Writer To Reader
Guest Post with Anna Bradley
Anna Bradley was stunned when her debut novel, A Wicked Way to Win an Earl, won RT Book Reviews 2015 Best First Historical Romance Award. How could her sophomore book possibly be as good, and yet, it was.
Now in her third Regency historical romance, her September release, Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor, Anna delivers another gem of a read. But what enables her to keep writing winners?
Reader To Reader asked Anna for the answer to that question.
Writing What I Know
by Anna Bradley
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Write what you know”? It’s one of the first pieces of advice fledgling writers hear, and I’ll be honest—there was a time when that phrase used to really raise my hackles.
I’m not sure why I found it so aggravating, unless it’s because I write Regency-era romance, and I knew I was never going to have first-hand knowledge of the antics of a 19th century roguish earl. Sure, imagination and research are wonderful things, but would they really get me as far as “knowing” what I was writing?
I admit it. I was defensive. At this point I’d written one book and I knew it all, right?
Nah. I knew very little. Even now, after eight books, I’m still shocked at how little I know, but I have figured out one thing.
“Write what you know” isn’t really advice for writers—it’s more of a description of what’s going to happen. What I mean is, writers do end up writing what we know. It happens without intention, without our consent, and often without us even realizing we’re doing it.
But I didn’t realize the extent to which I’d dug into my past for Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor until a friend who’d read the draft mentioned she thought I must have sisters, because the relationship between the heroine, Lady Eleanor Sutherland and her sister Charlotte reads so true to life.
Now, every writer loves to hear their scenes ring true for a reader, but part of me was amazed to discover my friend was right. Fingerprints from childhood memories are all over this book. The odd thing, though, is I didn’t do it consciously. I didn’t sneak down to my computer in the dark of night, rub my hands together and cackle evilly as I revealed every salacious secret of my childhood with my two sisters as the wicked villainesses!
The truth is, there are no wicked villainesses in Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor, but my point is the bond between Eleanor and Charlotte was never meant to reflect my own relationship with my two sisters, but it happened anyway. Key moments of the plot turn on the love and loyalty that’s such a huge part of the sisterly bond.
But there’s something else here, as well—another character who’s drawn from my life experiences, and I look at her as the spoke in the wheel of the story, the glue between the pages, the icing in the center of the Oreo that holds the entire cookie together.
She’s Amelia West, the hero Camden West’s 11-year old sister.
Amelia’s character is based on a real person—or I should say “people,” because she’s an amalgamation of my niece Amelia and my daughter Annabel, both of whom are now 12-years old.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Amelia character.
She’s funny and determined, she loves lemon ices, and she’s an aspiring artist. She has a pony named Penelope, she wishes she had a younger brother or sister, and she considers her home to be wherever her older brother Cam is, because she loves her family with the kind of perfect, unquestioning devotion we see in in the best of children.
She’s my niece, and she’s my daughter. Not just as they are, but as I hope for them to be.
When I wrote Lady Eleanor’s Seventh Suitor, I didn’t know I was going to end up pulling so many pieces of my life into those pages, but the love and hope I have for my niece and daughter are at the heart of the Amelia character:
“Amelia was everything Cam hoped she would be—lovely and quick-witted. She smiled often and laughed easily, with the blithe joy of a child who finds a home everywhere she goes.”
Amelia is a sweet, loveable character, but she has power and agency in the story, too. It’s Amelia who gives Cam and Ellie their happy ending. Even at such a young age, Amelia recognizes the love between them, and she refuses to give up on them, even when they’re on the verge of giving up on themselves.
She’s strong-willed and caring—joyful, persistent, and brave. She’s my niece and my daughter—as they are now, and as the embodiment of everything I hope for them to be in the future.
I don’t raise my eyebrows anymore when people tell me to “write what you know.” Instead I just smile and remind myself it’s not advice—it’s a description of what’s going to happen.
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Before Maine native Anna Bradley wrote her first Regency historical, she actually earned a living reading, writing about and buying rare books for Chawton House Library. The rare books library featured works by British women writers from the 1600s through the Regency period, a perfectly respectable job for someone who had earned a Master’s degree in English literature. Fondling all those exquisite works of literature led Anna to write sassy, steamy Regency historical romance, often with garters, cleavage-baring gowns and riding crops. Now Anna lives with her husband and two children near Portland, OR, where she also teaches writing.
Please visit: Anna Bradley.net
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