Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

It’s been a few years since I participated in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, but now that I’m writing Down Salem Way, the prequel to the Loving Husband Trilogy, it seemed like a good time to give away a few autographed paperback copies of Her Dear and Loving Husband, Book One in the Loving Husband Trilogy. If you love Outlander or A Discovery of Witches, then Her Dear and Loving Husband will be a great read for you. To find out more about the book, check here. Her Dear and Loving Husband is also a great book for Halloween with its vampires, witches, ghosts, and werewolves. Thanks to BookHounds for hosting the blog hop.

This giveaway is open to readers all over the world. Wherever you are, you’re welcome to participate.

Simply do one of the following and you’re entered into the drawing for one of five autographed paperback copies of Her Dear and Loving Husband. The sign up links are located on the right sidebar.

  1. Follow this blog
  2. Follow me on Facebook
  3. Follow me on Twitter
  4. Follow me on Goodreads

To enter the giveaway, add your name and email address into the form below. In the message section, state which of the above options you chose.

That’s it! Good luck to everyone who entered!

Hop on over to the one of the other participating blogs and see what other great prizes you can win.

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Charles Dickens Meets Downton Abbey

Here’s the interview I did for Many Books about my experience writing When It Rained at Hembry Castle. Enjoy!

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Meredith Allard fell in love with Charles Dickens’ work when she was in college and after watching every Downton Abbey episode multiple times, she decided to create a work inspired by her favorite author and TV show. When it Rained at Hembry Castle is the perfect marriage between the humor and mystery of Dickens’ work and the upstairs/downstairs world of the English aristocrats. Allard tells us more about what made her want to write a book set in the Victorian era, how she makes her characters come to life and how Hembry Castle has been brewing in her mind for 20 years.

Please give us a short introduction to When it Rained at Hembry Castle

When It Rained at Hembry Castle is set in Victorian England in 1870. It’s the story of American Daphne Meriwether, the granddaughter of the Earl of Staton. When the Earl dies, Daphne and her father Frederick return to England. It’s a challenge for Daphne, learning to live in the upstairs/downstairs world of her father’s family. And she may fall in love with the aspiring writer Edward Ellis while she’s there. Of course, obstacles get in their way. Hembry Castle is a love story at heart, though it has an interesting cast of characters who make life interesting for Edward and Daphne.

Why Victorian England? What fascinates you about this time period?

I fell in love with the novels of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era when I was in college and I always wanted to write a book set during this time. The Victorian era is interesting because it’s a time that is both historical and yet in some ways it feels modern. I love learning about history, and writing historical fiction is a great way for me to do that.

Did it require a lot of research to keep your novel historically correct? Which part of the research did you find the most interesting?

This was one historical novel that I didn’t have to do a ton of research for because I already had a lot of knowledge about the Victorian period from reading Dickens and other books about the era. I did double check everything I wrote, but since I knew where to look for the information that made it a shorter process than usual for me. I was able to travel to London twice as part of my research, and I absolutely loved that. London is a great city. In fact, I’ve walked many of Edward’s walks through the city. I think being able to visit and see the places for myself make the story much more realistic.

What, would you say, makes the English aristocrats so interesting to read about?

When It Rained at Hembry Castle was partially inspired by Downton Abbey, and the popularity of Downton Abbey is largely based on the curiosity people have about the upstairs/downstairs world of English aristocrats. In America, the upstairs/downstairs world is not part of our culture the way it is in Britain, and I think that accounts for the fascination about that lifestyle. It’s an introduction to a world we knew nothing about.

Privilege and class division are recurring themes in When it Rained at Hembry Castle. Why?

Since Downton Abbey was such a big influence on Hembry Castle, it seemed appropriate that privilege and class division should play a part in the story. My love for all things Dickens also inspired the novel, and privilege and class division are often themes in his stories. While I love watching Downton Abbey and am fascinated by the lifestyle of the upper classes, I can’t imagine ever having to live according to such arbitrary rules and regulations. Daphne represents the way I would look at that lifestyle if I were thrust into that world—with a sense of detachment and maybe some humor about it all. The fact that Daphne falls in love with the butler’s grandson when her grandmother means for her to marry a duke allowed me to probe a bit deeper into class division.

How did you manage to describe England’s countryside and other locations in your book so vividly?

Partially it was through reading, partially it was through photographs on Pinterest, but mainly it was my imagination. I was able to picture the scenery in my mind’s eye and I did my best to describe what I saw. And watching every episode of Downton Abbey many times helped!

Which classic author do you admire the most?

Charles Dickens, if you haven’t already figured that out. I read Dickens for the first time in college and knew that that’s what I wanted to do—write stories that were entire worlds unto themselves. I love his sense of humor, his spot-on observations, his way of pointing out things that were wrong in his world, many of which are still wrong in our world today. He’s the smartest, funniest writer I’ve ever read. Dickens has been the biggest influence in my own writing.

When it Rained at Hembry Castle contains many hilarious scenes. Why do you find it important to use humor in your writing?

This goes back to my love for Dickens. Dickens was a hilarious writer, and from him I learned that if you’re going to write truthfully about people then you have to include the light as well as the dark. People are funny. We do and say funny things all the time (sometimes without meaning to do so—which makes it even funnier). And besides, a sense of humor goes a long way in making a story fun to read.

Your book has a very Downton Abbey feel to it. Was that intentional? Are you a Downton Abbey fan yourself?

I love Downton Abbey and it was absolutely intentional to include the upstairs/downstairs feel of the show. In fact, Downton Abbey gave me an angle from which to tell the story. I came up with the original idea for Hembry Castle about 20 years ago (no joke) when I decided I wanted to write a story set in Victorian England about a writer who would be loosely based on a young Charles Dickens. I went on to write other novels and kept the Victorian story on the back burner for years. After I fell in love with Downton Abbey I realized that I could take elements from that TV show and use it to bring my Victorian story to life.

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What are some tricks you use to create such believable characters?

Mainly, I use my imagination. It took me longer to write Hembry Castle than I thought it would because it took me some time to get to know all the characters. I can’t write about a character until I get a sense of his or her personality. Hembry Castle has a larger cast of characters than I usually write about, and it took me some time to get them all straight in my head. Really, it’s about not thinking too much during the first draft, allowing the characters to materialize in front of me, and then writing down what I see. Sometimes I’ll put a favorite actor in the “part” of that character and imagine that actor acting out the scenes. That helps me get a sense of cadence when the character speaks, the types of movements the character might do, and so on. But really, it all boils down to allowing my imagination freedom.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

Writing is my most obvious superpower, but when I’m not writing I love to read. I also love to cook, and I just started art journaling, which I really enjoy.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

The best place to find me online is my website, www.meredithallard.com. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authormeredithallard/. My favorite social media is Pinterest, and you can find me at https://www.pinterest.com/meredithallard/. I could stay on that all day!

When It Rained at Hembry Castle:
Missing Downton Abbey? Read When It Rained at Hembry Castle. A lush historical novel set in Victorian England, When It Rained at Hembry Castle is the story of an aristocratic family, secrets that dare not be told, and the wonder of falling in love.

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Researching Vampires and Salem for Her Dear and Loving Husband

When I’m writing fiction I know that anything can serve as inspiration. Television, movies, music, books, and travel all help me generate story ideas. For a story like Her Dear and Loving Husband, which goes back and forth between the past and the present, I had to learn about what life was like in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692, but I also needed a sense of what life looked like in Salem, Massachusetts now.

Understanding present-day Salem was an easier task. Though I hadn’t visited Salem while writing Her Dear and Loving Husband (the Salem trip didn’t come until I started writing Her Loving Husband’s Curse), I used Salem websites and Google Earth to help me get a vision of what today’s Salem looks like. You can read about my trip to Salem here and here. Seventeenth century Salem was  harder to grasp. Of course, there are many accounts of the Salem Witch Trials, but not a lot about the specifics of people’s day to day lives.

Not only did I have to understand Salem and the witch hunts, I also had to have some sense of what it meant to be a vampire. All authors who write about anything fantastical–vampires, witches, werewolves, mermaids, time travel, whatever–get to define the boundaries of their magical worlds. That’s why world building in fiction is fun. Anything goes as long as we’re able to make the world believable for our readers.

Here are some of the resources I used to help me write Her Dear and Loving Husband:

Books

Nonfiction:

 The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach

Six Women of Salem by Marilynne K. Roach

Death in Salem: The Private Lives Behind The 1692 Witch Hunt by Diane Foulds

Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend by Mark Collins Jenkins

Fiction:

The fiction I read for Her Dear and Loving Husband was mostly vampire fiction since I wasn’t familiar with vampire novels except for Twilight. I wanted to see what other authors had done with their paranormal characters to get some inspiration for my (usually)  daylight-avoiding James.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Steakhouse Book 1) by Charlaine Harris

Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice

Dracula by Bram Stoker (who can avoid this classic when writing about vampires?)

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Once Bitten by Kalayna Price

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Television and Film:

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (yes, I read and watched it)

True Blood on HBO–as it turns out, True Blood was the biggest inspiration for Her Dear and Loving Husband

The Twilight movies

Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman

 

Music:

Music was a challenge for me with Her Dear and Loving Husband. Although I didn’t include any music in Her Dear and Loving Husband, it was always there for me in the background, and I listened to music while writing. I usually listen to music from the historical era I’m writing about to help me get in the right frame of mind, but since I was writing about the Salem Witch Trials then I was researching Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In such a stern society that placed all its hope in the afterlife, music played little role other than church hymnals (if even those since I’ve read conflicting accounts: some say they sang hymnals, others say they didn’t because even church music represented too much of an earthly pleasure). I discovered some hymnals that were popular in England in the 17th century, but the Puritans left England because they wanted to purify what they believed was the Catholic influences on the Church of England, so I doubted those would be popular in Salem Village. I’m looking again for music while I’m writing Down Salem Way, so maybe I’ll uncover some new information.

As for present-day Salem, well, that would be the same music I was listening to. I imagined James, with his classical tastes, would listen to  the great composers like Mozart (my personal favorite) and Chopin so I listened to some classical music, which I normally do anyway. Sarah, I imagined, would have more modern tastes, so I listened to my own current faves. I have eclectic music tastes, so I listened to everything from The Beatles to Hootie and the Blowfish to Josh Groban to Kings of Leon (like I said, I have eclectic tastes).

I talked in this post about how I used Pinterest and travel to help me write When It Rained at Hembry Castle. Though I didn’t use either for Her Dear and Loving Husband, I use both now for every new novel and I highly recommend making boards for your books on Pinterest. I have a board for the Loving Husband Trilogy now, and if you’d like to see it you can visit it here. There’s also a board for Down Salem Way. If you can travel to the place you’re writing about, then do. It makes all the difference, as I learned when I was writing Her Loving Husband’s Curse and finally made it to Salem.

I wasn’t familiar with either vampires or the Salem Witch Trials when I started writing Her Dear and Loving Husband. Learning about both helped me write the story about eternal love I saw so strongly in my mind’s eye. Reading these books, watching these shows and films, and finding music that inspired me while I was writing gave me fuel for the fire that Her Dear and Loving Husband sparked in my heart.

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