that era, like Rebecca, that today's readers can still identify with?
All of us are constrained in some ways from the full self-determination we would prefer. There are always roadblocks, prejudices, laws that do not work in our favor, spiteful people, or situations that bring sorrow and which are completely out of our control. And yet . . . the human spirit, a strong woman's spirit, faces those challenges head on, tries to think through what she wants, and then plots a way toward it. When roadblocks occur, she finds a way over, around, or through. That was true a thousand years ago and is still true now.
The very freedom of our age (for example, to work if we wish) has wrought a new set of challenges. But we still find a way to triumph. Seeing women do that, then, encourages me as a woman to do that, now. If they can be contenders, so can I!
How does your own faith shape the inspirational aspects of your fiction?
My faith is central to my worldview and interests, so it informs the subjects I pursue for my books. Honestly, it would be anachronistic to write about 19th century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life. I don't seek to write "Christian fiction" so much as it interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches a situation in her era and setting. I don't set out, ever, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine's eyes. So hopefully that makes a good story whether a person is a Christian or not. I certainly profit from and enjoy books that have no or other religious underpinning, or take place in situations and cultures other than my own. I hope that both Christians and those who are not Christian can be transported by the story and let it entertain and speak to them individually.
Supernatural elements, whether naturally explained or not, are an integral part of Gothic romance. I find them completely complimentary in a book if organically done with an understanding of the genre. We can't understand everything, we cannot control everything, but when we are courageous and take action, things happen, and we are helped. That's the supernatural and the natural working hand in hand.
Which authors and/or books have had the most influence on your writing?
So many, perhaps hundreds. I think it' safe to say that almost everything I read influences my writing. As a girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder truly influenced me; her books ignited my lifelong love of biographical fiction. I loved Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, too. This series, in particular, was influenced by my affections for Victoria Holt and the Brontës' books, as well as some by Mary Stewart. It's been a great and satisfying pleasure to try to write books for readers who enjoy their work as well.
What are you working on now?
I've just completed the first draft of the second book in the series, Bride of Poseidon. After I complete the edits on it, I'll be off to 1888 London for the third book, Angels of Light!
Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.
That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?
A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.
Mist of Midnight is on a blog tour!
After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.
Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series, and a devotional for tweens.
A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.
Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your book club via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.