Author Becky Lower shares how writing historical romances has turned into a pleasant history lesson. The Write Way Café welcomes her, as she shares her happy discovery of the American Cotillion.
When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I’ve always been a writer in some form or fashion—diaries in high school, the college newspaper, ad copy when I began working, chatty office newsletters. But the first time I thought about writing a book was when I saw an adult education class offered at the local community college called “Writing The Romance Novel.” I signed up, along with ten other women. To my knowledge, none of them moved beyond the ‘writing as a hobby’ stage. But I always knew I was meant to do something other than sell advertising and I found the answer by taking that class.
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
I love reading Regency romances, but my heart is wrapped around American history. Lewis and Clark, Jedediah Smith, Thomas Jefferson–those men are my heroes. The light bulb moment for me came when I overheard someone talking about her daughter’s Cotillion Ball coming up. I realized America had a long-standing tradition of the Cotillion to introduce women into society, every bit as formal as the English Cotillions. I set out on a mission to discover when the first Cotillion ball was held in the United States. Of course, no one was writing about New York in the 1850s, so I had no interest from traditional publishing houses. I was fortunate to find a small press who only cared if the story was good.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
I wanted to create a series similar to what Julia Quinn did with her Bridgerton series, but I wanted it set in America. When I discovered the Cotillion had its introduction into New York society in 1854, that set the stage for my series.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
The setting for my stories evolved from the Cotillion’s introduction, but each book focuses on a different setting. So far, my characters have been in New York, St. Louis, Savannah, GA, the Bronx and back to New York.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
I’ve been told my books have a consistent theme of women’s rights and feminism. So, I guess there’s a bit of me in each book, since I’ve rebelled against the restraints placed on women in the advertising world from when I first got into the business. A gentleman who had graduated from college the same time I did was hired the same day I was, but because he was a man, he got the job of Junior Account Executive, and I became a proofreader. It took me an entire year to work up to Junior Account Executive. That experience set the stage for my campaign for women’s rights in the workplace.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I’m surprised, and lucky, that the era I chose to write about was so chock full of monumental events. I was aware of when the Civil War began, but I was not at all familiar with the railroad expansion opening the west, the many people who were involved with the abolitionist movement, the gold rush–things like that. I love taking small events from history and placing my characters in the middle of things. Fancy New York restaurants had secret rooms to hide slaves on the run, bridges built to accommodate railroads collapsing during a hard rain, the harshness of life on the edge of civilization–it’s like Rose and Jack on the Titanic. Seeing how my characters deal with actual events happening in the era I’ve placed them is what makes my job so enjoyable.
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about Cotillion balls, Ojibwa Indians, and women’s rights in 1855 New York?
If American history could be taught in the way I’m now learning it, I would have been a much better student! With each book, I learn something new about how America grew in its early years. The wagon trains pulling out every spring from St. Louis and St. Joseph, the railroad tracks steadily weaving their way across the land, the clash of cultures, with Indians, former slaves and white men all trying to carve out a place in this new country. These are the things that keep drawing me back to historical romance. What I learned about my process though, is that I need to take a break from the past and write a fun contemporary. I usually have heroines who have been around the block a time or two, and finally get up the gumption to find their own chance at love.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
Of course, Julia Quinn’s books are among my all-time favorites. I also have a deep love for Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor. I’ve recently become a fan of Sarah Maclean. But I also have a contemporary side, and will read everything Nora Roberts publishes, as well as a host of other contemporary authors.
What are you working on now?
I just started book seven in my Cotillion Ball Series. It’s about the Pony Express, which was an exciting time in American history. It features the youngest brother of the Fitzpatrick family, Valerian, and a girl on the run, who poses as a boy working with the Express riders. The history of the Pony Express, how it was laid out, why it began, and how quickly it faded into the history books, is the stuff I crave. I hope to share some of my excitement about this time with my readers.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
I do write contemporary romances, to take a break from the heavy research needed for historicals. I have a time travel story that’s been stuck in my head for years. Someday, I’ll write that one. And I’d love to tackle a light paranormal, with ghosts, or something. So many ideas, so little time.
About Becky: Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s or present day middle America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com
In 1859, ladies of New York society were expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a smooth-running household, and have children.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s agenda is very different. As the author of the popular Harry Hawk dime novels, she must hide her true identity from her new publisher, who assumes the person behind the F. P. Elliott pen name is male. She must pose as his secretary in order to ensure the continuation of her series. And in the midst of all this subterfuge, her mother is insisting that she become a debutante this year.
Henry Cooper is not the typical Boston Brahmin. Nor is he a typical publisher. He’s entranced by Mr. Elliott’s secretary the moment they meet, and wonders how his traditional-thinking father will react when he brings a working class woman into the family. Because his intentions are to marry her, regardless.
Rosemary’s deception begins to unravel at the Cotillion ball, when Henry recognizes her. The secretarial mask must come off, now that he knows she is a member of New York society. But she can’t yet confess who she truly is until she knows if Henry will accept her as F. P. Elliott.
The more time they spend together, the closer they become. But when Rosemary reveals her true identity to him, will Henry be able to forgive her or has her deceit cost her the man she loves?
Available at Amazon