Author Interview | Sharon Page

Title: An American Duchess

Author: Sharon Page

Series: Standalone

Age: Adult

Genres: Historical Romance

Publication Date: September 30th, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin HQN

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Synopsis: 
Set on a crumbling English manor estate during the height of the Roaring Twenties, an American duchess must decide how much she's willing to risk for the life she truly desires… 

It's 1922, and New York heiress Zoe Gifford longs for the freedoms promised by the Jazz Age. Headstrong and brazen, but bound by her father's will to marry before she can access his fortune, Zoe arranges for a brief marriage to Sebastian Hazelton, whose aristocratic British family sorely needs a benefactor. 

Once in England, her foolproof plan to wed, inherit and divorce proves more complicated than Zoe had anticipated. Nigel Hazelton, Duke of Langford and Sebastian's older brother, is as austere and imposing as the family's ancestral estate. Still reeling from the Great War, Nigel is now staging a one-man battle against a rapidly changing world—and the outspoken Zoe represents everything he's fighting against. 

When circumstances compel Zoe to marry Nigel rather than Sebastian, their heated quarrelling begets passion of another sort. But with Nigel unwilling to change with the times, will Zoe be forced to choose between her husband and her dreams?

Author Interview

ME: How much research did you do when writing An American Duchess?
SP: Lots! Fortunately I’d already done a lot of reading on the time period out of my own interest. To gear up for writing, I read biographies as well as several books on World War One to know where Nigel had come from.

The wonderful thing is that the era was well photographed, so there is a visual record of the time. This was hugely helpful for fashions, especially Zoe’s wedding dress. I studied many wedding dress photos to look at styles and especially hem length. While I worked, I listened to songs online to help visualize scenes.

ME: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
SP: Writing is challenging when it doesn’t seem to be working.

It’s usually not working when I don’t know my characters well enough. My first drafts are often filled with one note conflict, i.e. I’ve repeated the same thing over and over. There’s lots of conflict, but I don’t show why the characters fall in love. I know they’re lovable, so I forget to explain that part to the reader. I fix that in the next drafts, building in the romance, the sweet moments, and the breathless ones. 

To solve this problem, I think of my book is like Shrek. In the first movie, Shrek said ogres are like onions: they have layers. So I don’t panic and I work to add layers to my characters.

I have shortcuts to help me do this. One trick: I jump in and write an emotional scene. In An American Duchess this was the “gramophone scene”. In this scene, Zoe and Nigel are both grieving because Zoe has miscarried. It let me understand the characters and really feel their emotional conflict. I wrote that scene while outlining—so before I’d really started writing. But it nailed Zoe and Nigel for me.

ME: Is there anything that you can't do without while writing (coffee, music, silence)?
SP: I’m a big tea drinker while I write (I’ve heard Stephen King is tooJ). I’ve also gotten used to sitting on an exercise ball to write and now can’t stand being on a chair.
One thing I couldn’t live without while writing is a view. My desk looks out over our backyard (it’s not huge as we have an inner-city house but I like seeing some green space while writing).

ME: What books have influenced your life the most?
SP: In making me yearn to become a writer, The Great Gatsby and Rebecca were my biggest influences. When I was a kid, books opened up new worlds for me. I’ve introduced my daughter to some of these stories, such as the award-winning Caddie Woodlawn. Most of my favorite books made me appreciate heroines with spirit, and heroines who did not quite fit into their worlds. These were a hugely positive influence.

ME: What do you like to read in your spare time?
SP: I love to read. The great thing is that I get to read in the evenings, or when the kids are busy, and I get to call it research. With two children, I read young adult and children’s books for fun—because I have to check them out too. Plus my teenage daughter now recommends books to me.

While writing An American Duchess, I discovered two authors with mystery series in the 1930s—Jacqueline Winspear and Rhys Bowen. I recommend them both Bowen’s Royal Spyness series is irresistibly funny. I also love to read Regency romance such as authors Jo Beverley and Sabrina Jeffries.


Excerpt

“I’m Zoe Gifford,” she shouted, leaning on the stone wall. “I was on my way to Brideswell Abbey when my car went off the road. We’re stuck, and we have no idea how to get to the house. Do you know where it is?”
The gentleman drew his horse to a halt more than six feet from the wall that separated them. Perhaps this was what was meant by British reserve—a good few yards were required between people or an interaction became too terrifyingly familiar.
Still, she was not going to shout as if across a chasm. Zoe planted her bottom on the wall, swung her legs over. Her coat once again fell open and her skirt flew up, revealing her stockings and a glimpse of her garters.
The horse reared as she jumped to the ground.
The huge legs pawed at the air, and Zoe’s heart banged against her ribcage as if it were dancing the Charleston. CHANGE DANCE! She scrambled back, expecting to be crushed—
“Easy, easy,” the man commanded, as he pulled on the reins and controlled the horse with his thighs. The enormous hooves thudded the ground, two feet to the side of her body. She fought not to sway on her feet as she gulped cold breaths of relief.
“Brideswell is my home. I am the Duke of Langford.” His voice was cool, calm, utterly without emotion. She would never have known he’d almost been tossed off a horse if she hadn’t witnessed it. “So you are Miss Gifford. My brother has told me a great deal about you—it helped to reinforce the impression I had already made, given what I have read about you in American newspapers.”
This was her fiancé’s brother and as Sebastian had warned, ice coated his every word. It was true there had been several stories about her in the papers. She had defiantly chosen not to care what was said about her. “Don’t believe everything you read.”
The duke sat on his horse, glaring at her—at least she believed he was since she could not see for the shadow cast by his hat—so she approached, putting out her hand. At this moment, she had no desire to curtsy. Not to a man who was peering down his nose at her.
The duke did not take her hand.
“Can you do anything about my car?” she asked. “My mother is waiting there for me to return. She’s afraid she’ll be stuck in the car overnight.”
“You should take better care on these roads.”
“Aye,” the farmer added, with startling clarity. The man drew on his pipe, before stating, “Aye, said that to the lass meself, Yer Grace.”
That was news to her. But the duke nodded, as did the farmer, and the two men seemed to share some sort of quiet communication about her inadequacy behind the wheel.
She pursed her lips. “America has some bad roads, I’ll admit, but your roads are horrible. There are sheep everywhere. I had to pull off to avoid a flock as I came around a corner, and then we ended up stuck.”
“Then perhaps next time you will know to slow down.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Your Grace. And while we’re discussing how things are done over here, doesn’t a gentleman tip his hat?”
The farmer let out a muttered sound of shock, but she didn’t care. It didn’t matter to her where the duke believed he was positioned socially—she put no stock in that kind of thing. If he chose to be cold and austere, then she would choose to point out where his behavior was at fault.
“My apologies, madam. I am no longer in the habit of doing so—the war left me with scars and my face is not pleasant to look at.”
The farmer let out a sharp whistle and both she and the duke jerked to stare at him. The man tipped his cap, then lumbered away across his field. Again he whistled and a small black dog raced to his side, scampering around him as he walked.
Suddenly she and the duke were alone, surrounded by a patchwork of small, sloping fields and a wind that threw misty rain on them. “I think I will survive,” she said gently. “I don’t faint.”
With an elegant sweep of his long leg, the duke dismounted. Holding the reins, he lifted his hat and gave her a bow that spoke of a lifetime of dipping his torso in this old-world greeting. She had to admit: experience and schooling could make a man’s bow positively dreamy.
It was her invitation to respond with a curtsy, but Zoe found she just couldn’t do it despite the training she’d received before leaving New York. The duke’s bow was not really intended to show any respect. It was a perfunctory thing, offered only after she’d insisted on some courtesy.
She watched as he straightened, curious now. She’d seen the ravages of war on young American men. Boys who’d come back with missing limbs, or some who were what they called shell-shocked; who shook all the time and jumped at a loud noise.
The duke was not all that bad. Scars marred the left side of his face. But it wasn’t enough to horrify her.
He had Sebastian’s features, but on Langford, every plane and line was harsher, more angular, as if his face had been sculpted with hard slashes—abrupt cheekbones, a blade of a nose, straight, dark brows, and a strong chin with a deep cleft in its center. His eyes were a brilliant blue and his lashes were thick and black.
He obviously expected her to look away or gasp with shock.
Sympathy rose. Perhaps it wasn’t disgust with his brother’s inappropriate American fiancée that had led the duke to keep his distance. He put his hat on quickly, and for one second, he’d looked awkward and unhappy instead of condescending and annoyed, and she knew revealing his injuries had made him vulnerable.
“I lost a brother to the war,” she said simply. “It was a horrible thing.”

Author Bio


Sharon Page is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels of historical and erotic romance. She is a two-time, consecutive winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, winner of the Golden Quill and the Colorado Award of Excellence, and a multiple finalist for the Daphne Du Maurier Award. She has twice received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and is a four-time finalist.Married with two children, Sharon Page holds an industrial design degree and has worked for many years for a structural engineering firm. When not writing, she enjoys reading with her children, downhill skiing, and mountain biking. Writing romance has long been her dream and she is thrilled to share her stories. 


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