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Posts Tagged ‘Susanna Fraser’

This drawing is now closed. Random.org has picked commenter beckymmoe as the winner of Susanna’s book. Congratulations to beckymmoe – I’ve sent your email address to Susanna; you should be getting a message from her soon!


It’s always a pleasure to welcome my favorite romance-writing military-history geek to the blog. Susanna Fraser stops by today to talk about her just-released novella, A Dream Defiant, and to give a copy away! Read on:


Cover for A Dream Defiant

Spain, 1813

Elijah Cameron, the son of runaway slaves, has spent his whole life in the British army proving that a black man can be as good a soldier as a white man. After a victory over the French, Elijah promises one of his dying men that he will deliver a scavenged ruby necklace to his wife, Rose, a woman Elijah has admired for years.

Elijah feels bound to protect her and knows a widow with a fortune in jewels will be a target. Rose dreams of using the necklace to return to England, but after a violent attack, she realizes she needs Elijah’s help to make the journey safely.

Her appreciation for Elijah’s strength and integrity soon turns into love, but he doubts she could want a life with him, knowing the challenges they’d face. As their relationship grows, she must convince Elijah that she wants him as more than a bodyguard. And she must prove that their love can overcome all obstacles, no matter the color of their skin.


Q: You’re an author who takes research very seriously. Did you find yourself setting an even-higher-than-usual standard of accuracy when it came to writing a protagonist of a different race from your own? And were there moments when you doubted your ability, or authority, to tell Elijah’s story in an authentic way?Susanna Fraser

A: I definitely wanted to be as accurate as possible, because I was writing about a culture and ethnicity that isn’t my own and one that, to be frank, has been systematically harmed by my native culture. That said, I was limited by the relative paucity of source material. (Although, as always, I’m sure there’s more out there I simply didn’t find–at some point you just have to take off your researcher hat and put the writer one on.) For example, I found scattered references to black soldiers, but I never found a detailed history of a man in Elijah’s position, so I was left to extrapolate what his experiences might have been like.

And I definitely had many moments of self-doubt about whether I should or could tell this story. Ultimately what helped was realizing that I didn’t have to tell the entire story of the black experience in 19th century Britain–that such a thing was FAR beyond the scope of one novella-length historical romance, to put it mildly. All I needed to do was tell a slice of ONE character’s life story. That much I could do.

Q: Like your debut, The Sergeant’s Lady, A Dream Defiant features a heroine widowed while following her husband at war. What is it about the plight of the “following the drum” widow that compels you as a writer?

A: I find myself drawn to widowed heroines in general for a very simple reason–it allows me to write older, sexually experienced heroines who aren’t necessarily “bad girls” or otherwise possessed of a complex or unusual backstory. They’ve been married, happily or otherwise, and now they’re widowed, which in a world with no antibiotics and only rudimentary trauma medicine is ridiculously easy for a writer to make believable.

As for widows following the drum, Rose’s circumstances in A Dream Defiant are quite different from Anna’s in The Sergeant’s Lady. As an officer’s widow and a daughter of the aristocracy, Anna had the resources to return home, and the social expectation that she would observe a normal period of mourning for her husband. Of course that’s not (quite) what happened, given that her husband’s death freed her from a miserable, abusive situation and she quickly met and had adventures with the RIGHT man.

Enlisted soldiers’ widows like Rose, however, were expected to remarry quickly. Each company was allowed a small number of wives officially “on the strength” (generally six), and once a woman was widowed, she lost the right to draw rations for herself and her children. Few women could afford to go home or had a way to support themselves and any children if they did, so most of them remarried almost immediately. I’d read about such women in my initial research for The Sergeant’s Lady, and I was drawn to the poignancy of having to choose a second husband so soon after burying a first one, especially for a woman who loved, or at least was fond of, her first. In fact, that was my initial inspiration for A Dream Defiant.

Q: Rose and Elijah marry for a fascinating mix of reasons, some pragmatic – she needs the protection of marriage; he likes her cooking – and some less so. Was it tricky to establish their mutual attraction in a way that wouldn’t detract from Rose’s sincere mourning, for, and Elijah’s friendship with, her first husband?

A: It was definitely a balancing act. I didn’t want Rose’s first marriage to have been wholly unhappy. I’ve written unhappy first marriages before and will probably do so again. Still, I do feel like it’s the easy way out with a widowed heroine, so I don’t want to go to that well too often. But I also wanted her to find something more with Elijah (this being a romance, after all). So I tried to show without being too heavy-handed that Elijah shared brains, drive, and frustrated ambition with Rose that would enable them to be more together than either were apart, while her first husband had been more of a dead weight. An affectionate, kind, well-meaning dead weight, but one who’d been holding her back all the same.

Q: The couple encounters a spectrum of responses to their marriage, among their regiment and later back in England. Were certain places or populations more welcoming than others to an interracial couple at the time?

A: Interracial marriages were far more accepted in England than in America during this period–really at any point during the 19th century. The fact that England itself wasn’t a slave society (though it still had slavery in some of its colonies) seemed to make its people more willing to accept blacks as equal to whites of similar financial and/or occupational status. Class mattered more than race in a lot of ways. By that measure Rose and Elijah are essentially equals. If anything, Elijah, who is relatively well-educated and has a colonel for his family’s (occasionally patronizing) patron, ranks a little higher.

That said, there was of course plenty of racial prejudice. For one thing, the stereotype about black men’s penis size and sexual prowess already existed, so we see a bit of that from some of the more prejudiced soldiers speculating on why beautiful Rose, who could have her pick of men in the regiment, chose Elijah. In general, I got the impression from my research that the degree of prejudice varied a lot from person to person, just as it does now, so I wrote my characters’ experiences accordingly.

Q: Rose has a passion and a gift for cooking. I know from your blog that you’re an avid hobby cook yourself. What was it like to write a character who shared one of your own avocations?

A: Because of my interest in cooking, I’d been wanting to write a cook or chef character for quite awhile. It’s easier to connect to a character when you share a common interest, and while Rose was my first culinary protagonist I doubt she’ll be my last. There’s that badass garlic-wielding vampire-slaying French chef in one of my unfinished manuscripts, for example…

Q: Is this the last we’ll hear from this set of characters? Late in the book there’s an intriguing mention of Elijah’s officer friend, Lieutenant Farlow. Might there be more to his story?

A: I’m working on a proposal for Henry Farlow’s story now! It will be a full-length novel.

Q: What are you working on right now, and what do you plan to be working on after that?

A: I’ve got several balls in the air. My next scheduled release isn’t until late 2014–a holiday novella from Carina. But I’m hoping to have at least one and hopefully two releases before then. In addition to Henry Farlow’s story, I’ve got a short Christmas time travel novella in the works, and I’m planning a series based around children and grandchildren of “Wild Geese”–Scottish and Irish Jacobites who took refuge in Spain and France after the failed Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century.

Thanks, Susanna, for stopping by! My ears pricked up at “Christmas time-travel novella” (?!), so you can be sure I’ll be watching for that :)


Susanna will be giving away an electronic copy (PDF, epub, or kindle) of A Dream Defiant to one randomly chosen commenter on this post. Tell us your favorite romance – from book, film, or TV – with a military/wartime setting. Star Wars counts! (But if you say “Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala in the prequels,” you will be immediately disqualified from the drawing.) (Not really.)*

Leave a comment by 11:59:59 PM Pacific time on Friday, August 2nd for a chance to win!

*Any comment at all will be entered in the drawing. “I want to win,” “I’ve never liked any military romance,” and “Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca, obviously” are all valid entries.   


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Congratulations to Growlycub, winner of Susanna’s An Infamous Marriage giveaway! Susanna will be emailing you shortly to find out which e-book format you prefer.


I’m so happy to welcome author Susanna Fraser to the blog today.Susanna Fraser

Susanna writes romances set in the early decades of the 19th century, with a military milieu – she read Bernard Cornwell and Patrick O’Brian as well as Jane Austen in her formative years, and it shows in her stories. I always feel like I’m just sinking into a sort of hammock of immaculately woven, inconspicuously integrated research when I’m reading one of her books.

I was fortunate enough to have an early look at Susanna’s latest release, An Infamous Marriage, and she kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about writing the book.


Cover of An Infamous MarriageNorthumberland, 1815

At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.


Q:  I love romances that take risks, and An Infamous Marriage takes a big one:  hero Jack, a career soldier, has been unfaithful to his wife during the years he was away at war. How did you decide to write a story that featured the hero’s infidelity as an obstacle? Was it a historical-accuracy thing? A “let’s see if I can pull this off” thing? And did you worry it would make your hero too unsympathetic?

A:  Jack is the first hero I’ve written who’s in any sense a rake, and having set myself the challenge of writing such a hero, I didn’t want him to be a fake rake. I also wanted to give him and the heroine something real and difficult to work through. I don’t know if I always succeed, but I do my best to avoid plots driven by a Big Misunderstanding. (Big Secrets and Big Miscommunications are another story, however.)

Historical accuracy was a factor, too, in that Jack is a man of his time. The infidelity takes place during a five-year separation. His marriage is one of convenience, he hardly knows his wife, and he certainly isn’t in love with her yet. He’d say he hasn’t acted any differently than other men in the same circumstances—and he wouldn’t be wrong. But because he’s a hero, he learns that “everyone else does it” isn’t a valid excuse.

I did worry that the infidelity might make Jack unsympathetic. On the other hand, it was the story I wanted to tell. I try to stretch myself at least a little bit out of my comfort zone with every book I write, just to keep from getting stale.

Q: Was your publisher on board with the infidelity plotline right away, or did you have to do some convincing?

A: They never brought it up when they accepted the proposal or at any point during the editing process. As I was working on this interview I checked in with my editor, and she told me it wasn’t an issue, given the circumstances of the infidelity.

Q: Jack and Elizabeth meet and marry under some of the most unromantic circumstances I’ve ever read in a romance, and neither one expects to fall in love with the other. At what point would you say her feelings start to change, and at what point do his?

A: She’s aware of him as an attractive man on some level from the very beginning, but she’s too lost in grief for her first husband to feel much of anything for anyone at first. So she begins to fall in love with him a few months after they marry for the sake of the letters he sends her from Canada, where he’s serving with his regiment. This makes her feel all the more betrayed when she hears transatlantic gossip about his affairs.

As for Jack, his feelings only start to change when he comes home from the wars and Elizabeth confronts him over his infidelity—but once he falls, he falls fast and hard and doesn’t look back.

Q: Jack’s serving in the war with America is unusual for a Regency romance. Did you know a lot about that conflict already, or did you need to research? And was there any tidbit of military research that you regret not being able to work into the book?

A: I knew almost nothing about it, and what I knew was the kind of factoids I must’ve used as fill-in-the-blank answers on American History tests back in 11th grade. Francis Scott Key, the Star-Spangled Banner, Andrew Jackson, the Battle of New Orleans. (I sort of backed into my interest in Napoleonic Era military history—it started with a fictional crush on Richard Sharpe that turned into a historical crush on the Duke of Wellington, neither of which draws one to study the War of 1812.)

I’d certainly learned nothing in school about the conflict along the Canadian border, which is the part of the war Jack serves in. But once I discovered it, I knew I’d found Jack’s place in the war. I’m an American myself, after all, as are the majority of my readers, and I figured they’d have an easier time sympathizing with a hero defending Canada than one who took part in the burning of the White House!

As for research I couldn’t include in the book, I read a couple biographies of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who died in battle in 1813 leading a coalition of Indian warriors who fought alongside the British. He was a fascinating man, a real tragic hero, and Jack certainly would’ve known him well, but I ended up with no story-related reason to do more than mention his name a time or two.

Q: Some historical figures of the period, most notably the Duke of Wellington, appear as characters in An Infamous Marriage. What are the challenges of writing a real-life person into your story? Is there someone you’d particularly like to write into a book someday?

A: I’d say the biggest challenge in using a real-life figure is making him or her come across as a real person rather than a cardboard cutout, all while keeping within the limits of his or her actions as recorded by history.

I don’t see myself ever writing biographical fiction—I’m not even that fond of it as a reader. When I’m fascinated by a historical figure, I go straight to biography. In fiction, I don’t want to know exactly how it ends before I even start the book.

That said, my “book under the bed” is an alternative history involving, among other people, Wellington and Napoleon. One of these days I want to either polish that manuscript into publishable form or write a fantasy series with similar themes and character types.

Q: You have a novella coming up that I’m really excited about. Can you tell us a little bit about that, and about what you might be working on afterward?

A: It will be out on 7/29/2013, with a title yet to be determined. It’s an interracial romance set in the aftermath of the Battle of Vittoria in the Peninsular War in 1813. The hero is a black British soldier, born to parents who escaped slavery in Virginia by running away to the British army. Over the past few years I’ve been lurking on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog, where he’s often written about the black Union soldiers of the Civil War. Bringing black men into the army was such a huge, hotly-debated step in America, yet I knew for a fact 50 years earlier there had been at least a few black soldiers in both the British and French armies.  So I decided I wanted to try to write one of their stories.

After that, I’m working on a proposal for a full-length novel featuring a secondary character from the novella, and I’m trying my hand at a Christmas novella.


I’ll be giving one copy of An Infamous Marriage to a commenter on this post in your choice of e-book format, and at the end of the tour I’ll be giving away a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s Books to one commenter on the tour as a whole. You get one entry per blog tour stop you comment upon, so check out my blog for the whole schedule! If you wish to be entered in the drawing, include your email address formatted as yourname AT yourhost DOT com.

Leave a comment by 5 pm Pacific time, Wednesday, November 21 to be entered in the e-book giveaway.


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(*I hate it when stories I like turn out to be apocryphal. Legend has it that Winston Churchill, in response to an editor who corrected his ending sentences with a preposition, scrawled on the manuscript:  “That is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”  No documentation exists, though, and it’s a pretty good bet it never happened.)

1) The blog has been silent for quite a while, I know. I’ve been in head-down writing mode. I’d always sort of shaken my head and pursed my lips when I heard writers talk about being too busy to read, but I’m off that high horse now. I have not read a full-length book for over a month. I wish, wish, wish I were able to write faster. I don’t believe prolific-ness (prolificity?) is necessarily a good measure of success, and I do think there’s such a thing as oversaturating the market with your stuff, but I’m still slower than what I’d like to be.

2) I went to Paris in September. It was a wonderful Trip of a Lifetime thing, starring my mom, who’d never been off the North American continent before, and co-starring my sister, my brother, and me. Mom is artsy beyond any of our ability to keep up, so we divided up the museum shifts, and she and I spent an excellent, not-long-enough day in the Louvre.

I did some writing in Paris, so now I can say I’ve been to Paris and written there. Mostly I wrote in a minuscule office in the flat we rented, but one day I walked up to the oldest library in Paris, the Bibliotheque Mazarine, and wrote for a little while there.

Exterior of the Bibliotheque Mazarine

Bibliotheque Mazarine. You have to stop at the office to get a visitor’s pass, for which you leave your driver’s license or other ID.

You’re not allowed to take pictures in the reading room, but here’s a picture on a Wikipedia page.

Okay, stuff coming up:

1) This weekend I’ll be at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference, which is the annual conference put on by the Seattle chapter of RWA, in cosmopolitan Bellevue, Washington. In fact I should be packing right now instead of writing this, as the first workshop starts in just over an hour.

If you happen to be at the conference, there are two formal chances to encounter me:

  • Saturday I’ll be signing at the Book Fair, 4:30 – 6:00 on the 3rd floor of the Bellevue Westin Hotel. Actually this is open to the public, so even if you’re not attending the conference, if you happen to be near Bellevue then stop by! Lots of more-famous-than-I authors will be there, too. Oh, and I’ll have candy.
  • Sunday morning I’ll be on the annual “Chapter members who became published authors in 2012” panel, AKA “How Did They Do That?” It’s at 8:00 a.m., so I’m expecting kind of a sparse turnout, but we’ll do our best to make it worth your while. I’ll give away books, and try to have edifying advice.

Also, if you’re at the conference and just see me around, please say hi.

2) Author Susanna Fraser is going to be stopping by the blog on November 20 to talk about her upcoming release, An Infamous Marriage and to give away a copy. If you’re a fan of trad-flavored Regencies with a military emphasis, authored by someone who really knows her stuff, then you should be reading Fraser. And if, like me, you’re a fan of love stories that get off to the worst possible start, then you definitely need to read An Infamous Marriage.

Okay, I’m going to pack now. Will try to send updates from the conference!

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