Thursday, July 14, 2011

Author Vicky Dreiling Talks About Research

It’s always fun to welcome author Vicky Dreiling back to Thoughts in1537569_215X340 Progress as the special guest blogger as she tours blogdom with her latest release.

Vicky’s current release is HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL. Here’s a brief synopsis: Miss Julianne Gatewick is in a pickle. It started when her brother's best friend-for whom she's long nursed a secret tendre-agreed to act as her guardian for the Season, only to seduce her with a risqué waltz. But when the music stopped and the expectant ton waited for Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, to claim her as his own, he made his disinterest clear. Rather than succumb to humiliation, Julianne does what any self-respecting, recently discarded young miss with a wicked sense of humor would do. She secretly pens a lady's guide to enticing unrepentant rakes . . . and it becomes the hottest scandal sheet in London.
Every honorable rake knows that friends' sisters are forbidden. But suddenly Julienne has a spark of mischief in her eyes that Hawk can't resist. Try as he might to push her away, he spends his days listening for her laughter and his nights dreaming of kissing her senseless. He's always avoided innocents and their marriage-minded mothers, but has the man least likely to wed finally met his match?

I asked Vicky what was the hardest part of doing research for her books and what was the most fun. Here’s her answer.

I’ve actually researched the Regency era for several years, so I’m fortunate that I know quite a bit about the time period. This means that generally I don’t have to spend numerous hours looking up topics about the mores of the period or about how a man inherited his title or property. In addition, I’ve been to England ten times, so I’ve toured castles, town houses, and multiple museums. 

However, in every book, I find myself researching some obscure detail. If the item is not critical to the plot and only serves to give a feeling of verisimilitude, I’ll mark this as a place to research when the first draft is complete. This is important as during the revision process, I may cut the scene where I thought I would need to research some odd detail. Of course, I learned this the hard way. 

For example, in one scene I wrote for my debut historical HOW TO MARRY A DUKE, I spent hours researching an estate near Richmond. Specifically, I was interested in the plants, trees, and flowers as I couldn’t assume the ones in existence now would have been around in 1816. The research was necessary because I’d planned a picnic in that scene. Those who have read HOW TO MARRY A DUKE know that a terrible thunderstorm occurred, preventing any outdoor activities. That’s why I tend to wait before researching these sorts of details, because they may end up on the proverbial cutting room floor.

9781609419080_388X586Most of the buildings for theaters and opera houses no longer exist as they did in the Regency era (often they burned). I set one scene in HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL at Drury Lane Theatre. I’ve actually been there (saw The Producers there), but the modern building is the fourth in that location, the earliest having been erected in 1663.  So it was necessary to research how it might have appeared in 1817. 

Similarly, I set a scene at The King’s Theatre in Haymarket in HOW TO MARRY A DUKE. I wanted readers to experience the stunning theater, but I knew it was critical not to dwell too long on the description. Here is an excerpt from the first scene in Chapter Nine of HOW TO MARRY A DUKE.

Behind her, Jane gasped. “I had no idea the theatre was so enormous. Look how the light sparkles like stars.” 

Jewels winked from the reflection of the chandeliers suspended from brackets along each tier of boxes. The lack of glass shades, however, resulted in a profusion of wax dripping down into the pit.

There are a few other details sprinkled in the scene, but I keep them spare in order to keep the plot moving quickly. Other times, I might use humor when highlighting the furnishings of a room. I have a number of research books that contain Regency furnishings. In HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL, Hawk’s aunt Hester has rather gaudy taste in décor, but the scenery serves to showcase Hester’s eccentricities. My inspiration for the furnishings came from Thomas Hope’s Regency Furniture and Interior Decoration, first published in 1807. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two.

“You’ve not seen my drawing room since I had it made over last season,” Hester said. “I’ve developed a passion for the Egyptian style.”

He strolled over to a glass case. Then he regarded Julianne over his shoulder with a devilish expression. “Aunt, is the mummy authentic?” 

“It is a reproduction,” Hester said.” But the ornamented scrolls on the ceiling are true antiquities.”

Julianne bit back a smile at the hideous décor. Golden pharaoh statues, pyramids, and urns cluttered the numerous black tables. Many of the furnishings featured enormous clawed feet. 

Fortunately, Hester had shown her to a sedate bedchamber early this morning. Julianne had almost wilted with relief. Dear God, she’d feared she would have sleep among the mummies.

I’ve found myself researching everything from the average speed of a carriage on the King’s highway (12 whopping miles per hour) to the distance from London to Oxford. Other random searches included parlor games, gardens, clothing, and even how to perform simple magic tricks. I find the research both aggravating (when it’s difficult) and fascinating when I uncover some new-to-me detail. 

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest blog. May the Magic Romance Fairies be with all of you! Cheers!
SeduceScoundrel-416x143Vicky, thanks so much for guest blogging. I can see where research could be exciting and fun, as well as being a lengthy process. I can’t image where you found out the speed of a carriage. LOL Wishing you much success with your writing.

Now a bit of background on Vicky. She is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.”

When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and most of all, long lunches with friends. She holds degrees in English literature and marketing. A native Texan, she shares her home with her daughter and a spoiled mini-lop rabbit that lives in a slightly gnawed cardboard cottage.

For more on Vicky and her writing, check out her blog, her website, find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and she’s also at Goodreads.

If you are an author, do you enjoy doing research for your books? As a reader, do you enjoy the extra trouble authors go to researching so they can provide additional insight? Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.


  1. I learned to do the opposite - research before writing. My first novel was about an Olympic swimmer and I wrote first, but when I began researching, I realized I had many aspects of the sport wrong. So I began researching first and by the time I got to the fifth book about a college basketball coach, I got most of the details right the first time around.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Vicky.

    Vicky - Thanks for sharing your experience researching. To me, good research is an important part of a story, especially an historical novel where those details you mention can really add to the authenticity of a story. I wish you much success with How to Seduce a Scoundrel.

  3. I already knew about certain aspects of my book, so I just wrote and filled in needed details later when I could see what I was lacking.

  4. Mason, sorry I've been MIA - this book tour is keeping me hopping - literally and figuratively.

  5. Good interview. So nice to meet you both!

  6. Great post. Research is great!
    Happy Friday :)

  7. I guess I'd consider research a necessary evil in writing. Don't love it, but it sure can give a book more realism and makes it come alive for the reader.

    Much success to you with your books.

  8. Vicky- I have some of the same research habits. I wait to check the stuff I don't know until I've finished a first draft. Did you pick up some of the English Heritage guidebooks on your visits to England? I have some from townhouses and manor houses that come in handy for floor plans, etc.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.