Interview with Renée Dahlia, Author of To Charm a Bluestocking
Today we’re chatting with Renée Dahlia, author of the historical romance, To Charm a Bluestocking, which debuted in March.
Please describe what the story is about.
1887: Shy Josephine has almost completed an extraordinary task – a medical degree – when a professor starts to harass her. Her friends suggest that she invent a fiancé to keep the professor at bay, but when she meets Nicholas, he is too charming, and far too distracting. The professor won’t give up, and together Josephine and Nicholas must fight for love.
Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.
‘My aunt has just finished a long visit and the whole time she kept asking “when are you going to give up this doctor nonsense and find a nice man to marry?”’ said Josephine. A strong mocking tone coloured her voice.
‘Oh my! What did you say?’ asked Marie.
‘I told her that I needed a couple of months to consider the idea,’ said Josephine. Claire roared with laughter.
‘That is so sly! You’ll be finished by then,’ she said with a loud snort. Josephine just smiled, pleased to move on.
What do you want people to know about your book?
Even though there is a lot in this novel about female education, the novel is still a romance. It’s about a shy, slightly socially anxious, woman who finds support with an unlikely hero. In the end, a happily-ever-after is achieved through team work and understanding each other’s strengths.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?
I learnt that I could transfer my skills from short form writing into longer writing. Initially, the challenge of a whole book seemed too big, but once I broke it down and thought of each chapter as a segment of a whole, then I was less overwhelmed by the size.
What was your timeline from drafting to publication?
This is a difficult question for me, as I have a lot of guilt about how fast this has happened. It’s a myth that anyone can dash off a romance novel – yet my first one took three months to write, and nine months to edit (which included a lot of online courses). I pitched it at the 2016 Romance Writers Australia conference, and was accepted within three days of submitting the full manuscript. The concept – three female friends who support each other in changing history – was a big driver in how quickly it was accepted.
What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?
It’s probably my slightly mean sense of humor, but I do love figuring out how to upset my characters. What would be the meanest thing I could do to this person? In my current WIP, the heroine is a feisty, loud-mouthed suffragette; so I’m going to make her ill because that takes away all her agency. People start to make decisions for her when she is too sick to argue with them.
Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?
My great grandmother was one of the earliest university graduates as a doctor in Holland. I thought about the challenges that faced her, and which of those challenges would resonant with modern day readers.
When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?
If I have an issue that I can’t solve, I go for a walk. Before writing novels, I wrote statistics based magazine articles for years, and realized that every time I couldn’t find the right words for a conclusion or the angle I wanted, a walk often jolted my thoughts into the right spot.
Share something people may be surprised to know about you?
I didn’t have a burning ambition to be a writer, and did a science degree so that I wouldn’t have to write. After a convoluted career path, I ended up writing magazine articles (which is brilliant practice for keeping to deadlines and word counts), and was offered a job ghost writing a non-fiction book. Perhaps I’m a slow learner, but after more than a decade of writing, I didn’t consider myself a writer. Now that I’ve embraced the idea that I might be able to write, I’ve realized that I’d always been a story teller, so in some ways, this is a logical outcome.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Stephen King sums it up best when he says that the best writers are readers. Hopefully all those years hiding in books will pay dividends now that I’m writing them. And, of course, all the time I spend reading can be considered research.
The second Bluestockings book has just been sent to my publisher, so that will be coming out soon. And I’m working on the third in the series. A fourth Bluestockings novel, about Josephine’s companion, was completed earlier and will be added to the series in time.
TO CHARM A BLUESTOCKING
She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.
1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.
But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.
Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.
Available March 25 through Escape Publishing