Bringing history to life with Caroline Warfield
Discovering Diamonds (independent reviews of historical fiction) first led me to award winning author Caroline Warfield, because her book Christmas Hope seemed a perfect match for my own The Stars in the Night. (Put them together for a perfect present!) Caroline excels at family-centred romance set in the Regency and Victorian eras.
Caroline has been many things: traveller, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun.
She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.
Welcome, Caroline, and thank you for speaking with me on Last Word of the Week. Can you tell us about the first book you read for yourself—or bought for yourself?
Caroline: All writers are avid readers—we have to be. I don’t remember not reading so this question is hard. A more vivid memory isn’t so much the first book I bought for myself but the moment I liberated myself from the children’s section of the public library. The door to that building was in the center, and for years I turned to the right to the children’s section when I came in. One day at twelve I turned left instead of right. No one stopped me—it was a heady and powerful feeling. The book I took out that day was Jane Eyre.
How wonderfully liberating. What words of advice would you give an aspiring author?
The best advice I ever got was simple. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Just sit down and do it. What is more to the point, keep doing it every day. Don’t diddle, talk, or dream about it. Do it.
Do it. Of course! Is writers block a thing for you?
Yes, although it is usually less dramatic than a complete block. I will cruise along writing 1-2000 words a day on a book, hit a speed bump and come to a screeching halt. Some of it is that I can’t envision the next steps of the plot, but I’m learning that the underlying issue is usually that I’ve failed to get well enough acquainted with the characters—their personality, life, wounds, scars, underlying goals…that sort of thing. Once I know them well, and I’ve put them in a situation, the writing flows. When I hit a wall, it is time to go back to character charts and backstory for a while.
Character charts – why didn’t I think of that?! What’s the best response you’ve ever had to your writing?
My favourite praise is “I was up all night finishing your book.” SIGH
That is high praise indeed. Lovely! Your focus is on historical novels – how much research is involved in your writing?
Heaps—especially when I allow some impulse to set characters down in a setting and historical situation about which I know little. The worst was the time I sent a character to India and realized I knew nothing about the East India Company, the country itself or its culture. Research, research, research.
With a fabulous reason to do more of our favourite thing – reading! Do you get feedback about your story, before it’s published?
Always. I drop little excerpts of my WIP to reader groups on Facebook as I write, and I always get it to beta readers before I do one final self-edit before sending it to the publisher.
That sounds like a good feedback system. What’s your writing goal for the next twelve months?
I’m doing something a little different this year. I have two projects in process at once. Because readers like series, and they don’t like long waits between books, I’m holding on to finished manuscripts. But I’m writing two series at once. The first is a new set of books in my British Empire series using sons and daughters of characters in my earlier books. We’re up to about 1840 in that saga. Book one is finished in rough draft. That one, The Price of Glory, takes place primarily in Egypt and Nubia. The other series is more of a traditional Regency world, it covers two interrelated families around a coaching inn in a village in the English Midlands. The hero of book one in that series is half-brother to both families, the innkeeper’s and the earl’s, who has been called home reluctantly in 1817 after leaving for good (he thought) fifteen years before. My goal for 2020 is to have the two books in the Empire series and one in the other finished, with two other stories well under way
That’s a big year you have in front of you, but it sounds fascinating. What’s your favourite genre to read?
I read historical books. Mysteries, romance, straight up fiction, non-fiction, biographies—if its historical it will find its way on to my to-be-read pile.
I bet we have a few overlapping favourite authors. Where do you get inspiration or ideas from?
Often, ideas come to me from travel. I once sat in a café in Rome and asked myself whether I could set a Regency novel in Rome. Turns out I could and Dangerous Secrets has become one of my favourites. I also rely on reading, on my own previous books, and, of course, bits of historical trivia.
Do you plan your books, or do you listen to your muse?
I rely entirely on the girls in the basement. I fill them with settings, history, and characters and they give me back stories. If I do my preliminary work regarding characters and setting, and we agree on some key turning points, the girls and I, it works. Over-planning puts them to sleep.
What a delightful process! Is it easy for you to meet other writers?
Not always but it is vital. Since I moved to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania I no longer belong to a local chapter. Luckily, I have made some excellent friends online. We brainstorm, read each other’s work, and encourage one another. Every year we produce a collection of new stories with interrelated story elements. One year it was a house party overrun with kittens (Holly and Hopeful Hearts). One year it was a Valentine’s Day ball (Valentines from Bath). This year, timed for Valentine’s Day, it is Fire & Frost in which all five stories converge at the 1814 frost fair on the frozen Thames.
How marvellous! I must say, Caroline, I love your work. Thank you so much for sharing today.
You can see Caroline’s wonderful works one her bookshelf at https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/
You can find more about the stories in Fire & Frost and links to various retailers here: https://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/fire-frost/
You can find all Caroline’s books here: https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/
You can follow progress, find excerpts, and learn about her characters here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WarfieldFellowTravelers/
Caroline’s other links: