Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Eleanor Webster, Author

Eleanor Webster, Author
Eleanor Webster enjoys the Regency Period “because it depicts a society poised for change.” Her new Regency Harlequin historical book NO CONVENTIONAL MISS (Oct. 1 release) features a heroine who is an inventor and does not always follow the conventions of the time period. Webster lists humor, character relatability, historical accuracy, and happy endings on the list to creating an engaging Regency story.

When she’s not writing, Webster is busy finishing her doctorate in Psychology. She is also working on her second Harlequin, set in French Revolution times. She lives with her husband and two daughters in northern Canada, enjoys hiking, and is an avid runner.

Check out the excerpt following her interview to learn more about her book.

Q: Why set NO CONVENTIONAL MISS in Regency times? Does the time period offer you an advantage to tell your story?

Eleanor Webster: I have always loved the Regency Period because it depicts a society poised for change. The inventions of the Industrial Revolution are emerging, bringing with them the anticipation of societal transformation.

This serves a practical purpose in the plotline for my Harlequin Historical NO CONVENTIONAL MISS. The protagonist, Rilla, is an inventor. She has a keen interest in force, momentum and any number of ‘unladylike’ activities. She is working on an automated butter churn and has an eager enthusiasm for all things scientific.

It works to have her story set against the backdrop of a society with both a zest for innovation and strict rules for female behavior.

Q: When creating your protagonist, who I assume is NO CONVENTIONAL MISS, what traits did you assign to her to engage readers so that they care what happens to her? What do you consider the most important characteristics of a heroine?

Eleanor Webster: Rilla is complex and somewhat conflicted. She has always been plagued with moments of second sight, an aspect of herself she fears.  Indeed, a maternal aunt had been institutionalized for similar traits. I think this vulnerability helps the reader connect.

However, Rilla is no wimp. Rather she has a thirst for knowledge and innovation hoping that by developing the scientific she will subdue that mystic element within her nature.

For me, one needs to feel sufficiently close to a heroine to understand her motivations, fears and strengths.

Q: How relevant is the concept of “villain” to the development of conflict in your story? What makes an effective villain?

Eleanor Webster: There is a ‘villain’ who is manipulative and blackmails Rilla. However, he is minor. The greatest conflicts for both Rilla and Paul are internal. Indeed, the biggest struggles for any individual are those which come from within.

The ‘villain’ serves to bring this conflict to the surface, forcing Rilla and Paul to confront their vulnerabilities. This helps them to grow as people as they gain acceptance for both themselves and each other.

Q: What kind of research did you conduct to assure historical accuracy in NO CONVENTIONAL MISS? How important is time-period accuracy to your readers?

Eleanor Webster: Time-period accuracy is important, in fact, it is absolutely vital. Inaccuracies irritate the reader and undermine an author’s credibility.  Having said that, I also recognize that I am not infallible and that there are readers having far greater knowledge than my own. If you find a mistake, please let me know!

 I live in Canada so my research is from secondary sources.  These are absolutely wonderful but not comparable to original, primary source research.  I have a B.A. in history and spent considerable time in British Columbia’s archives.  Original newspapers, documents, letters and buildings all serve to deepen one’s knowledge and give one a true, multi-dimensional sense of history.  I love European history but have not yet had the opportunity to gain that depth of knowledge. I hope to do so if my writing becomes profitable. Meanwhile, if anyone spots an error – please- let me know at eleanorwebsterauthor.com.

Q: Do you consider NO CONVENTIONAL MISS a “modern” regency romance? If so, how does it differ from traditional regency romances or what makes it “traditional”?

Eleanor Webster: NO CONVENTIONAL MISS is a departure from the traditional Harlequin historical because it involves a paranormal element.   In this sense, it has a ‘modern’ flavor. However, the voice is somewhat traditional in that I use witty dialogue which is a hallmark of the typical regency.  My hope is to capture gothic drama mixed with that wonderful sense of ‘ton’ made so famous by Georgette Heyer.

Q: Did you write NO CONVENTIONAL MISS to entertain only? Or did you also want to deliver a message or educate your readers?

Eleanor Webster: NO CONVENTIONAL MISS is primarily aimed to entertain.  I mean it is a Harlequin Romance! I work in a field of psychology which can result in heart-breaking situations and I write to create a place of romance and ‘happy endings’ which are not always duplicated in real life.

I do not aim to educate (that sounds too much like school) but I do hope to send a positive, feel-good message and to stimulate thought. In NO CONVENTIONAL MISS Rilla cannot accept her psychic abilities and therefore rejects a part of herself.  I believe that each of us has some characteristic, be it internal or external, which we do not embrace. I hope that Rilla’s self-discovery and eventual self-acceptance will encourage readers to share a similar journey.

As well, Rilla is, as the title suggests, unconventional.  Indeed, she lives in a society which is incredibly rigid in its expectations of its female members. Modern society is considerably less ‘restrictive’ but many of us are still hemmed in by those perennial ‘shoulds’.  (I abhor ‘shoulds’ by the way.)  I love to draw female characters from any time period who are true to their authentic nature – even if that is building butter churns.

Q: How helpful is the use of humor to develop your characters or tell your story?

Eleanor Webster: I love humor. I love creating a quirky characters who see the world through a different lens. I challenge myself to create wry humor through witty dialogue and I truly, truly hope that this is demonstrated in my writing.

The quirky character in NO CONVENTIONAL MISS is, without doubt, Paul’s stepmother, Lady Wyburn. She is kind and lovely and slightly ditzy in a very smart way. For me, Lady Wyburn is that impish inner voice which notes the inanities of everyday life and enables one to cope with humor to life’s vicissitudes.

Q: What do you consider to be the key components in developing a romantic relationship?

Eleanor Webster: Now that is the question… There needs to be chemistry, an attraction which is definitely physical but is also on an intellectual and emotional level. As well, there must be a problem or challenge which must be overcome. This serves to heighten the tension but it cannot be too contrived. I loathe plots where everyone is being foolish and you just want to bang everyone’s head together and tell them to work things out.

And then there is the growth which occurs by overcoming the challenge, allowing the individuals to move towards that ‘happily every after’

Q: What’s next?

I have a two book contract with Harlequin so a second book will be released at some point... This is set slightly earlier with the backdrop of the French Revolution.

Q: Tell us about Eleanor Webster. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Eleanor Webster: I work in a field of psychology and am currently pursuing my doctorate – okay – I’m actually on a leave of absence. I have completed the course work but need to get going on my thesis. I am skilled at procrastination and once even cleaned my oven rather than write an essay. Sadly, this was not a particularly effective procrastination strategy as I didn’t cook at the time.

 I also live in a very beautiful area of Canada so I enjoy hiking and I am an avid runner. I recently travelled in Europe – check out my website at eleanorwebsterauthor.com for the exploits of the ‘paddington hat’

About Eleanor Webster

Eleanor Webster loves high-heels and sun, which is ironic as she lives in northern Canada, the land of snowhills and unflattering footwear. Various crafting experiences, including a nasty glue-gun episode,
have proven that her creative soul is best expressed through the written word.

Eleanor lives with her husband and has two daughters. She is a lifelong learner and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology. Eleanor has a masters degree in educational psychology and an undergraduate degree in history and creative writing. She loves to use her writing to explore her fascination with the past.

She's always been different… 

Amaryllis Gibson is an unlikely debutante. She favors fact over fashion, cares not for "proper" conversation and is haunted by ghostly visions which could land her in the madhouse! Marriage is definitely the last thing on Rilla's mind… 

But when she's caught in a compromising position with Viscount Wyburn, suddenly she finds herself betrothed! And worse, his powerful presence only increases her visions. By shedding light on the viscount's past, can Rilla gain his trust and win him round to her more…unconventional traits?


     She smelled of soap and lemons, he thought, as he led her to the dance floor. He liked the smell, tangy and fresh, so different from the perfumed scents of other women.
     ‘My lord?’
     ‘I beg your pardon?’ He jerked his attention back to the conversation.
     ‘Do other women look spellbound as if you’ve said something witty?’
     He took her gloved hand and felt it tremble within his palm. The dance started and they broke apart in time to the music.
     ‘Even when you haven’t said anything either inspiring or witty?’ she asked as they came together again.
     ‘Especially then.’
     ‘How tiresome for you.’
     ‘Why so?’
     ‘Well, it must make you feel as though you’re not a real person, but just a viscount.’
     He laughed. ‘That’s the first time I’ve been called “just a viscount”.’
     ‘I meant no offence.’
     ‘I know.’ And it was true, he thought, surprised by her perception. Few people saw him as a person and women never did. He was a good catch, with a title, estate and ample income.
     ‘Now you’re much too serious,’ she said. ‘Aren’t you supposed to look as though I’ve also said something remarkably entertaining?’ She stepped under his raised arm. ‘Or does it not work both ways?’
     ‘It does and can be tedious, I assure you.’
     ‘Indeed, I find discussions about the weather highly overrated.’
     ‘Try looking fascinated by a spaniel’s earwax,’ he said, remembering a conversation with a certain Miss Twinning.
     Miss Gibson laughed, a rich spontaneous sound. No, she was no statue. She was too vibrant—more like a flame caught in human form.
     ‘I take it you do not discuss earwax?’ he asked.
     ‘I steer clear of that subject. In fact, I say remarkably little and endeavour to stick to Imogene’s list of suitable topics.’ She spoke with mock solemnity, the amusement in her eyes belying her tone. She had remarkable eyes.
     ‘Which include?’
     ‘Fashion and the weather.’
     ‘Really.’ They were dancing side by side. He caught another whiff of lemon. ‘And what,’ he murmured, bending so close that her hair tickled his cheek, ‘would you discuss if left to your own devices?’
     ‘My waterwheel and butter churn.’
     ‘Your what?’ His fashionable ennui deserted him and he almost missed a step, narrowly avoiding the Earl of Pembroke’s solid form.
     ‘My butter churn,’ she said more slowly.
     ‘And what makes this churn so worthy of conversation?’
     ‘Nothing really. I should not have mentioned it.’ She looked regretful, glancing downward so that her lashes cast lacy shadows against her cheeks.
     ‘Oh, but you should. I’m fascinated.’ This was, surprisingly, true. He wanted to lean into her and catch again that delightful whiff of lemon. He wanted to see the intelligence sparkle in her eyes and feel her hand tremble belying her external calm.
     ‘The churn is automated by a waterwheel, you see, and I believe it would save our dairy maid so much hard labour.’ She spoke quickly, her cheeks delightfully flushed with either enthusiasm or embarrassment.
     ‘And have you had the opportunity to test its efficiency?’
     ‘Once,’ she said.
     ‘Successfully, I trust.’
     Her lips twitched and she looked up, merriment twinkling. ‘The water succeeded in flooding the dairy. After that my device was banished.’
     'However, I have constructed a small model so that I can perfect the design during my baths.’
     ‘Your baths?’ He choked on the word.
     His mind conjured a vision of long, wet hair, full breasts and alabaster limbs. He caught his breath.
     Her cheeks reddened. ‘One of those forbidden subjects like undergarments. I mean—I only mentioned baths because my churn is run by a waterwheel. Hence I need a source of water to move the wheel.’
     He laughed. He could not help himself. Her conversational style might be unusual, but it was certainly more edifying than the weather.
     Or earwax, for that matter.


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