What is your name?
Erato is my nomme de plume. Muse of lyric poetry and love stories; plus it seemed a fit name for stories about another era. (And easier to remember than Terpsichore or Polyhymnia.)
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Fifth grade or so. My parents were doing screenwriting and script doctoring at the time, so I enjoyed what I was picking up through them; and at that point the film The Nightmare Before Christmas came out which was like one of the first moments where I saw a film and felt understood. Seriously, stuff like that is a lot more common nowadays, but when I was growing up in the 80s/90s people thought I was a fuckup just for being a girl who dared to like Ninja Turtles, nevermind monsters and zombies. This Monster High generation doesn’t know how good they have it! So, for me, at that age, Nightmare was like a revelation that others liked this kind of creepy stuff -- and I was already an unwitting fan of many other Tim Burton projects at that point. I had the making-of book, The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Film-The Art-The Vision, and through there I read all about Caroline Thompson and Tim Burton and how they put the script together for that film, Danny Elfman wrote the song lyrics first and they composed the script around them -- pretty much the entire process that was used for writing what was at that time my favorite film.
What genre books do you write?
I’ve set aside the Erato pen name exclusively for historical fiction.
What is the name of your book/books?
Well, I have 10 books available for purchase at this point, and one other in the can (to use the filmmaker’s term) and another in progress. The nine Regency Romantics stories are: Honoria, Sweet Errors, The Coxcombs, Of Crimson Joy, None But Fools, Dupe and Duplicity, Hap and Hastiness, In the Fire and Pursuit. Those were all published in 2017. My latest release is a full based-on-a-true-story period piece called The Cut of the Clothes, about the relationship between the dandy Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent.
Were there alternate endings you considered?
In the case of Cut of the Clothes, it’s a true story. I knew there had been some other efforts at doing a Beau Brummell story before, by others, and usually they all ended with Brummell disgraced. Celebrity bios often want to focus on the rise and fall of a person. I knew I didn’t want that. Before I started anything, I wrote up three or four ideas for plotlines, trying to decide upon the best period of time in Brummell’s life to use for the story, before I came up with the idea of telling the story with the Prince as the main character -- since everything seemed to come very easily to Brummell, whereas Prinny was always struggling; plus that would make Brummell’s downfall into sort of a triumph for the Prince. I never begin a story without knowing the ending from the start, so whatever changes are made to the ending tend to be pretty minor -- usually just finding a way to deliver the same point with more finesse or something like that.
One of the Regency Romantics stories needed the whole ending rewritten, though. That one was Pursuit. It was originally going to end with Mr. Cates conveniently dying of tuberculosis and the lovers able to operate freely in consequence; but I wrote it that way, thought it was all done; then I read it, and it just didn’t work. The story was too action-packed for such a mellow and sentimental climax. So it got my first ever totally revised ending -- although even at that, the outcome remained the same, it was just the way that the characters got there which had to be modified.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I think the writing-self evolved fine.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
Generally, yes. My mother does lots of writing as well, and often on unpopular historical subjects; my father wishes I would write television miniseries scripts and tries not to discourage me in what I do, but he recognizes my subject matter is not popular and therefore can be difficult to sell.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Writing sex scenes from their viewpoints. I can only sort of guess what it must be like; and I can often identify when I am reading sex scenes from female POV written by men because they just really don’t understand how some of the anatomy works. I dread making those kind of errors. So, I just try to avoid it for the most part, or at least really limit the detail if it’s got to be told from the male perspective. (Note that the Regency Romantics are all clean/traditional Regencies so there are no sex scenes in those; Prinny in Cut of the Clothes gets himself into a few situations, though.)
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Nothing energizes me but caffeine and maybe sugar; but I do have an enthusiasm for writing that I don’t experience from much else.
What items do you surround yourself with when you write?
I don’t do anything particular in that regard.
What is your favourite genre of books to read?
I have really been trying to read more fiction lately, but the truth is I usually just read nonfiction. Not even narratives, just Daily Life in… type books, or How to… types. I get bored so easily by fiction, it really has to be very good to maintain my attention. I do best when reading classics; they’re sort of educational so they can keep me more focused.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I’ll be honest, I was not a huge fan of reading as a kid! We were assigned to read a lot in school, so I had to read, and though I never hated doing it, I never loved it either. Maybe The Trumpet of the Swan just because I had this kind of random obsession with swans. I suppose it was the American Girl Samantha books that got me interested in history, though, so they deserve a nod.
I didn’t really get into reading much till I was a little older and it became sort of an escape mechanism, because I absolutely despised being in school. Books were less likely to be confiscated than a Game Boy or something like that (though an evil 7th grade teacher did confiscate my First Year Latin book, which I was reading for fun.) Also the library was nicer than the terrors of The Field where most recess activity took place. Plus it was only when I was older that I had access to better books -- I didn’t care much about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or any of that Gary Paulsen stuff they kept trying to force on us in elementary school. I’ve mentioned before that the darker subjects I admired were not often available in children’s literature of the day, so there just weren’t a lot of books for me until I got to the point where I could read adult literature.
Do you have a favourite author or one who inspires you to write?
I really like Delacorta, who I think might himself be trying to imitate Raymond Chandler. Lots of interesting similes. The first author I recall reading where I thought “I should write like that” was actually from reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comics; I learned a lot about characterization from those. I’ve never read a book by Gaiman, but I loved the comics. Actually I think most of my favorite authors are mainly known as authors of comics and plays, not books. Oscar Wilde; Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais; Jhonen Vasquez -- these are the ones that I want to write like and admire their writing. I think only Delacorta have I ever especially admired his writing of a novel and not just his plotlines; and in Chandler, I recognized the same style. Maybe I admired Anthony Burgess in Clockwork Orange with the Nadsat, too; but I read some other Burgess stuff and wasn’t really too struck by it.
Also, since I do a lot of historical fiction, there are sometimes historical authors whose prose I try to imitate -- mostly for the sake of authenticity rather than finding their way with words to be exceptional in and of itself. I’ve used Walter Scott and Jane Austen as models, as well as Henry Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, and some others. And obviously, The Cut of the Clothes was all done in imitation of Prinny’s writing style, based on reading his letters.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who wants to be an author?
“If you can do anything else, do that instead.”
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