Interview – Her Grace in Disgrace author, Claudia Harbaugh
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Claudia Harbaugh, romance author of HER GRACE IN DISGRACE. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Claudia. For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
Claudia Harbaugh: Let’s see… Well, I need to start with my family, because they are very important to me. I have been happily married to John for 32 years and have two beautiful daughters, Courtney and Megan. Courtney is married to Greg and they have two amazing boys, Carter (4) and Evan (9 mos). Megan is married to Daniel and they have my adorable grandson, Elijah (almost 2). John and I live in Virginia. Courtney et al lives in Rochester, NY and Megan and her family live in Cedar Rapids, IA. This is not conducive to seeing them very often, so I travel as much as possible to spend time with my girls and all their boys! I also have a great extended family, who also live scattered about the globe (my brother lives in Kenya and my nephew in the Congo) and though we don’t often get to see each other it is precious when we do. Oh, and I can’t forget our Shih Tzu, Camden. He makes us smile a lot. Other than family, my passions are theatre (I write plays and act in our amateur theatre group at church) movies, attending live theatre and reading. I began to write later in life, but it has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Better late than never!
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
CH: Is there such a thing as perfect writing conditions? What comes close for me is when my husband is on a business trip for a few days and I completely drop off of the grid. I sit in my armchair, legs propped up on my ottoman, laptop in place, water on the end table, dog lying at my feet and I write. No schedule. I eat when I want sleep when I want. Take breaks now and then and I write. That is how I wrote Her Grace in Disgrace. I basically dropped out of life for two months and wrote. I have come to realize, however, that I can’t sustain that sort of existence, so book two has been a bit more sporadic. I’m trying to figure out a schedule. Presently, I try to write 3-5 hours 4-5 days a week. I’m still tweaking my approach.
SPS: You write romance in the regency period, where did your love for this particular era come from?
CH: I have always loved history. I love visiting historic houses or sites and my imagination always goes on overdrive while there. It fascinates me to envisage living in a different time, walking in the shoes of those who have gone before me. But as to Regency romances in particular? Well, I was a cozy mystery reader for many years and read voraciously. I spent a good amount of money on paperback books (this is pre Kindle days, remember). Then we hit a major financial reversal and buying books was not in the budget. So, I went to the library. I had soon exhausted all the mysteries and sought a new genre. There was a LOT of Romance, but once I happened upon the Regency, I knew I had found my genre. I also exhausted the library’s Regency section, but by then we were doing better and I had gotten my Kindle. I never run out of books to read now!
SPS: Can you see yourself in the future writing in other genres?
CH: Absolutely. I have a few mysteries in me, for sure. There’s actually one that is partially written. But first I have to finish the Widows of Woburn Place series (4 books total) and I have another historical fiction/romance in my mind to do after that. We’ll see. You know what they say about the best laid schemes of mice and men.
SPS: Can you tell us what someone could expect if they picked up a copy of Her Grace in Disgrace?
CH: I hope that they can expect a compelling story with a few twists and turns along with interesting characters. To me it’s all about the characters. What would a story be without them. All in Her Grace in Disgrace is the story of a woman who finds grace after disgrace.
SPS: Isobel has spent 6 years in a loveless marriage before the death of her husband. How did their marriage come about? Did Isobel have any say in the arrangement?
CH: Because her heart had been broken by her childhood sweetheart, Isobel puts a wall around her broken heart and becomes quite mercenary. Her father gambled away all their money, so she was under duress to marry for money. Though it was her parents idea, a bitter Isobel decides to take matters into her own hands. She schemed her way to marry a Duke in quite an underhand manner. That’s all I want to say about that. : D
SPS: How does Isobel react to the shocking revelation at the reading of the will? Is she immediately determined to fight her way back to where she feels she belongs?
CH: She is shocked and actually deflated at first, careful not to show anyone her true feelings. But her shock soon wears off and she is angry. She wants to fight back, but doesn’t quite know where to begin. Her friend Henrietta offers her a chance to regain her place in society, but it doesn’t go well. At that point Isobel reevaluates what it is that she really wants out of life.
SPS: Isobel has a past that she needs to atone for. What sort of mistakes has she made?
CH: Isobel, like all of us, is a flawed human being. Suppressing her own pain caused her to shut out the pain of others. Because of this, Isobel hurt others in order to advance her own interests. She succumbed to pressure to “fit in” at the cost of losing her true self. She became selfish and self-serving, trampling those in her way.
SPS: Do you have any particular characters in the book that you enjoyed writing more than the others?
CH: I love Aunt Maude and Lady Joanna. I always love the larger than life type that are a little quirky and outspoken. A bit like me.
SPS: How much research was involved in creating your own particular piece of historical fiction?
CH: Because I have read so many Regencies, I had accumulated a lot of period knowledge through “osmosis”. That being said there was still a lot of research to be done. So much of the research does not even appear in the book, but is a foundation of knowledge that is needed to understand the period and write about it. For instance, I used Mapquest to find out the distance from London to Hertfordshire, so that I could estimate travel time. I don’t mention travel time in the book, but I needed to know if it was necessary for Isobel to stay at an Inn overnight for her journey. I enjoy the research, though I go down many a rabbit hole while perusing the internet.
SPS: When you sat down to write your debut novel, was the plan always to create a series of novels, or was that merely a bi-product of writing Isobel’s story?
CH: I intended for it to be a series from the start, but it became obvious as I went along that certain characters demanded their own book.
SPS: What can we expect from the second instalment in The Widows of Woburn Place series?
CH: Book 2 finally has a title: My Lady in a Quandary. This book features Laura, Lady Tyndale and Serena also has a featured role. Without giving too much away, I have been doing a great deal of research on Smuggling on the Sussex coast.
SPS: We always like to take a moment to look at an author’s book covers. Can you tell us a little about how yours came about?
CH: I wanted the cover to have a period feel to it, so I experimented with a few different ideas. None of which really worked. Then I discovered Wikimedia commons where you can find a lot of public domain art. I searched for a face that would work for Isobel and then I designed the cover around her. I was briefly a graphic artist, so I have a working knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite. I hope that the cover is compelling and draws people in.
SPS: What we can we expect next from the pen of Claudia Harbaugh?
CH: Well, My Lady in a Quandary should be out soonish. I’m hoping for some time in February. After that it will be back to the drawing board for book 3, which will be about Lady Joanna.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
CH: Yes. I don’t have the patience to spend years finding an agent, finding a publisher and waiting to be published. I made sure that people I trust, writers themselves, read the book and gave me feedback. It was all positive, so I proceeded. I didn’t want to put out a book that was poorly written just because I wanted to write a book.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
CH: No, it’s been a good bit harder. I love research and writing. I’m not so crazy about marketing. It is extremely time consuming. There is so much out there on the internet, you don’t know who you can trust at first…or even down the road a bit. Then there’s hours of time spent on blogs and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and the list goes on. The best part of it all, though, has been connecting with my readers and other authors. That has made the process worth it all. I think it will get easier, it’s just laying the foundation or building a platform as it is called, that is a little daunting.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
CH: Read. Read a lot. Especially in the genre you want to write in. Then…write. And then write some more. I was reading somewhere recently about an interview with author Lee Childs. Someone asked him what he did about writer’s block. His reply was fabulously British and enlightening. I’m going to have to paraphrase it because I can’t find the original. Basically he said, don’t be a git (jerk). You get up, you write, because that is your job. A truck driver doesn’t wake up one morning and say, “Gee, I just can’t drive today. I’m not feeling it.” If he did, he wouldn’t have a job for long. Yes, writing is a creative business, but it is also a skill that only sharpens when used. To be a good writer you have to write. Whether you feel like it or not. Then I would also encourage new writers to make sure they have a few trusted, knowledgeable confidants that will read the work and give honest and helpful critique. Often, we writers leave in things that need to be cut because we fall in love with a word or phrase. We can’t bring ourselves to cut it. All writers need at least one voice of reason to help them to make necessary revisions. Lastly, research book marketing before you publish. There is a lot of info out there. You have to trudge through it all to pull out the gems that will help you succeed. Best of luck!
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
CH: I know I’ll forget someone, but some I have discovered a bunch of new authors as a result of my foray into self-publishing. As far as romance is concerned, I have found Jaima Fixsen who writes in my genre. Elizabeth McKenna is another author I enjoy who has written her first historical fiction. Seumas Gallacher is a Scot living in Dubai that has written three really great thrillers. Annie Acorn is another I’d like to give a shout out to. I belong to a group on Facebook called Clean Indie Reads and there’s a bunch of really great authors in that group of all different genres: Lia London, Elise Stokes, Dianne Rapp, Terry Soileau and many more. You should check it out.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Claudia, and all the best for the future.
CH: SPS has been great to me and I am happy to be associated with you. Thanks for the opportunity!
SPS: You’re welcome, Claudia. For more information on Claudia Harbaugh and her work, please do visit her Author page here.
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