Interview With Alina K. Field
Today’s guest at Susana’s Parlour is Alina K. Field, author of Bella’s Band, released September 3, 2014 by Soul Mate Publishing. Alina will give one lucky commenter a $5 Amazon gift certificate. And don’t forget that all commenters this month are eligible to win Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery Gift Shop (see photo at right).
Susana: How long have you been writing?
Alina: I’ve been writing since I picked up that first crayon, though I have to say, the early days were mostly school reports, journals, and poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry in my growing-up years, but I was too intimidated to tackle fiction. The kind of stories I liked to both read and make up in my head were not the kind we studied in our literature classes! Even then I was a commercial fiction girl.
I didn’t start my first novel until 1985, and I didn’t type “the end” on that story until 2009. In between I had a chaotic and busy time of working, moving, caring for children, animals, and in-laws, and working some more—just the usual woman’s lot! In 2008 I was able to catch my breath, and when in a fit of closet-cleaning I stumbled across that partial manuscript, I started writing again.
Susana: So I take it, that lapse in writing was not writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, what do you do about it?
Alina: I do have times when I struggle with a story, though I don’t consciously think of it as being blocked. It’s more a case of—well this is going to sound weird maybe!—tangling my muse up in self-doubt and external stresses. My cure for this problem is
- go back and ground myself in the characters’ overall goals,
- give myself permission to write cr*p, and
- write every day, even if I’m only squeezing out a page.
Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Alina: I like to have an idea of where I’m going in terms of turning points, but the thought of planning out scenes in great detail is terrifying. I’ve tried it, and for me it’s a muse-zapper.
Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Alina: I had my spinster heroine visit a respectable brothel. In the first draft, she merely lingered in the back garden waiting for the “abbess” to come out and talk to her. In the next draft, she entered the house. It was so much fun to write that scene.
And, no spoilers here, but there is a surprise at the end of the book that has nothing to do with the resolution of the murder.
Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?
Alina: I’m writing the next book in this Regency series. The hero is the not-so-lowly-as-we-thought steward in Bella’s Band. It turns out that he’s the eldest son of an earl, albeit illegitimate. Gosh, and I didn’t know that when I was writing Bella’s Band! I’ve put this story down several times to work on other priorities, and I’m anxious to get back to it.
Susana: Describe the “perfect hero”. What about the “perfect hero” for you?
Alina: My author friend Anne Cleeland says what women want from a hero is devotion to the heroine. I think she’s right. The external bits—his looks, his muscle, his ability to provide—those are the tools he uses to attract and protect his woman, but they’re not necessarily essential (think of some of Mary Balogh’s wounded heroes). Whether he’s madly in love from page one, or comes around to it through the course of the story, the perfect hero shows through his deeds how much he cares for the heroine. The perfect hero is either honorable from the start, or “uncovers” the honor at his core through this great love. What’s better than a bad boy hero reformed by love?
As for me, I had the good fortune to marry my hero many years ago! He’s perfect in all the important ways.
Alina: Dust bunnies, of course, I’m an author! Oh, and you might find a squeaky toy that belongs to my dog. [sending along a picture for you to include here, if you wish] I used to do some under-the-bed storage until my sister feng shui’d my house. Apparently, it’s very bad to sleep on concealed clutter. Now that space is dusty, but otherwise pristine.
About Bella’s Band
Bullets, blades, and incendiary bombs—Major Steven Beauverde, the latest Earl of Hackwell, belongs in that world, and is determined to get back to it. His brother’s murder has forced Steven out of the army and into the title, but he has no interest in being the Earl, and worse, no idea how to salvage the depleted estate. A rumor that his brother had a son by a woman who may be a) the murderer, and b) his brother’s wife, sets Steven on a mission to find her, the boy, and—Steven ardently hopes—proof of a secret marriage that will set Steven free.
Annabelle Harris is a country heiress and a confirmed spinster resettled in London to find her sister, the mistress to the Earl of Hackwell. While she searches, she fills her home with orphans and street urchins. When the Earl is murdered, Annabelle’s sister thrusts the Earl’s illegitimate child into Annabelle’s care and disappears. Now, with suspicion pointing at her sister, Annabelle has begun a new quest—to find her sibling and clear her name.
When their paths converge, the reluctant Earl and the determined spinster find themselves rethinking their goals, and stepping up to fight back when the real murderer shows up.
Surprise pinned Annabelle to the cracked leather seat of the carriage and finally her heart restarted and picked up its pounding.
“Good evening, my lady.” Lord Hackwell flashed her a wide, easy smile that made his face glow like a boy who had pulled a very fast one.
The shock eased. She realized she felt not one whit of fear.
“Is this an abduction, Lord Hackwell? I have never been abducted before. Shall I scream with alarm? Do you mean to harm me?”
His smile disappeared and his face grew too serious. “I mean to protect you, Miss Harris. This is an escort. I mean to see that you return home unharmed.”
“I see. Unharmed, except for the besmirching of my reputation. Shall we appear in the scandal sheets tomorrow, do you suppose?”
“In this bourgeois neighborhood? I think not. Unless, the man who helped you into the hackney is someone of interest?”
Oh, he was prying, and she was so tempted to lead him on. But of course, she had Robby to think about. “Very much so. He is my solicitor. He asked me to dinner to counterbalance his wife’s inquisitive aunt who is visiting from the country, and curious about all things criminal, political, and financial. The poor man has difficulty balancing his client’s confidentiality with his need to be polite to his children’s future benefactress. She is wealthy, I believe.”
“So he set her on you. And how did you maintain your secrets, Miss Harris?”
“We spoke of my home.”
A ribbon of sensation uncurled in her secret places. The space between her and Lord Hackwell had shrunk, and his dark eyes showed more than an interest in her pedigree. Her nerves tingled with the anticipated pleasure of a repeat of the earlier kiss.
I must not.
“Yorkshire,” she said, as blandly as possible. “I grew up on a good-sized estate there.”
“Do you plan to take Robby there?”
Sudden tears pricked her eyes and she turned quickly to the window. Robby and Thomas would have loved Ryeland. With acres and acres of freedom and kind neighbors, they could have played for hours and had adventures that didn’t involve cutpurses and the Watch.
“No, Lord Hackwell. My family home was entailed. The cousin who inherited, I’ve only met once, at my father’s funeral.” And his invitation to linger had been merely perfunctory. Besides, staying in the district of her childhood would beg questions about Veronica.
“So you had no brothers. Is your mother living?”
He hadn’t asked about sisters. That was curious. Perhaps he suspected her relationship with Miss Miller was more than a friendship, and was coming to the question, inch by torturing inch.
“You are dancing again, Lord Hackwell. It is ever so tiresome. Let us get you to the facts. I am the eldest surviving child of Edward Harris, who died two years ago. I had a brother, who died many years before. I have a younger sister who has found a position and made a life with a distant cousin in Scotland. My mother has been gone since I was eighteen. I am twenty-seven years old now. I never had a coming out, because my father took ill, and needed me to manage the estate.”
His eyes widened and he went very still, examining her. The air around them seemed charged with a kind of explosive tension.
Oh heavens. He was finding fault with the country spinster. The gown was from her mourning two years previous, outdated of course, and she felt her hair slipping again, and she’d never been one to effect powders and pigments. “Yes. Well—”
“You managed an estate?”
“Astonishing, isn’t it?” She waved a gloved hand in the air, and he captured it.
He dropped a kiss on her knuckle. “And you managed the household also?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And you don’t care for dancing?”
“I enjoy dancing very much, though my experience is limited to our local assembly. I have not been to a ball in so many ages, and never a town ball.”
She could only laugh at that and shake her head. She receive a voucher for Almack’s? Ridiculous.
“No waltzing, Miss Harris?” His manner remained intense.
“Sadly, no, Lord Hackwell, I have never waltzed.”
He straightened in his seat and his eyes looked ahead. “But you have counted ploughs,” he said thoughtfully.
Tears pricked again, suddenly and unexpectedly. What a dismal woman she was. Too plain, too proper, too practical. Alone in a closed hackney with a devastatingly handsome man, and they were talking about farm equipment.
Never had she felt more desire to be younger, prettier, more daring. This must have been how Veronica had felt.
Her heart filled with compassion and grief. “Ye—yes. Ploughs. Very important they’re correctly deployed. Fate of the tenants’ crops and the estate’s income depends upon them.” She sniffed.
“What’s this?” His large ungloved hand covered her smaller ones, enveloping her in his warmth. “I’ve distressed you?”
She shook her head and tried to compose herself.
“Of course I have, my dear. I’ve reminded you of your lost home.”
“It is fine, sir. My current home is—is not the best, but it is mine, and I can afford to move to something better if the neighborhood deteriorates further. You needn’t worry about Robby. I will give him a good life. Not, perhaps, an aristocratic one, but—”
“Shall I tell you about myself, Miss Harris? Yes. I believe I must.” He cocked his leg on the seat so he sat sideways, and extended his hand to caress the back of her neck. The other remained squarely over her folded hands. “I am twenty-nine. The younger son of the Earl of Hackwell. The very, as it has turned out, needful spare. My mother was the second of two wives. She died not long after I was born. My father sent me off to be fostered, then off to Eton, and then to university for a very short while. I’m not much of a scholar. I landed in the army, where I found I could do something of worth.”
His mouth had grown taut and his hand had tightened over hers, so that she could feel his tension.
“Thomas, the late, great, Lord Hackwell, aside from one lengthy grand tour, was kept close under the paternal wing and learned the business of managing the earldom, standing in the House of Lords, and immersing himself in society. From the state of the accounts, it was the last activity that drew most of his interest.”
He let his fingers caress her neck, distractedly, as though the gesture comforted him, like petting a favorite hound.
Comforting to him; deliciously unsettling to her. Pleasure rippled through her at each touch. She held her breath, lest his fingers pause too long in his search for his next words.
“I can bow properly and make reasonably polite conversation, but I was never much good in a ballroom or drawing room, Miss Harris. Still, like every gentleman with a purse, I had my share of immersing myself in pleasure. Here, and on the continent.” He lapsed into a momentary dark silence. “Not so much since my return.”
“You fought at Waterloo?”
“Yes. And before, on the peninsula.”
And before that too, at every step of his motherless, fatherless life, she’d warrant. As in the children’s game she played with the boys, Annabelle drew out a hand from the pile and pressed his between hers.
And her heart skipped with a realization. Lord Hackwell had no family except Robby.
She felt his eyes fixed on her. He drew her head closer and she could smell his woodsy clean scent, so intensely male. The carriage passed by a street lamp and into a dark stretch, and she could no longer discern the outline of his face.
Her heart tingled and her breath came in short little huffs of anticipated pleasure.
“Annabelle,” he whispered. “What do they call you? Anna? Belle?”
She tensed remembering her chat with Lady Rosalyn.
“It is Belle. How very appropriate.” He kissed her hand.
“Bella,” she whispered. “And not appropriate at all. How did you learn my name?”
“Bella.” He breathed her name in a brandy-laced murmur. “The maid at the Harley Street house gave me your last name. And by the way, she worships you.”
Dear Trish. Annabelle pushed at the seat and squirmed, with no success. He still held her fast.
“I’ve found that servants know everything and talk prodigiously.” He dropped a kiss on her nose.
Annabelle bit back a disagreement and stilled. In a properly run household, gossip was squashed. The poor man had never lived in a properly run household.
His lips hovered over her and she waited. He’d kissed her nose. Perhaps he’d been aiming for her mouth and missed. She wanted one more kiss. She would be safe. In a carriage on a public street, he wouldn’t attempt to take more.
Steven held himself an inch away from her lips. Her nose had been cold, but heat radiated between them, holding them in a warm cocoon. She smelled of plain soap and faint lavender. There was nothing cloying about Miss Harris. He’d breached a line of defense with the use of the pet name. Bella. She wanted him to kiss her.
Not yet. Not yet. She was lovely, and innocent, and perfect. He was known for his quick thinking under duress, and he’d made up his mind. He would do this honorably. He was not his brother. It would not be a seduction.
“Bella, you are right that we should dispense with the dance. You are right that we should speak to the point, and so I will. I think you and I, we should wed.”
“What?” She jumped a full inch from the seat before settling back.
About the Author
Award-winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.