Today I’m welcoming Claudia Harbaugh, author of Her Grace in Disgrace. Thank you for stopping by, Claudia!
All about Claudia. . .
I’m Claudia Harbaugh, a historical romance writer. My first book is a traditional Regency romance called Her Grace in Disgrace. It’s the first in a series: The Widows of Woburn Place. The Regency era is a wonderful backdrop for romance because of the contrasts. Outwardly, all was politeness, but there was tension in the lack of equality between men and woman, rich and poor. A great story can be built from such contrast.
I am an avid reader, and I just love “story”. I waited until my 50th decade to publish a book, but I have been writing for many years; mostly plays. I am fascinated by the words people use and how their interaction with others reveals who they are. Words are my thing. I love movies and tv that are rich in clever dialogue.
I am a self-confessed Anglophile. Everything sounds better with a British accent. And while the mystique of early 19th century England fascinates me, I doubt very much that I could survive there. I am much too outspoken and independent.
I am grateful that I can say that I have been happily married for almost 32 years (we’ve been married for 40…just kidding). My husband John is my biggest cheerleader. Together we have two beautiful daughters, if I do say so myself. Courtney is nurse and she and her husband Greg have two boys, Carter (3) and Evan (5 mos). They are truly my delight. Megan, our youngest, is at present a stay at home mom. She and her husband Daniel have one boy, Elijah (18 mos) who is my other delight. Unfortunately, they all live far from me, but I make an effort to see them as much as possible. We also have a Shih Tzu named Camden, who is very spoiled, but also very sweet. Here’s a couple little known facts: I speak Russian, though I have no Russian heritage and I am allergic to chocolate (please pity me!)
1. How did your life as a writer begin?
I laugh about my first conscious foray into being a writer. I was probably 9 or 10 and sat down one day with a clean, empty notebook and began to copy from one of my favorite books, most likely the Bobbsey Twins (this, I know, dates me). I was so proud of myself! After realizing that copying a book does not an author make, I took a hiatus of many, many years. In my early thirties I wrote a mystery novel. Self-publishing in those days was mostly for suckers, so I sent off a query or two with the expected results – none. I realized something at that point, too. I was not superwoman. Now, I know women that can do it all, but I am not one of them. So, I concentrated on raising my family and doing the dozens of volunteer things that I did. There was one more stop on my journey; in my forties I discovered theater! My church had an active theater team and I joined. Not only did I act, but I began to write as well. To date I have written at least 5 full length plays and a number of smaller pieces. Finally, we get to the weeks before my 58th birthday. I lied, let me go back a bit. For my 57th birthday I had gotten a Kindle and fell in love. I began to voraciously read Regency romances. So I’m staring down the barrel at my 58th birthday and I just decided that it was time. I said to myself, Self, I’m going to write a book and I’m going to start with a Regency romance. Two months later, it was published. It may sound fast, but it was decades in the making!
2. Tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, or are you more of a seat of your pants type of a writer?
I am definitely a “by the seat of my pants” type. I have a basic idea about where I am going, a general plot, but I really want my characters, as they become more real, to drive the story. My favorite part of writing is having the character come to life. I like to give the people in my head some leeway and control over their own fate. I feel like if I am too rigid with my plotting, the characters will get wooden because I’ll make them say what I want them to say to keep my story line on the straight and narrow.
3. What is the highest goal that you desire to meet as an author?
My greatest desire, truly, is to have my readers enjoy the book. I want them to be transported to another place and time, leaving behind the stress and worries of their day to day life. That’s what books do for me and I hope that my books will do that for others.
4. Who is the one author that you would love to meet someday and why?
A month ago, I would have said Elizabeth Peters aka Barbara Mertz, but she has just passed. She was my all-time favorite, with Agatha Christie being a close second. Ms. Christie has long since, died, however. So, if we need to pick a living author it would probably be Rhys Bowen. I like her writing style and her sense of humor. She just seems like she’d be an interesting person to talk to. We do follow each other on Twitter! 😀
5. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Read! And then read some more. After a while, write and then write some more. Anyone, well, almost anyone, can write a book. Not everyone can write a good book. As an author you may have something to say, but if it isn’t well written, if your characters do not evoke empathy or anger or some sort of emotion from the reader and if your storyline is stagnant or jumps all over the place you won’t attract readers. The book must pull you in. So, figure out what kind of book you want to write. Read voraciously in that genre, both good and bad, so you can learn which is which and then write. Writing is like any other talent, it must be used to become better. Make sure you have at least one person who will give you honest feedback and listen to that person. Don’t assume you know everything. Lastly, I’d say “Go for it!”
6. Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Honestly, writing this book is a major check off my bucket list. And, perhaps, if I work hard enough and produce a lot more books, I’ll check off another, which is living on or near the ocean!
7. What do you have in store next for your readers?
I am hard at work, writing book 2, which is going much slower than Her Grace in Disgrace because I have to promote Her Grace in Disgrace. This book features a secondary character from Her Grace in Disgrace, Laura, Lady Tyndale. You’ll see the same cast of characters, however and some notable new ones. Here’s an excerpt:
“I shall never marry again”, sighed Harriet Dunwoody, a faded middle aged widow, as she picked at her soft boiled egg. Her sigh was wistful, despite her disastrous first marriage.
“Nor shall I!” Evelyn Putnam, Lady Cavendish echoed with feeling as she piled her plate high with gammon and eggs from the sideboard. Her assertion, however, was exultant. One could almost hear the “thank God”, though the ever proper and, perhaps, overly pious Lady Cavendish would never say those irreverent words aloud. Unless of course she was actually thanking God, which she did with frequency since the death of her husband.
Oddly enough, it was Mrs. Dunwoody that had been married to a vicar, not Lady Cavendish. Her late husband, the former Earl of Cavendish had been a profligate womanizer and drunkard. It was generally acknowledged that Lady Trent’s extreme piety, for lack of a less polite description, was a result of her overcompensating for her reprehensible husband.
Mrs. Dunwoody’s deceased husband, who had his living in Wiltshire, had resembled Lady Cavendish in his piety and religious zeal. In other matters he was simply a stingy, cantankerous old man, whose face would crack if he tried on a smile.
“Matrimony,” the statuesque and elegant Lady Wrentham declared, “is ordained by God, but he hardly expects us to suffer through it more than once.”
“One never knows what will happen. I would not make rash statements, as they are too easily invalidated by unexpected circumstances.” Lady Whitcomb said with a quelling tone, her multiple chins quivering. She herself harbored hopes of romance and matrimony, though she would never see fifty again. Lady Whitcomb sipped her tea and took a bite of her fourth piece of toast. She was not overly fond of toast; it was simply a vehicle for the delicious orange marmalade made by the cook, improbably named Mrs. Kitchen. It would not be seemly to eat it by the spoonful.
Her Grace in Disgrace
Reginald Aiken, Duke of Warwick is dead and his young widow is not grieving…until the will is read.
Isobel Kennilworth Aiken, Duchess of Warwick spent 6 years of her young life in a loveless marriage. Now, at the age of 24, Isobel is a widow. As Isobel awaits the reading of her late husband’s last will and testament, she feels no grief, but in fact is quite hopeful. She is eager to start her life anew. But, as the droning of the solicitor’s voice washes over her detailing the bequests to various servants and family members, a shock awaits her. The “other woman” was not his mistress, but his lawfully wedded wife and together they had a son. Six year old Reggie is now the Duke of Warwick, displacing Reginald’s brother Charles.
There is a collective gasp as the revelation is made that instantly cuts off Isobel and Charles and dashes their hopes for the future. Isobel must indeed start again, not as a titled, influential and wealthy widow, but as plain Miss Kennilworth, tainted by scandal, something to be avoided at all costs in Regency England. Can she get past the disgrace and humiliation she has endured and fight her way back into society? Will she find love again with her childhood sweetheart, Andrew Stafford, former vicar, now Lord Saybrooke? Or perhaps she will rekindle the romance with Jeremy Ingles, Lord Westcott, who had caught her fancy at her come out six years earlier, but had not been ready to be leg shackled.
But before Isobel can find true love, she must come to grips with her past mistakes and the people she has hurt along the way. She must discover who she is without the title of duchess to her name.
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