Award winning author Lucinda Brant fell in love with the 18th century as an 11 year old who picked up a dusty historical tome and started reading about a world she felt she’d once lived in.
Hello there, I’m your host Jenny Wheeler and in todays Binge Reading episode Lucinda talks about her career as a best selling author of Georgian romance, and the international following who adore the aristocratic families she writes about almost as much as she does.
You can download the first book in the Roxton series, Midnight Marriage, for free on her website, but we’ve got three audiobook copies to give away to three lucky readers. Enter the draw on the website at The Joys of Binge Reading.com or on our Binge Reading Facebook page.
Links to the free Midnight Marriage e-Book and everything else we’ve talked about in the shownotes for this episode on the website too. While you’re there, subscribe so you won’t be short of a great book you can’t put down. And leave us a comment. We love to hear from you.
Six things you’ll learn from this Joys of Binge Reading episode:
- Lucinda’s early – and mysterious – 18th century passion
- How truth sometimes is stranger than fiction
- The remarkable real life story that launched the Roxtons
- Lady Diana – The villain everyone delights in
- On commissioning amazing covers
- Why she loves Mary Balogh
Where to find Lucinda Brant:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/LucindaBrantauthor
What follows is a “near as” transcript of our conversation, not word for word but pretty close to it, with links to important mentions.
Jenny Wheeler: Hello there, Lucinda and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you with us.
Romance writer Lucinda Brant
Lucinda Brant: Thanks, Jenny. It’s very nice of you to invite me on your show. I think this is probably only the second podcast I’ve ever done.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s wonderful. Thank you. There will probably be many more in the future. Was there a Once Upon a Time moment when you decided that you had to write fiction as distinct from any other writing you might have been doing, and if so, was there a catalyst for it?
Lucinda Brant: I don’t know if there was a Once Upon a Time moment. I’ve always liked creative writing. I’ve enjoyed it since school. Probably around seven or eight, I remember thinking, I really enjoy writing stories. Then it would have been high school when I started writing for myself. I thought I’d try my hand at fiction.
We had a creative writing class in English but it wasn’t enough for me, so I started writing stories and I would take them into class because I didn’t like Maths very much and I’d pass them around. I realized I had an audience because they’d say, when are we getting the next chapter?
Creative writing? Or Maths?
Jenny Wheeler: You passed them around in Maths?
Lucinda Brant: I did. I didn’t do much Maths.
Jenny Wheeler: You’re another one like me, I used to read something under the desk while the teacher was talking. I was bored with what they were saying but I couldn’t leave a book alone.
Lucinda Brant: That sounds about right. That’s how I got into writing fiction and then I put it down when I went to university because writing essays is a whole different kettle of fish as far as writing goes. I picked it up again once I started work after I’d finished university.
Jenny Wheeler: You’ve made your name with 18th century historical romance, and that in itself is interesting because Regency is the hot period for romance and there are millions of Regency books. What made you settle on the Georgians, the 1700’s, and what attracted you to them?
Falling in love with the 18th century
Lucinda Brant: I’ve always loved history since primary school. I did Modern and Ancient History at high school. But I remember picking up a book when I was about 11. It was a really dry book and it’s still on my shelves now, The History of Modern France 1715-1789.
I started reading it and I fell in love with 18th century France. I thought, this is me. I felt like I’d lived before in that time. That got me into collecting books on the 18th century. It was France that was my main interest and then I progressed across the Channel, went to England, and started researching that time period. It was a natural progression to go from loving that time period as far as learning about the history, to writing a fiction in that time.
Jenny Wheeler: You’ve won multiple awards for one of your series, the first series you started on, the Roxton family series. That is set between aristocratic France and England. Where did the Roxtons appear from? Did they take a lot of imagining or did they sit there on your mind from the beginning?
Antonia and the Duke
Lucinda Brant: I started off with Antonia and the Duke of Roxton as the two main characters. The first book was Noble Satyr (a pre-quel to the Roxton’s) which I wrote a long time ago and it grew from there. I thought, what would their children be like? Then there were cousins and the family tree exploded, I suppose.
Jenny Wheeler: The book on your website that’s free for download, Midnight Marriage, is based on real events, a secret midnight marriage establishes a dynasty. I was fascinated by that. What were those real events that are at the back of that whole story?
Lucinda Brant: I read Stella Tillyard’s book, Aristocrats, which was based on the Lennox family. The first Duke of Richmond was an illegitimate son of Charles II and his son was married off to settle a gambling debt. He was brought into a room to this girl who I think was 12, because it was the age of consent that girls could marry, and they were married off there and then. The gambling debt was settled, and she was sent back to the nursery and the boy was sent off on the grand tour. I thought, this is a fantastic story.
Truth is sometimes stranger
Then what happened? He returned from the grand tour, was at the theater, saw a girl across the theater in a box and thought, she looks very nice, I want to be introduced to her. Can someone tell me her name? And someone said, well actually, that’s your wife.
Jenny Wheeler: Amazing story.
Lucinda Brant: Truth is stranger than fiction.
Jenny Wheeler: Absolutely. It’s been said that your books give readers the Golden Age of romance with a modern voice. I wondered how you might define what the Golden Age of romance was, and whether it was a calculated thing on your part to give them a modern voice or whether that was lucky serendipity.
Lucinda Brant: That actual phrase is from a reviewer. That is what she thought my books were like and I thought, that’s probably true in a way. I suppose the Golden Age of romance for me was the high Victorians like Anthony Trollope and Leo Tolstoy.
Golden Age settings the key
The setting itself for the books is just as important as the characters and the events that were going on in the stories. There are a lot of characters, there are events, there’s this big sweeping historical setting. To me, that’s the Golden Age of romance.
As for the modern voice, we all write to our time period in a way. Georgette Heyer, although she wrote Regencies, had very much an Edwardian mindset when she was writing those. We are a product of our times. I bring my late 20th century mindset to the stories, even though I’m trying to write them as historically accurately as possible.
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, I guess if you did try to be totally faithful to the language that they used, it would be hard for modern readers to understand, wouldn’t it? You have to find a happy medium.
Lucinda Brant: Yes, it’s probably the same as reading Shakespeare. If you read Shakespeare now, it is like reading another language. You have to really get your ear in to understanding what it is saying for the modern reader. Reading letters from the Georgian era is the same. It’s a different way of speaking and I try to make it more palatable for modern readers.
The Roxton dynasty – eight books
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, of course you’d have to. You seem to know this family intimately, because there are eight Roxton books but two of them are published volumes of love letters and correspondence, which is a little unusual. It shows that you’ve really dug down into this family and I wondered if they almost feel like your own family.
Lucinda Brant: They do. Strange as it may seem, they do talk to me. In a way they’re always in the back of my mind. I have quite a few books that I still need to write of characters that are mentioned but haven’t had their stories told and believe you me, they are there saying come on now, hurry up, write my story.
I do mention letters in the book, so I thought readers would like to know what’s actually in those letters. The Georgians were huge letter writers. The social media of the day was to write letters. Even if you lived at opposite ends of the village, in a lot of cases you would write a letter and send it by one of the servants to the correspondent, rather than going down yourself and visiting. People spent a lot of time composing and writing their thoughts and inner most feelings.
Jenny Wheeler: Interesting isn’t it, because we find it hard to imagine a day now without the telephone, but of course they didn’t have telephones, so you can understand how letters would be so important.
Letter writing a dead art
Lucinda Brant: That’s right. When I was living in the US back in the late 80’s, making a telephone call was quite expensive back to Australia, so I spent most of my time writing letters to my parents, and especially to my father. And he would write me five, six, seven page letters in return. That was our principle means of correspondence, so maybe that was also in the back of my mind when writing these books.
Jenny Wheeler: You’ve enlisted a lot of readers into your enthusiasm for the Georgians. You’ve got a Pinterest account that specializes in 18th century everything, from architecture to fashion, and you’ve developed a huge following of people who share that passion. How did you do that?
Lucinda’s Pinterest profile
Lucinda Brant: If that’s the case, my little scheme has worked because when I first saw Pinterest I was living in New Zealand and I thought this is just fabulous because I’m quiet even though I love words. When I was at school all the books were words, it was very hard to find a photo.
I love visual learning. I’ve taught high school and in this day and age for the kids it’s movies, it’s all visual. When I saw Pinterest, I thought this would be fantastic not only as a repository – at that stage I could see people were using it mainly for fashion and weddings and holidays. I thought, if I want to get the word out there about the 18th century, this is the way to do it. So that’s what I did.
Jenny Wheeler: You find most wonderful sources for that material too. You seem to have dug very deep to find really good stuff.
Setting up a cover photoshoot
Lucinda Brant: When I started off, I wanted to make sure that I would get the sources right. If there’s a painting, it would go back to the gallery or to the museum or wherever. I suppose that’s the teacher coming out in me. It then allows that person to follow the trail and if they want to know more about that painting or that artist, there they are, at the source. Whereas if you stick it up and you don’t have a source, it’s great but it doesn’t have what I hoped it would be – to help get people more interested in the 18th century, and that’s best if you’ve got trails.
Jenny Wheeler: The books have the most gorgeous covers. Midnight Marriage is a perfect case, it’s just delicious. I gather that is part of a project you’ve got underway, to develop new covers for some of the books and maybe even doing a relaunch. Tell us about that project.
Lucinda Brant: The project started six years ago. I had it in the back of my mind to have covers that accurately reflected the content and, as you can imagine, trying to find stock images of people in 18th century clothing is near impossible. For any covers, with stock images it’s hard to find what you’re looking for.
Attention to detail important
Not only that, I wanted to make sure that the costumes were period correct for the years that the book was set and that the models looked like the characters in the book.
Naively, I set out on the journey and thought, how hard can this be? Well, it’s really hard to do that because you not only have to invest a lot of time in tracking down models that look like the characters in my head, but also I had to employ costume designers to make the outfits and then find a photographer we could collaborate with.
We had a few stops and starts. A couple of people fell by the wayside, but finally we’re getting there. And I thought, why not? If I can write the stories that I love to read and my readers love, then let’s try and put covers on them that reflect the stories and give readers something that’s visually appealing as well.
Learning from the process
Jenny Wheeler: That’s amazing. There would be very few authors in the world that would go to that length of trouble for their covers. It would be considered quite impossible. That is remarkable.
Lucinda Brant: I suppose the beauty of being an indie author is that you control every aspect of the process, so why not control what goes on the cover? That probably makes me a bit of a control freak. I thought we’ll see how this journey pans out.
That’s why we made behind the scenes videos as well, because I wanted to show the readers and other authors what goes into the making of a cover. It’s not easy but it can be done. I’m happy that the readers have embraced them. They say that not only do they love the costumes but the models I’ve chosen are how I described the characters in the books. Yay. Double win.
Alec Halsey Mysteries
Jenny Wheeler: For people who are listening, we’ll have links to all Lucinda’s material on the show notes that accompany this podcast, so you’ll be able to find the links easily in one place.
As well as the Roxtons, you’ve got two other series that we mustn’t overlook. Alec Halsey is a series of mysteries set in the same period. They’re slightly darker stories with a strong mystery element and twisty plots. I wonder if mystery was a bit of a challenge after the romance or whether it was an easy transition for you.
Lucinda Brant: When I decided to do the Alec Halsey mysteries I wrote the first book, and now it’s turned into a series. I wanted to show the darker side of life in Georgian England and Europe with a protagonist who is on the outer edges of the aristocracy.
Are they more difficult? In a way, because I love reading mysteries and I love trying to catch the author out. Writing something you hope will surprise the readers at the end – oh, I didn’t see that coming – is rather difficult but I can’t write a mystery unless I know the ending, so I start with the end and then go back to the beginning.
Intricate family tree records
Jenny Wheeler: There was a question that kept popping up in my mind when I was reading the Roxton books and that was, did you have a “bible” of all the characters because there are so many threads in those stories. That would apply to Alec as well. You have to keep track of a lot of threads. How do you do that?
Lucinda Brant: With the Roxtons I have quite intricate family trees which I’ve made, and that helps me keep track of those characters. Although, on my mother’s side, she was one of 13 and I had 20, 30, I don’t know, 40 cousins and maybe I’m just used to it. I can keep track of all those people in my head, so it wasn’t so difficult with the Roxtons.
Keeping track in the Alec Halsey mysteries of motive and characters and what was happening – I have extensive notes. I’d have tabs on them. I love stationery so I wrote all my hand notes.
The horror of Lady Diana
Jenny Wheeler: You say you know the end. Do you know the middle as well or do you still have a bit of fluidity in the middle as you go along?
Lucinda Brant: I have a bit of fluidity, particularly with the romances. With Alec Halsey I’ll have plot points, but there is room to move. If the character takes over and is going in one direction, I think let’s go there and see what happens, but then I’ll try and bring it back on track again.
Jenny Wheeler: You’ve got another series again, well a couple of books in it, I’m not sure if it’s going to continue. Salt Hendon and a psychopathic lead character that people have really reacted to – the lady Diana. On your website you say the real horror is that she was based on someone I know. Tell us about Salt Hendon.
Lucinda Brant: That was a bit of a therapy session, getting that book done. I wrote Salt Bride first and then Salt Redux. Then there’s a short story that goes with that as well. I suppose it was a bit cathartic writing Salt Bride. The villainess in it is, can you believe it, two people that I knew that were like that. I thought one was bad enough.
Creating a real villainess
She suffers from Munchausen by proxy syndrome. You’ve probably heard of it, there have been a few cases in the media of carers. From my research it tends to affect women more than men in that they use their child or whoever they’re caring for as the catalyst of getting attention for themselves.
They’ll make that person very ill and then they’ll take them to doctors. It’s quite horrifying actually. In the story Diana suffers from that, but her psychopathic tendencies and her fixation on the hero is based on two women I knew, that I worked with in two different places.
Jenny Wheeler: That’s a good point to move on from talking about the individual books to talking more widely about your career. You mentioned teaching and living in a couple of different places. Tell us about your life before you became a full-time writer and have those experiences contributed to your fiction? Well, obviously they have because you found the lady Diana amongst them but tell us about that.
A happy time in the USA
Lucinda Brant: I met my husband at university, and he finished his PhD and he came home one day and said he needed to get a postdoc because he was a scientist/ researcher. I said to him, I’ll go anywhere with you – this is back in the 80’s – but I don’t want to go to America, because guns and all that simplistic side of life in the States. He came home a couple of weeks later and said, guess where we’re going. And off we went to the US.
And actually I loved it. We lived in Knoxville, Tennessee for six years. I had a fabulous time. I met all sorts of different people. I was on his visa and what was stamped in my passport was “attachment to the principle alien”.
He was the principal alien and I was the attachment which meant I couldn’t leave or come into the country without him, and I couldn’t work. I started writing full-time then. In the end I was able to work and I spent a few years working part time at rock concerts selling tee shirts.
Where it all began
Jenny Wheeler: Was that the Roxtons you started on then?
Lucinda Brant: Yes. I wrote Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage and the first Alec Halsey when I was living in the States.
Jenny Wheeler: You started Alec even while fairly early on with the Roxtons? That’s interesting.
Lucinda Brant: Yes, I did. We had our daughter over there and we came back to Australia and I worked in university administration at various universities for about 20 years. Then I retrained as a teacher, mature age student, went back to university, and was a bit of a girly swot.
I topped the Humanities Faculty and won a medal for coming top of the Arts Faculty for Teaching. I went and taught in a girls’ school for a number of years, History and Geography. I loved the teaching part of it, it was excellent. I love teaching senior girls, 17-18. That was good. Very interesting. I enjoyed that time.
The secret of Lucinda’s success
Jenny Wheeler: Is there one thing you’ve done in your career more than any other that you would consider to be the secret of your success?
Lucinda Brant: With my writing career, it’s persisting. Believing in myself and writing what I want to read and thinking there have to be people out there who will enjoy what I’m writing. And never giving up.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s interesting how many writers say exactly that, that it’s a matter of not letting yourself be discouraged.
Lucinda Brant: That’s true.
Jenny Wheeler: From small beginnings, as they say.
Lucinda Brant: That’s right.
Lucinda as reader – some favorites
Jenny Wheeler: Turning to Lucinda as reader, because this is The Joys of Binge Reading and it’s partly predicated around the sorts of readers who like to follow series.
Are you a binge reader yourself and if so, who do you like to read? It sounds like you’ve done a lot of academic reading, but when you turn to more lighthearted fiction or genre fiction, who do you like to read?
Lucinda Brant: I’ll read fiction between books. That’s probably two months a year I’ll down tools for the nonfiction side of things and read fiction. I tend to go back to the Classics because I love the language of Trollope and Tolstoy and Austen.
But there are two writers – I love Mary Balogh, her Bedwyn series, the Slightly books. They’re my favorites of hers and they’re definite binge reading books. My secret binge read is the Inspector Montalbano crime fiction books by Andrea Camilleri.
Jenny Wheeler: Oh, yes. I have vaguely come across those but they’re both probably a bit left of field, a lot of people have probably heard of neither very well. What period is Mary Balogh?
Lucinda Brant: She’s quite famous as a historical romance writer. She writes wonderful stories. Andrea Camilleri passed away last year in his nineties. I came to his books through SBS, the series was on TV, and then I picked up books and they are definite binge reading books if you like crime. Set in Sicily, very funny, very dry wit.
Jenny Wheeler: That sounds great. We’re starting to come to the end of our time together so circling around and looking back down the tunnel of time, is there anything you’d change about the way you’ve structured your writing life and if so, what would it be?
Lucinda Brant: As far as when I became a full-time writer or writing in general?
‘I wish I’d listened to my husband!’
Jenny Wheeler: When you started to see it as a career. Was there a point at which you were writing for yourself and then you felt it was going to be a career?
Lucinda Brant: My husband would laugh at this, but I wish I’d listened to him years earlier because he kept saying to me, you know e-reading’s coming. There’s going to be electronic reading, you realize this. I’d go, yeah, yeah, I know it’s coming, but when?
If I’d known it was going to come when it did, I think I would have thrown in my university job much earlier and written up a storm 10 years earlier. It’s easy to say that now, but he always said there would be eBooks one day.
Jenny Wheeler: Are you entirely indie published or are you hybrid?
Lucinda Brant: No, I’m entirely indie published. My first book Nobel Satyr was published traditionally because I’d won a competition, Random House Woman’s Day Romantic Fiction Prize, and part of the prize was publication, but everything else is indie published. We have a publishing company.
What’s next for Lucinda the writer
Jenny Wheeler: I was encouraged to hear you say that there are probably more Roxton books in the pipeline, but what is next for Lucinda the writer in the rest of 2020 and going into 2021?
Lucinda Brant: I’m writing the fifth Alec Halsey mystery and also starting to plan a book set between Noble Satyr and Midnight Marriage. There’s a 20 year period there and that’s going to be about Antonia and the Duke’s early years of their marriage. That’s coming up in 2020-2021. After that we’ll be looking at Julian and Deb’s children.
Jenny Wheeler: Fantastic. Do you ever write more than one book at the same time?
Lucinda Brant: If you’d asked me that a month ago, I would have said no, but now I don’t know whether it’s COVID-19 or everything else in the world that’s going on, but I have decided that in the evenings I would write the Antonia books and during the day I write the mysteries. Just to break my writing life.
When characters talk to creators
Jenny Wheeler: And that’s what you’re doing.
Lucinda Brant: At the moment, yes. I don’t know how long that will last, but at the moment Antonia and Roxton are in my ear saying, come on, get this done. So I think, I’ll do that in the evening.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s interesting that you’ve chosen to focus on a couple we already know a lot about and yet it will still be a romance.
Lucinda Brant: Yes, it’ll be interesting because I’m just writing what I think. It’s just something I have to do. Whether readers embrace it, I don’t know. I never stick to any sort of formula or anything, so we’ll see what happens.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s interesting that you mentioned readers. Obviously with Pinterest you have developed a following, but how do you like interacting with your readers and where can they find you online?
Lucinda Brant: I get emails every day from readers, so I interact with readers on a daily basis. I have a Facebook page and I also have a group, Lucinda’s Gorgeous Georgians which I’m happy for readers to join. It’s a private group and we chat about my books and characters and the 18th century.
Where to find Lucinda online
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great. We’ll put links to all those in the show notes so that people can reach you easily. You don’t worry about Twitter and Instagram?
Lucinda Brant: I have a Twitter account and I’ll post or retweet 18th century things. And I do have an Instagram, but to be honest, Jenny, my head’s exploding. There’s so much social media out there. I just need time to write.
Jenny Wheeler: It’s been marvelous catching up with you today. I’m sure your followers will find the news that there’s more Roxtons coming fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.
Lucinda Brant: Thank you, Jenny. It’s been a pleasure and thank you for having me.
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