Jude Knight started writing fiction when she was still at school, but went on to spend many years as a commercial writer. In late December 2012, she came home from her mother’s funeral determined to finally achieve the dream her mother had always supported.
After more than a year collecting ideas, doing research, and creating plots and character sketches, she stopped procrastinating and started writing. Her first novella was published just before Christmas in 2014, and – to Jude’s awed surprise – hit several Amazon bestseller lists in both the US and the UK, at one point reaching the top 2 in the US and the very top in the UK. 2015 is the year of the novel, with one in April, one in August, and one in October. Jude is also part of a collaborative group of writers, the Blusetocking Belles, so watch for their boxed set just before Christmas 2015.
Jude chose 1 April as the launch date for Farewell to Kindness in honour of all the people who told her that she’d never achieve anything if she didn’t get her head out of a book.
In Jude’s books, you’ll find strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, and villains you’ll love to loathe. The novel plots tend towards the gothic, with a leavening of humour, and some insights into the similarities and differences between now and way back then.
Jude thinks her Mum would have liked them.
What are you drinking?
I’ll take a glass of cider, please Jessica.
When I read your description of your historical romance not fitting industry norms, my heart just about stopped because certain aspects about your book--chapters from the villain’s POV, a rich world, lots of characters, and romantic sub-plots-- sound just like my first novel, Tyburn. People advised me to change half of it, too, but I didn’t, and I’m so glad. Can you tell me more about writing the kind of books you want to read?
I like complex plots, lots of action, but also character development. I want to read happy endings, but I want the barriers to them to be real; not just stupid misunderstandings that any normal people would clear up in five minutes. And when I talk about happy endings, I don’t mean no problems, sweetness and light forever. I mean I want the main protagonists to have learned to support one another in a way that gives me confidence they can survive as a couple, no matter what life throws at them. I began and failed to finish a number of stories before I started Farewell to Kindness, and part of the reason for that is my fear that I couldn’t do my characters justice.
What draws you to the Georgian Period?
I am fascinated by the parallels with the world we currently live in. It was a time of fast technological and social change, where new inventions were destroying whole ways of life and creating new ones. Things have changed, but people haven’t — and many of the problems they faced then we still face now. The solutions they chose shaped the world we live in, and if we can’t learn from the mistakes they made, the world we’ll leave to those who come after us is unlikely to be much fun.
And the clothes were amazing. I’d hate to have to wear them, but I love writing about them.
How do you research your books?
I do a lot of reading, both in print and online, about the background to my current work on progress. I watch video clips of the locations, and collect photographs and maps. I keep a database for each book, another one for general Georgian research, and one for characters (because my characters tend to cross books).
Once I start writing, I’ll check facts as I go. I’ll often have to stop writing to find out something, such as how the news of the Trafalgar victory reached Bath, and at what time. The Internet is a real boon to researchers; I can access a huge number of credible sources electronically, and in the unlikely event I can’t find the information, I will ask on one of the Facebook Groups I belong to, and usually someone knows.
Sometimes, if the research point isn’t a plot pivot, I’ll just mark it for later checking during the edit stage.
How important do you think research is to historical romance novels?
To me, getting background facts right seems essential to any novel, historical or not, romance or not. I’ve read contemporaries that annoyed me by getting something wrong about a town I know or a book I’ve read. With historicals, we have to rely on research rather than observation or memory. On the other hand, as long as we follow the recorded facts, we’re safe using our imaginations since no-one reading today was around then to tell us we’ve got it wrong!
Can historical romance novels be feminist?
Absolutely. In one sense, the romance novel genre is slanted towards being feminist. We’re talking about books written with at least one woman at centre stage, in which a woman’s needs and interests are the main focus of the story. And most of romances are also written by women. That said, I want to write stories in which heroines know (or at least learn) that they deserve to be treated with respect and to have their opinions and needs considered, and that they can take action to make things happen and not just sit around waiting to be rescued. I want heroines who are gutsy and determined, and initiators of the action of the book.
What can you tell us about Farewell to Kindness?
The two protagonists in Farewell to Kindness are both hiding. Rede is hiding from his feelings by throwing himself into his hunt for the killers of his family. He needs to learn that love is more important than revenge. Anne is just plain hiding. She has good reason, but her reluctance to trust Rede leads to near disaster. Together, though, they’re unbeatable. (And I did a twist on the hero storming up the hill to the heroine’s rescue which I hope my readers have enjoyed.)
You’ve planned out so many of your books in advance -- I do that, too! Do you find it helpful to know where things are going, or do you get distracted by all of the ideas?
It helps. I can make sure that characters in one book don’t go off in a direction that destroys a possible later book. I have an overall direction for around 40 books, and detailed plot outlines for the next few.
That said, the characters have a bad habit of taking over while I’m writing. Each book so far has ended up where I expected, but not necessarily by the path I intended. I haven’t lost a hero or heroine yet, but I’ve certainly experienced a villain becoming less so, and a minor character emerging from his chrysalis to become a major nasty.
And when David and Prue disappeared at the end of Farewell to Kindness, I had no idea where they’d gone, which was a bit annoying, since I needed them for one of the novels I’m currently writing, Encouraging Prudence, which I’m planning to publish in October.
Do you find working as an editor and commercial writer benefits your fiction writing, or does it hinder it?
The main benefit is that I’m confident of my ability to finish what I start, and I know from years of experience that a little bit each day means you eventually do finish. I also know that I’m a capable editor, and that helps.
I was worried that many years as a plain English writer and editor would leave me unable to write descriptions that people could feel and taste. What seems to have happened instead, according to my colleagues, is that my fiction voice is creeping into my commercial writing. I might need to go back to writing advertising copy!
You decided to publish independently -- what made you decide to do that, and do you have any advice for authors considering taking the independent route?
Two things convinced me.
The first was the advice that publishers no longer put much effort into marketing their newbie authors. I have a background in publishing—business stuff, not fiction, but I knew the practical side of preparing files, keeping accounts, and all the other things that go into finishing the book. And I’d hired cover designers and proofreaders before, so that didn’t faze me. The only thing that scared me at all was the marketing. I figured that, if they weren’t going to help with that, I might as well do the whole job myself and take a bigger share of the cover price.
The second thing takes us back to your second question. Agents and editors I spoke to liked my writing style and my basic concept, but they wanted to change the book to fit their concept of what the market wants. They may be right; time will tell. But the book they wanted wasn’t the book I wanted to write.
Advice for authors? Don’t skimp on cover design, and don’t skimp on copy editing and proofreading. And don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. I’ve found the romance writing community wonderfully supportive.
Farewell to Kindness
The Golden Redepennings, Book 1
For three years, Rede has been searching Canada for those who ordered the murders of his wife and children.
Now back in England, he has inherited an Earldom from his cousin George, and is close to finding the investors who ordered the deaths in an attempt to destroy Rede’s fur trading enterprise. He travels to his country estate in Longford, West Gloucestershire, to be close to the investigation.
He does not need the distraction of an overwhelming longing for the lovely widow who lives in one of the cottages he owns. A widow, moreover, with a small daughter whose distinctive eyes mark her as George’s child.
For six years, from the night Anne blackmailed George at arrow-point for an income and a place to live, she has been in hiding with her sisters and daughter.
She hides from the scandal of her daughter’s conception. More importantly, she hides from the Earl of Selby, who has sinister plans for the sisters. He no longer has legal rights as guardian to the older sisters, but the youngest sister is still only 18. He cannot be allowed to find her.
The last thing Anne needs is an inconvenient attraction to the local Earl. Rede is everything she has learned not to trust: a man, a peer, a Redepenning. If he finds out who she is, she may lose everything.
As their attraction builds against a backdrop of the village Whitsun Week festivities, several accidents make Rede believe his enemies have found him, and Anne wonder whether Selby has found her.
To build a future together, they must be prepared to face their pasts together – something their deadly enemies have no intention of allowing.
Candle and Min, hero and heroine of my free novella, Candle's Christmas Chair, make a cameo appearance in Farewell to Kindness.
George was drunk. But not nearly drunk enough. He still saw his young friend’s dying eyes everywhere. In half-caught glimpses of strangers reflected in windows along Bond Street, under the hats of coachmen that passed him along the silent streets to Bedford Square, in the flickering lamps that shone pallidly against the cold London dawn as he stumbled up the steps to his front door.
They followed his every waking hour: hot, angry, hate-filled eyes that had once been warm with admiration.
He drank to forget, but all he could do was remember.
One more flight of stairs, then through the half open door to his private sitting room, already reaching for the waiting decanter of brandy as he crossed the floor.
He had a glass of oblivion halfway to his lips before he noticed the painting.
It stood on an easel, lit by a carefully arranged tree of candles. George’s own face was illuminated—the golden shades of his hair, his intensely blue eyes. The artist had captured his high cheekbones and sculpted jaw. “One of London’s most beautiful men,” he’d been called.
He stalked to the easel, moving with great care to avoid spilling his drink.
Yes. The artist had talent. Who could have given him such a thing?
As he bent forward to look at it more closely, something whipped past his face. With a solid thunk, an arrow struck the painting, to stand quivering between the painted eyes.
How would you like a free novella?
Candle’s Christmas Chair
When Viscount Avery comes to see the best invalid chair maker in the southwest of England he does not expect to find Minerva Bradshaw, the woman who rejected him three years earlier. Or did she? Older and wiser, he wonders if there is more to the story.
For three years, Min Bradshaw has remembered the handsome guardsman who courted her for her fortune. She didn't expect to see him in her workshop, and she certainly doesn't intend to let him fool her again. Even if he is handsomer and more charming than ever.
Free download links on Jude’s book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/candles-christmas-chair/