Historical romance novelist Barbara Burke is with us today to discuss her latest book (Counterfeit Viscountess), her daughter’s influence on her writing career, her reason for using a pseudonym, and more. Who knows? If we’re lucky, she might even agree to play a round of “Would you rather…”!
Welcome, Barbara! As a writer of historical
romances, what draws you to the specific times and places you write about?
I started reading Georgette Heyer about a hundred years ago. She was really the only romance writer I ever read, so when I decided to write one myself, following in her footsteps (as if I ever could!) seemed the most natural way to approach it.
One day my daughter mentioned how romantic she found the whole WWII era, something that had never occurred to me before. But since she’s usually right about things, I started looking into it and became fascinated by the period. Of course, since she said it would be fascinating. That’s definitely where I’m heading again with my next romance.
I would expect historical fiction to require a bit more research than other genres might. How much time do you typically spend on research compared with actually writing the story?
Way, way too much time! The problem is that I find so much information that I come across so fascinating that it makes it impossible to stop reading. And then I have the other problem of wanting everything to be as accurate as possible, so even while I’m writing I’m constantly checking details. Having a degree in history does not help. So as for how much time I spend on research versus writing, I don’t think I can answer that, because I’m continuing the research even after I’ve started writing.
Your newest book, Counterfeit Viscountess, was released on June 29. What can you tell us about it?
Counterfeit Viscountess is a Regency romance about a young woman traveling from her home in Ireland to London to fulfill the requirements of a bequest. On the way she is involved in a mix-up at a posting inn, and she and the man involved must pretend to be married in order to save her reputation. If they can’t pull it off, they’ll have to get married for real. It’s half romance, half comedy of manners—they have to pretend to society that they’re in love and pretend to each other that they’re not.
What a delightful premise! How long did it take to write it, and where did you get the idea?
I actually started writing it a few years ago during NANOWRIMO so I can’t remember how the original idea came to me. Probably something my daughter said.
Did you have any particular challenges while writing it?
The greatest challenge was keeping the romance interesting when the biggest building block of the story was that they could never even kiss. A big chunk of the book was produced while I was in Portugal on a working vacation, which is when I got back to it. As long as I was writing I could sit on the balcony with my tiny laptop perched on a rickety table and look out over the water without feeling the necessity to do anything else. That made it pretty easy to get the words down.
You also have an intriguing backlist: The Key to His Heart, Not2Night, and Recompromising Amanda. Can you give us a one-line summary for each of those books?
The Key to His Heart is a Steampunk Christmas retelling of Beauty and the Beast, my favourite fairy tale.
Not2Nite is a WWII story about an air raid warden and a lost American on the streets of nighttime London during the blitz who fall in love.
Recompromising Amanda is a Regency about two old friends who are in love but don’t realize the other one is until they’re forced into a compromising position.
Why do you use a pseudonym for your romance stories?
I use a pseudonym because I’m actually a freelance journalist in my 'real' life, and I didn’t want to get the two lives confused. Somehow I got it into my head that if I was writing light romances under the same name people wouldn’t take my non-fictional work as seriously. The problem, of course, is that I’m plotting out a cozy mystery now and I can’t decide which name to use! There’s no way I’m coming up with a third one. My romance pseudonym isn’t really a lie—it’s my own middle name and my mother’s maiden name.
Would you rather…
Lose the ability to read or lose the ability to speak?
Speak. I can always write something down. I couldn’t manage without being able to read.
Travel back in time or visit a far-off planet of highly intelligent, benevolent beings?
Depends on the plumbing.
Be in jail for a year or die one year sooner than you would have otherwise?
Definitely go to jail. I would never give up an opportunity, and dying early is just that.
Be able to teleport or read minds?
Teleport. I’m not sure I want to know what a lot of people are thinking.
Lie on a beach or hike in the woods?
I like doing both, but I’m a real water baby so I’d have to say the beach so I could hop in the water whenever I felt like it.
Be an amazing artist or a brilliant mathematician?
Artist. I wouldn’t even have to be amazing at it.
Be able to fly or able to breathe underwater?
I’m pretty good with not being able to do either.
Be forced to eat nothing but spicy food or nothing but bland food for the rest of your life?
Spicy food for the win if we don’t include vanilla ice cream or chocolate under the bland heading.
Live the rest of your life on the equator or in the Arctic Circle?
Equator, but by a beach. Unfortunately, I’ve always lived closer to the Arctic Circle.
Be lost in a bad part of town or lost in a forest?
The bad part of town. I’ve got too much imagination to survive being lost in the forest. I’d scare myself to death jumping at shadows and odd noises. I wouldn’t be afraid of the bears, I’ve lived with plenty of those, but the imaginary monsters would terrify me.
Be twenty and dirt-poor or fifty and fabulously wealthy?
I have no idea. Maybe 50. A lot of 20 year olds are real dumb asses. Hmm. Wait. So are a lot of 50 year olds. Yeah, no idea.
Free from junk mail or free from email spam for the rest of your life?
Spam. I don’t mind junk mail.
Be able to type incredibly fast or be able to read incredibly fast?
Type. I sometimes forget the beautiful sentence I’m constructing before I get to the end of it and I’d hate to read too fast to savour the story.
Lose your best friend or lose all your friends except for your best friend?
It kind of depends how I’m losing them. I wouldn’t want to submit anyone to a fiery death or anything.
Never have to clean a bathroom again or never have to do dishes again?
No brainer. Never clean the bathroom.
Be able to see only in black and white or never eat dessert again?
Never eat dessert. I’m a very visual person.
Lose a limb or be without a cell phone for the rest of your life?
Can it be a tree limb from the scary forest with the boogie monsters in it?