Guest Author: Sandra Worth & Giveaway!

I’m so thrilled to have today’s guest author on the blog.  She’s Sandra Worth, and she writes wonderful historical fiction.  Sandra is the author of five acclaimed novels that chronicle the demise of the ruling Plantagenet dynasty in England. Each one of her book has received multiple awards, including first place in the New Century Writers Awards sponsored by Francis Ford Coppola, three Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews, and a national “Best Book” pick from

Those are mighty impressive writing creds, wouldn’t you say?  Sandra has garnered all that acclaim because she writes corking good stories about historical figures.  So history lovers and historical romance lovers, pull up a chair.  Sandra is interviewing with us today, so let’s get to it!

Sandra, your books take place during the War of the Roses, and chronicle the demise of the Plantagenet Dynasty. Why this particular period of history, and what sort of personal perspective did you want to bring to your books? What interests you about the Plantagenets?

Richard III wouldn’t leave me alone after I read Josephine’s Tey’s Daughter of Time <g>. I came to really agonize over the injustice done to his memory and wanted to do something about it. The Rose of York trilogy was my way of dealing with history’s miscarriage of justice. The fact that he’s the king who gave us the presumption of innocence on which our great democracy is based is a terrific irony and makes it that much worse.

The Plantagenets are a fascinating, colorful bunch – not as ruthless as the Tudors, and far more likeable. But they had their share of scandals, so we writers have plenty of storylines to choose from!

Your books contain romantic elements or are full-on love stories, which readers really enjoy. How do you interweave facts and fiction to shape that particular element in your books, particularly since your heroes and heroines had lives that were fraught with danger?

I think love is very important in life and in a story. It’s our greatest emotion, and even history- which some people find dull (believe it or not!) – can be fascinating when it’s wrapped in a love story.

For me, the mechanics are to start with reading. Once I have a general understanding of the history, I make a research trip or two. Seeing the places connected to my heroes and heroines never fails to bring them alive to me. Often I draft scenes while I’m actually there looking at the view they once saw from a balcony, a window, a cliff. When I get back, I plunge myself into more research, and somehow, at some point, it all sorts itself out and I have a book.

As far as weaving the love story into the events of history, often these historical figures have left us some indication of their feelings, and either it’s hinted at in the historical record, or if we’re lucky, there’s a full-fledged account (as with Perkin Warbeck and his Scottish princess). Going back to The Rose of York, for example, Richard found Anne hidden away toiling as a scullery maid in someone’s kitchen.

Was she trying to hide from him, or was he playing Prince Charming? Interpretation is everything with history. I took into account the fact that Anne was his brother’s ward at the time, and that his brother had fought Richard over money and titles. I came to the decision that this was a power-play on his brother Clarence’s part, and that Clarence hid Anne away so Richard wouldn’t be able to marry her. Once I knew my direction, everything else fell into place – Richard and Anne’s relationship as children (they were raised together by her father), her forced marriage to Prince Edward of Lancaster, and Richard’s devastation at her death that led to his suicidal charge behind enemy lines at Bosworth.

Your latest book is Pale Rose of England, which sounds wonderful. Tell us a little about it. As an author, what do you like most about this book?

Thanks, Vanessa – love to talk about Prince Richard and Lady Catherine Gordon! Thanks to the Tudors, this Richard- who many contemporaries believed was the younger prince in the Tower, and who is portrayed as such in this book – is known to history not as Prince Richard, Duke of York, but as “Perkin Warbeck,” a boatman’s son. He fought Henry VII for the throne, and lost. Henry fell in love with Richard’s wife, the beautiful Scottish princess Lady Catherine Gordon, and held her child hostage as he courted her and executed her husband. The story of Pale Rose of England is Catherine’s story of survival and ultimate triumph.

This is a love triangle too, but in a totally different sense from my Roman book, because Catherine loathes Henry VII. Yet she can’t offend him because her child’s life is in his hands.

What’s next for you?

I just this morning sent off my new manuscript to my agent – so I’m very excited!! I’ve left the Wars of the Roses in England and moved to the Eastern Roman Empire. Very little has survived about my heroine and I had much more work to do piecing together a credible story. Throw in a love triangle as a complication, well, that’s why it’s taken me two years to write!!

Thanks so much for this interview, Vanessa, and for the great questions.

Sandra, I can’t wait for you next series.  It’s sounds fantastic! Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today.

Readers, Sandra has graciously donated The Rose of York for a giveaway.  Just tell us what your favorite period of history is, for a chance to win.  And be sure to visit Sandra’s beautiful website to read excerpts, watch her book trailer, and find out about her latest contest.

Inspiration, And Then Some

Let’s talk covers, shall we?  As most romance readers know, writers often look to actors and actresses for inspiration when developing their characters.  It’s a fun way to bring the hero and heroine to life in our imaginations.  Typically, a writer spends months on a book, imagining the hero looks remarkably like Gerard Butler, for instance.  Said writer may have even been asked by her editor to provide detailed descriptions of her hero (and heroine), which is then passed along to the art department.  With crossed fingers, the writer then spends the intervening weeks praying the cover will at least remotely match the descriptions she provided to her editor.

Finally, the day arrives and that much-anticipated cover jpg. lands in the writer’s email box.  With pounding heart, the writer clicks on the jpg. and then…well, sometimes they get it right.  Often they don’t but it’s still a great cover, and every once in a while it can be an unmitigated disaster.

How have the cover gods treated me?  Extremely well, IMHO, thanks to the fantastic art department at Kensington Publishing.  The models didn’t always match what was in my head, though, so I thought it might be fun to look at what I imagined and what actually happened – particularly with my heroes.  So here are my covers, starting withMastering The Marquess at the top of the page.  Let’s see how they match up with the actors I used for inspiration.

For Stephen, the Marquess of Silverton, I imagined him played by the beautiful and tragic Heath Ledger.

Now glance up and compare that to the guy at the top of the page.  Not so much, although I think MTM has a great cover.  But the hero looks more like a cross between Brad Pitt and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, which more than one person pointed out to me.  Whoever he looks like, he does have a great set of abs.

In  my next book, Sex and the Single Earl, I imagined the hero, Lord Trask, to look much like Christian Bale.

And here’s the cover.

Pretty good matchup and, again, great abs.

For my novella in An Invitation To Sin, I based the hero, Captain Christian Archer, on Sean Bean in Sharpe’s Rifles.

And, the cover…

Oh, well.  Pretty, but a distinct absence of abs.

For my last book, My Favorite Countess, I used the gorgeous Hugh Jackman to provide me with inspiration for Dr. John Blackmore.

And the cover…

I was surprised when I got the email because I was expecting another clinch cover, but I certainly wasn’t unhappy.  MFC is a gorgeous cover and since I had imagined Bathsheba played by Kate Winslet, the artist definitely got the vibe.

My next book, which will be out in 2012, has a tough and handsome former soldier as its hero.  When I pictured him in my head, this is who I saw.

Yes.  Uber-handsome Henry Cavill from The Tudors.  I won’t see my cover for some months yet, but I surely a girl can dream, can’t she?

What about you, readers?  Do you cast actors for certain characters when you read a book?  Does it bother you when the cover doesn’t match the description?

No Explanation Required

There’s really no need to explain how much we loved Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, is there?  Nor do the following photos require any explanation.  Here are a few pictures of some of the lovely men who serve as inspiration for the heroes of my novels.

Sean Bean is my mental stand-in for the hero of my novella in the anthology, An Invitation To Sin. Sean really knows how to rock the uniform!

Then there’s Hugh Jackman, who was the inspiration for the hero in my upcoming book, My Favorite Countess.

Even scruffy Hugh would set any girl’s heart a-flutter!

And, finally, here’s the dreamboat inspiration for my next book, Henry Cavill, who stars in The Tudors. I think I’ve made an excellent choice, and I know my heroine will thank me!

Hope the eye candy gives you a great start to the week!