Beverley: Hi Rachel, Thanks so much for having me here.
Rachel: Thank you for stopping by! I remember during our first set of exchanged emails when we were introducing ourselves you told me up front that you quite enjoy the editing process and looked forward to it. Music to an editor's ears! Since a lot of authors fear edits, what's your secret?
I'm not an organised or clinical person, and my first draft is written almost entirely organically, but when it comes to edits, I like having a check list of areas to strengthen, and I like to do that in separate editing stages. For example, with The Reluctant Bride, I knew that my characterisation of my heroine, Emily, was going to need a delicate touch. As she's grieving for her dead fiancé and resistant to the kindness of my gorgeous hero, Angus, I tried my best to make her sympathetic to the reader. Not all readers like her in the beginning – in fact, most don't – but her redemption is a major part of the story.
Obviously the editorial report I receive will direct me, and I'll tackle each issue as thoroughly as I can, often separately.
The Reluctant Bride spans the years between the French Revolution and the Battle of Waterloo, so I had to get my historical research absolutely right. I needed to know how men could be heroes one day in the midst of the French Revolution and lose their heads as a traitor the next. Then there was the timeline, for the main events of the story concentrate on about 8 months just after the Battle of Corunna.
Your precision and attention to detail, in this regard, Rachel, was a real life-saver. I'd begun to tear my hair out, as I had four characters heading towards this climactic resolution. I needed to know how many hours by coach it would be from various locations in England to Dover, compared with how long on horseback, including from locations in France, with chapters in different perspectives in the midst of this mayhem. It's all happening at such a hectic pace in the book so it was a real challenge to coordinate everyone's movements. I loved it when you sent me a timetable for the high tide in Dover as I needed to know how long my character, who was imprisoned and at the mercy of the tide, had before s/he drowned. (Hope that's not a spoiler.)
Perhaps I'll just leave it at that … :)
Rachel: I’m a big fan of detailed timelines! :) I had fun researching those historical bits of trivia like the time differences between horseback and carriage rides. Made me extra thankful for my car when there’s a crisis on the line!
In your recent Romaniacs blog you said that "The first three chapters [of TRB] won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Single Title competition about six years ago, which was before I got my first publishing contract with Robert Hale in 2009. After that it went through multiple drafts, while I wrote other novels and novellas. I just couldn't let it go. I kept seeing potential for more ‘layering’." After winning the award for those three chapters, did you submit to publishers or agents over the following years, reworking it all the while, or did you keep it in your possession until you felt it was 'right'?
Beverley: The Reluctant Bride was originally called The Reluctant Hero and it started at Chapter Two. I submitted it to Avon, who rejected it, and then I changed the focus, changed the title, rewrote it, and was about to send it to Carina when, fortuitously, I saw the Choc Lit competition which had only a week to go before the deadline. So, as I'm an incredibly impatient person when it comes to seeing results, a week was just perfect. I re-read it, sent it in and then just before Christmas was utterly gobsmacked to learn that The Reluctant Bride had won Choc Lit's Search for an Australian Star competition.
Rachel: Do you have other manuscripts that have been rejected from publication, and if so do you plan to ever rework them now that you have more experience?
Beverley: Pretty much everything I've written has now been accepted for publication with the following exceptions – and I know they'll never see the light of day. The first was the romance I wrote when I was 17 in which I drowned the heroine on the last page; then there were the two romances I wrote when I was living in a thatched cottage in a remote location in Botswana's Okavango Delta with the lovely bush pilot I'd just met who was soon to become my husband (and still is, 20 years later). It was a very romantic time in my life and it came out in two books – Khaki Fever and Romp in the Swamp – which were targeted at Mills & Boon, but I hadn't done my research so of course they weren't accepted.
Rachel: Those titles make me giggle, and yet I’m intrigued. ;)
With all the revisions you mentioned, what's the biggest change from your first plan/draft for The Reluctant Bride compared to the published version?
Beverley: Discovering that my heroine had a backstory mired in the bloody events of the September Massacres in 1792 prompted the biggest change to the book. Suddenly I had an amazing backstory that was like tentacles creeping through the rest of the book, impacting on the motivations of my other characters. I think it was your editorial report, Rachel, that suddenly turned on a light switch. There was one coincidence too many to make it a satisfying read, but then I realised that if everything was calculated beforehand by devious dealings, it wouldn't be a coincidence at all. So I went through the book again with this in mind and changed, in subtle ways, quite a few of the characters' relationships with one another – whether they realised it, or not.
Rachel: You did a fab job of connecting everything and everyone!
Originally Angus's brother and sister-in-law were named Avery and Elizabeth. Be honest, what was your gut reaction when I asked you to change them due to looking too similar on the page to the hero and heroine's names?
Beverley: Actually, it felt so right to change them to Jonathan and Caroline. I'd vaguely been conscious that the names Angus and Avery were a little too similar, but had dismissed it when there seemed so much else that was more important. And Emily and Elizabeth both started with E and that was distracting, I saw when you pointed it out. I think in the overall scheme of things that they were really important changes to make.
Thanks so much for having me to blog, Rachel. I absolutely adored working with you on The Reluctant Bride and the editing process was really enjoyable. You really helped me to produce a much better book.
Rachel: *blushing* Thank you, Beverley.
Can honour and action banish the shadows of old sins?
Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn soldier who represents her only escape from destitution.
Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful slate-grey eyes of two strikingly similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride.
Emily’s loyalty to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s determination to atone for the past and win his wife with honour and action. As Napoleon cuts a swathe across Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront both her allegiance to Jack and her traitorous half-French family.
Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?
Published by Choc Lit. Available internationally in paperback and various ebook formats.
Visit Beverley's website and blog, check out her full list of books at Goodreads
(Beverley Oakley books here), and connect with her via social media on twitter, Beverley Eikli's facebook profile and Beverley Oakely's facebook page.
Beverley wrote her first romance novel when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page (p550!) was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.
After throwing in her secure job on a metropolitan daily to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure.
Seventeen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s during low-level survey sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland's ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband and two daughters in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne
She writes traditional Regency Romance as Beverley Eikli and sensual and erotic historical romance as Beverley Oakley.