Today I am delighted to welcome author, Elisabeth Hobbes, to the blog to discuss how and why she writes about romance.
Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
I write historical romance with a touch of intrigue and quite gritty, especially in my Medievals. My characters tend to be ordinary people rather than nobility.
I’ve published ten Historical Romances with Mills & Boon covering the Medieval to Victorian periods, and a Second World War Romantic Historical with One More Chapter. I have further books coming out with them both publishers this year. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to explore the relationship between supporting characters as well as the romantic couple. My current WIP is set in Occupied Paris and focuses as much on the relationship between the two female main characters as it does with their respective love interests.
Because any other genre, whether Historical, Mystery or Fantasy is enriched by a strengthening relationship between characters and a HEA. In fact some of my favourite authors mix romance in with their stories but would never be described as such. It’s pure escapism (I’ve never understood why that gets used as a pejorative) and I love the emotional attachment to characters you get as a reader.
What inspires your stories?
It’s never the same thing twice. A picture or an object can spark inspiration. Sometimes it’s a place. Uncovering the Merchant’s Secret was inspired by one of my trips to Brittany and reading about the shipwrecks off the coast. It seemed such a wonderful setting. I inadvertently wrote a trilogy involving one family after readers wanted to know what happened to the villain in The Blacksmith’s Wife after he walked out of that story. He became the hero of Redeeming the Rogue Knight. My Victorian marriage of convenience story The Silk Merchant’s Convenient Wife grew out of a workshopping session at the RNA conference where we were given a scenario to work with.
The inspiration for my recent release The Secret Agent came from watching Cabaret and imagining what it would be like to be part of the glamorous but seedy world of the clubs. My heroine Sylvie was inspired by some of the real life heroines who worked for the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, living undercover in occupied Europe and risking their lives daily to help free Europe.
Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?
I have to say Jane Austen or course. I can read Persuasion over and over without getting bored. As I’ve said, I love stories where there are other elements besides Romance. Two of my favourite couples across any genre are Sam Vimes and Lady Sybli from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and M. Didius Falco and Helena Justina from Lindsay Davis’ Roman detective series.
I’m very lucky to have some close friends who write romance (and who I have met through the RNA) so I’m not going to choose a favourite. We all hang out on Facebook in the Unlaced Historical Romance Group so come say hello there.
If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?
Of mine I’d say The Secret Agent I miss travelling and it is set in Nantes which is one of my favourite cities which I think everyone should visit.
As I’ve said above though, I adore Persuasion and I think everyone should read that. I love a second chance story.
What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances.
A woman of no importance, she manoeuvres in her restricted circumstances as her long-time love Captain Wentworth did in the wars. Even though she is nearly thirty, well past the sell-by bloom of youth, Austen makes her win out for herself and for others like herself, in a regenerated society.
Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel, even picking it apart for my English Lit A level didn’t manage to kill my love for it! Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?
I’ve just taken up paddleboarding so I’d like Captain Frederick Wentworth to get my sea legs sorted out on a weekend in Brittany. Once we’d spent an hour or so drying off on the beach we would drive in an open top classic of some sort to Concarneau which is a beautiful medieval walled town on the coast. We’d get Vietnamese caramel pork and kouign amann syrup cakes from the weekly market and sit on the battlements looking at the sea with a couple of mojitos. Can you tell I’m missing France at all!
What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?
The sense of community is something else. I’ve met so many wonderful people who are incredibly generous with their time and expertise. I’ve made some great friends (who I would probably drag for coffee if we lived closer).
In terms of my career, I was able to take advantage of a 1-1 at the conference a couple of years ago and was picked up by Charlotte from One More Chapter. I sent her my opening chapters and proposal for the piece I won the Elizabeth Goudge trophy for and she offered me a two-book contract. That book will be coming out later this year or early 2022.
What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?
Read as many other authors as you can. One of the best books on writing romance I have come across is Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes.
What makes a romance novel a romance? How do you write a kissing book?
Writing a well-structured romance isn’t the same as writing any other genre—something the popular novel and screenwriting guides don’t address. The romance arc is made up of its own story beats, and the external plot and theme need to be braided to the romance arc—not the other way around.
Told in conversational (and often irreverent) prose, Romancing the Beat can be read like you are sitting down to coffee with romance editor and author Gwen Hayes while she explains story structure. The way she does with her clients. Some of whom are regular inhabitants of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.
Romancing the Beat is a recipe, not a rigid system. The beats don’t care if you plot or outline before you write, or if you pants your way through the drafts and do a “beat check” when you’re revising. Pantsers and plotters are both welcome. So sit down, grab a cuppa, and let’s talk about kissing books.
I know you said one but I have to say, join the RNA and attend a conference if you get the opportunity. Being surrounded by like-minded people who understand what it is like to spend hours trying to find the perfect word while the washing piles up is a great feeling.
Tell us about your most recent novel.
The Secret Agent is set in Occupied Nantes and tells the story of Sylvie, a half French, half English woman who left France aged 14 after the death of her cabaret dancer mother. She is recruited by SOE to work as a dancer in a nightclub while working undercover as a courier liaising with the French Resistance. She catches the eye of Dieter, a young German civil servant who she is instructed to cultivate in order to discover information. In turn Sylvie is attracted to the club’s enigmatic pianist, Felix. It’s partly a coming-of-age story as Sylvie has never fitted in to life in England with her straight-laced father and stepmother. As Sylvie becomes involved in the life of the club she discovers the side of herself she had suppressed as well as a ‘found family’ that her relationship with Dieter puts into jeopardy. You can buy it in all formats here.
Dropping silently behind enemy lines, Sylvia Crichton, codename Monique, is determined to fight for the country of her birth and save it from its Nazi stranglehold.
As one of the dancers at the nightclub Mirabelle, Sylvie’s mission is to entertain the club’s German clientele and learn their secrets. In a world of deception and lies, she can trust no one. Not even Mirabelle’s enigmatic piano player Felix… a part of the resistance or a collaborator?
But despite her SOE training, nothing can prepare Sylvie for the horrors she is about to face – or the pain of losing those she grows closer to undercover…
About the Author
Elisabeth’s writing career began when she entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013. She finished in third place and was offered a two-book contract and consequently had to admit this was why the house was such a tip. Since then she has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon covering the Medieval period to Victorian England and a Second World War romantic historical with One More Chapter.
Elisabeth teaches Reception four days a week but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike four-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them. When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book. She loves historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers and romance, and has a fondness for dark haired, bearded heroes.
Elisabeth enjoys skiing, singing, and exploring tourist attractions with her family. Her children are resigned to spending their weekends visiting the past while she leans too far over battlements to get photos. She loves hot and sour soup and ginger mojitos – but not at the same time.
She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.
Connect with Elisabeth: