A Regency Invitation

This is the Blog of the Book! Read all about the process by which Regency authors Joanna Maitland, Elizabeth Rolls and Nicola Cornick wrote collaboratively to create the story of the Regency House Party of the Season! A Regency Invitation is published in November 2005 from Harlequin Historicals.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Waiting...but still writing

Kim Young, 6th January 2004

Dear Joanna, Nicola and Elizabeth,

Happy New Year!

Thank you for sending in both your individual and the overall synopses -- and in such good time! -- we are all really excited about the project and can't wait to see how you've worked together on this.

We will be in touch ASAP!

Best wishes,

Nicola, 9th January 2004

This is just to let you know that I have invented a hamlet called Lynd as the nearest village to Lyndhurst Chase and an inn where Peter almost seduces Cassie, called The Angel's Arms!

Joanna, 9th January 2004

Love the names, Nicola, especially the Angel's Arms. I'm assuming that, although the Chase isn't Anthony's principal seat, his family originally comes from the area around the village of Lynd, hence the family name. Maybe the family's original house was on the site of the Chase and, when they acquired their much grander property elsewhere (where?), they demolished the original house and built the Chase as a much-loved holiday/hunting home?

I'm having slight problems on the interior. I need to make decisions about locations of some features and would appreciate help. First, I need John and Sarah to have a bedroom that doesn't overlook the courtyard so they can't see who is arriving (in this case, GAH). Should I assume that, since they're the most senior guests, they have been given the best bedroom (F7) facing North and West? Or is that Anthony's room? I'd be content to give the Mardons F4, facing South and West, if that's more convenient. As an aside here, are we having any public rooms on the first floor, now that we've extended the house? Maybe a large, light sitting room for the ladies?

Second question: Ashdown doesn't have a back staircase. Should we have one in the extended house? It's obviously important for Amy. Actually, for ease of plot-making for me, it might be better not to have a second staircase. That way Amy will have more difficulty in avoiding the nobs, especially William. And we can do scenes of the servants melting into the wallpaper. Wonderful image, Nicola.

I think maybe we need a sketch floor-plan of the extended house, at least the ground floor and first floor. I'm doing a consultancy report for the next three days but I could have a go at a plan next week perhaps. What do you think?

Can you tell us, please, Nicola, where Lynd lies in relation to the house? I suggest we add a mention of it to our sketch map. I should also like, if possible, to add an East Lodge to the North Lodge we already have. Then we could make it clear that the usual entrance to Lyndhurst Chase is via the East Lodge gate on the Newbury/Oxford Road. The North Lodge entrance is little used and is therefore an ideal place to conceal Ned. I've decided there will be an unmarried lodge-keeper there (Roger the Shrubber, natch) who is a bit of an oddball/loner. His elderly and conveniently deaf (!) aunt keeps house for him. Everyone from the area knows that you are never invited into the North Lodge so no one is likely to stumble on Ned. Hardly any of the locals ever go near Roger the Shrubber who can be a bit quick to assume people are poachers and take pot shots at them.

Started writing the arrival of GAH yesterday, on the train. I keep having to find excuses for an abigail to be among the nobs so that I can write from Amy's POV. In this case, Sarah isn't dressed (having been frolicking in bed with John!) so she is sending Amy downstairs on the pretext of helping GAH after her arduous journey, since GAH hasn't brought a maid. GAH will give Amy pretty short shrift, of course, on the grounds that her companion, Miss Saunders, will do whatever is needful. And she'll pass some pithy comments on Amy's suitability as a high-class dresser in the process! Oh, I am looking forward to writing GAH. I had such fun writing Lady Luce in Rake's Reward that I'm probably going to have an old harridan in every book I write from now on!

Nicola 10th January 2004

Glad that you like the names, Joanna. I imagine that Anthony's family could either have come from the area or have owned land there for hundreds of years and the hamlet might have grown up near the house, just as Ashdown village did.

I think it sounds appropriate for John and Sarah to have the best bedroom. Maybe Anthony preferred the more spartan bachelor surroundings of a smaller room if the best bedroom reminded him too poignantly of the fact he didn't have a wife to share it with? I also like the idea of the ladies having a first floor sitting room. It might seem a bit odd for the extended house not to have a back staircase. At Ashdown the staircase takes up a quarter of the floor space so there isn't really room for a second staircase and in fact the one that's there seems out of proportion large for a house that size. But I think we could make it work either way, so whatever suits you best, Joanna and Elizabeth. I like the idea of the servants melting into the wallpaper too. It would be great if you could do a sketch floor-plan, Joanna. Thank you. Also a good idea to add the East Lodge.

I had planned Lynd to be to the south of the house. Peter is travelling from London and comes up the road from the Newbury and London direction. There is a fork in the road south of Lyndhurst Chase where another road goes off to the west. Quinn is coming from Bath, which is why it is Peter and not Quinn who bumps into Cassie on the road. I'll add Lynd and the road junction to the map. Perhaps I should have sent this to Kim with the outline and family tree?

It sounds as though your story is coming on, Joanna. I have just got to the point where Peter is plying Cassie with blackberry cordial in the inn, not realising yet that she shouldn't mix fruit and alcohol...

Joanna, 11th January 2004

Thanks, Nicola, that's great. I'll have a further think about the back stairs and let you know what I'd like to do. I don't think we should go final on it until Elizabeth's had a chance to say what she thinks. Maybe we should have sent the sketch map, but since we didn't, I suggest we now wait to hear what they have to say.

My story isn't exactly coming on. I've done about 4000 words and am just about to do the first sight and sound of GAH, but can't do any of it until I've finished my consultancy stuff. That will take all day today and tomorrow, since I've fallen behind on it. (Too many RNA interruptions!) Your story, on the other hand, sounds to be coming along a treat. I'm off to London on Monday so I'll have two uninterrupted train journeys during which I can write. I am tempted to take Elizabeth's book with me (The Regency Rakes one, Elizabeth) but I shall resist. Haven't started it yet and must not. Must save it as a treat for when I've done the first draft of the abigail, I think.

Nicola, 11th January 2004

I spoke to Kim last week and she was in the process of reading the House Party stuff then so I hope she'll be able to put Linda in the picture pretty quickly this week. I'm not exactly racing along with my story either -- I've done about 4,000 words and it is very light, and maybe too humorous. I know Linda mentioned a darker element in the original documentation. OTOH, it is a Regency House Party as DH pointed out this morning!

Joanna, 12th January 2004

You may be right about the humour, Nicola. However, we do have a darker element in William L-F and his nefarious doings, both to Anthony and to Marcus. He also gropes housemaids.

Still struggling with the consultancy stuff but am now about 75% complete. Having tea break at present!

Joanna, 13th January 2004

Managed to write Great Aunt Harridan's arrival while I was on the train from London yesterday. As soon as she alights from the carriage, she starts haranguing Anthony. She pokes him in the chest with her brass ear trumpet and nearly pokes his eye out with it, as well. She has insisted on having a bedchamber on the first floor, where the ladies' sitting room is, so Anthony has to agree to have William moved to an upper floor. Georgie has said absolutely nothing. She just stands there staring at the ground so that the poke of her bonnet hides her face. By the time GAH has actually got through the front door, Anthony appears (to Amy) to be on the point of exploding with rage. Hope that's OK, Elizabeth. I'll send the scene round when you're back from your travels and I've done some more work on it.

Amy is now going to volunteer to help the housekeeper to move William's belongings and that will give her a chance to have a good nose through them. I have called the housekeeper Mrs Waller.

That reminds me that we need to keep a list of characters' names, so that we don't end up with continuity errors. And I now have to work on the layout of the extended house because it's started to matter to my plot, what with GAH and backstairs and the like. Do you want Cassie to have a bedchamber next door to the Mardons' room, Nicola? It would seem likely, if Sarah is supposed to be Cassie's chaperon. OTOH, Quin and Peter Quinlan would get some of the best rooms too, and we wanted to be able to move Peter up a floor, later on, to a room next to Cassie. That suggests Cassie started on the second floor. I think the answer may be to put the Mardons in the best corner bedchamber on the second floor, leaving Anthony and the other men on the first floor. Cassie could then have the room next to the Mardons. Is that OK?

One other thing. When I extend the ground floor, I intend to put in a billiard room. Do I need anything else in particular? What about a smoking room? An office? (in addition to the study/library).

Nicola, 13th January 2004

Aargh! Whilst out walking the dog this morning I had a character crisis and decided that Peter Quinlan wasn't turning out quite right! Sorry! I have now got rid of Quinn and turned Peter into a reluctant fortune hunter who has to restore the family fortunes by marrying Cassie. The rest of the story is basically unchanged -- when he meets Cassie she doesn't know who he is and tells him all her secrets etc; John and Anthony find them in the inn in a compromising position and insist on an immediate betrothal; Cassie wakes up the next day to discover who Peter is and realises that not only has he deceived her but he's after her money etc etc. I hope this won't disrupt your stories too much. I didn't think it would have too much impact on them but I'm sorry to mess things about at this late stage.

Nicola, 13th January 2004

Great Aunt Harridan sounds magnificent, Joanna! Yes, it seems appropriate for Cassie to have the room next to the Mardons and with Quinn out of the way we only need one nice guest chamber for Peter! Definitely agree about the billiard room. And there could certainly be an estate office/study as well as a library. Can't think of anything else at present, unless we want to add a hothouse/conservatory on the south side to catch the sun and provide another rendezvous point? Looking forward to seeing the plan!

Nicola, 14th January 2004

I have sent Kim an amended synopsis for story 1 and thought I ought to copy it to both of you as well, of course! Not many changes and as I said earlier, I hope won't cause you any problems. Sorry for the late change. Kim indicated to me that they might well be getting back to us about the RHP tomorrow. Holding my breath!

[Note to blog readers: we haven’t included Nicola’s revised synopsis here because it wasn’t much different from the one you’ve already seen.]

Elizabeth, 14th January 2004

Okay -- I'm back. Have had a fabulous time and will write more later this evening when the inbox is sort of under control.
Joanna, 14th January 2004

Welcome back, Elizabeth. You may be just in time. Had this from Linda last night in response to my email:

Dear Joanna
Thanks for this. Pulled up the NT pic of Ashdown House and can see why it has inspired you. Am just typing up the notes from our meeting today and will whiz them off to you all tomorrow.
With best wishes

And tomorrow is today!!!

Elizabeth, 14th January 2004

Wow! Have you two been busy or what while I've been disporting myself in glorious New Zealand. So far all the stuff you have come up with sounds great. I'll need to spend a day really reading in detail to get up to speed, but I'm itching to go. I did some writing while there, since the muse struck while I was on the walk. Not exactly convenient, but I at least got the dialogue down.

Have just discovered that DH decided to make pumpkin soup while I was away. Sad to relate, instead of using the chicken stock I had frozen, he found the lemon juice! A culinary disaster, in fact.

Elizabeth, 15th January 2004

I've just spoken to Linda about another matter and I don't think we have anything to worry about with our synopses. Apparently they are all delighted with what we've come up with. We should be hearing the response to the general outline today and responses from our individual editors shortly after. Linda is terribly impressed at the level of collaboration and the way our characters weave in and out of the different stories.

Must remember to claim that phone call on my income tax!

Joanna, 15th January 2004

Now this is going to put your inbox even more out of control, Elizabeth. I am attaching the floorplans I've done for our house. They're all Word docs so I hope they open OK. You will see that, following the suggestion in Nicola's drawing (the one with the sheep) I have extended the square house on the West and South. Had to use quite a lot of space for corridors so, although it is bigger, we've haven't gained that much. We have got a billiard room and a first floor sitting room for the ladies though. Since the ladies got abandoned while they men indulged in sport, it's only fair that they should have the best room.

On bedrooms, I think it would go as follows (though I haven't marked it on the plans):

---Anthony F3 and F2

---William F6 and F7 in story 1 but moved up into S3 when GAH arrives and demands a room on the first floor

---GAH F6 and F7 from story 2

---Georgie in F7 for story 2 until joins Anthony in F3 and F2

---Peter in F4 then moved out in favour of Marcus at end story 2 into S4, opposite Cassie.
---F4 and S4 have no separate dressing room because it has only one window but it could have a dressing area

---Marcus in F2 for stories 1 and 2, then in F4 for story 3

---Cassie S7 and S8

---John and Sarah Mardon S5 and S6

---Amy in A4 for stories 1 and 2 then, from end of story 2, S2

---Free for other guests: F1 and S1 (both small and unattractive), and the attic rooms with sloping roofs etc. Visiting valets (for John, and for William and Peter if they have brought them) would be in A1 or A3. Marcus has brought no servants with him.

---The nursery (A2) is empty unless we can think of a use for it. There are no children at the house party.

---The attic spiral staircase leads to the cupola (not shown) which is bigger than the Ashdown one, with leather covered benches round the sides so guests can look out without getting wet.

---The basement is very loosely defined, with kitchens, other work rooms, servants' hall etc.

---I've moved the entrance to the north side. I imagine story 2 will be the only one that goes down there, so I'll make it up as I go along!

I hope that makes sense and goes with what you are writing/have written. You'll notice that I have put in a very small set of back stairs. Couldn't find anywhere else to put them. The blessed chimneys kept getting in the way. Also, there are too many windows so it's difficult to imagine where furniture would go. No blank walls!

Let me know if any of it doesn't work. Mind you, we don't need to be exact here. It's just for a general idea. I leave it to Elizabeth to decide the colours of the rooms and the furniture.

[Note to blog readers: as usual, we can’t import the plans of our house into the blog. Sorry if that makes this post a bit confusing to read, but it does show the lengths we had to go to in order to get the setting right. The house was designed with ground floor, first floor, second floor, attics (with access to roof), and basement, hence the abbreviations such as S2 = bedroom 2 on Second floor.]

Nicola, 15th January 2004

Wow, Joanna, you have been busy! I will have a wander around Lyndhurst Chase this evening!

Nicola, 15th January 2004

Welcome back, Elizabeth! I'm looking forward to hearing all about your trip.

Peter Quinlan is now a Viscount. Very confusing, I know! So both Linda and Kim have promised feedback today... It's 6.15pm UK time and it's not here yet, but I know Linda works very late...

Elizabeth, 15th January 2004

Yes, well. Nothing from Linda yet. Maybe tonight. She sounded very happy with everything anyway.

The trip -- was fabulous. We arrived in Christchurch at midnight and by the time we cleared customs got to our hotel at about 1am. The bus for Queenstown left at 7:45am, only by the time some other bus had ripped off the driver side wing mirror and we got a new bus it was about 8:30. There was some mad idea that we'd sleep on the bus but the scenery was too good.

Queenstown was lovely. Full of holiday makers and with all the cafes and bars on the quay beside the lake it looked like a cross between Scotland and the Mediterranean. The hills are too steep for much development around the lake -- they come straight down into the lake. One range of mountains there, The Remarkables, looks exactly like the walls of Mordor, really fierce and jagged.

We met up quite accidentally with an American who was doing our walk. Ron told us about this great practice walk out of Queenstown that we could do if we wanted to test out our hill climbing stamina. We did. Hill climbing okay, blisters a disaster. I started the walk with massive blisters on both heels. Luckily you can get this amazing stuff called second skin which looks a bit like a slice of set gelatine and is held on with elastoplast. It works and I could walk without any real discomfort. I also had the bliss of being tended each morning by the guides, three of the most gorgeous young men imaginable. And soooooooo gentle. Gave me all sorts of ideas! But I have to confess on the last morning the well-known novelist, Elizabeth Rolls, got caught spread-eagled on her stomach in the hotel foyer with ANOTHER man bending over her. Alan's technique was slightly different to the other two . . . they liked me standing up!

The walk itself was amazing. Wonderful scenery. We had sunshine for the first three days walking, including the climb over the pass, but then it rained for the last day of walking. Thirteen and a half miles in the pouring rain. Rain brings out all the waterfalls down the valley sides so it was still lovely, but I didn't stop for photos. I thought the camera wouldn't survive it.

We stayed in the hotel at Milford Sound that night. Very nice and comfortable, not that we had been exactly roughing it with comfy beds, hot meals provided and showers each night! After dinner I was dragged, kicking and screaming, I swear! to the pub. Can you imagine it? They made me, simply made me, down about 5 pints of beer. Good thing NZ beer isn't as strong as ours or I'd have had a shocking hangover. A good time was had by all.

We did a cruise on Milford Sound the next morning. Still raining and the peaks were shrouded in mist. It was stunning. So dramatic. And the waterfalls! Thousands of them, literally. Except for two they only come out in the rain. Which is most days since Milford Sound gets about 8 metres of rain a year. And yes, I have got that figure right! 8 metres. Staggering, isn't it?

Very entertaining boat driver. He lay back in his seat in the wheelhouse and steered with one foot. Not quite sure what he was using when he took us under one of the permanent waterfalls. (It was quite a big boat.) The noise was cataclysmic. And the wind created was really something. One or two hardy souls actually stayed out on the bow during this. I was not one of them. They had full waterproofs on, I didn't.

We were taken back to Queenstown by bus after that. Very sad!

I've spent the last few days with Helen Kirkman. Nicola, I think you'd know her? Had a lovely time relaxing with her and met the newest NZ recruit to the M&B historical line, Sophia James. Also caught up with a couple of other NZ writing friends.

NZ is definitely a must visit. Especially the South Island. It's the sort of scenery that makes you ache with pleasure. And so wild! I can see myself going back in the next few years and taking DH and the kids. Queenstown looks to be a great place to holiday with youngsters. Heaps to do and such a gorgeous setting.

Your postcards will arrive. Had a slight disaster there. I left my book in the luggage trolley when they picked me up. Entirely my fault. I should have checked. Anyway your postcards were tucked in the book since I'd been writing them on the flight. I had a little trouble finding South Island, Middle Earthish postcards on the North Island. But I have done so! And written them again. But don't be too surprised at the Aussie postmark.

I seem to have raved on a bit here. Could carry on about the birdlife, but you may have had enough! When I get my photos developed I will store them on the computer and send some to you as attachments if they are any good and you would like me to do so.

I am now going to stagger off for a morning cup of tea. I will get back to the furnishings tonight. I love the amended floorplan. And your account of GAH's arrival. Will tag that mentally and refer to it. Love that ear trumpet! Would it be possible to see an excerpt of that scene? I have one where she earwigs him again and would like to get the speech patterns matched. This is the scene where he realises Georgie didn't run off with another man.

Er, can you guys keep a secret if I'm really hopeless and can't? I'm not going to tell the loop yet because I was told to keep it very quiet for the next month, but The Unruly Chaperon has finalled for the RNA category award. Which was why I had to phone Linda. So she knows, but no one else except DH who heard the shriek from the far side of the house. Please don't tell anyone. I probably shouldn't tell you two, but we've been working so closely, I couldn't bear not to. And speaking of houses -- we've sold ours! The move is at the end of February. Six weeks away. I've told Linda that too. I'm thinking about buying a 2nd hand laptop so I get as little writing interruption as possible.

Linda Fildew, 15th January, 2004

Dear Joanna, Nicola and Elizabeth,

Thank you again for all your hard work over Christmas. All your furiously frantic e-mails have produced a winning set of three short stories and I attach our joint thoughts on the general outline. Kim will be in contact with you, Nicola, on your individual story and I'm about to do the same for you, Joanna and Elizabeth

Do, please, have a ponder and let us know your thoughts in due course.

What an exciting way to kick off the New Year!

[Note to blog readers: if you want to know what the editors said, you’ll have to read the next episode of this blog. We’ll try not to keep you waiting too long.]