Saturday, July 3, 2010

Guest Blogger, Eileen Dreyer

Please join me in welcoming award-winning author Eileen Dreyer as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today.

Eileen’s latest book, BARELY A LADY, was just released on Thursday, July 1. Thanks to Eileen, Anna and the folks at the Hachette Book Group, I have five copies of BARELY A LADY to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway guidelines.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: Olivia Grace has secrets that could destroy her. One of the greatest of these is the Earl of Gracechurch, who married and divorced her five years earlier. Abandoned and disgraced, Grace has survived those years at the edge of respectability. Then she stumbles over Jack on the battlefield of Waterloo, and he becomes an even more dangerous secret. For not only is he unconscious, he is clad in an enemy uniform. 

But worse, when Jack finally wakes in Olivia's care, he can't remember how he came to be on a battlefield in Belgium. In fact, he can remember nothing of the last five years. He thinks he and Olivia are still blissfully together. To keep him from being hanged for a traitor, Olivia must pretend she and Jack are still married. 

To unearth the real traitors, Olivia and Jack must unravel the truth hidden within his faulty memory. To save themselves and the friends who have given them sanctuary, they must stand against their enemies, even as they both keep their secrets. 

In the end, can they risk everything to help Jack recover his lost memories, even though the truth may destroy them both?

Eileen stopped by today to talk about what inspired her to write BARELY A LADY, as well as her writing method. Eileen tell us “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

The most wonderful part of writing a book is the time when it takes form in my mind. The inspiration can come from anywhere, a name, a place, a newspaper clipping. For BARELY A LADY, it actually came from reading a book with an amnesia plot. I found myself wishing the author had done a bit of research. I'm a trauma nurse. I know from head injuries, and no matter how much we authors want, if a person is unconscious for any length of time from an injury, he will never magically remember the injury. He won't be able to name his attacker, unless the attacker predicted the assault a few hours before it happened.  I can't tell you the number of concussion patients who told me that the last thing they remembered was eating breakfast that morning. And that was just after a minor concussion.

But I digress. I began with a wish to write a book about real amnesia. Then I reread Georgette Heyer's An Infamous Army and thought, "Ooh. Waterloo. That would be a great place to get a concussion and have amnesia." (Yes, authors are fairly ghoulish. Well, at least this one.)

From there I played a game Mary Higgins Clark taught me. "What if?" What if Olivia, my heroine finds Jack, my hero on a battlefield? What if he's wearing the wrong uniform? What if he's the man who deserted and disgraced her? What if when Jack wakes, he's missing the last five years of his life and thinks the two of them are still happily married? How far would Olivia go to protect him? And just how much of Jack's memory will return?

That part, before a word is put to paper, is the most fun, because the idea is still pure, the vision so clear in my head that it keeps me awake. I'm not limited yet by too little time and too few words. I haven't yet had to actually plot the book out or defend my vision to an editor. The idea for the book hovers before me like a jigsaw puzzle I just need to put together.

The first problem comes with the outline. I'll be frank. I suck at outlines. I am severely right brain dominant, which means I'm deficient in linear logic. And outlines are nothing if not linear. Thank heavens for Syd Fields, who wrote some of the seminal works on screenwriting. He taught me how to take outlines off the linear plane and put them onto a spacial plane. I either take notecards, write bits of plot and rearrange them on the floor til they make sense, or construct a three act paradigm, into which I randomly put the same bits of plot until they make sense. Okay, my outlines are still rather notorious. They tend to have phrases in them like, "Somehow they find out who the bad guys are."  But since I keep selling books, they seem to work well enough.

 Next comes research, which is great fun. I've researched everything from Regency England to SWAT medics, and I find there are times I like research more than writing. For BARELY, I not only did the necessary research on dress, mores, transportation, uniforms, and language of 1815, (not to mention, of course, Waterloo), I got to travel to England to walk London, especially Mayfair, where my heroine Olivia ends up living on Clarges Street with her friend Lady Kate. I'm a global learner, and the more I can capture the sights, sounds, and smells of a place, the better I can portray it. I just wish I'd been able to get to Brussels, where Olivia lives and helps tend the injured that overwhelmed the streets after Waterloo.

For the actual writing of the book, I'm not one of those authors who write scenes as they come to her. I must write the book in order, because I'm telling myself the story, and I have to want to know how it will come out if I can hope to make somebody else want the same thing. This also keeps me honest, so that I don't keep skipping the hard scenes and only write the fun ones. And sometimes the hard scenes are no more than a transition page. I can write an action scene in an hour and take the next four days over one page. 

I'm often surprised by what goes on the page, and that's another joy. Authors will tell you that their characters 'take over.' We only hope they will. That means that we have drawn the characters so thoroughly that they literally take on a life of their own. That's when writing is really a rush.

I still have to fight the linear aspects of the plot, especially when I'm writing suspense. For instance, in BARELY A LADY, Jack, my hero, is found in an enemy uniform. Is he the traitor, or someone else? How do they find out? What decisions do they have to make to unearth the truth, and in what order? I call that part of the book, “putting down the clues, picking up the clues, interpreting the clues.” That's the part of the book that often makes me think of the quote, "Writing is simple. All you have to do is stare at a blank page until beads of blood form on your forehead."

As hard as it can be, I find that I hate to finish a book. I've grown so attached to the characters that I don't want to say good bye. I want to have time to sit with Olivia and Jack and see what happens next. That's what I love about doing a series.  I may be finished with BARELY A LADY, but Olivia and Jack appear again in the books that follow, along with new characters I get to discover. 

Eileen, thanks so much for stopping by today and explaining what inspired you to write it. Your research method is also very interesting.

Now for the giveaway guidelines for this 432-page paperback.  I have five copies of BARELY A LADY (ISBN: 9780446542081) to giveaway. To enter the giveaway send me an e-mail ( with “Win Barely a Lady” in the subject line and be sure to include your name and address in the body of the e-mail. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only and no post office box addresses can be accepted. Just so you know, I don’t share or use the addresses for anything other than sending the winning addresses to the publisher. The giveaway ends at 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 18.

Here’s an added bonus. To find out more about the characters in BARELY A LADY, click here.


  1. Another great post. I do look forward to coming to your blog to get my daily hit of inspiration.


  2. Lou, thank you for your kind words. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

    Eileen, thanks so much for guest blogging today. I enjoyed learning 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' of BARELY A LADY. Can't wait to read it.

    Hope everyone has a great day and a super weekend. I may be a bad host today and be absent as we're having a cookout for both of my in-laws and ... well you know how it goes when you try to plan something. Best to all.

  3. WOW! This novel sounds FASCINATING! I hope I win a copy. :-)

    Eileen, thanks so much for sharing your writing process. It sounds very much like mine - except that I do write scenes out of order. I wish I didn't! You're right: going in order would keep me from skipping the 'hard' scenes, and I might try it.

    Best to you!

    - Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

  4. I love the way Eileen outlines! Outlines terrify me too - I tend to ignore them completely or do a very, very, very basic one in my head. This might work :)

  5. Thanks for sharing your journey, Eileen. I love research too, finding it really helps develop my plot with real authenticity. It's amazing how knowing more facts about a place, an occupation, an emotion even, can take the plotline in a new direction. Happy writing to you!

  6. Mason, thank you so much for allowing me to join you here. What a great group!

    It's great to see other writers here. And just you guys show how each writer has his or her own process. I'm very organic. I just know that if I'm writing, it works. If I'm not, I need to try something else. Jemi, I highly recommend Screenplay by Syd Fields, where he shows you the paradigm. He changed my life.

  7. Barely A Lady sounds like a wonderful read. What a thrill it must have been to be on the streets of Mayfair and wondering how your characters truly felt while strolling. Thank you for sharing behind the scenes of what went into writing your story.

  8. Armenia--it really was, although it was a bit distracting to be dodging cars instead of curricles. But to actually see the stores and churches we write about, like Berry Brothers, where Brummel used to weigh himself on the coffee scale. It truly gave me shivers.

  9. I really enjoyed all of Eileen's comments! The book looks wonderful and it certainly sounds like the research was very intersting too!

  10. The plot sounds intriguing and knowing how you put it together and the research you did makes it compelling.

    Straight From Hel

  11. See, that's what makes my job so fun. I get to daydream for a living and then say to my wonderful hubby, "But I need to go to London" or "I need to go to SWAT school." And he smiles and says, "Have fun." It's sure better than working for a living. I've done that, too. ;-}

  12. I met Eileen Dreyer many years ago at a RWA conference. She was very nice to this wanna-be writer. It was great to read her guest blog. Thanks! :)


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