Coffee Time Readers today we get to visit with Alexa Aston, author of the Soldiers & Soulmates series. Our focus for the discussion today is the first book in the series, To Heal an Earl. Good Afternoon Alexa, there is a lot of pressure and competition in becoming an author. What made you decide to take a leap and become a writer?
I was a born storyteller from a young age. I loved to play with my stuffed animals and dolls and make up stories, using them to act these out. I wrote my first novel in college and planned to teach by day and write by night once I landed my first teaching position. Hah! With papers to grade, lessons to plan, and parents to call—that left little time for writing. Add on a husband and family a few years later and my dream of becoming a published author went on the back burner.
I taught history for thirty years and then retired and decided the next chapter in my life would center around writing. I had picked it up again and starting writing a few years before retiring. The burning need to get my stories down took over. With my background teaching history and love of reading romance, historical romance became a terrific fit. I now write Regency & Medieval romance for Dragonblade Publishing, and I’m about to put out my first contemporary romance series, Hollywood Name Game. I can’t wait for readers to see this new side of my writing!
I see you are working on a series called Soldiers & Soulmates, the first book is To Heal an Earl; can you provide the readers a peek into the world of Lady Charlotte Nott and her weary soldier, Major Danforth Grayson?
I’d be happy to! Lady Charlotte is turned out of her home just before she is to make her come-out, thanks to her father’s untimely death and a vengeful half-brother who always resented her becoming the new head of the family. She must find a way to earn her living and does so, first as a companion and then as a governess.
Gray, an officer in the Napoleonic Wars, resigns his commission and returns to England a broken man because of his war experiences. He has been named guardian to his deceased brother’s three children, whom he’s never met. Gray doesn’t have it in him to love these strangers when he can’t forgive himself for all his sins.
Yet Gray is drawn to Charlotte and love blossoms between them. Fortunately, these two will discover they are better together than apart and their love will be an example for other men and women in Soldiers & Soulmates.
With the first 4 books complete do you have a favorite character that you find it difficult to let go of? Do you have characters you despise, and you just cannot wait for their demise?
I’ll admit that I’m always a bit in love with the current hero that I’m writing. I also enjoy writing a good villain and seeing him get his comeuppance! Of the five men in Soldiers & Soulmates, I came to love different aspects of each of them. I will say, however that Burke, the spy in To Tame a Rogue, is one of the hottest heroes I’ve every written, while Dez, a former army officer and new earl in To Save a Love, is probably the most tender and patient man I’ve created.
I always ask writers about their research methods. I cannot imagine trying to mimic speech, culture, and characters for a time in which I have never lived. I see on your author site you are a history teacher. The Soldiers & Soulmates series takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. How do you, as a historical teacher/writer research the era in which your stories take place? Do you have a method, or do you just make your world the way you want it? Do you use truth, fiction, or a mixture of both?
I did teach for many years and do enjoy the research aspect of writing historical romances. I have countless reference books on my bookshelves (from fashion to weapons to slang used during a particular era), and I also have bookmarked numerous Internet research sites. I read old newspapers and diary entries. Pour over food menus. I research battles and various occupations (I’ve had heroines who were a healer, falconer, archer, artist, singer, school headmistress, author, and landscape designer, to name a few).
I’ve had great success in using children’s books. I’ll go to my local library and pull a dozen books on a topic and then read through them, taking notes and snapping photos with my cell. The simple language and terrific illustrations always help me to visualize things better.
I have read reviews on various sites and have come to realize everyone tries to be an expert even when they are not writers. Are there readers out there who read your books and try to point out inconsistencies in your historical background information?
I strive to keep things as historically accurate as possible. It’s the former history teacher in me, wanting to get things correct. I have read a few reviews where a reader complained about something historical—and THEY WERE WRONG! I never address or engage with a reviewer, though. I respect the fact they are entitled to their opinion of my work. I try to put out the best product possible and do it again and again.
You have one more book coming out in July which will bring the Soldiers & Soulmates to a close. Is there a new series on the horizon? Do you have characters talking to you, lining up waiting to tell their story?
My characters never seem to cease talking to me and vie for my attention constantly. I have several new series planned and would love to share a little about each of them with readers.
My trilogy Medieval Runaway Wives releases in August, September, and October. The heroines include the only woman troubadour in England; a comtesse who is being blackmailed; and a baroness who will do anything to protect her unborn child.
My first contemporary romance series, Hollywood Name Game, will also come out in August, September, and October. In these five books, you will meet the men of Hollywood and the women they fall for, romances sprinkled with humor and a few laced with a bit of suspense.
My new five-book Regency series, Dukes of Distinction, will come out next February through June of 2021 and features five friends who become some of the most influential men in England. From rakes to war heroes, each will rise to the role of duke—and find a powerful love along the way.
I follow authors who write more than one book in a series because the characters are talking, and the writer wants to make sure they get the character’s voice consistent though the books. Some authors make each book independent, so readers do not have to read book 1 before book 2. Can you give us some insight on how you write? Readers often wonder about the method to the writer’s madness.
I am also a fan of reading series, and I write each of my romances to be able to be read as a standalone—but most readers will enjoy starting at the beginning so that they see familiar faces and old friends as they progress through the series. I make sure each series starter is priced at 99 cents so readers will give the series a try, and I also place every romance I write in Kindle Unlimited.
My process is to always start with the hero and heroine’s name. Once I land upon it, I can visualize their physical appearance and their personality starts to form. I think of the theme for each book and take into consideration the era. I often include certain battles that have been fought as a backdrop to spring from and want to get all those historical details nailed down, as well as including fashion and customs of the day.
I think of the overall arc of each book and how it connects to the next in the series, using how the characters who know each other will relate with one another from book to book, based upon what is happening in their lives at that particular moment.
In the series I’m currently writing about dukes, I wrote the first two chapters for all five books because each one starts when my hero is ten years old and he meets the other four and becomes friends with them. I wanted to be consistent with each young boy’s voice and personality and the inciting incidents that bring these five together. Now, I’m going back and will write each hero’s book in order (and I’ve already done brief outlines for each book – just five to seven major plot points I want to hit in each romance). I’ll wait to write the epilogue for each book until I’ve completed the series because sometimes my characters don’t always cooperate with what I have in mind for them and they may end up a little differently than I pictured. This way, I’ll know how each of the five books ended, and I can go back and write an epilogue that will take all five complete stories into consideration as I tie the bow on that particular romance.
I like to get to know the authors who I read and follow, so tell us a little bit about yourself. Are you a homebody? Does your writing rule your world? Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music or do you have to have complete silence? Are your characters a product of people you know or meet?
After spending thirty years talking in front of teenagers every day, I’m enjoying a quieter life writing at home. I do write every day, though I’m juggling various balls. Sometimes that includes researching an era or creating character sketches for my cast. I may write a chapter or two or go back and tweak the previous day’s work. I could be working on the notes my editor sent me, polishing my manuscript into a final version. I’ve found, though, that by trying to write something—a scene, a chapter—for my current work-in-progress every day, that staying immersed in my story makes me a better storyteller.
I must have total quiet to write. If I play music, it pulls me out of the scene I’m writing because I’ll start humming or singing along to the song playing. I will say my people are my creations, never based upon anyone in real life.
My favorite place to write is sitting in the reclining rocker in my office. Feet up. Laptop in my lap. A cup of hot tea or water sitting nearby. The door closed so I can’t hear whatever Mr. Aston is up to. And then I go away to the world I’m creating. I walk every morning and plot out what I’ll be writing that day, so that makes things go more quickly once I’m home in my comfy chair!
I think that a good book should move me in some way. What do you look for in a good novel? Which genre are you personally drawn to?
Although I enjoy a strong plot, I am drawn to characters more than anything. I want to climb inside them and inhabit them. Feel their pain. Their sorrow. Their ambition and determination. What they long for. I want to fall in love along with them. Romance is my favorite genre to read, but I also enjoy thrillers and women’s fiction.
Do you have anything to add or say to our readers?
Just that I appreciate all the support I’ve received in this second chapter in my life. With social media, it’s so easy to interact with readers. I’m touched when they contact me and let me know how my romances have entertained them or gotten them through a tough time in their lives or how much they’ve enjoyed my characters.
Thank you for this opportunity to allow Coffee Time Romance readers to get a glimpse into my world.
Alexa, thank you for spending time with us today and giving some wonderfully insightful responses and sharing your experiences with our readers. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
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