Research is one of the best parts of writing historical novels. I often get side-tracked and end up with so much material that I have to wade around in it for awhile before I know what I want to use. For Love’s First Light, I studied the complexities of the political upheaval (monarchy, church and revolutionist). I really wanted to stay historically accurate in depicting the actions and motivations of the players in the French Revolution. I also researched the geography of Paris and Carcassonne. When I can’t visit a place in person I first pray and ask God to give me a feel for the time and place. Then I use Google Maps, travel websites (check out this one on Carcassonne), books, movies and novels set in France. After all of that I almost feel like I’ve really been there.
The most challenging research for this book was the science and technology of that time period. I read and reread material on light, color, mathematics, astronomy, biographies on the scientific leaders of that day, etc. I’m not particularly strong on the math/science side of my brain, and I remember looking at my husband at various points and wailing, “I’ve reread this paragraph four times and I still don’t understand what it means!” Then, I would call my neighbor who is a chemist and beg for help.
2. What significance does the French Revolution play in your book?
It is very key to the book. I like to use the timeline of actual, historical events as a sort of backbone structure to my plots. As I studied France’s history, I was struck by the differences in the American Revolution and the French Revolution. The American Revelation was a few years before the French Revolution, and the poor, desolate people of France saw what we had won and wanted it for themselves. What amazed me as is how sorry and sad their ending was compared to ours. We had men like George Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin (none perfect, I know!) but they had a heart on fire for a new kind of government: freedom, and they loved this ideal more than they loved themselves. In the French Revolution, the men who fought against the monarchy were as corrupt, godless, and grasping as those they fought against. There was no love but love for self. And there was no love for God. The result was a bloodbath of horror and terror.
3. What do you like best about your hero and heroine? What personality traits did you enjoy watching develop in those characters?
After Scarlett’s husband dies, she has to move home from Paris to Carcassonne to have her baby and live with her mother and sister. Scarlett is definitely the person who holds the family together. She is like so many women I know – a great manager of life’s day to day ups and downs, with a loving, sacrificing heart towards her family. What I love about Scarlett though, is as solid as she is, she has a giant weakness for falling head over heels in love at first sight. She did it with her first husband and regretted it, and now she finds herself falling for Christophé St. Laurent, a French count who is running from the guillotine. Their connection and chemistry was fun to watch enfold and sometimes difficult to reign in!
Christophé is that scientific genius type that forgets to eat and sleep when in the middle of an experiment or mathematical calculations. After the devastation of witnessing his family’s destruction, he turns to science and his relationship with God to stay sane. I love this character! His growth comes through hard choices and he was just so multi-layered and interesting to me.
4. What are a few techniques you use (if any) to develop your complex characters? Do you interview them? Have long bios about them?
5. How does the faith of the characters shape their decisions?
6. Who do you think would enjoy your book and why?
I like to think I write for anybody 16-116 – LOL! If you like history, you will probably like my books. If you like romance, you will probably like my books. If you like real, flawed characters who are striving to follow Him and look to Him and believe in Him even though their world is sometimes falling apart . . . if you like to be inspired by such people, then I think you will like my books.
7. How is your book different from other romance novels?
8. Besides entertainment, is there anything else you hope your audience will glean from reading Love’s First Light?
9. How does your faith play a role in creating your novels…particularly this one?
10. Do you have anything to add?