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Be prepared to be swept away into the regency world of Mary Balogh, the author of the Westcott series, with this exclusive interview!
Happy April! For the 2021 A to Z Challenge, I am excited to share a series on authors and artists whom I admire. One such author is Mary Balogh, the first contemporary regency author I ever discovered in the stacks in the library. Any fan of the recent Bridgerton series on Netflix will love to check out Mary Balogh’s books. Some of my all-time favorites are the Slightly series, the Simply series, Lord Carew’s Bride, and The Constant Heart.
I hope you enjoy learning more about Mary Balogh and it inspires you to pick up one of her books from the library or order it for your Kindle.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: Mary Balogh, what inspired you to include characters with disabilities in your books?
First of all, as someone who has been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses and disabilities in my 30s, thank you for writing stories about strong men and women with disabilities such as Clara (Dancing with Clara), Emily Marlowe (Silent Melody), Lord Carew (Lord Carew’s Bride), and Sydnam (Simply Love) and now Harry Westcott (Someone to Cherish).
MARY BALOGH: Character is always the most important element of any of my books. I like to delve deep into main characters until I know them soul deep. I want to search all the hidden corners of their being and all their pain. Characters with some disability offer a particular challenge, especially since my characters lived in the Regency era, more than two centuries ago.
Emily, the deaf heroine in SILENT MELODY, for example, did not have the benefit of any sign language. Many deaf people in that era ended up in asylums for the insane. So making a heroine of her was very tricky. I love that sort of thing. I do it entirely through my imagination. I think myself into the body and mind and very being of the character and imagine what it would feel like to live with that particular handicap.
I think myself into the body and mind and very being of the character and imagine what it would feel like to live with that particular handicap.
I choose characters like this also because I want my books to be more than just romantic fantasy (though they can be that too). I want them to seem real.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: With all the success surrounding Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series on Netflix, when will we be getting a chance to see the Bedwyn siblings on the screen?
MARY BALOGH: It would be very nice, but no one had approached me with any queries yet! I do have some misgivings, though. I always think I would hate what producers would do with my stories and my characters. I always wonder if I would be horrified at the casting. But of course, a movie is an art form in itself, and a good movie would bring all sorts of renewed attention to the books, as it has for Julia. So…
THE JOYOUS LIVING: If the Bedwyns were to have their own series, who is your ideal Wulfric?
(A girl can dream and I could totally see Tom Hiddleston holding his quizzing glass up to his eye just so, lol).
MARY BALOGH: I can’t answer that. I know this will seem strange, but I never watch movies. And I mean NEVER. I wouldn’t know who most movie actors are. I don’t know the one you mentioned, for example. I would far rather read than watch.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: You mentioned on your blog that you prefer third person perspectives when writing. What about some of your older work. Would you ever consider re-writing The Constant Heart (for example) from the hero’s perspective?
MARY BALOGH: I have written more than a hundred novels and novellas, so I may be forgetting one or two. But I believe all my books are told from the alternating points of view of both the hero and the heroine. That is the only way I can tell a love story with enough emotional depth to be fully satisfying. The love story has to come from the minds and emotions of both main characters.
And yes, all my books are written in third person. I would not want to write in first person narrative. Generally speaking I don’t like reading books that are in first person. One exception I can think of is JANE EYRE, always one of my favorite books. That story is told through Jane’s voice.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: Many of your earlier books (Secrets of the Heart, A Chance Encounter, Constant Heart, Unforgiven) center on misunderstandings and second chance love. Why do you think 2nd chance love can be such an endearing theme for readers?
MARY BALOGH: I think everyone likes to believe in second chances. All sorts of relationships come to an end because something in the circumstances of the two people is not quite right. The ending of a love affair can be horribly painful and leave the two people with a lifetime of regrets and resentment and misery.
I love to write stories of redemption, digging back into the common history of the hero and heroine to discover what went wrong, why it happened, and how it can be fixed. I like to show how the characters have changed and matured and grown in the intervening years. I like to see them sharing their differences, working on them, discovering that their love never died and has actually grown stronger in the course of their book.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: What is it that drew you to re-publish your ‘classics’ in an e-book format? What classics will you next to be re-publishing?
MARY BALOGH: My “classics” are merely my old books that have been long out of print in paper. I was first published in 1985 so there are a lot of these books. The growth of the e-book market has given writers the chance to bring their old books back for their current readers who have been unable to find them.
At the same time, it has given readers the chance to find books they read and loved long ago but can no longer find. I think the e-book is one of the great inventions of our era! Most of my old books have now been e-published. There are just a few left. Next out will be A GIFT OF DAISIES [USA release: April 6, 2021].
THE JOYOUS LIVING: When you were writing COURTING JULIA, did you ever think you’d be writing Freddie as a hero in DANCING WITH CLARA?
MARY BALOGH: I can’t really remember. That was a long time ago. Sometimes I plan that the villain of one book will be the hero of another. Freyja Bedwyn, for example, is a bit villainous in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER, but I knew she would have her own book (SLIGHTY SCANDALOUS) in the Bedwyn series.
But sometimes a villain in a book fascinates me and I find that I have to write a book to redeem that character, in whom I can detect some pain and some goodness. I suspect that Freddie was that latter type of character.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: I read that you wrote PRECIOUS JEWEL in 2 weeks time! Is that a standard or unique case?
MARY BALOGH: Quite unique. A book usually takes about four months to write. Gerald, the hero of A PRECIOUS JEWEL was a minor character in another book and was miserable because his mistress had left him to marry someone else. Somehow those two just grabbed at me and wouldn’t let go. I knew I couldn’t write their story—she was a prostitute! Gerald had met her in a brothel when he became her regular client. I was writing sweet(ish) Regency romances at the time. This story was out of the question. I tried out the idea on some fellow writers at a convention we were all attending and they all absolutely agreed with me.
But it got to a point at which I couldn’t NOT write it. So it did—over a two week period—and then printed it and put it up on shelf in my closet for almost two years. One day I pulled it down, dusted it off, and sent it to my editor without comment. I waited and waited to hear from her and finally called. “Oh,” she said, “it’s in copyediting”! The book tends to be a reader favorite. I think it’s because of the intensity of the emotion in it.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: For someone who loves to read mysteries, would you ever consider a regency who-did-it story with a (bumbling) detective visiting a house party?
MARY BALOGH: No. I have no desire to write anything but the sort of books I do write. Mystery writing takes a whole other skill set, I think. I can admire and even love it in others, but I don’t think I could do it myself.
THE JOYOUS LIVING: Mary Balogh, what have you been reading lately?
MARY BALOGH: The last five books I have read: UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN by Donna Leon; WAKE UP AND DIE by Jack Lynch; TRADED by Tess Thompson; A LITTER OF BONES by J.D. Kirk; THE WANDERER by Robyn Carr (a re-read).
THE JOYOUS LIVING: Will Someone to Cherish be your last book in the Westcott series? If so, any hints as to who the next lucky family you’ll be introducing us to soon?
MARY BALOGH: After Harry’s book, SOMEONE TO CHERISH, I intended to write several books for a number of leftover characters from the series. I got as far as writing a story for Lady Estelle Lamarr—SOMEONE PERFECT will be out in November of this year. However, at new contract talks my editor suggested I start a whole new series.
It is to be seven books long, for the Ware family of Thornwood Hall—a widowed countess, her three sons, her two daughters, and an illegitimate son of her late husband’s. I have just started the first book—the story of Devlin Ware, Earl of Stratton, the eldest son.
Thanks again Mary Balogh for taking the time to answer my questions and share about her writing with my readers! Hope you all enjoyed today’s interview and are inspired to pick up one of her books to read. Her next book, Someone to Cherish, is to be released on June 29, 2021.
Major Harry Westcott had survived the Napoleonic Wars—barely. He had been severely wounded a number of times, but at the Battle of Waterloo he had come as close to death as it was possible to get without actually crossing over to the other side. His life had teetered on the brink for two whole years after that brutal, bloody day before finally Alexander and Avery had taken matters into their own hands and brought him back from the convalescent home for British officers in Paris where he had been languishing and settled him at Hinsford Manor, his childhood home in Hampshire. He had lived there ever since and had gradually recovered his health and strength. All had ended well, one might say.
His Westcott relatives would not say any such thing, however.
Friendly warning – Mary’s books have sexual scenes and some mild swearing and are not appropriate for young readers.
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