The following interview is intended to give readers a greater insight
into what motivates certain storytelling decisions, what goes into
constructing a story, and what challenges I've faced along the way.
Breckenridge to the Rescue Interview
30th August, 2011
It's been a long time since we've seen the Cynster girls. What
sent you back to do their stories?
stories were always destined to be told - when was always the issue.
I had an insistent feeling that I had to wait - I explained it at
the time as waiting for them to grow up, and in part it was that.
I needed to let them evolve in my head to the point where their
characters had matured enough for me to see them as adults instead
of the girl-children they were in, for instance, Devil's Bride.
Without having mature characters to work with, it was very difficult
to foresee what sort of hero they'd have to play against them. In
short, their characters had to come first - without that, I couldn't
see the rest, the details of their heros or their stories. And then,
suddenly, the time had come, and I knew who Heather, the eldest's,
hero was, and then Eliza's, and lastly Angelica's. Once I had the
first story - Heather's - then the other two rolled on from that,
the concept of the trilogy was born, and I was ready to write.
In your last set of works, the Black Cobra Quartet, the four
stories ran largely concurrently - quite a difference to the sequential
stories of most standard trilogies or quartets. All your previous
Cynster stories were connected by characters and set at a specific
date, but weren't connected via the storyline. But this trilogy
is different from all the above.
it is - while we have three, distinct and complete in themselves
romances, the three books form a true trilogy in that there's one
overarching storyline, not the romances but a different storyline,
that runs through the three books. That storyline starts in the
Prologue of the first book and ends in the Epilogue of the third
book. In between, however, as with all my books, you get three romances,
and each book can be read on its own and the reader will get the
full romance story experience. However, as with the Black Cobra
Quartet, to get the full impact of the overarching story, you will
need to read all the books in the trilogy. I am aware that some
romance readers grumble and "demand" that every last thread
in every story is tied off and completed, all revealed, in every
individual book, but frankly, if you read or wrote nothing but such
books, life would be boring - I make no apologies for every now
and then doing something different. Trying something new makes life
interesting. I believe the majority of readers appreciate something
a touch different and interesting, as long as they get their romance
as well - that certainly seems to have been borne out by the response
to the different structure of the Black Cobra Quartet.
there any special challenges in plotting this trilogy?
you are working with more than one book, there's an additional challenge
in scripting the overarching storyline. However, working with a
set of three, consecutive-in-time - meaning running directly one
after the other in time - books for this trilogy was a lot, lot
easier than the work involved in scripting and working with the
concurrent villains' storyline in the Black Cobra Quartet. That
was a real headache, and not something I'll soon do again! In comparison,
the trilogy was relatively easy, although of course more work than
three entirely separate books. In the case of the overarching story
in this trilogy, the principal decision to be made in progressing
through the books is how much to reveal in each book - however,
there is, of course, a twist to the tale, as there so often is in
my books! - and that, I've discovered, imposes additional demands
on how much must be revealed of that overarching story earlier rather
Most of the action in the trilogy occurs in Scotland. Why Scotland?
one of those questions that I really don't have an answer for -
I just always knew that Heather and her hero ended up with Richard
and Catriona, their family and household, at the manor in the Vale
of Casphairn. That was one of those "story" things that
simply always was - I had no idea how they got up there, or why.
I just knew that's where they ended up. Later in the interview I'll
touch on how that "story fact" for want of a better term
played into the rest of the story that unfolds in Viscount Breckenridge
to the Rescue.
did the "searching for a hero" concept come about?
was one of the earliest elements of the trilogy to become clear
to me - from the time I wrote the Cynster twins' stories, On A Wild
Night and On A Wicked Dawn, way back in 2001, I knew that this -
actively searching for their hero - was what would motivate Heather
and Eliza especially in proactively initiating their stories. As
younger girls, schoolgirls at that time, they saw their older cousins,
Amanda and Amelia, go out and seek their heros, both stepping beyond
the accepted social lines to do it, and saw them succeed in every
respect. After that, of course Heather and Eliza would have similar
hero-standards, and once they failed to find their heros in the
obvious places, neither would hesitate to look beyond polite circles
for their man. From that background, I knew that they would actively
do something that would precipitate the action - they would be actively
searching for their hero, would do something, go somewhere, and
that would lead them to him, albeit in ways neither of them anticipate.
You've described these three books as: 1) Errol Flynn rescues
Jane Austen in the wilds of Scotland; 2) Errol Flynn rescues Jane
Austen in the wilds of Scotland; and 3) Jane Austen rescues Errol
Flynn in the Scottish highlands. Why those descriptions?
authors we are often asked to describe our books - the essence of
our stories. As all my heros have a certain swashbuckling charisma,
Errol Flynn - or more accurately the heros he depicted on the screen
- is in many ways the epitome of the type, so "Errol Flynn"
becomes a shorthand way of referring to that sort of male character.
My heroines, are, likewise, more like Jane Austen's characters than
Jane herself, but again it's the same shorthand way of evoking that
concept. As for the "wilds of Scotland" versus the "Scottish
highlands" that's literally correct - the first two books have
the heros and heroines unexpectedly and unintentionally exploring
two different, wild and rugged areas of the lowlands of Scotland,
while the third book takes place primarily in the Scottish highlands.
been quite some time since we've seen abducted heroines, yet it
is a classic historical romance plot. What prompted you to return
came about because of another of those muselike flashes of story
- like knowing that Heather and her hero end up in the Vale of Casphairn.
A few years ago, I "saw" - basically simply knew - that
Heather's hero was Breckenridge, and the way their story started
was that Heather - taking her first step to actively search for
her hero outside the ballrooms of the ton - was seen by Breckenridge,
and he essentially evicts her from a "soiree" she shouldn't
be attending. She gets on her highhorse, of course, and miffed,
marches off down the street to her carriage
but is kidnapped
along the way, right under Breckenridge's nose. I didn't need to
see anything more to know he would of course race after her
from that initial scene, the rest of their story unfolded. It also
gave me the overarching story, because who on earth would kidnap
Heather, and why? That single flash of story more or less gave me
the whole trilogy - from that point, all the rest followed.
Were there any special challenges in working with such a classic
really. I didn't use an abduction plot because it was a classic
plot - I don't come at my stories that way, by deciding what sort
of story I'm going to write and then making my characters up to
fit. Instead, as noted in the last several responses, my stories
arise organically from the characters I already have, and their
already existing backgrounds. The instant I had that kidnap scene
with Breckenridge looking on, I knew how and why it was perfect
for those two characters. I suspect if it hadn't been the perfect
initiating event for those two characters' romance, it wouldn't
have occurred to me in the first place, but once it had, it became
an integral part of the overarching story plot - which is the reason
behind, and what drives, the abduction. Therefore, in regard to
the question, as the abduction plot is driven by the overarching
plot - and therefore doesn't just "happen" - and also
strongly affects and impinges on the hero and heroine, who then
react and take the plot and run - meaning because they are not passive
but very proactive characters, they react, act, and affect the outcome
of the abduction in major ways - then the "classic" plot
is transformed into a novel, different experience that's very personal
to these two characters, and is therefore fresh and different to
any other "classic abduction plot" ever written. These
three books, each of the books in the trilogy, are examples of how
a "classic" plot is transformed and made fresh by the
fact that with modern historical romances it is the characters that
determine the story, not the plot, is wonderfully clearly illustrated
in the two anthologies It Happened One Night and It Happened
One Season, in each of which four authors take one plot, and
generate four utterly different novellas by putting their own characters
into-and therefore their own spin on-that single plot.
this first book of the trilogy, Gretna Green is a featured spot,
one in which the characters spend quite a bit of time, yet there
is no wedding over the anvil.
indeed. Again, Gretna Green was a serendipitous fact - there were
numerous logistical story reasons why the traveling abduction party
had to stop at that point in Scotland, just over the border with
England. It just so happened that that spot on the map was in fact
Gretna Green. So the blacksmith's forge, which incidentally still
stands, and its famous anvil, play a part in the overarching story,
and lend a certain sinister tension to the by then evolving romance
between the hero and heroine, neither of whom is at all happy about
the abduction party halting and waiting at an inn across the road
from the blacksmith's forge for the to them unknown man behind the
abduction to arrive. The relevant facts about marriages performed
over the anvil in the blacksmith's forge at Gretna Green were a)
that the woman could be much younger than allowed in England, and
did not need her parents' or guardians' permission to marry, just
as long as she freely agreed to the wedding, and b) that such marriages
were legally binding in England as well as Scotland. So in this
case, rather than Gretna Green being a destination our lovers look
upon as a romantic place, because of the story, it's transformed
into a threat - a bit of a twist.
the first section of this book, the abducted heroine is being driven
north in a coach, which stops at various small towns and villages.
How do you work out which villages to use?
the speed of a private coach-and-four, driven under various conditions
along the highways of England in 1829, was a point I had to research
thoroughly for this trilogy. I eventually found sufficient references
from that time to be certain of the likely speeds of travel. From
that I worked out how far the kidnappers' coach in the first book
would go each day. I then spent quite a bit of time poring over
old maps to determine exactly which towns the kidnappers, who wanted
to avoid notice and therefore wanted to stop in small, out-of-the-way
hostelries, would have used. Once I had the likely small towns and
villages, I use the internet and satellite maps to drop in on the
main streets and check the age of the buildings. England being England,
in small villages I can often find inns and taverns that, from their
architecture and construction, I can tell would have been there
in 1829. That said, I don't use the same names for the hotels unless
those names appear in the historical record for that period.
In this first book of the trilogy, we meet a past hero and heroine,
and catch up with their lives, and their now established family.
Was it part of your original concept to revisit a previous hero
mentioned earlier, I knew from the first that Heather and her hero
ended up with Richard and Catriona in Scotland-presumably because
Richard, Catriona, and their family and household had some role
to play in the story. I tend to initially assume that it's just
as background, a need to catch up as it were, and any actual role
in the action will be incidental, but once I was in the throes of
writing the story, I discovered - as I often do - that the real
reason the hero and heroine are with Richard and Catriona and company
is far more intrinsic amd important to the story. As it transpired,
many of the primary characters in the Vale had active roles to play,
and for three of them - Catriona, and her eldest children, the twins
Lucilla and Marcus - their roles were absolutely vital to the story
in this book, and also to a contuing theme that will continue over
all the Cynster girls' books to come. That last was one of those
lovely aha! moments in story evolution that authors live for.