Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Carolyn Miller to the blog. Carolyn is a much-loved author of historical and contemporary fiction, with thirteen novels and novellas published in the last few years and another two on the way later this year. I recently talked to Carolyn about her tips for such amazing productivity. If you missed that post, you can read it here.
In today’s interview, we’ll talk more about the inspiration and process behind Carolyn’s historical and contemporary fiction. And be sure to read to the end for your chance to win an eBook of Carolyn’s latest work.
Enduring Appeal of the Regency Era
Carolyn, your historical novels are all set within the Regency era from 1811 to 1820. What is it about that era that fascinates you and why do you think that era is so popular with readers?
Ooh, great question. I think Mr. Darcy obviously has a lot to do with the Regency era’s popularity, more specifically Colin Firth in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. Since then there has been an explosion of adaptations of Jane Austen’s work, which has led to many people enjoying the glamorous elements of grand English estates, period clothing, societal customs and manners – and handsome men in cravats and breeches!
I think the Regency era is fascinating because it represents a time of change, when dependency on agriculture was being replaced by a focus on industry and ‘manufactories,’ which then led to tension within the known social order as aristocrats found themselves sometimes at the mercy of rich industrialists.
It was also a time when England was involved in wars both against Napoleon in Europe and against the Americans, which again affected society at home (less men available to marry!).
Combine this with a Prince Regent known for excess and extravagance, technological discoveries, exploration and colonialism, workers and women questioning the social order, and you have a fascinating decade filled with stories ready to be shaped into something readers will appreciate today. I’ve enjoyed writing stories dealing with many of these issues in my books.
Riveting Regency Research
It certainly sounds like there were a lot of interesting things going on in that era. What are some of the most unusual or funny things you’ve discovered in your research?
I don’t know if it counts as funny, exactly, but the Prince Regent, the son of King George III (the king who was considered mentally unfit to rule) was a man given to excess (he once held a dinner for a Russian Grand Duke which included over 100 different dishes of food!).
From being an avid sportsman who once held the record for driving a carriage from London to Brighton, he became enormously fat and given to extravagance, which saw him oversee renovations at the Marine Pavilion (a royal residence in Brighton). It blended his tastes for the exotic, resulting in a mish-mash of decorative styles, including Chinese, Indian and Moorish, which resulted in the most fantastic building you can visit today.
The NSW State Library holds a book of the designs of architect John Nash which showed the challenges associated with working with the Prince Regent, and proved excellent research, especially as I knew I had to use this building in one of my stories (which became The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey). I was blessed with the opportunity to visit a few years ago and can report it is unlike any other building I’ve ever seen. Definitely worth a visit when we can finally travel to England again!
Dusk's Darkest Shores
I can imagine that building caused quite a stir when it was built. Your most recent historical novel, ‘Dusk’s Darkest Shores’, is getting great reviews. Can you tell us a little about the story and the issues you’ve explored?
Dusk’s Darkest Shores is the first in my new Regency Wallflowers series, where I’ve taken a step away from writing about aristocratic people to concentrate on those who are slightly older, and without titles, money or beauty to recommend them. In this story we meet Mary Bloomfield, a doctor’s daughter who helps her father with his medical work in a village in the Lake District, who is considered to be ‘at her last prayers’ and unlikely to marry. When the return of war hero Adam Edgerton sees him facing new physical challenges, Mary is given the task to care for him, which sees antipathy develop into respect and then esteem.
Readers have really enjoyed the relatability of the characters, and the focus on Regency-era medical practices, and the grittier subject matter compared to many Regencies, which includes issues of depression, suicide and abortion.
Tackling Difficult Issues in Fiction
You don’t shy away from difficult issues in your novels. What are some of the other themes that you’ve tackled?
The challenges associated with money (or more particularly, the lack thereof!) is a theme running through several of my books. We tend to forget here in modern day Australia just how blessed we are, and how cushioned our government policies and services enable us to be.
Back in Regency times, one’s ability to marry was often directly related to one’s income, there was little to no welfare for returned soldiers, and arranged marriages still sometimes occurred – all of which have led to plotlines in my books.
I’ve also written stories that deal with the ramifications of adultery, gambling, parental death, sexual assault, abandonment and more.
But I promise my books aren’t depressing (!) as I love to balance the gritty elements with humorous moments and, more importantly, the hope that’s found in Jesus Christ. Readers often write to me and say they’ve been so encouraged with their faith, that God has spoken to them about something, whether it be forgiveness or daring to believe God for more, and I’m so encouraged that God can use my fiction to speak truth and offer hope to our broken world.
Your latest novel, ‘Regaining Mercy’, is a contemporary story that is part of the Independence Islands series, written by a number of authors. Can you tell us a little about the story and how the collaboration to be part of the collection came about?
Some people may not know that I actually started writing by writing contemporary novels, and I’d been praying and looking for a way to steer from being Regency-only to also having some contemporary novels published. I have a contemporary romance series I’m independently publishing next year which incorporates several of these (thoroughly revised!) original stories, but I knew I needed a fanbase in order to sell some copies, so when I saw in a Facebook group an opportunity to join a new venture from US publicity group Celebrate Lit, I thought this might be an answer to prayer.
I submitted a story idea for a mobile business that could take place over five fictional islands off the South Carolina / Georgia coast (a gardening company, where I figured I could use my husband’s horticultural skills), and was accepted as part of the group of six authors. The Independence Islands series has proved to be a fun project, our collaborative process involving sharing ideas via an authors’ Facebook group, Dropbox, Notion (and other formats I’ve had to learn), and supporting the launch of each other’s books.
Although it has had some challenges at times, being involved in the Independence Islands series has been beneficial as readers have come to see me as more than just a historical author, which has helped set up opportunities for my hockey romance series releasing at the end of this year (including my Winter Olympics story, just in time for – you guessed it! – next year’s Winter Olympics).
Regaining Mercy is my second book in this 30-book series (I only write 5 of them!) after last December’s Restoring Fairhaven. That first book saw the arrival of Samantha Green on the Independence Islands to take over her dying father’s gardening business, which saw her butt heads with several men (go the girls!). Regaining Mercy sees what happens when Dermott Reilly, Greener Gardens second-in-command, starts to care for single mother Mindy Murray, who is back on the islands after a stint on reality TV show Love at First Glance.
Mindy is facing plenty of disapproval from the islanders, and struggling with issues of identity, security and money, all while caring for her son who has medical needs. I’m so glad readers are really enjoying this story, and I can’t wait to introduce them to Callie’s quest for love in the next book, Redeeming Hope, releasing December 7. (Just quietly it might be one of my most fun ones yet!)
Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Carolyn. It’s been great to hear more about your inspiration and your writing process.
Thanks so much, Nola, for having me today! It’s been fun.
Carolyn has kindly offered to give an eBook of Regaining Mercy to one lucky reader. This is available for Australian and international entrants. All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment below by Sunday 25 July 2021 (Australian Eastern Standard Time). The winner will be determined by a random draw of all eligible commenters, and the winner will be announced on this blog, the Nola Lorraine Facebook page, and my newsletter. (Click here for full terms and conditions.)
Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, Carolyn loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives.
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