My husband and I met, married and raised our two children in Southern California where we still live. Our oldest is married and has three grown sons. The other is an aerospace engineer who made watching The Big Bang Theory seem oddly familiar. I started writing when a co-worker challenged me to write my own book after I complained about a disappointing story. At the urging of friends and critique partners, I entered the Golden Heart Contest for Unpublished Writers, and Silent Song was one of six finalists in the short contemporary category. It eventually sold to Kensington Publishing. Between my day job as a high school teacher and family obligations, writing was put on hold for several years. Once I retired, however, characters and story ideas began dancing in my head again, but now they danced to Regency music. The Wolverton World is the result of letting them dance onto the manuscript page.
Jann: Tell us about your road to publication?
Leslie: My road trip was long, winding, and a bit rocky at times. My first book (a contemporary), Silent Song, took 10 years from first concept until Kate Duffy bought it for Meteor Publishing, then for Kensington when Meteor was sold off. By that time, my day job and growing family obligations pretty much took over and I set aside my writing for several years. When I retired, I had time to immerse myself in reading for pleasure, and it wasn’t long before the “what if” ideas started popping up again. I rejoined RWA to get caught up on the changes in the market and started writing once more. I completed Scandalizing the Duke and Chasing Scandal before I started submitting to the traditional houses. The long waits between submission and check-backs, the almost-but-not-quite editor nibbles from contest entries and the black hole of Covid lockdowns finally made me decide that I didn’t want to wait another 10 years to see my book in print. I researched all the “new” stuff and asked lots of questions, then uploaded Scandalizing the Duke through Draft2Digital and set my release date. I’m still learning, but I’m back on track.
Jann: What motivated you to write Regency romance?
Leslie: I decided to focus on historical in general, and Regency in particular, for their unlimited shelf life for readers. Contemporary stories quickly lose their freshness which can limit their appeal to new readers. Readers of historically set stories embrace the time warp instead of being distracted by it. I also write what I like to read, and I love historical fiction.
Jann: Historical romance readers look for accuracy from the author. What are your favorite sources for research and how much time did you spend on research? Do you research before, while you write a first draft or after?
Leslie: I tend to research as needed while I write. I usually begin with overview information off the internet for key events for the time period when the story will be set. I use historical study sites like universities and English history sites that I come across, then cross check for accuracy. I look for events that might impact my characters or move the story in a particular direction. I’m also a member of Regency Fiction Writers and we share a lot of links and sources, so I can often verify information that way. One of our members (Kristine Hughs) has recently completed an exhaustive research book on Waterloo in which she has read reams of primary source letters and dispatches, etc. to include. I know I’ll be able to rely on the accuracy of that book for both facts and flavor of the time period. My third book, Scandal’s Choice has an amputee hero, and I read the biography of Lord Oxley as well as researched recovery times, the history of prosthesis, and interviewed a man about the actual sensations of using and wearing one. Every story has a different research component, so I use whatever seems appropriate at the time.
Jann: Where did the idea come from for this series? Did you think of character, plot or theme first?
Leslie: I always think of people first. My first concept for the series was a what if–what if a widower returned to London with three daughters to launch and one was a bluestocking, one was a rescuer, and the third an intuitive, and what if the mother of one of his suitor’s mother caught his attention?
Once the writing/plotting began the bluestocking, Elizabeth, became a woodworker and enters a marriage of convenience, the rescuer became Charlotte in Scandalizing the Duke, and the intuitive has yet to emerge from the schoolroom. The widower papa doesn’t show until Scandal’s choice (Elizabeth’s story) and he has remarried when he does. First concepts never make it past research and revisions.
Jann: How long did it take you to write Book One?
Leslie: About 6 or 9 months initially. I think of book like babies: 3 months of trying, 9 months to delivery.
Jann: Book One, Scandalizing the Duke, from your new series The Wolverton World, debuted in February of this year. How did it feel?
Leslie: Fabulous, exciting, and scary.
Jann: Tell us about your main characters, Lucien, Duke of Wolverton and Charlotte Longborough. What major conflicts did you set for Lucien and Charlotte to work through on the way to their HEA?
Jann: Charlotte is a compulsive rescuer whose determination to rescue her former neighbor’s wife from his abuse will surely spell disaster and scandal if she is caught.
Lucien is determined to see that scandal never again attaches itself to him, or anyone under his roof.
Charlotte can’t achieve her goal without help, and Lucien can’t take the chance that she’ll act on her own.
Jann: I see you have Book Two, Chasing Scandal and Book Three, Scandal’s Choice, set to publish soon. Can you share what these two books are about? Will you have more books for this series?
Leslie: Book 2, Chasing Scandal, is about Lucien’s illegitimate brother Tristan who is an agent of the Crown. His mission to uncover a traitor is complicated by an abducted child and the woman who believes he is the kidnapper. To protect the child, the two of them must work together though their journey leads to unexpected discoveries and rewards.
Book 3, Scandal’s Choice is Charlotte’s sister Elizabeth’s story.
Known among the ton as the odd sister, Elizabeth has decided two failed Seasons are as much as she can tolerate. But her plan to return home and run her father’s household is shattered when he remarries, and an unfortunate incident at a local assembly limits her prospects even more.
Faced with war injuries that resulted in amputation, Major Warleigh hates the idea of being dependent on anyone, especially his brother and sister-in-law. Their overwrought sympathy and plans for his invalid care make him shudder. Neither of them like the prospect of returning home, nor do they have many choices in the matter. What began as a flippant remark grows into a genuine proposal for marriage of convenience. They discover loyalty, honor, and love are more than ideas, and marriage is more than spoken vows when a woman claiming to be his fiancé arrives, unannounced, at their door.
One on my beta readers asked for Anne’s story (Lucien’s sister), and I had originally planned on her book being book 2, but I realized I didn’t know her fears and secrets yet. Her personality is a lot like the heroine in my current work in progress, but her background and goals don’t fit, so she’ll have to wait.
I do want to do a book for the Duke of Everham (I affectionately call him the doggie-duke). There is a good reason he prefers dogs to people.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Leslie: Satisfaction. I want the reader to like the people in the stories and root for their journey to happily ever after. I don’t begin with theme as my goal, but certain ones tend to show up. Family is always a part of my stories since the support or absence of family impacts how we deal with life and the goals we form for ourselves.
Jann: You also have a new series, Hazardous House Parties, coming out in the future. What can you share with us today about the series?
Leslie: Several guests at Lady Kirkwood’s birthday house party deal with accidents a bit more frequently than normal. The first book is currently titled Braxton’s Vow and is a second chance trope that evolved from friends to enemies to lovers.
Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Leslie: My favorite character is the one I am developing at any given time. Charlotte was eager and hopeful, Julia was braver than she realized, Elizabeth is a creative who cannot deny her drive. In Braxton’s Vow, Arabella is clever, inquisitive, and daring.
Jann: What’s your all-time favorite book?
Leslie: Only one?? How does anyone pick just one? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice every other year since I was in the 4th grade, so I guess that’s it, but I cherish so many stories and the authors who’ve written them. It is like asking who’s your favorite child. Always for different reasons, but always equally.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Leslie: You should be able to get my books at all the major vendors by typing in the title of the book. This lets you select the vendor you prefer to make your ebook preference. The paperback should be able to be ordered from any of the vendors. (Editor’s note: see below for buy links.)
Jann: Congratulations Leslie on The Wolverton World!! It’s been a real pleasure talking with you today. Take care and stay healthy!!
Madeline Ash is an Australian contemporary romance author and two-time RITA Award finalist. She has also won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award (RUBY). She writes sexy-sweet novels with sensitivity and humor.
Psychotherapist Debra Holland, Ph.D is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet, historical Western romance. She’s a three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner.
USA Today bestselling author Judy Duarte has written more than sixty books and novellas for Harlequin Special Edition and Kensington, earned two Rita® finals, won two Maggies and received a National Reader’s Choice Award.
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