Do you publicly acknowledge Arabella Sheraton as a nom de plume? If not then this question is moot. If so then, how did you settle on the name – inspiration for the choice?
I didn’t at first. I wanted to keep my two personas separate, but when I did start telling people (after swearing them to secrecy), I found that people were intrigued, interested, and I got more ‘coverage’ for both Fiona Ingram (myself) and Arabella Sheraton (my nom de guerre). The name came about from a Georgette Heyer novel, Arabella, and the Arabella Sheraton Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. It sounded so Regency-ish that I just had to adopt it.
What made you decide that Regency Romances were the way for you – and for those who do not know what an RR is, could you explain that?
Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive not so much from the 19th-century contemporary works of Jane Austen, but rather from Georgette Heyer, who wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974, and from the fiction genre known as the ‘novel of manners.’ In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex. I loved reading Jane Austen’s novels, and my mother had all the Georgette Heyer novels so I ended up reading those many times. One day my aged mum said she was tired of Big Name Publisher’s Regency and historical romance novels all sounding the same and could I write her one. Ever up for a challenge, I said yes.
How old were you when you first tried to write and what did you write first (short story, novel etc)?
I have written comical poetry and family plays (I have four brothers so always a large cast of willing players), as well as telling my brothers and their friends spooky stories since I was ten. My first real story was an on-going serial called Gruesome Gables, and involved five children (us) trapped in a haunted house, fighting off skeletons, vampires, ghosts and other monsters. We always won!
Your first romance was The Dangerous Duke. How did that form?
That was when my mum asked me to write her a Regency romance and I said, “Sure, why not. How about The Dangerous Duke!” The rest is Regency history and the beginnings of Arabella’s stellar writing career.
What is your process for writing? Are you rigid or fluidic – set time of day, set place, set conditions? What steps came after having readied your first romance? How did you come to choose the publishing route and what were the pros and cons?
I can write anywhere, any time, but I prefer my little office at the bottom of the garden. I have an editing job, plus I teach online novel writing, plus I have to market for Arabella and myself, so as you can imagine, time is short. I think a lot about what I am writing at the time, so when I get a gap, it’s all there in my head. I am self-published as a middle grade author. As a romance writer, I continued to write them for Mum, and by accident (through a writing newsletter!) found a publisher that loved the books. Now I am a hybrid author. Pros and cons? I think those apply to any form of publishing. The most important thing is to make sure your work meets the highest publishing standards, and to get your books into readers’ hands.
Typically, how long does it take you to get through a first draft of a novel? Do you tend to revise as you go or is it plotted all the way through?
The Dangerous Duke took me a year to write, simply because I hadn’t written a romance before. As I have written more romance books, the time it takes is shorter. I think this is because one becomes better at anything the longer one does it. I think of either a title and create a story around it, or think of a story and create a title from it. I jot down all the characters, relationships, and major plot points, then I start typing. My middle grade novels are part of an adventure series and take a lot more time and research, although I still plot and create characters etc using pen and paper first.
What is the best feedback you have received from a reader?
As Arabella, that my romance books are just like reading Georgette Heyer – what a compliment. As Fiona, that my middle grade adventures are just like Harry Potter, but without magic wands. Also a great compliment.
Why do you believe the romance market is still a strong readers’ market?
Romance taps into that deep longing in all of us to be loved, appreciated, cared for, and made to feel special. Romance novels tell us that dreams are possible and although reality bites, romance reminds us of those dreams.
Book or ebook preference and why?
Absolutely real books. I grew up with real books and the feel of the books, the turning of pages, seeing all one’s books in a huge set of bookshelves (which I have in my home) is just not the same as a reading device. That said, the convenience of an e-reader is unsurpassed, but somehow a real book has a familiarity than can’t be replaced.
What lies ahead?
As Fiona Ingram, I am about to launch Book 3 in The Chronicles of the Stone: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, another exciting middle grade adventure. As Arabella, I am working on (wait for it!) a time travel murder/mystery Regency romance entitled To Murder a Marquis. I have always wanted to write a murder mystery and now here’s my chance. And who doesn’t find the idea of time travel intriguing?
You can reach Fiona/Arabella at the following social media outlets:
Fiona Ingram: @FionaRobyn and please visit www.chroniclesofthestone.com
Arabella Sheraton: @ArabellSheraton and please visit http://regencyromances.webs.com/