Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Debut Spotlight: Victoria Hanlen

This lunchtime it's my pleasure to shine the debut spotlight onto author Victoria Hanlen whose book The Trouble with Misbehaving was published on Monday.

I was fortunate to have a father with a flair for storytelling and a mother who was a schoolteacher. Dad would tell us witty, entertaining stories about the farm he grew up on and the places he'd traveled.  Mom made sure we learned our three R's and encouraged the love of reading. As a kid, I enjoyed the Nancy Drew Mysteries and fairytales with happily-ever-afters.

I've written all my life and later worked in jobs that required strong writing skills. Along the way, I sang in professional opera and performed in Shakespeare and regional theater. 

Eventually I started writing short stories and then novel length. The cross training in theater applied well to character motivation and scene development. I especially love improvisation and the concept of saying 'yes' to a crazy idea and building a scene on the spot.  I also find it thrilling when my characters come alive and say or do something outrageous. 

The Trouble With Misbehaving was a finalist in eight Romance Writers of America contests. When I entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest, I didn’t win the big prize, but I was given a two-book contract!

I am a member of Romance Writers of America and Connecticut Romance Writers. Currently, I live in rural New England, U.S.A.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Sharon!

In answer your question about what drew me to writing Historical Romance, I have to say it all started when my seventh grade teacher had us read Wuthering Heights. I’ve been a fan of historical romance ever since. 

Heathcliff is my all-time hero. He’s probably why I tend to write tortured, outcast heros. Both of my books, The Trouble With Misbehaving and The Trouble With Seduction have such heros. Each has his own unique nobility and code of honor. 

I also love reading biographies and history books. There is so much to be learned from the troubles and triumphs of people who came before us. Details about their lives make wonderful material for characters and plot lines.

People ask me how I came up with the idea for Misbehaving. 

I can’t point to one single idea. The story evolved through research, family history, travel, and from previous stories I wrote.

TTWM uses secondary characters from one of my previous books (now comfortably collecting dust on my hard drive). CC, the heroine in Misbehaving, was a villain in that earlier book. She was such a dynamic, interesting character and kept pacing around in my head insisting she was misunderstood and demanded I tell her story! 

When I toured Marble House in Newport Rhode Island, U.S.A., it all came together. 

Alva Vanderbilt, the woman who had Marble House built, was born in the South (Alabama) to a family that suffered untimely deaths and unstable fortune. She was determined to marry well. And so she did. She married William Vanderbilt, a reputed philanderer, and one of the wealthiest men in the United States during the gilded age—1870 to 1900. 

She also had lofty social ambitions and intended to be one of New York society’s leading lights. Initially, however, as new money, she was snubbed by older factions of New York High Society. 

Bullheaded, intelligent, and courageous, she challenged convention and used her husband’s vast wealth to maneuver New York society into doing her bidding.

She had Marble House (called a ‘summer cottage’) built on property right next to the summer cottage of the queen of New York High Society. And Alva spared no expense to make it the grandest around. Later, Alva’s divorce from William Vanderbilt (in an age when divorce was rare) rendered her an outcast. She regained her social position by marrying off her beautiful daughter, Consuelo, to Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. 

CC and her mother, Delia have similarities to both Alva and Consuelo. I set the story at the end of the American Civil War (1864-1865) since that was a period of enormous struggle and strife. It was also a time when captains could demonstrate their brazen nerve, technical skill, and shameless audacity. 

The backstory to TTWM: Following a horrid scandal, CC is sent to London to live with her father’s family with the mandate that she find and marry a titled lord. She must do this to reinstate both her own and her family’s spot in New York high society. Untimely deaths make CC the sole heir to her father’s fortune and with it she is determined to forge her own path. 

A desperate letter from her mother begs CC’s help. She must find a captain who will take her to North Carolina to save her family.

With the dangerous tightening of the blockade, CC doesn’t want just any captain. She will only hire the best. Notorious Captain Beauford Tollier is such a man and one of the most successful blockade-runners to sail the seas. He also happens to be her cousin’s brother-in-law, and the third son of the Earl of Grancliffe. The only problem is, Captain Beau has just been released from a Union prison and is beset by battle demons. He has vowed to find a different livelihood.

CC must convince Captain Beau to take her through the blockade, but he will not be cajoled. With his wily, commanding stubbornness he presents a challenge she’d not bargained on, and in due course, he manages to sneak past even more than Union barriers. 

(Captain Beau has aspects of a real captain, Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden, the third son of the 6th Earl of Buckinghamshire who was a very successful blockade-running captain during the Civil War.)

The research for The Trouble With Misbehaving truly was an adventure and a very pleasurable one. I could go on and on about it. The story takes place in England, The Bahamas and North Carolina, U.S.A. 

Besides doing an immense amount of book and Internet research, my husband and I took trips to research details about the history, setting, and the language people used. The trips themselves were a wonderful experience.

We spent three weeks in England touring the country at the time of year when certain parts of the story take place.

We took a cruise from New York to the Bahamas in December, the time of year CC and Beau would have sailed. I wanted to know what it would have been like for Beau and CC to sail on a blockade-runner from the Bahamas to Wilmington, NC—the only Confederate port still open at the time the story takes place. 

The Royal Victoria Hotel where CC and Beau stayed in Nassau, the Bahamas (a famous blockade-runner hotel) was a real hotel and was closed in 1971. It was a short walk from the wharf. I have a picture of what is left of its famous gardens and a memorial plaque on my website.

We have family in North Carolina, and on visits, we took side trips to Goldsboro and Wilmington, NC to explore the towns, historical homes, plantations, forts and railroad museums. 

It’s been over 150 years since the Civil War, but the language people use to refer to it in the North vs. the South still continues to be distinct.

That’s all for now. Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Sharon! I totally enjoyed it. ☺

The Trouble With Misbehaving is now at your favorite ebook stores.
The Trouble With Seduction will be released April 11, 2016.

For more information about Victoria Hanlen and her books please see:

Love, Betrayal and Redemption

Calista ‘CC’ Collins is used to being the talk of the town. With her scandalous past she’s learnt the hard way that a woman needs to be strong to get what she wants in a man’s world. And what she wants is the infamous Captain Beauford Tollier—roguish son of an earl, notorious blockade-runner and all-round knave of the seas.

However, Captain Beau is not one to be cajoled—he is done with the dangerous sea life and ready to follow the life of the straight and narrow. But with many powerful forces circling around him, Beau doesn’t stand a chance…

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