Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. What can you tell us about yourself?
Oddly, I had no encouragement to become a writer, though my parents spent a fortune trying to find out what I was good at. They took me to a vocational testing service which determined that I’d be a good plumber. This was NOT what upwardly mobile immigrants’ children wanted to hear! Yet despite the fact that I wrote a page of iambic pentameter for pleasure.
(I still have it; it starts “Whence come these clanks and moans of darkest night?”). I also wrote and composed a theme song, and performed (with my sister for our family) for a parody Western. This was the age of nothing but Westerns on TV). I told stories to the other kids in day camp and read voraciously. It never occurred to my parents that writing / journalism was an actual career. I wasted years of aimless education and didn’t write my first novel till I was 39. One day, I want to write an article about this to encourage other late bloomers.
I apologise for the lack of social media presence. I’m just too old to learn all that stuff.
What do you do for fun?
Read! I also read. I read a lot, too. Before I was slightly disabled, I used to go walking, and went backpacking in the Scottish Highlands a number of times, ALWAYS in the rain (not deliberately). I used a lot of the territory I covered in a book, so it paid for itself in the end. (It rained in the book, too.)
Who or what inspires you the most?
Now that’s a bit of a poser, because to me “inspire” means to generate in someone the desire to go out and do something. Superb writing inspires me to try to improve my own style. But when I see injustices or hypocrisy or societal flaws, I’m also inspired to write books highlighting these issues. Unfortunately, so far, people seem to get so caught up in the story that they ignore my message! On the whole, my Regencies have no particular axe to grind; they’re just pleasant reading – inspired by Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen – and by the desire to write graceful, entertaining prose without the (supposed) need for smut.
Are there any deep themes or messages in the book the readers should be aware of?
I don’t think so, though I believe most people are kind and thoughtful – and so my characters are, too. I know it makes me sound like Pollyanna, but thankfully, I’ve seldom been disappointed. One small section includes some Jewish characters who don’t fit the usual trope because I was tired of seeing it.
What gave you the idea for this book?
I haven’t the faintest idea. The characters came first, I’m almost sure. I liked them so much I had to give them a story.
How long did the book take to write?
I think about a year. A lot of the research I’d done for the previous one (A Detestable Name) still was in my mind, so it was easier in some ways than the first Regency.
Who designed the cover?
After all the agony I went through for the first one (I’d depended on the artist to provide an image, and she never really understood what I was after), I was a lot more au fait with the procedure. For The Wastrel’s Daughters, not only did I find an excellent cover artist, I found my own image – a fashion plate from Ackermann’s Repository. Steven Novak, my artist, designed the rest – layout, colour, font. It looks quite different from the usual Regency or romance novel, which I think is a good idea, because it’s more a romantic historical than a historical romance.
Do you write in other genres?
Aside from the other Regency, my other books are primarily aimed at the observant Jewish market. It’s very much a niche market, and quite a small one. Most of the books I’ve written for that readership are also historicals, settings ranging from 12thC to early 20thC, but I’ve also written a parody thriller and a collection of imitation Sherlock Holmes detective stories. I’ve also written two historicals for girls, and a couple of adventure (very mild adventure!) books for pre-teen boys. I write short stories, too, ranging from ordinary contemporary ones to SF and fantasy. Sometimes, if I’m very lucky, one of my short stories sells. I once sold a poem, too.
I also narrated one of my books for someone, but the project never came to fruition (company went out of business). I used to do a bit of voice acting for local radio till their grant ran out.
Oh – and I wrote a few “amdram” plays and a couple of musicals (which were performed and made a decent sum for charity), and even a bit of the music for one of them – I was thrilled when our musical director said some of it was good enough to use.
So I kind of flail around trying to use every ability but I’m not really good enough to succeed at any of them, aside from writing.
Tell us about one other book or series and why it’s important to you.
Ah, now that’s probably two of the Jewish ones which are companion volumes, A Stranger to My Brothers, and Who Is Like Your People?. In both, I was protesting (gently) about issues I perceived in the way our religious society operates, and how “insiders” deal with newcomers – things like bias, unconscious hypocrisy, nepotism, and so on. Did anybody get the messages? Probably not. But at least I had my say.
What other writers/people do you consider inspirational? If they’re authors, what about their work captures your interest?
Terry Pratchett, not only for his brilliance, his creative mind, his sense of humour, and his superbly-crafted writing, but also for his perception and wisdom, his decency, and his kindness. He was a lovely person – I made a point of meeting him whenever he came to my city on a signing tour and we used to sit talking in the hotel lobby till midnight (my husband thought I was a little crazy) – and I still miss him.
What got you into writing?
I think writing got into me. It’s a kind of compulsion. I’d only written opinion pieces for a local Jewish newspaper until one year when I wasn’t working, I started a Jewish YA historical out of frustration because at the time the quality of much of the reading matter for our children was substandard. That novel was unique – it had well-drawn characters, a sensible plot, and solid, reliable research – and it made my name. After over 35 years, it’s still selling. It’s into its third generation of readers!
What is your writing process?
It varies. I wrote my very first novel from 10pm to 2am every night for a year. I had a houseful of children, and yes, they and my husband were neglected, the house was a mess, and I was a zombie (my husband says zombie is the wrong word; it was something far more frightful). Other times, I had sudden bursts of activity, then periods of stagnation. I used to get a lot done inside my head while I walked to the supermarket; now that I walk a lot less, I fall asleep over the latest problem.
When do you consider a work complete?
When I can’t stand looking at it any more, because I chew compulsively at every loose end. But that’s before the editor steps in. There’s more work, then. I’ve been blessed with a number of excellent editors, and even now, when I have more confidence and finally understand that if something makes me feel faintly uneasy, that means it’s TERRIBLE and needs complete rewriting, I still find a good editor a treasure.
- What are you non-writing hobbies or interests?
My house has a hillside garden too big for me, or my gardeners, or my bank account to cope with, but I do love to have something open and green to look at. It’s not the gardening per se, it’s the fact that you have to put work in to create a beautiful garden. My current gardener has great respect for me because I know the (Latin) names of what I’ve planted. Apparently most people just say “That nice pink thing”. But how else can you design a garden?
The most exciting thing about my garden is that now and then deer come down from the moors and stroll through at the bottom of my hill – though I live in a city!
- What’s 1 thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
I really, really would like to improve my tiny corner of the world in some small but significant respect. On my computer desktop I have a file of “Things I Care About” like making allowances for people being human, paying bills on time, being grateful for everything, and so on, which is in some measure an ethical will. So far, the only things I know I’m handing down are two questions (originally used when the house was full of children) when someone is looking for a lost item: “Did you pick anything up?” and (because it was usually a lost shoe) “If I find it, can I hit you with it?” It was amazing how effective the second one was…But the family still quote the questions!
How can we contact you?
Facebook – Arabella Brown
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