Queen of Regency romance, Elizabeth Bailey has had a long and prolific career. Here she tells us how she began and what inspires her enduring romance with the Regency period.
AW: Hi Liz, thanks so much for talking to me today. When did you first begin writing and what drew you to it as a career? How many books have you written?
EB: Honestly, I don’t recall not writing! My first romance was a fairy story written when I was about 12, I think. Then later the more gothic side of me came out in a saga poem about a murdered mermaid. I wrote a lot of poetry, quizzes, and started potential stories which never got finished. The turning point came when my sister and friends formed a co-operative to send out short stories. I had written a few romantic shorts and articles, so I decided I would write a Mills & Boon historical romance. I soon learned it’s not nearly as easy as one thinks. Eight years and eight full-length novels later, I finally landed a contract.
By that time, I had abandoned the stage as an actress because I realised writing stories was what I truly enjoyed. I have to say I think over the years I became a much better writer than actress! But that background has proved valuable to me as a writer. As for how many books, I have written far more than I have had published. I think I must be up to around 50 by now. Every so often I have a count up. It’s easy with the published books, but the bottom drawer ones I can’t be sure – especially as I have mined some of them for plots and written them in a radically different manner.
AW: You must have written millions of words and thought of hundreds of plots over the years, what is it that particularly draws you to the Regency period in your novels?
EB: From age 11, I was addicted to Georgette Heyer, so the Regency was a no brainer when I came to writing myself. What I love about the Georgian and Regency era is the pace of life, the earthy reality of the simplest things – like washing and the exigencies of running a household. Just dressing was a chore and took time to put all the pieces together. No wonder ladies needed a maid!
Then too, there’s a glamour about riding horses and travelling in horse-drawn vehicles, despite the lengthy journeys and jolting over bad roads. I love introducing all the basic necessities of life in that time, in hope the reader will feel immersed in the period.
AW: The Lady Fan books feature Lady Ottilia Fanshawe, an amateur sleuth, what was your inspiration for this series? And do you base her cases on real incidents?
EB: Originally, the character was an idea for a historical romance. The Fan idea grew from that and was intended to be a sprawling historical series involving a fan that was passed down through generations. I think it was my brother who suggested that idea might be a mystery series. It was some years before I took up that suggestion, but the first story married up the fan idea with the Ottilia idea and Lady Fan was born.
I don’t base her cases on actual incidents, but I am very careful to ensure that what she knows about medicine is valid for the period. The doctors of the day were surprisingly knowledgeable, considering the lack of medical aids we have today. They experimented a great deal and studied anatomical science, and also shared their findings in treatises.
AW: There is a huge amount of research in your novels, what are the sources you find most useful? Do these ever point you in the direction of a new story?
EB: I read extensively in my early years, lots of contemporary material including novels of the time, and made copious notes kept in files. This was before digital so I accumulated masses of paper. Now I have a library of books that I can rely on, as well as the internet.
My best internet sources are contemporary writings, either in books (Google Books is excellent for these) or articles. I use Phyllis Cunnington for costume because her detail is meticulous. I have The Royal British Atlas, which is a copy of an original set of maps of all the English counties. This is a mine of information as the maps include stage coach routes with symbols indicating staging posts, tourist spots, forests and whether a village or town had a rectory, vicarage or curacy. Each map includes historical details and lists of VIPs living in the area. I have certainly picked up ideas to include in my stories from these maps.
Mostly, I find research points up ideas for inclusion rather than an actual new story. However, by the time a set of ideas have generated into a potential story, I have usually forgotten where the original impetus came from.
These questions were really evocative, Alexandra. Thank you so much for inviting me for an interview. I could have continued banging on all day!
AW: Thanks Liz, it was my pleasure, it’s been fascinating!
For more information on Liz’s books, visit: www.elizabethbailey.co.uk or follow her on twitter @lizbwrites
Liz’s books can be bought at: https://saperebooks.com/authors/elizabeth-bailey/