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Continuation of Interview with Deborah Hale
Were all of the characters in the book actual historical figures? Which ones were not?
The only major characters I invented were Elizabeth’s parents, Ned Armistead, and the girls in Mrs. Goadby’s brothel. Obviously Elizabeth had parents, but no one knows anything about them. I drew on what I knew about her to make up a plausible past for her. Ned grew out of something I read in a gossip magazine about a hairdresser hiring Elizabeth to be his model. The other prostitutes were drawn from actual stories I read about how girls ended up in that life.
Which scene was your favorite? Least favorite? Why?
Tough question! I enjoyed writing about the duel Charles fought. There is no record of Elizabeth being there, but the details are otherwise true. The bullet did bounce of his belt buckle! I also enjoyed the scenes where Elizabeth acts on her feelings for Richard and Charles. They gave me an opportunity to indulge my feelings for them vicariously. The scenes after her father died were very hard to write. I wanted to make it easer for her, but I had read enough to know how brutal the streets could be and I didn’t want to short-change what she might have experienced.
Did you plan out the entire book before writing it? Or did you just sit down and write?
I did plan the big picture. I broke the story up into roughly four parts – Elizabeth’s time with Ned, her time at Mrs. Goadby’s, her time as a courtesan and her time with Charles. Then I broke those up by year and researched what was going on in her life, the lives of the other characters and the world at large so I could put events in their historical context. But when I got into each scene, I pretty much let the words flow. By then, I knew the characters so well that I had no trouble imagining what they would say or do in any situation.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
One year. That was how much time I gave myself. Originally the manuscript was 800 pages. Then I cut it to 600 and finally to 400.
How long did it take you to decide on a title for your book? Were there many other possible titles you had picked out?
The title came to me immediately when I decided to write the story. I never even considered another one. It just fit so well. And I like alliterative titles!
What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
At first I was rather ambivalent, because I had already published many books with a traditional publisher. But once I got into it, I loved the control it gave me to write and package the story exactly the way I wanted to without compromising.
How important do you believe having a good editor is for the success of your book?
For writers starting out, good editing is essential. On the other hand, I’ve had traditionally published books that had almost no developmental editing. And it can be a difficult experience if you’re trying to work with an editor who doesn’t share your vision for the story.
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