Sheltered on her family’s country estate, Lady Margaret, the daughter of an English Earl, is betrothed due to a family promise. Although Henry, the Viscount Rolantry, has been her best friend since childhood and she is expected to marry him, she never felt butterflies until she meets the Duke of Witherton. Against her father’s wishes, Margaret finds herself captivated by the forbidden duke. Caught between family loyalty and her own wishes, Margaret searches for a way to satisfy both her responsibilities and her longings. When tragedy strikes, Margaret finds herself seeking answers at church. But when she finally makes her choice, through her newfound faith, will she be able to live with the repercussions of her decision?
Will Margaret choose the best for her family or for herself? Where will her decision lead? Jenna Brandt, has joined me today to follow the path Margaret blazes within the pages of her novel ‘The English Proposal’ and will her literary journey through this English country estate and beyond. Jenna, what drew you to write a Victorian era historical romance?
It started from a character. Lady Margaret was a character in a short story I wrote and I feel in love with her and decided to write my first book about her.
What traits make you fall in love with characters? And how do you combine these characteristics to form a full-bodied character?
I like quirky characters, flawed characters that are still lovable. I don’t want my characters to come across as perfect or always having the right answers. I want them to be relatable.
In this quest to have readability, do you feel that the personalities of the characters have a hand in shaping the events, or do you the events force the characters to change?
The plot manifests from the characters.
Were there any events in the plot that you felt formed more from your own experiences, instead of being manifested from the personalities of the characters?
Lady Margaret deals with duty vs. desire, which I have struggled with a majority of my life. I also have fallen for the wrong man at the wrong time.
That conflict between duty and desire would play out vastly differently within the Victorian English world, versus the world today. Was research important to make sure that things like this conflict of the mind fit with the times?
Yes. My books are in historical settings, so I researched England in 1861 extensively.
And although your novel is set over 150 years ago, many notions still ring true as being important and relatable? What do you personally feel was the most significant view you hope readers take on board?
I want people to see that through God’s love and the sustaining power of faith, a person can overcome any obstacle and find true happiness.
Was sharing the power of faith give you the most satisfaction? Or have you found another unexpected reward after releasing this tale?
Hearing readers tell me how much they love the book and characters. The characters are lovable but flawed, and that is why I think readers relate so well to them.
What have you learnt was an important part in the writing process to make your characters were relatable and readable?
To chose your editors wisely. I really am glad that I went with the editing team I did.
So, no regrets?
Nothing. I love my series.
Excellent! A happy and loving writer means more books for keen readers! Can you tempt us a little with what’s currently in production?
I am researching Book 4 & 5 which are characters from the first three books in the series. Book 4 will be set in Oregon and Book 5 in Oxford University.
Oregon and Oxford, interesting. I’m not sure I would have necessary picked Oregon to fit in neatly as the next instalment, but I’m sure you’re working hard to make sure it fits very snugly with the rest of the members of the series. Other than giving you a great excuse to investigate into different periods of time, what keeps drawing you back to add new instalments to your series and beyond?
It’s what I love to do, what I believe I was born to do. I come from a long line of writers. My mom was a journalist and editor for decade. My grandmother wrote short stories and my great grandmother wrote poems. I grew up around writing and it has always been a part of my life. I have been writing since I could form sentences.
As it’s always been a part of your life, does that translate into a good note-keeping system? How do you collate all of your ideas?
I keep lots of notes on my phone. I have lines to poems, ideas for blog posts, character names, lines all sorts of random writings.
When you start off a new project, how do you pick where to start? Do you look at your notes, or list of character names and start planning from there? Or does a book come to life in a different way?
I have a general idea of who the book will be about if it’s in a series and I may have a general sense of where I want the story to go. But the majority of the plot unfolds as I write. I am extremely organic that way.
Does this organic approach to writing mean that you’re not in a strict writing habit?
I am not a creature of habit. I have three daughters under the age of 11 who keep me busy, so I write where I can, when I can.
Yep, they will keep you busy and will try their hardest to break all of your habits! When you do get a few spare minutes to write, is there any music that you like to flick on that can quickly transport you back to your story so that you can make the most of your writing time?
This is probably funny, but I actually have the TV on in the background. A lot of Netflix for “white noise” if you will.
That’s not a funny as you think; I’ve chatted to several other writers who also have the TV turned on for company while they write. What happens when you’re sitting down, the Netflix is on but writing isn’t working too well for you. What do you do to get past a block or issues with motivation?
You just keep writing. Even if you don’t like it, even if you hate it, you just type as much as you can and revise later. I really believe that is what revisions are for. You can always go back and change it later.
Is the revising and changing stage some thing that you primary work on by yourself at the beginning? Earlier you mentioned that you use editors, can you explain how and when you share your progress with them?
I do extensive editing myself but I also hired a content editor and proofreaders. You will NEVER catch all your own mistakes. I also wrote and edited for several newspapers, and the first thing they teach you, someone else always needs to edit your work. Your eyes read your work the way your mind meant for it to read. You won’t pick up all your own mistakes or typos. Plus I had beta and ARC readers go through it before it released just to catch anything else that might have slipped through.
Is strong editing your top tip for preventing mistakes?
Yes, hire an editor and find an author mentor or a great critique group.
It sounds like you’ve setup some strong systems on the writing side to ensure your books are they best that they can be. Have you also applied some of these systems or considerations to setting up your own author brand?
Yes. I knew I wanted my covers for series to have a look which made it clear it was a “Jenna Brandt” book but still be unique. I also have my own brand slogan which is on my website header: “Inspiring Stories: Feel Every Moment.”
I have to admit, I do love the consistency of your cover designs because it does make it much easier as a reader to identify the series of books and the author with great ease. Do you have any exposure to things like marketing or writing within your day job that you feel has positively impacted your writing career?
I am a business owner, so I am capable of scheduling my day and getting things done in a timely manner.
Time management and scheduling is very important, and wonder if we’d be better served if we moved onto our quick fire questions to speed up our schedule to allow you to return to you busy working day. Let’s kick of the frolicking fun with: what is your favourite quote?
“You can make anything by writing.” C.S. Lewis
And he did. What other careers could you see yourself enjoying?
I would be good at editing professionally.
With the expertise taken gleamed from your own writing pursuits, I think that’s a safe alternative career for you. Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff.”
That is so true. Who decides what morality is?
What is your favourite ocean?
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Chicken, God made the chicken.
Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
I think you might be right on the money there. Have you tangoed in the snow?
No, but it sounds fun
It does, doesn’t it? I’m very eager to try out the snow tango next time I see some flurries! If you invented a monster what would it look like and what would you call it?
I did. It’s my toddler daughter. She’s a terror. But I love her anyway.
*Laughs* It makes it so much easier to love them when they’re wearing the little toddler grins, that is providing they’re not standing in front of a colossal mess! What happens if Batman gets bitten by a vampire?
There’s an opportunity for a whole new series off that.
*Laughs* I’m sure the franchising department is already working on getting that new series up and running! Are you left or right handed?
What is your favourite Jellybean flavour/ colour?
Anything coconut is worth eating. If all of the world is a stage, where does the audience sit?
If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?
I would chose Emma Stone to play Margaret, Liam Hemsworth to play Henry, Chris Pine to play Richard, and Dakota Fanning to play Catherine.
Good solid acting choices there, that is a very strong cast. What is your favourite word?
Now, that is a word that all authors should be taking to heart! How are the colours in rainbows made?
What happens when you get scared half to death twice?
Out of the way of the danger I hope! If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A dolguin – a cross between a dolphin and a penguin. They are my two favorite animals.
*Laughs* It sounds super cute, and I just want to see one swim! What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
That sounds really good and I think I might have to pop out and get myself some Rocky Road ice-cream. Before I do that however, is there a statement to share from your ‘The English Proposal’, that will entice the readers of this interview to plunge back to Victorian times?
And with that he leaned down and seared her with a kiss that pushed everything else out of her mind. She clung to him like a life preserver in the middle of a storm, engraining the feel of his lips and hands on her—knowing that once she left him this time, there would be no honorable way back into his arms.
Jenna, thanks for sharing ‘The English Proposal’ with the audience and myself today, and I hope that all of our readers pick up a copy to support Lady Margaret through her troublesome decisions.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The English Proposal ( ASIN: B0716SS7SM )‘.
Want to find out more about Jenna Brandt? Connect here!