May 1, 2007
Jane Feather has been delighting readers with her historical romances for more than 20 years. With settings as varied as Russia, Afghanistan, and Regency England, Feather manages to tell beautiful and romantic stories. Her characters can be as varied as her story settings, and her stories rarely feel repetitive. The author was kind enough to agree to an interview where she shared some insight into her writing and why, after many published books, she still loves what she does.
You have been publishing historical romance for more than 20 years now. What are some of the biggest changes that you have noticed in the industry?
I think some of the biggest changes have come in the content of romance itself. Finally, the stereotypical dominant, and frequently chauvinistic, male has given way to a more sensitive, and I suppose politically correct character type. One could argue that it’s a somewhat anachronistic portrayal of an 18th19th century male, but it makes for a more rounded character and a more interesting relationship between hero and heroine. By the same token, the heroines are less dependent, more adventurous, less childlike, if you will. Of course, in terms of the industry itself, romantic fiction has now been accepted as in the main stream of mass market fiction, rightly so since the genre occupies a front place in popularity. It’s a welcome change to feel that one doesn’t have to defend a choice to write romance. Many times over the years people have asked why I don’t write a “proper” book. As if somehow romances lack the essentials of fiction: character, plot, narrative drive, and well-developed emotional relationships.
Of all of your books, are there any books or characters that are special favorites of yours?
The more complex and unusual the historical setting, the more I enjoy the writing. And the same goes for the romantic relationship. The harder it is to resolve the obstacles between hero and heroine the greater pleasure I get from the writing of it.
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One of the things that I love about your books is that they are set in a wide variety of times and places. How do you decide on the settings for your stories?
I use history as my jumping off point. Find a strange and true event anywhere in the world and use it as plot background. There are more than enough extraordinary historical events to keep an author like myself writing for decades. The more esoteric the event, the more exotic the setting, the more fun I have. Bold Destiny was set in Afghanistan at the time of the Kabul massacre at the end of the 19th century. Now that was a challenge, to produce a credible romance about an event from which only one person came out alive.
As a follow-up to my last question, do you ever feel pressured by publishers or agents to use certain settings?
There’s a lot of pressure to write Regencies these days. It’s a strange reversal, since the first historical I wrote which was set in the French Revolution was turned down by a publisher on the grounds that it was essentially a Regency and “you can’t give Regencies away.” I think publishing is like the weather in Colorado. If you don’t like it, wait five minutes.
You mention that there is a lot of pressure to write Regencies now. Do you plan to return to other settings in the future?
I’d really like to return to the 17th and 18th centuries. The English Civil War has always been a passion of mine, and Georgian England offers a great deal of historical scope.
Your most recent release, A Wicked Gentleman, features a romance between a widow and a widower. These characters struck me as more mature than the historical leads I’ ve gotten used to seeing and I really enjoyed them. What inspired you to write their story?
I do like writing about real grown-ups these days, and a sexually experienced heroine is much more liberating to write about than an ingenue. A woman who’s also a mother gives one a lot of scope for character development. And I like heroes with a past, particularly a secret shame.
What books do you have planned for the near future?
The last two books of the Cavendish Square trilogy are up next. I’ve just about finished the second one, and then I intend to write a mainstream historical, which I’m very excited about. I haven’t fixed on the central historical character as yet, but there are many tempting possibilities out there. I can’t wait to get my teeth in the research.
I’ll be intrigued to see your mainstream historical. Do you have an expected release date for it yet?
Pocket Books will release it, assuming it works for them, at some point in the next couple of years. I have to write it first.
Many authors now have a presence on the Internet. Do you have any plans to launch an author website?
I keep meaning to, but other things are always getting in the way.
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