If I had to take a poll among my friends and acquaintences who write in the romance genre, they would without fail cite historical romance novelist Jo Beverley as among a handful of their top influences.
A prolific writer of over 30 novels and countless novellas and category novels, Beverley’s been a risk-taker in a genre that has been politely known as risk-adverse (though that has changed in recent years). JoBev, as she’s known fondly in the circles, busted open a few doors with atypical heroes, unconventional plots, and scorching sex scenes. In the 1990′s, her Georgian-period series The Mallorens broke the stranglehold of regency-set historical romances on the market. She’s written sci-fi, fantasy, medievals and dominates the regency-set historical market. In short, she’s a wonder who firmly marches to the beat of her own drum and doesn’t worry about trends or taboos, because she’s certain to break both.
Settle back and enjoy part one of our two-part interview with Jo Beverely.
Q: What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to “fly in the mist?” Has your process changed over time?
JB: I’m an inveterate flyer into the mist. I’ve tried pre-plotting, but it just doesn’t work for me. It takes my attention away from the now of the book and into what’s going to happen next.
Q: And do you approach your story with having detailed the characters in advance or do you let the story dictate the character?
JB: I usually know something about the characters, but as they are at the beginning of the book. This includes something of their life to then, but not everything. It’s a bit like meeting someone for the first time and quickly learning the basics, plus forming my own opinion from appearance, action etc. But then there’s so much more to learn. So I would say that story reveals character.
Q: How has the romance genre changed since you started writing? Where do you see the genre heading?
JB That’s a big question. It’s changed in a lot of ways. For example, male POV was rarer back then, and as best I know, there were no vampire heroes. The Regency period was thought suitable only for comedy of manners and not for historical. There wasn’t much single title contemporary.
As for predictions, there’ll always be romance novels – novels where the developing relationship is the heart of the book and that reaches the triumphant ending where the valiant couple are rewarded with a future together and a good chance of it being splendid. All incidental details subject to change!
Q: You’ve become respected in your genre as a writer who “gets the facts right.” When do you know how much detail to leave in and leave out and yet give the reader the sense they are plunged into another world?
JB: It’s tricky. I try to first internalize the information so that it’s comfortable to me, and then I write the story almost as if it’s a contemporary set in my home town. In other words, I let the details come naturally. I usually have to do a little extra, however, to make sure that details important to the plot are clear to readers who are not familiar with the time and place.
Q: You have a massive backlist, with several successful series that has your fans clamoring for the next book. What are some of the things writers need to be mindful of when creating a series?
JB: Keep good notes! I’ve not always been as good as I should be, and also I sometimes don’t realize what I might want to know eight or so books later. Personally, I like to have the characters in a series be varied, because it’s more interesting and also more natural. Even siblings are rarely the same. However, this doesn’t always please readers, because if they like one character type they can be upset if a later book is a very different type. In addition, a different character could produce a very different story, and readers often want a similar story every time in a series. Those are decisions we each make as an author.
Also, with hindsight, don’t set out on a 15 book series that will take you that many years to complete, and which in fact is never-ending. I think trilogies are best, though they can be set in a continuing world if we can pull that off.
Check back next week for part two of our interview with Jo Beverley, where she discusses her risk-taking and her upcoming releases. Don’t miss it!