Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing one of our newest CAN members, novelist Mary Moore! Mary’s Regency romances have won awards, and she’s here to chat about her latest novel!
Welcome, Mary! Please tell us about your novel The Aristocrat’s Lady.
For a few moments on a moonlit balcony, Nicole Beaumont was just a beautiful woman catching the eye of the handsome Lord Devlin—but she knew the illusion couldn’t last. If the enigmatic aristocrat knew her secret, he’d realize that her disability left her unfit for love. So, who could blame her for hiding the truth just a little longer?
Intriguing! What Inspired you to write this story?
First of all, in 1995 I felt like there were very few Christian novels available. There were a few great ones (Eugenia Price, et al.), but you always had to wait for their next book to come out before reading another. So, I decided I would write one, for my own pleasure, not to be shown to anyone else. And I enjoyed it so much I wrote six. For some reason, ten years later I found them in the attic and read them again. Oh, they were awful! So, I rewrote them with ten more years of life experience behind me that I could draw on.
That started my desire to use my own experiences in my stories, if I can, because if I’ve lived it, those scenes are real and a little less contrived. I had gone through a period of ill health that doctors couldn’t figure out. I felt like doctors were just passing me on to new ones when they didn’t immediately have the answers. The frustration was almost harder than the illness. So, I wrote a story around a woman having a disability that doctors (such as they were in the Regency era) could not find the cause for or give her any hope of the outcome. She knows that God sometimes heals and sometimes doesn’t, but ultimately the heroine, and myself, learned to put God first and human answers way below that.
The fun thing about the book is that she doesn’t want anyone to know about this disability. Everyone who knows wraps her in cotton or wants explanations and/or treats her differently, so the reader doesn’t find out what this disability is until the hero does midway through the book. I got great responses from people who were trying to guess what it was all during the first half! And it turned out even better than I could have hope for.
Sounds like a lovely surprise! What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
It was my first book and I sure didn’t know much about publishing. My agent had never represented fiction before, but she loved the story so much that she wanted to take it on. When my publisher signed me, we were excited to be under the Christian umbrella of a larger and well recognized publishing house. It turns out it wasn’t really the Christian umbrella; it was called the “Inspirational” umbrella. We didn’t realize that they would not let me give the salvation message by a character or throughout the story. They wanted inspirational not gospel.
I had to rewrite those sections of each of my first three books trying to be as bold as I could within their parameters. I heard from many readers who were disappointed there was no actual conversion, and I wrote each one back to try to explain, but I was just as frustrated as they were.
No such restrictions in my current work in progress, so that challenge is gone!
What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
I guess I would have to say strong godly women with a good sense of humor. I never had a plan to have a specific theme to my stories, but when The Aristocrat’s Lady was being written, I wanted my heroine to be a brave, strong woman who could handle her disability, the things she would have to face on her own. When I turned in my second book, Beauty in Disguise, the publisher called and said that they had released something along the same line several months before and they didn’t want to hurt the sales of my book by being so similar, so I told God He would have to show me what He really wanted it to be. The story and heroine turned out to be a special book to me on forgiveness. The heroine had to be strong to get to that point in the new story. In my last book, Accidental Fiancée, I purposely set out for my heroine to have an awesome sense of humor that played well with the hero’s and showed him the opportunity for grace from a God he had only been taught to him legalistically.
And as I mentioned when I was described my WIP above, she’s pretty heartbroken about not being able to have children and must put on a brave front to all the world, giving up the chance of marriage as well. But she’s a very godly woman who accepts God’s plan and uses the sense of humor God gave her to present her true self despite the disappointment.
As I said, I never expected to have a theme that I would keep coming back to, but it seems God had other plans!
Speaking of humor, do you have any funny moments with readers?
I write Christian fiction, primarily romances, during the Regency period. I never expected an email that came through my website from a man! He said he had been visiting some of his wife’s family and had forgotten his Tom Clancy and John Grisham books. He was in the living room and saw my book on the table. He said he was intrigued by the cover so he picked it up and started reading it. He read it in 2 days and was very surprised he liked it!
I texted him back and we had several discussions (he, of course knew nothing about the Regency period, and he was one of those who wondered why I didn’t give the “guy” the gospel message in the end) and I left it with, “See it’s not just for women anymore!”
The next time I went on Amazon, I noticed I had a new review and it was from him! He had explained the background of reading it, speaking to me with lots of questions, and ended it with, “Guys, it’s not just for women anymore!” I laughed and thanked God for a John Grisham fan who liked a Christian Regency romance!
My favorite reader letters from men start with, “I never read romance, but…” I’m glad you receive them too! What ministries are you involved in, and why?
For the past five years, I have been involved in a women’s Bible Study in the capacity of co-leader, co-teacher and co-facilitator (depending on the study we are doing). We have a study every spring and fall and it has grown from a small group of women in our church, to a community study with women from all over our county and from several different churches.
I’m not really sure about the why! I never believed that my gift was in the teaching arena; I hate talking in front of people. But my co-leader asked me how would I know if I never gave it a try. I prayed about it for quite awhile and just felt like she had a point and God seemed to be overwhelming me with the thought that I had a great opportunity to use other gifts that I had as well. So, I said yes, and it has been such a blessing to me. I’ve had to dig into Scripture more than I ever had to before, I’ve met and bonded with so many different women at different times, and I’ve learned so much all the way around.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read my first Regency by Georgette Heyer at 15 and I’ve been hooked on her and the era since then. She is long gone, but ask anyone who has read her 50+ books and they will tell you she is the greatest Regency writer. Of course, I also love Austen and Bronté and Gaskell, but they technically wrote during those Regency years, so they are considered contemporaries! Of course, in addition, they are not Christian stories, though squeaky clean.
It was an interesting time in terms of religion and the beginning of the open air ministries of George Whitefeld and John Wesley working toward the Great Revival in many places across the country, when the Church of England was the nationwide accepted and required religion by the King. The Regency era is a short-lived period in England’s history, where the king is declared mad and his son becomes the Prince Regent. The super elite and the poorest of poor all live in London with only a few miles apart. There are so many interesting ways to write around all of these facets of life then, so when I became a writer, I wanted to write Christian Regencies. When I am working on a new book, as I am now, I will re-read one of my earlier favorites to generate the feel for how good it needs to be and to get immersed in the period. My brother used to tell me that he always knew when I was working on a new book because when I talked to him, I didn’t use contractions and was a little more formal!
Fortunately, there are many more Regency writers now and organizations to promote and help authors in any way that they can. So, I always have one handy when I’m reading for pleasure!
It’s certainly popular now! So what are you working on now? Can you tell us about your next project?
My next book is a Regency novel based on the story of Hannah in the Bible. It’s interesting that during the Regency period, in the upper echelon, a woman’s primary role in life was to marry and provide heirs to carry on the family name for the next generation. That’s one of the reasons the Biblical story of Hannah fits so well into my novel.
The Hannah in my story has wanted children since she was a young girl. But a childhood illness will more than likely make that impossible for her. Since she cannot carry on a gentleman’s legacy, she accepts God’s will, and determines she must never fall in love. So, she claims that she has no desire to marry…until she meets the one man she knows she would marry if she could.
It is a romance that centers on the faith of one godly woman and the redemption for a man who doesn’t want to believe it. It’s a story of waiting in faith on God’s plan, accepting his grace as sufficient, and the joy and laughter that comes new every morning.