Always on the lookout for an adventure, Christina Alexandra has worked many different jobs including both medical and veterinary offices, as a service dog puppy raiser, music teacher, law enforcement instructor, emergency grief counselor, and coroner’s assistant just to name a few. Writing stories set in Georgian and Regency England she credits her varied experiences as the foundation from which she builds true-to-life characters and emotional stories with a unique twist on modern issues.
Christina lives in Southern California where she currently works as an emergency services operator for a busy police department. When not researching, writing or working, Christina spends her spare time travelling, cooking–oftentimes with a historical flair–and connecting with fans on social media. An avid trivia junkie, she is constantly on the lookout for random facts in the hopes that it will help her in her never ending quest for a spot on “Jeopardy!”
Jann: Today Christina Alexandra is going to give us a peak at her writing life and her new historical series—The Reluctant Lords.
Jann: The Reluctant Lords is a five book series. How long did it take you to develop your characters and story plots for each book?
Christina: I’ve been working on this series in one form or another for a few years. It originally started out as just the glimmer of an idea, a brief scene that somehow turned into five books. Once I had that first storyline, I didn’t take me long to come up with the rest. I think I had the entire series at least partially plotted in about a month.
Worth came about a bit differently. While part of the Reluctant Lords, it’s also part of the Common Elements Romance Project. Common Elements is a group of over 70 romance authors writing their own stories, and completely unrelated to each other. The only thing tying them together are the 5 common elements of a lightning storm, a set of lost keys, a stack of books, a haunted house (real or rumored), and a person named Max.
As I was developing the rest of the Reluctant Lords, there were some plot issues such as missing time, first meetings between characters that were unaccounted for and other things that were really holding me up. When I found the Common Elements Romance Project and saw the list, I knew immediately that this is what was needed–a first story that introduced the characters and tied up all those loose ends. The story and the characters just came together so organically and completely, that I really didn’t have to think about them too much, they were just there.
The most difficult part was factoring in the mystery that runs through the entire series and making sure that the actual historical events took place at the correct times. It’s amazing how often history does not cooperate with my stories.
Jann: The first book is The Worth of a Viscount. Lady Maxine Pearson and Adam Hawkins reconnect for a second chance at love. Why did you select this theme? What other themes are you using in the series?
Christina: I’m a sucker for a second chance at love. It’s one of my favorite tropes. When it was decided what the five elements would be for Common Elements, I started scouring the internet for images. I tend to be a very visual writer and I need to see things in order for them to become real to me. In one of my searches, I came across a photographer on Facebook who shoots a lot of historical reenactors and puts them in different scenes. Each image tells a story, and when you see the entire photo series, it’s quite impressive. I came across this one image of a couple in Regency dress cuddling on a settee, with only some candles around them. Suddenly I knew exactly what was going on. It became the first “relationship” scene in Worth, and I built the rest of the story around it. The second chance theme fit perfectly with the image and the story.
Being worthy is also a theme that runs heavy in the series. The Reluctant Lords is the story of five ordinary men–a merchant, a land steward, a soldier, a politician, and a “fixer”–who are content with their ordinary lives, when they suddenly find themselves saddled with titles, estates, and responsibilities far out of their comfort zones. They have to learn to adapt quickly to their new positions, while navigating Regency society and the drawing room politics. For these men, whose Parliamentary influence and reputations are all built on the appearance of being in control it is quite a daunting task, and only the love from the right woman can help them become all they can be.
Jann: Tell us about Maxine and Adam and their love story. Which character has the bigger arc?
Christina: They have an equal arc, really. It’s all about how they become worthy. Adam is so determined to prove his worth to the outside world, while Maxine is more concerned with becoming worthy of herself. I can’t say more without giving away too much!
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?
Christina: Oh, man… research is my drug of choice! I love hands-on research. The experiences I’ve gained through doing rather than reading give an added layer to my writing. Knowing the steps of the English country dances, or experiencing how the stench of a coal fire permeates the very walls of a Georgian era townhouse. Walking the streets of London, taking the same route as my characters with my coat turned up against the drizzle, or enjoying the feel of the sun while walking in Hyde Park on a sunny spring day.
I originally spent three years researching the Georgian and Regency time periods. During that time, I read Regency romances almost exclusively to see what worked, what didn’t, and to see how my favorite authors were making a beloved genre unique and impactful Even now, I still do spot research on individual topics, or if I need a refresher on things.
Jann: Your current day job is an Emergency Service Operator. You have also had some additional unique and interesting professions. Do you use any of your experiences in the books for The Reluctant Lords series?
Christina: Kind of, but not in the way you’d think. Regency England is so far removed to modern Southern California and all I’ve done with work, that it’s difficult to translate some things that happen here and now to the early 1800s. I do use some conversations I’ve had or phone calls I’ve taken as a starting point to come up with new story ideas, but the real impact of the Day Job comes in the form of names. Between the street names, officers’ names, and callers’ names I see on my screen all the time, I am never at a loss for what to name an estate, or make up a title, or even name a minor character or two!
Policing during the Regency didn’t really exist as we know it today. I have a historical romantic suspense series planned where the main character is a Bow Street Runner (predecessors to the modern police force), so I’m starting to look into their history and how they did things. My other love is forensics, so I am looking into what tools and techniques would have been available to him back then. It’s a much larger project then I thought it’d be!
Jann: What are you working on now? Can you tell us about your next project?
Christina: After the Reluctant Lords, I’m debating which series to start next. The first is a five book series involving some side characters from the Reluctant Lords that focuses on the heroines who are less than conventional–a dressmaker, a merchant, a librarian, a survivor of domestic violence, and a former courtesan.
The second is a four book series that I like to say is a cross between Jane Austen and the TV show The Amazing Race. It involves one eccentric octogenarian, an estate worth thousands of pounds a year, and a challenge. Since the estate is not entailed (inherited by the oldest living direct descendant), the elderly relative decides to send her four great-grandchildren on a scavenger hunt. Leaving clues all over the UK, they must race to find the next clue, going to the far corners of the country in order to do so. The first one to return to the estate with all the clues is the one who gets the estate and fortune. It’s a comedy of errors along the way. It’ll be a fun series to write, but I think it’ll take a lot more research than I have time for at the moment.
And by research I really mean traveling all over the United Kingdom to find the clues and where they’re hidden in order to make it believable.
Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Christina: Stryker. Hands down. You meet him briefly in Worth, but he really makes his appearance in book 2 of the Reluctant Lords, The Seduction of the Duke. He’s a mystery throughout the entire series, rough around the edges, and he’s the kind of person you’d call on when you need something done without a conscience getting in the way. He can be kind of a jerk at times, but there is no one more loyal or willing to fight for what he believes in, or who he believes in. He does get his own story, but it’s like me to leave everyone hanging on his story until the end of the series!
Jann: What kind of writer are you? A page a day or a burst writer?
Christina: I am a burst writer. Between the Day Job, helping my elderly parents with stuff around the house, and day-to-day life, I tend to write whenever and wherever I can. When I have a day off from the Day Job, I set aside time to write at coffee shops where there are fewer distractions, but some of my best writing is done when I’m on the go. Oddly enough, I do most of my writing on my mobile phone. I have wicked fast thumb skills and have written on planes, waiting at the DMV. I plotted the entire story of Worth on vacation in Italy this past December on the train from Rome to Venice, and my flash fiction piece was written while standing in line a LEGOLAND with my sister and her kids.
Jann: What profession other than your own would you love to attempt?
Christina: If I could do any job other than the one I have right now, or one I’ve had in the past, I’d have to say photojournalist for National Geographic Magazine. I love all things travel, nature, and culture. I studies anthropology in school, and spent equal time studying different world cultures and primate behavior, and learning all I can about the animals that share our world. To see them in their natural habitat and their behaviors that have not been influenced by human interaction… <sigh>… it’s a bucket list item for sure!
Jann: Christina, it’s been fun spending time here on A Slice of Orange chatting. I’m looking forward to reading The Worth of a Viscount.
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