Today I have wonderful author Etta Stark with me, to talk about her latest book, Lord Westbrook's Muse.
Etta, I'm so glad that you could make it here today. Let's get this started.
Please tell us a little bit about your story.
Lord Westbrook’s Muse contains a lot of the same characters as my previous book Lady Westbrook’s Discovery. It’s not really a sequel though. It can be read as a standalone story.
The hero, Lord Westbrook, is a stuffy Lord in a small English village who isn’t really very happy with his life. This changes when he meets Cass, a rather unconventional young woman with whom he starts a passionate affair which develops into love. However Cass has a secret life she hasn’t told him about and for a while it looks like a future between the two of them will be impossible.
What made you write a historical romance?
I guess the simple answer to that is because historical romance is the thing I love reading most so it seemed a fun idea to try to write them myself.
Plus most of my fantasies are set in the nineteenth century and most of my stories start off that way.
I'll admit, I love a well written historical romance story every once in a while. Most authors write during different time periods. What made you chose to write a story taking place in this specific time period?
I think the Victorian period is absolutely fascinating. Everything seems so very different from how we live now in terms of the fashions, the social structure, how households were managed etc. And yet they were just on the brink of the modern age. Electricity, photography and steam engines were all invented during this period. The social changes were huge as well, including the campaigns for women’s votes which began in the 1860s.
I so did love reading about how Cass and Lord Westbrook's aunt were both apart of the women suffrage movement. It captured both characters independent spirit, especially Cass'. What made you write her that way when most women at the time were more dependent on their husbands.
Well, that’s the fun of writing historical novels. You can give your nineteenth century heroes and heroines twenty-first century virtues. Cass’s independent spirit which is shown in things like her involvement in the woman’s suffrage movement and her ‘rational’ style of dress make her quite eccentric amongst her contemporaries but – I hope – quite endearing to the readers.
I loved her! Now unlike Cass, Lord Westbrook was very quiet and wasn’t fond of having to deal with people. What made you write him that way? I ask because most dominant men tend to be written as the strong, can handle any situation: social, physical, etc.
Lord Westbrook originally appeared in my previous book, Lady’s Westbrook’s Discovery. I wrote him as my heroine’s grumpy disapproving son who didn’t like his mother marrying a much younger man. After I had finished the book, I thought about Lord Westbrook and wondered why he was so bad-tempered with everyone. I decided it was because he wasn’t particularly happy with his life and had never really felt like he had fitted in. It was nice to write things from Lord Westbrook’s point of view because I could show by his internal dialogue that he wasn’t really as angry as he appeared and his apparently grumpy demeanor was often to cover up his awkwardness.
He’s still pretty dominant and strong in lots of ways – physically and in the way he uses his authority. He just hates talking to people. Eventually the love of a good woman thaws a lot of the social awkwardness.
You're right about that. Lord Westbrook definitely did have a dominant streak in him. ;-) The title of this story is Lord Westbrook's Muse. Why do you refer to Cass as Lord Westbrook’s muse?
It’s mentioned several times in the book that Cass’s style of dress makes her look like an ancient goddess or like the subject of a pre-Raphaelite painting. So she could be a classical Muse or an artistic one like Lizzie Siddel.
The main reason is because Lord Westbrook’s life is very unfocused at the start of the book. He doesn’t know what he wants from life. Cass provides Lord Westbrook’s focus. She becomes his inspiration.
Awww! That's so romantic to think that Cass became Lord Westbrook's life focus. I loved reading about Cass and Lord Westbrook's blooming love, but I also loved hearing about Charles and Jasper. Will we see a book just for them and why did you decide to make Jasper gay during this time period?
It was certainly a difficult time to be gay. The book is set only about fifteen years after the crime of buggery was punishable by death. Obviously all Jasper’s family are supportive of him because I am writing for 2014 audiences and you’d lose sympathy pretty quickly if the hero denounced his brother for being gay. From my reading around the subject, I don’t think that this support was unusual though. There was a lot of acceptance of loved one’s ‘close companions’ and ‘roommates’. People knew what was going on.
Yes, I am planning to write a book with Jasper and Charles although I have several other books I need to finish first.
Oh yes! I can't wait for that book to come out! Here is a pretty silly question, but something that I have always wondered about. It is revealed that one of the characters is a duchess. What exactly is a duchess and why wouldn't someone just use the term Princess?
Be warned, if you haven’t read the book yet. This answer gets a bit spoilery.
For Cass to have been a princess, she would have needed to be one of the daughters of Queen Victoria (or one of the other European monarchs, I suppose.) It’s an interesting idea but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to have a real historical figure as the spanked heroine of one of my novels.
The reason I made her a Duchess is because she outranks Lord Westbrook. There are five ranks of peerage and Dukes and Duchesses are at the top. British nobility operates on a sort of Top Trumps system. Lord Westbrook has been assuming that he was the more aristocratic of the two of them. When he finds out this isn’t the case, it flips everything he thought he knew about their relationship on its head.
Okay, I gotcha. Now my favorite question to ask new authors who appear on my blog...what is your writing process?
A writing process sounds far more organized than anything I manage to do. Up until recently I was commuting into London each day so my books were largely written in longhand while I was sitting on the train and then typed up later. Now I’m working closer to home so I’m writing directly on the computer. I am really not writing as much as I want to at the moment. Real life keeps getting in the way!
I know the feeling all to well about real life getting in the way of your writing. Now, can you please tell me, what does Etta Stark do when she isn’t writing hot historical romance novels?
Well, at the moment Etta Stark is moving house. I shall be completing on Friday and I ought to be packing right now. When I’m not writing romance, I’m often to be found writing far duller things in my day job as a Technical Writer.
Good luck on your move...let's play the five question game!
What is your favorite color?
Black. Yes, it is a color. And it goes with everything.
What is your favorite food?
Cheese. If I had to choose one particular type of cheese, I’d choose a strong, creamy Stilton.
What did you want to be when you grew up when you were six?
Heh. I probably wanted to be a writer. I used to write a lot of books in spiral notepads and give them to my mum to read. (Awww! I used to do the same thing!)
What is one of your pet peeves?
People say ‘literally’ when they don’t really mean it.
“I literally pissed myself laughing!” Well, that must have been unpleasant. Thanks for sharing, dude.
What is the one thing that you could not live without?
Tea. I don’t think I have gone 24 hours without a cup of tea since I was about five. I can’t imagine what would happen if I did. I’m sure it would be hideous.
Here's my last question for you...can you please paste one of your favorite excerpts from Lord Westbrook's Muse here...
The excerpt below is from Cass and Lord Westbrook’s third “date”. I enjoyed writing this bit because the two of them are in quite a flirty mode and are still getting to know one another. Yes, they’re all ‘sex first, getting to know one another later’. It’s quite shocking behavior.
Dialogue is always the most fun to write, I think. Those bits are usually when I just have a couple of people having a conversation in my head and all I have to do is transcribe what they’re saying.
The following night, they lay together in the bed in the gardener’s cottage – post coital and both entirely satisfied.
Robert lay beside Cass who was propped up on her side. He ran his hand over her breasts relishing the feeling of her smooth skin beneath his touch.
“I never know what to call you,” Cass said.
“You should call me your Lord and Master,” Robert replied tweaking her nipple.
“Ouch! I want to call you Robert.”
Cass’s expression was first hurt and then turned mischievous. “What about Bob?”
He drew his hand back behind her and landed a sharp smack on her backside.
“Bobby? Rob? Rab?”
Three more smacks. “No.”
“Do you have a middle name?” she asked.
“My middle names are Ernest Stephen Louis. You are not permitted to call me any of those.”
“What about just plain Westbrook? Can I at least drop the honorifics?” Cass asked, moving her hand to shield her bottom.
Robert removed her hands but did not deliver any more spanks. “Hmm. That might be acceptable,” he said.
“Short for Westbrook.”
Another smack. “No.”
“So I suppose West wouldn’t be acceptable either?” she said.
“Actually, I rather like that. You can call me West. Unless you’re in trouble, in which case you will refer to me as ‘My Lord’.”
“Am I in trouble now?” she asked.
Robert rolled Cass onto her front and sat astride her. He delivered half a dozen more smacks. “No, you’re not in trouble now.”
She turned her head to look at him. She was pouting. It was adorable. “And yet I still get spanked?” she said.
“Call this a spanking?” Robert said. “This is barely anything. Believe me, if you deserve it, you will get far worse than this. Bad girls get much harsher spankings.”
“So, I’m a good girl am I, West?”
“Oh, yes,” he breathed.
“And what do good girls get?”
He pushed her up onto her knees, leveraging her legs apart with his knees. The top of her body pressed against the bed, her slightly reddened bottom was raised in the air and her moist sex was gloriously on display. He pushed his fingers into her glistening folds and gently rubbed her clitoris. “Good girls get whatever they want,” he said softly before entering her for the second time that night.
Here is the blurb for Lord Westbrook's Muse:
Lord Robert Westbrook’s life of responsibility and social obligations is turned on its head when he meets Cass, a beautiful and idiosyncratic woman at his mother’s garden party. Cass is a staunch supporter of women’s rights as well as an advocate of dress reform, rejecting the restrictive fashions of the nineteenth century.
In fact, Cass’s rebellion isn’t limited to her dress sense. She is also determined to experience the excitement and passion of a sexual liaison. Lord Westbrook, she has decided, is the very man she wants to seduce her. Meanwhile Lord Westbrook has determined that Cass requires some stern discipline.
The couple’s passionate and fiery romance breaks every rule of Victorian decency and kindles a love that neither Cass nor Robert were prepared for. However, when Cass’s secret past finally catches up with her, it seems that the couple’s happiness might be doomed forever.
My blog: http://www.ettastark.blogspot.co.uk/
My Twitter: etta_stark
Thanks for stopping by Etta! It was a joy to have you!