17 October 2011

Interviewi: Author Rosemary Gemmell

This week we're heading across The Pond and featuring an interview with Scotland's Regency novelist Rosemary Gemmell (aka Romy or Ros). Her first novel, Dangerous Deceit, is a delightful foray into the life of Lydia Hetherington, a young woman chafing at the social restrictions of her time and hoping to avoid not only the arranged marriage her family has proposed for her, but the institution altogether if she can. I liked her feisty attitude and I loved the way Ms. Gemmell added so many wonderful details to bring Lydia's story to life. This is a fun journey into the days of Jane Austen and Beau Brummell, with a dash of Naopleonic espionage to give the romance a definite kick! I highly recommend this novel for everyone who loves stepping into the Austen universe.
[Purchasing information is at the end of the interview.]

   So, Romy, what is it about writing history that intrigues you?
 Part of my interest comes from reading historical novels and the Classics when younger, and being transported into a completely different life and era. Our contemporary world is so fast-paced and technological that it’s difficult to keep up! Writing about history allows me to step back and create scenarios and characters from a different perspective. Of course, we can never fully understand another time but writing about it means we can interpret events in a fictional way.  

How involving is research for you? And do you research before you begin, or as you write?
 I studied history as part of my university degrees, covering European history of the 16th century, 18th/19th century, Victorian, First World War and Second World War, plus the culture and society between both wars. Being an ardent fan of Georgette Heyer, who wrote Georgian and Regency fiction, and Jane Austen, who was actually living and writing at the time, I chose the Regency for my first historical novel as I already had good background knowledge of that period. I also subscribed to the Jane Austen Regency World Magazine from the second issue many years ago and absorbed much of the finer detail from those articles, as well as specific history books I own. I’ve used some of the other studied periods in short stories and I’m hoping to set a few novels in different eras.

Unlike a lot of writers, I get bored if I try to research too much before I begin, although it’s important I have a grasp of the particular background period. But I write historical romance, rather than straight historical fiction, and I’m a character-led writer. So I prefer to get the story started, let the characters play until I see where they’re going, then I fill in any research gaps as and when needed. Otherwise, I’d never get started! One thing I did learn the hard way is never to assume I know more than I do – that’s partly laziness on my part. I am now very careful to double check any facts.

2)      Short story versus novel: which do you find most satisfying to create?
Good question! For many years, I only wrote short stories (and articles), getting many of them published in magazines. I always had ideas for novels, and started a few, but lacked the self-discipline for full length writing. I love the immediacy of short pieces and even enjoy the shorter flash fiction. However, the urge to write full length became stronger and I joined the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer Scheme (for unpublished novelists). That allowed me to send a complete novel for a professional in-depth report between January and the end of August some years ago. It was the incentive I needed as the deadline kept me more focused. That first novel was finally published as Dangerous Deceit. The novel I entered the following year is now seeking an agent.

I guess I get equal satisfaction from creating any piece of fiction now, but I still have to fight that slight lack of application for finishing novels, whereas I have no trouble writing short stories.

Your Regency novel, Dangerous Deceit, involves possible intrigue during the Regency era. Which historical figures of that era are a) most fascinating and b) most frustrating to write about?
For many years, I was fascinated by Lord Byron as a poet and a Regency figure as he seemed to court controversy wherever he went, much of it scandalous. Since I’d already written an article about him, I decided he must have a small scene in Dangerous Deceit! I’m also fascinated by the Shelleys and Beau Brummell, so they might figure in a story one day. The most frustrating historical figure was the Prince Regent and I only to refer to ‘Prinny’ in passing. By all accounts, he was decadent and a complete wastrel, although he was also cultured and a patron of the arts.

What one lesson in your writing journey do you wish someone had warned you about? Or was the lesson one of those experiences that only made you stronger?
I do wish I’d known how much dedication is needed to make a success of being a writer! I think I played at it for too many years, writing and publishing a short story or article now and then, never giving my writing the priority it needed. But to be a novelist definitely needs far more application to keep going. It’s also more difficult because I’m a butterfly writer, enjoying the variety of flitting from one type of writing to another, hence the slightly different forms of my first name. But I’m trying to be more focused now!

Where in Scotland would you send someone who only had one day to get a true feel for your homeland?
Being born and bred in the west of Scotland, it would have to be Glasgow and Loch Lomond. Although Edinburgh is the capital (situated to the east), and certainly worth a visit, Glasgow is a very friendly city, with the most wonderful Victorian (and older) architecture. Wandering through the city centre often introduces visitors to the unique Glasgow humour and patter. Taking an open-top bus tour out to the university area gives a good sense of our historical pride – the University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the 4th oldest university in the English speaking world.

Loch Lomond is easily reached from Glasgow yet it’s a thousand miles away from city life. This area encapsulates the magnificence of the Scottish landscape, with the largest freshwater loch in Britain, bordered by some of our highest mountains, including Ben Lomond, one of the famous 283 Munros, mountains over 3,000 feet. It must be one of the beautiful and romantic spots in Scotland, and yes, it is featuring in my mainstream novel!

More about Rosemary Gemmell
Based in the west coast of Scotland, Rosemary Gemmell has been happily married for 36 years, with a grown-up son and daughter. She has been a student nurse, a business travel consultant, an education/business liaison officer, a mature student, an adult literacy tutor, and has dabbled in various other part-time work. She much prefers being a writer! Rosemary’s first novel (as Romy), Dangerous Deceit, (historical romance and intrigue set in Regency England) was published by Champagne Books in Canada in May 2011. Her first Tween novel, Summer of the Eagles, which is set in Scotland, is being published by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada in March 2012 (as Ros).
Her short stories and articles are published in UK magazines, in the US, and Online, and her children’s stories are in three different anthologies. One of her short stories was included in the fundraising book, ‘100 Stories for Haiti’ in 2010. A historical short story was published in ‘The Waterloo Collection’, launched by the late professor Richard Holmes in April 2011. As a fun experiment, Rosemary has published a kindle short story collection of eight previously published stories, ‘Reshaping the Past’. She has won a few competitions and will be a short story adjudicator at the annual Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference in March 2012.

Dangerous Deceit is available in kindle version from www.amazon.co.uk and www.amazon.com and all other e-book versions from www.smashwords.com
The print version (and e-book) is available from http://champagnebooks.com
You can find Rosemary at:
Romancing History Blog: http://romygemmell.blogspot.com
Reading and Writing Blog: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com 
Flights of Imagination Blog: http://rosgemmell.blogspot.com
Twitter: @rosemarygemmell


  1. Really enjoyed reading the interview Jude and love your book 'Romy'!x

  2. Great interview Jude & Romy - and having read Dangerous Deceit I can recommend it highly as a Regency adventure featuring a wonderful heroine and a cameo appearance by Lord Byron!

  3. Super interview Jude and Romy, I really enjoyed Dangerous Deceit.

  4. Great interview! Thanks so much for sharing.

    And Scotland is one of those places I want to go on my bucket list.

  5. Great interview, and the book sounds super, Romy! I was wondering about 'Prinny' recently too, after visiting his Royal Pavilion again - I did wonder if the poor chap was just bored stiff and fed up with waiting around!
    By the way, the DD book cover is completely gorgeous and eye-catching! Good luck with it all. :)

    Jane x

  6. Great inteview, guys! I'm a bit fan of Dangerous Deceit and can't until Romy's next historical romance comes out. I like how you have to wait until you're actually in the story before you start the indepth research. I understand that method perfectly!

  7. Enjoyed the interview! Dangerous Deceit is on my TBR list, I've found I really like historical of late. I admire anyone who can research a historical novel, and I like your method- seems a lot less daunting than having to gather it all up beforehand!

  8. Great interview, ladies. And yes, writing does take a lot of dedication.

  9. Wow! I go out all afternoon and come back to all these lovely comments. Thanks so much for having me here, Jude.

    Thanks Vikki and Janice for your continuing, unstinting support!

  10. Chris - thanks a lot for your kind words!

    Hi Anne - thanks for coming over. Hope you do get to Scotland one day!

  11. Hi Jane - thanks so much for that! I was so pleased with my very first book cover.

    Linda - thanks again for your support. Suppose I should be getting on quicker with that next one!

  12. Hi Jane - thanks a lot for that! I was so pleased to get this as my very first cover.

    Linda - thanks again for your support. Guess I should be getting on with that next one!

  13. Hi Ute - thanks for your kind comment. It's a bit less daunting to do the research as needed!

    Hi Talli - thanks for visiting. You certainly know about the dedication bit!

  14. Great interview, and looking forward to reading Dangerous Deceit!

  15. Thanks for all the comments, folks! I thoroughly enjoyed Dangerous Deceit, love the details and the intrigue and interplay between the characters. And Scotland is definitely high on my bucket list, too!

  16. Thanks for the fab informative interview.

  17. Thanks, Ashley!

    That's kind of you, Jude!

    Thanks for coming over here, Debs!

  18. Top interview. Really enjoyed it, thanks for sharing. I've read Dangerous Deceit and totally loved it!

  19. Very interesting piece, Rosemary. I also am lazy about novel writing and keep being distracted by short stories. And coincidentally, my previous married name was Hetherington.

  20. Thanks a lot for your support, Diane!

    Hi Jenny - glad you understand about writing short stories! What a coincidence about the name.