RWA Online Interviews Jessica Cale

Hi everybody!

Only one more day until The Long Way Home is out! I'm so excited! Today I am posting a fun interview I did with my chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), RWA Online. There's more about them at the end of the interview if you'd like to check them out! 

Thanks! :) 
Interview with Jessica Cale 
by Karen N. Jones

Jessica, would you tell us a little bit about The Long Way Home? 

The Long Way Home is a historical romantic comedy that takes place in the 1677 in the court of Louis XIV. It is a new take on Cinderella, but instead of living the story, the heroine inspires it. The author of the Cinderella story we are most familiar with, Charles Perrault, was in Versailles at this time and writing fairy tales. Alice Henshawe is an English barmaid who becomes employed as the Mistress of the Wardrobe for the Marquise de Harfleur. When her childhood crush, Jack Sharpe, comes looking for her, they find themselves in the middle of the scandal that would become the Affair of the Poisons. It’s dark in places, but funny, and both Jack and Alice are endearingly awkward. The e-book is being published by Liquid Silver Books and will be released on February 29th. The paperback with be available from Create Space on the same day.

The Long Way Home is your third book. Would you tell us a little bit about the other two books?

Tyburn and Virtue’s Lady are books one and two of my series, The Southwark Saga. In Tyburn, prostitute Sally Green falls in love with highwayman-by-night, tutor-by-day Nick Virtue while she is otherwise engaged on a quest for revenge. In Virtue’s Lady, heiress Lady Jane Ramsey flees her life of wealth and privilege to live among the poor in Southwark when she falls for carpenter Mark Virtue. Both are somewhere between Historical Romance and Historical Fiction, and they take place in Restoration London. They are vivid and very gritty, and they were great fun to write. Tyburn even won Best Historical of 2015 in Southern Magic’s Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence! 

How did you become a Historical Romance author? 

I have always loved history and I got into historical romance at a really young age. I always wanted to write it, but reading it really fueled my love of history. I ended up going to college in Wales and got a B.A. in Medieval History there, then I went on to do an M.F.A. in Creative Writing with the goal of writing historical romance. I really got into journalism at the same time, and I was fortunate enough to intern at BBC History Magazine. After that, I continued working for them as a freelance writer visiting castles and other historical tourism spots around Wales for a few years. It was wonderful fun. Studying history at university level really set me up with some solid research skills, and the journalism helped me to establish my voice and hone my writing. Those few years I had in Wales were so important to my development as a professional writer, and I’m still using the skills I learned in my writing and the history blogging I do today. 

How did you research The Long Way Home?

After I decided exactly when it was going to be set (October 1677), I read everything I could find about the period, including Louis XIV, Versailles, the Franco-Dutch War, and the Affair of the Poisons. I found a lot of great books at my local university library (UNC), some coursebooks I found in used bookstores, and others I had to search for online. A lot of them are recent history books, but I also used a lot of primary sources included the memoirs of Madame, the Duchesse d’Orleans and letters from other people who were there at the time. It was a challenge because I’m more familiar with British history, but it was really interesting and I hope the research has translated into a vivid setting. 

What is the most courageous thing you had Alice do? 

Alice is one of my favorite characters. She is very shy and anxious, and she is blessed (or cursed) with a perfect memory. This makes her terrified of saying the wrong thing—because she’ll remember it—so she doesn’t speak. The first brave thing she had to do was start to speak, and, by the end, she has to work up the courage to ask for what she wants. It isn’t easy for her!

Did you ever have a character demand his/her book right now?

Yes! Mark Virtue from Virtue’s Lady took over my imagination for months. He first appears as the hero’s brother on Tyburn, but he was so real to me, that I had to write his book, and quickly! Every day I rushed home from work, excited to spend more time with him in his world. I wrote that book in record time for me. He became so real that one night, I had a dream that he was sitting on the end of my bed in full historical costume, calmly explaining how I was to write his book. I don’t remember a word he said, but I think he liked how it ended! 

Did a character ever surprise you? 

Oh, yes. Jack Sharpe was a surprise and a half. I hit a little bit of a roadblock when I was finishing the first draft of The Long Way Home. I made it to the climax of all the danger in the book, and I couldn’t write the characters out of it. It was plotted out, and I had been working on it for a year, but when it came down to it, Jack just wouldn’t do what I told him to. It finally occurred to me that I had made him too clever to walk into the traps I had set. I had to just let him do what he was going to do, and it worked. It changed the ending, but I think the book is truer to his character because of it.

What can we expect to see in the future?

I have eighteen books planned for The Southwark Saga so far. I plan to carry on the series following characters introduced in the first three books and their families over the course of several generations. While most of them are not related to each other by blood, they will all be tied in some way to the place they live. I also have plans for a New Adult series and some later Historical Fiction unrelated to this series. 

This interview is used with the permission of RWA Online, RWA Chapter #136, and was originally published in their newsletter, LoveBytes, in February 2016.

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