Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author Penny Hampson, to share her thoughts on writing romance with us.
Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me here.
I came to writing quite late in life, so I feel like I am just catching up. As a historian, I’m an avid reader of stories set in the past, so when it came to writing my own, they too had to have a historical setting. Because I’m a lover of all things Georgian and Regency, my historical stories are set in the early 1800s.
At the very beginning of my writing journey I joined the New Writers’s Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and this meant that I received invaluable feedback and advice on my work.
My three historical books are all self-published and they form my Gentlemen Series. A Gentleman’s Promise, my debut novel, is currently being re-edited and it will be re-released early in 2021. An Officer’s Vow and A Bachelor’s Pledge are the next books in the series, though each can be read as a standalone. There are also at least a couple more stories to come.
My first contemporary novel, The Unquiet Spirit, was published by Darkstroke earlier this year. Writing this was a bit of a departure for me, with it’s present-day setting and supernatural elements, but there is also a good helping of romance and a strong historical thread running through it. As you might guess, I’m rather obsessed with history!
I’ve always enjoyed reading romance novels, especially when life has been a bit stressful. I think they offer much needed escapism and comfort when times are tough. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and creating two characters who develop a relationship is an opportunity for me to explore and create believable characters.
What inspires your stories?
Lots of different things inspire my stories. For instance, The Unquiet Spirit was inspired by a house I saw for sale on the internet – I wondered what it would be like to live in a house like that. It became The Beeches in my story, a house that had some interesting and spooky secrets.
Another story that I’m currently working on was inspired by a British newspaper report of 1812 about a young French emigré who came to a bit of a sticky end. My young lady however, will have a much better outcome!
Locations also inspire me. I love Falmouth, Cornwall, in the South West of England, having spent several holidays there. It has a long and interesting history and I utilised some of that history in my historical novel, A Bachelor’s Pledge. Falmouth also plays a large part in my contemporary romance story, The Unquiet Spirit.
Another favourite place of mine is Bath, which will be familiar to any lovers of Jane Austen. Bath too, has appeared in both my historical and contemporary stories. With its fabulous architecture and stunning setting it is truly an inspirational place.
Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?
Gosh, I’ve got lots of favourite authors. However, for stories set in the Regency period, my go-to author is Georgette Heyer. I’d also hesitate to call her a romance author, because her stories are much more than that. Having re-read many of them recently, I was surprised to discover that several that I’d thought of as romances are anything but. I’m thinking of titles such as A Civil Contract which is in fact a realistic portrayal of a marriage rather than a fairytale romance, or The Foundling, which is more like a coming-of-age story.
For present day romance authors, I enjoy reading Mary-Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, and the late Jo Beverley.
If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?
This is a very difficult question to answer! But given no choice, I’d recommend Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer, which tells the tale of the tempestuous Deborah Grantham and the man who is out to ruin her plans, Max Ravenscar. If you enjoy sparkling, witty dialogue, you will enjoy this book, the verbal sparring between this pair is some of Heyer’s best work. Packed with rich comedy, Heyer’s plot weaves its magic, and it is delightful to see how she brings two such unlikely personalities together. And of course she sets it in a world that is recognisably Regency, real facts about places, people, and events are inserted in an unobtrusive and natural way.
Renowned gamester and the first to admit that he is entirely void of a romantic disposition, Max Ravenscar regards all eligible females with indifference and unconcern.
But when he meets the woman his young cousin Adrian is bent on marrying – the beautiful Deborah Grantham, mistress of her aunt’s gaming house – he finds that none of his experience in risk and gambling has prepared him for such a worthy opponent.
Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?
There are so many wonderful romantic heroes to choose from, it is difficult to make a choice. I think I’d prefer to spend the weekend with a group of my favourite heroes and heroines from the Regency period. It would be a weekend party at a rural stately home, with lots of walks in the countryside, sumptuous rooms, delicious food, and no washing-up! I might even persuade one of the gentlemen to teach me to ride a horse – something I’ve only ever done once. How nice it would be to go for a gallop and then come back to a blazing log fire. And a weekend like this would involve so many changes of clothes: morning dresses, walking dresses, riding habits, pelisses, spencers, and bonnets. For someone like me who lives in jeans, it would be quite a novelty, but I’d really enjoy putting on a fabulous evening dress for dinner.
What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?
Where do I start? It’s great feeling a part of the community of romance authors and sharing ideas and information. Before Covid, my local chapter met up for lunch once a month and I rarely left one without having learned something new or receiving encouragement – a real boost when you feel you’re getting nowhere with your writing. You can guarantee one thing, romance authors are a very supportive group.
The best thing about the RNA is the New Writers’ Scheme. This set me on my journey to becoming a published author. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of becoming an author.
What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?
I’d advise them to join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme! It’s the best place to go to get honest feedback on your work from professionals who thoroughly understand the romance genre.
Tell us about your most recent novel.
My latest book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is an action-filled adventure set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. At its core is the growing romance between secret agent Phil Cullen and lady’s companion Sophia Turner. Both have their reasons for not wishing to see each other again, but circumstances and a ruthless French spy set their lives on a collision course.
A Bachelor’s Pledge is available as an ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) and a paperback from Amazon here.
The woman who haunts his dreams
Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbody’s establishment has absconded from his housekeeper’s care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.
The man she wants to forget
Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.
But fate has other plans…
Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.
Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?
About the Author
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
Connect with Penny:
Facebook: Penny Hampson Author