I have the honour to start off this series of Q & As with celebrated Historical Romance author, Paullett Golden. She’s won several awards for her works including the Reviewers Choice award, which she won in 2019 and again in 2020. Check out her books here.
I really admired the way you developed Duncan in The Colonel and The Enchantress. What kind of research did you do while developing his character?
A great deal of my research focused on survivors of spinal hematomas, which is what his injury is, although it didn’t have that name at the time. I researched the condition, the treatment options, the recovery, the rehabilitation options, etc. Since this injury would not have had a name, much less a treatment method, at that time, I also had to research about medical diagnosis, surgeries, etc. at that time, which ranged from the simplest forms of sawbone approaches to the more complex spinal studies being conducted on the continent—some of which is mentioned in the story. There needed to be a realistic and believable combination of his injury, surgery, and recover during that time.
Since this isn’t just about the injury but about Duncan as a character, there was also a good bit of research about military life at the time, life as a Light Dragoon and officer, PTSD, and the campaign he was involved with, which all influenced his self-perceptions, decisions, and reactions to being injured and recovering. At times we see him determined to recover and other times feeling helpless and hopeless.
I’m particularly interested in the way his injury is drawn. What was the writing process behind it?
I based Duncan’s condition on a similar scenario of a fellow I know. He had suffered from the same injury. Much of Duncan’s approach to recovery is based on the recovery methods of the person I know. I did make quite a few changes to be more in keeping with Duncan’s personality and the time period, but the stages of recovery are nearly identical to what my friend experienced. I didn’t want to rely completely on one person’s experience, so I studied the journeys of other survivors to see how they carried on, each with a different experience. Some were able to walk out of the hospital after surgery, while others never walked again.
The rehabilitation methods Duncan uses of hippotherapy is based not on my friend but on my research into spinal injury rehabilitation methods. There are so many inspiring cases of people suffering from paraplegia who have found relief and even recovery through hippotherapy. Here’s a brief bit I wrote about hippotherapy, including some great links to get to know it better: https://www.paullettgolden.com/hippotherapy There is quite an impressive number of hippotherapy centers in England, all trained and designed to assist with rehabilitation and treatment of conditions ranging from paraplegia to autism.
I will admit that although I based the injury recovery on a friend, I attempted to do and experience as best as I could the methods Duncan uses to recover, especially the exercises he does, just to see how it would feel, what could be done, what difficulties might result, etc. I had a few bruises and some rug burn, but it was an educational and inspiring experience to put myself in Duncan’s shoes. There was a time that due to blood clotting of my own, I couldn’t move my legs with ease, so I was able to relate to some of what he experiences, but it’s been quite a few years, and so it was challenging but important to try his methods of recovery.
The Enchantresses series begins each book with a new generation of characters, which I find very original. What was the inspiration behind deciding to write a series that follows a family through several generations? What were some of the challenges you faced when writing using this concept?
Confession time! I did not begin with the plan to do a series. Originally it was only The Earl and The Enchantress. Once I finished that book, beta readers were dying to know the stories of the other characters. When that plan took root, it grew and blossomed into not only one series but an entire world build.
I decided that at some point I would have another series with the children of these characters (a la Johanna Lindsey’s Mallory family)—the children of this set of characters will be marriage age during the Regency. Each book and each series I have planned outside of this family tree will see cameos of this family or perhaps a cameo from another book or series, as they’ll all live in the same world.
In the upcoming Sirens series, for instance, the MCs from The Earl and The Enchantress as well as The Baron and The Enchantress play pivotal roles in the conflict and resolution of the romances, even if they’re no more than tertiary characters in the story.
The challenge has been that I didn’t set out with this plan, so I’ve had to make some adjustments here and there to make it work, as well as dig through the books themselves for details I might have missed to avoid inconsistencies. Had I planned the series from the start, I would have taken much better notes!
You mention in some earlier interviews that you didn’t expect being an author to require quite so much marketing and social media presence. Was it difficult finding a healthy balance between marketing, writing and other life duties? How has the aspect of being an author affected your mental health and what do you feel is an ideal balance between managing your social media, writing and everyday life?
It all comes down to good time management and planning. From time to time I have to adjust the weekly schedule to provide more time for something else, but once a strategy is in place, it’s fairly easy going. For the most part, my day is scheduled so that I have time for everything. While I wouldn’t mind having a personal secretary sometimes, things run smoothy as long as I plan ahead and stick to the schedule.
I think the ideal balance depends on the person and their commitments—do they have another job? Children? Dinner parties? Travel? Etc. With a strict schedule and good planning, it’s possible to do everything. Just one hour per day, for instance, would be great to post on social media, reply to comments, scroll and reply to other pages, and answer messages. The tricky part for some people is in the scheduling and planning. Not scheduling everything or looking ahead at which days will require different time commitments will likely result in things not getting done—too much time on social media; not enough time on social media; too much time watching Netflix; not enough time writing, etc.
In terms of mental health, I’m so much happier and healthier with my writing career underway. It’s incredibly fulfilling knowing that I’m accomplishing my dreams.
I hear you’re working on a new book in The Enchantresses series called The Gentleman and The Enchantress. Can you tell us a bit about the book? Where does it fit in the series? I notice, throughout the series, a strong theme of challenging social hierarchy. How does social hierarchy play in this book?
The final book in this series is The Gentleman and The Enchantress. That won’t mean we’re finished seeing these characters, especially since we’ll circle back for the stories of the children, as well as see a few of the secondary characters outside of the family tree get their own stories (Like Winston who we see in Duke and Colonel) but for this immediate part of the family tree, this will be the final book.
This book is about Cuthbert, who is Hazel’s brother and the father of Lizbeth and Charlotte. His story will touch on the entailment of his family home and how he thinks it came about (although we learn the truth in Hazel’s story—The Heir and The Enchantress). Cuthbert’s story revolves around his father’s scheme to recoup money losses by trying to take over a local tin mine. While helping his father, he ends up falling for the tin mine owner’s daughter. He then must choose between loyalty to his father and his love for the heroine.
I would say the social hierarchy drama in this particular book is with Cuthbert, the gentleman son of landed gentry, falling in love with the daughter of a man of industry. Regardless of how wealthy the daughter’s family might be, the fact remains that they’re of the merchant/industrial class rather than gentry. Since the hero’s father is determined for Cuthbert to become a Member of Parliament, it could hurt Cuthbert’s reputation to align with someone so far below his own social status. His marriage should be something politically and socially advantageous.
I am particularly interested in your upcoming new series, The Sirens. What’s the premise for this and how did you come up with the name? is the series about sirens or is it a metaphor?
Each of the heroines in this story is a kind of siren to the hero—she somehow uses deception to entice the hero, be that deception intentional or unintentional, and once enticed, he experiences his downfall (initially). Think in terms of false identities, misrepresentation, and survival schemes. In each case, the heroine is in a situation in which she needs to hide or seek refuge. In steps the unwitting hero as a potential savior, however temporary.
While all of my books focus on resolving internal conflicts rather than external conflicts and villains (I honestly can’t say that I ever will have “villains”), this trilogy does involve a bit more external conflict and an instigator of that conflict (I say instigator since they’re not really villainous, just someone who doesn’t necessarily mean our heroine well). Interestingly, the instigator in the first book becomes the heroine of the second book (oh my!), so that even though she seems a bit, well, villainous in the first book, we get her side of the story in the second book.
What advice can you give authors who are planning to write a series of books held together by a running concept rather than character?
I’d recommend that the stories remain character-driven even while sticking to a central concept. If you make it all about the concept, then the book becomes moralizing and preachy, but if it’s still character-driven, then the concept is subtle as well as multi-faceted.
Let’s take a concept like “having faith.” If you want all the books in the series to be about that underlying theme, then really focus on what that means for the characters. Having faith will mean something completely different to one character as it does to another. How enriching, then, is the series to see various perspectives and approaches, all while still focusing on the characters. We end up feeling the theme more than having it pounded into us.