Not being the most religious sort, for me, the notion of Easter usually conjures up thoughts of overindulging in chocolate and hot cross buns. This year, it's more likely than ever that many of us will be stuck at home and once the chocolate and hot cross buns have run out (if you've included those in your Corona prepping) we'll be looking for other ways to pass the time. Of course, my pastime of choice would always be reading and what better Easter indulgence than this super looking anthology, Easter Promises, from four historical romance authors.
I was intrigued as to how they came together and worked as a team, so I shot them a few questions. You can read their responses below. You'll also be happy to hear that Sarah Fiddelaers' responses are visibly absent, not because of any virus or illness, but because she has recently had a baby - my best wishes to her and her little one!
What or who inspired you to become a writer?
When I was a kid, I loved movies and was obsessed with them – so writing and being a writer initially fell into the category of wanting to be a screenwriter. I used to write plays for friends to perform! A very serious career counsellor told me, I’d be better off concentrating on my other skills which were in science and maths, so for some time life went in another direction, and I became a research scientist. But I always loved English and the written word. My Mum was a great reader, and I was encouraged to read from a young age.
Ava: I am the only girl in a large family of boys so reading was an escape from all the fart jokes and hitting things with sticks (seriously, why so much hitting things with sticks?! Can anyone explain?). I have always been intrigued by the writing process, and I'm always to be found with my hand up asking questions at author talks around Brisbane.
Clare: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write; I’ve always been drawn to it. I remember in primary school the other kids complaining when we had to do creative writing, but I was that kid who was writing pages and pages as fast as I could. I also wrote fan fiction about the Backstreet Boys before it was a thing … with me and Nick Carter, of course. Now I get twitchy if I haven’t written in a couple of days. It’s very much a part of who I am.
Where did this all start? How did you meet? What was it that drew you together as a group?
The Romance Writers of Australia Conference!
Clare and Sarah had already met at a Melbourne RWA meet up, and they became firm friends; Nancy and Clare connected online before meeting at the conference after both finaling in a RWA competition; but we really met and came together as a group at the conference. Ava and Clare got chatting in one of the breakout rooms before pitching to publishers, and they bonded over nerves (and Clare’s amazing skirt!). We quickly discovered we were all historical writers and the rest, as they say, is history.
(Also Clare called me hilarious and as I’m the one collating these comments I want to leave that in LOL – Ava)
How did you come up with the idea for the anthology?
Clare: When I was pitching my manuscript at the RWA conference last year, I had one of the publishers ask me if I had any historical work published already, and I hadn’t. It obviously had been ticking around in the back of my mind because when other writing friends said they were doing a Christmas anthology this light bulb went off and I thought about a historical anthology. I asked Sarah and she was just as excited at the prospect as me, so we asked Nancy and January if they wanted to come in on it,
There were a lot of Christmas anthologies being marketed at the time, so I thought it was a great idea to do one for Easter! And just like that, Easter Promises was conceived!
How did you go about working together collaboratively as a group? What do you think are the benefits of working in that way?
We live in four different states, so working together was interesting! We hit messenger HARD on occasions and had lengthy facetime conversations well into the night (even later for some due to the time difference!). Keeping on track was often difficult as we tend to discuss everything and anything.
We loved the poll function on messenger and always checked in with each other – if one person wasn’t happy with something, it was back to the drawing board.
It was fantastic having 3 critique partners with very different styles, and our stories are much the better for it. We helped each other brainstorm names, endings and even what type of moustache was the sexiest!
The best, best thing was the lack of competitiveness – we all respected each others opinions and ideas and have come out of this process friends.
What do you think a reader looks for in a historical short story? (What did you have in mind when you wrote yours? What resources did you use?)
We are all avid historical readers ourselves, and we want to be carried away to another time with rich and emotive settings. It's great when a story has a touch of realism about it, like Clare’s story with Howard Hughes and his planes, and Nancy’s story set in the Somme.
Research is key for any historical story, and while a lot of the research might not make it in to the story, it informs you as a writer about your characters, and makes it easier to write complex, three dimensional personalities. As Nancy says, historical readers are looking to be carried away to a different time, and for them to be drawn into the world you are creating as an author from the very first sentence. Clare likes the glamourous and traumatic parts of history and Nancy prides herself on torturing her characters. Sarah creates beautifully emotive worlds that transport you and Ava digs the periods when women were walking the knife's edge of social change.
Tell us a little bit about the anthology as a whole and each of your stories.
Ava: Le Malin Renard was inspired by an online conversation with Sarah who was telling me about a story she’d recently read about a Fabergé egg worth 20 million dollars which had been found at a scrap metal dealer in rural America. I became intrigued by what had happened to the Fabergé eggs – they were mostly collected by an avid collector in the 1930’s who somehow managed to lose them all in mysterious circumstances. When we discussed doing an Easter-inspired anthology, I just knew I would write about the Faberge Easter egg, ‘Rosebud’ given by ‘Dear Nicky’ to the woman he had been in love with since he was a young man. We had agreed to keep our stories in the 20th century, so I created a story about a group of mysterious strangers who found themselves isolated from the rest of the world, all on the hunt for the Rosebud necklace.
Clare: My story follows Rosamund, a smart and very successful actress, who loves aviation. Historically actresses were quite often locked into long contracts, mostly 7 years, and to get out of that was near impossible, unless the actress was sold to another studio. When the US entered WW2 Rosamund wanted to do more and so she hatched a plan to escape her contract and serve her country … with some love thrown in.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) were incredible pioneers and what they did would terrify most male pilots. I had such so many crazy things and stories I could have put in but didn’t have the word count! Their experience is a movie just waiting to be made.
Nancy: My story is about a dedicated Nurse, Ivy, on the battlefields of WW1. She meets a handsome Australian doctor with a larrikin streak – and although first at odds with each other, they soon find they have a lot in common which draws them together. I got the idea for the story after reading a research paper about the flora of the Somme – and how its renewal was tied in with the trauma on the landscape. And from it the theme sprang– that although we are forever altered by trauma – from it hope can spring too.
As mentioned previously, Sarah is currently loved up in Newbabyland so Ava’s take on her story (I hope I do it justice!) is this: The story follows Minnie, a young debutante on the verge of womanhood who is faced with losing either the glamourous life she thinks she loves or the man she knows she loves. The cast of characters we meet are all characters in Sarah’s current WIP, Easter Dawn, a beautifully written, evocative novel. Sarah manages to create really wonderful characters that have powerfully developed arcs and the setting is equally beautiful.
What next? Do you plan on doing another anthology? If so, when? What goals do each of you have for this year?
Yes, we do! We will be releasing another anthology on 16th November, so please watch out for that!
Anything else you can share about what is in the pipeline for all of you?
Ava’s debut novel, The Lady Detective, a romance featuring a lady detective in 1890’s London, will be released on 1st May 2020.
Clare is currently working on a historical novel set during World War Two and editing a contemporary manuscript (hopefully, to published later this year).
Nancy has two manuscripts she is working on: both are modern historical stories, one set during World War Two in rural South Australia (a historical rural romance) and the other set between the wars in rural Western Australia. Professionally she is working on a literature review for Australian Sheep Blowfly, which might sound a tad dull (and icky!), but she believes history, science and love play a part in that story too.
You can buy the ebook here;
Or a printed copy here: https://avajanuary.storenvy.com/
If you want to know more about these authors you can find them via the links below:
Clare: www.claregriffin.comFacebook and Instagram: ClareGriffinWriter
Ava: www.avajanuary.comFacebook and Instagram: Authoravajanuary
Nancy: Instagram: nan_writes facebook: Nancy Cunningham
Sarah: www.sarahfiddelaers.comFacebook and Instagram: Sarah Fiddelaers