Long before becoming an author herself, Susana used to read just about every Signet and Zebra Regency that came out, not to mention older Fawcetts and Dells she found scouring eBay. How excited she was to discover Janice Bennett—an author whose books she’d read for years—in the group of Ellora’s Cave Blush Cotillion authors she herself joined a year ago! She finally screwed up the courage to ask Janice to write about what it was like to be an author in the days when print was supreme and New York ruled the publishing world. And how thrilled she was when Janice said yes!
Another surprise: Janice’s recently re-released book, Catherine’s Star, is a time travel, which is what I’m working on at present. I picked it up immediately and devoured it, hoping to pick up some tips. Excellent story—a very different approach from my A Home For Helena—but wonderfully engrossing and with a mystery to be solved as well!
If you’re a Janice Bennett fan, please stop and say hi. What did you think when publishers suddenly dropped traditional Regencies and went to the longer format? We’d love to hear from you!
So, what was it like to write during the heyday of Regencies? Very, very different from now. And in other ways, very much the same.
When I started writing, all romances were still considered “trashy little books” by everyone except those who wrote them—and the vast number of people who read and loved them. Regencies were a very minor sub-genre—we had the smallest print run of any type of romance—but we had incredibly loyal readers.
Very few of the houses even published Regencies, and each only released two or three of them each month. And since there were always more authors with well-written books than there were available slots, it was much harder to get published. But that also meant the reader had fewer choices, so each book that came out sold far more copies.
Many of the houses wouldn’t even look at a book unless it was presented by an agent. It made sense, as the agents weeded out the poorly written ones and only handled the ones they were sure were good enough. Agents were also good for the writer. Mine would call me up about once a month, just to pass on the latest gossip in the publishing world—which house was introducing which new lines, which editors were looking for what kind of book, that sort of thing.
As for promoting, a writer might hold a book signing at her local store, and some took out ads in the review magazines. Mostly, we relied on potential readers to walk into a store, browse the shelves, glance through the pages and find a book they thought they’d like. And if they did like it, they’d usually buy other books by that author. There was no such thing as the internet. No chats, no blogs, no contests, no websites—in short, none of the means writers must employ today just to be noticed.
The lack of the internet also made research much harder. We didn’t have access to hundreds of historical research sites. We couldn’t hop onto a chat group and ask other writers and history buffs a question—which might receive dozens of answers in a matter of hours, some of them even correct. We had to do the research ourselves. I have a shelf of books and novels written about—and during—the Regency era. Some are vague, some are less than accurate, very few actually answer the questions that came up while I was writing. And sometimes I’d have to wait months to receive a book I’d requested from a university library, which would arrive after my deadline.
Ah, yes. Deadlines. My agent told me never, ever, to write the whole book until after it was sold. But once it was, the publishing house expected it to be written. And by a particular date. I admit, I’m strange. I love deadlines. I can’t write without them. I need the terror of that rapidly approaching date to make me sit down and focus.
And to focus, I have to be deeply involved in my current WIP. I’ve tried to keep my ideas fresh, different, a delight to write. I’ve pushed the boundaries of traditional Regencies about as far as they can go—with adventure stories, murder mysteries, ghost stories, vampires, time travels, even a fairy godmother. I can hardly wait to see what new idea grabs me and demands to be written next.
About Catherine’s Star
Every Regency reader’s dream—going back in time for a London Season. But hidden dangers lurk as she searches for a lost fortune—and love.
Blush sensuality level: This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic).
While searching London to find all the places mentioned in the Regency novels she adores, Andrea Wells spots an intriguing gentleman in historic costume who mysteriously appears and disappears. She becomes obsessed with him after finding his portrait in a scandal rag, accompanied by the story of his death in 1810 and the tale of a cursed Russian icon known as Catherine’s Star, and visits his home, Greythorne Court, to learn more about him.
The current occupant of Greythorne is convinced Andrea can travel back through time, and she says Andrea must go back and find the missing Catherine’s Star to save the Court.
However, when Andrea dreamed of living in Regency England, she didn’t count on murderous spies or falling in love with a man whose imminent death is tied to the fate of a priceless icon.
A Blush® paranormal romance from Ellora’s Cave
Publisher’s Note: This book was published elsewhere in 1990 under the title A Timely Affair. It has been edited for EC publication.
About the Author
Janice Bennett never intended to be a writer, but with B.A degrees in anthropology and classical civilizations and an M.A. in folklore and mythology, all from various campuses of the University of California, what choice did she have? Her first jobs included the usual abc’s—archaeology, bookkeeping and college craft instructor. Then in desperation she submitted her first novel, a Regency, and life took on a new and rather fascinating twist. Shortly thereafter, she began presenting workshops on a variety of writing topics, teaching novel writing at a community college, serving as a writing panel member at WorldCons…and then became an editor, as well. So far, she has written twenty-six novels and more than twenty novellas and received a number of awards, including two Lifetime Achievement awards from Romantic Times. She lives in a tiny, rural town with her husband, far too many cats, a huge dog, a large organic garden—and a computer she swears runs on chocolate chips, not silicon ones, which explains a lot about her.