Sexy Regencies? A Q&A with author Elf Ahearn
A traditional definition of Regency romances imcludes setting in the British Regency period (1811 – 1820), strict and accurate attention to historical detail, an emphasis on intelligent, fast-paced dialogue, and on the developing romance between the protagonists. It does not, however, generally include explicit, sensual sex scenes. But that didn’t stop author Elf Ahearn from writing the kind of Regency she likes to read, which amps up the heat in a most satisfying way. Her new release is A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, and she joins us today to talk about her book, her work as an actress, and what’s in store next.
ELIZABETH SHORE: Hi Elf, thanks for joining us today! Why don’t we start out by talking about the setting for your book. Of all the historical time periods that a writer could choose from, you’ve picked the Regency era for your series. Could you talk about why that specific time appealed to you?
ELF AHEARN: My sister is totally into Regency romances, she won’t read anything else, so to guarantee at least one sale… well, I had no choice (Not true – she’d read any dribble I scratched on paper). The real story is that the Regency chose me. I wanted to write something with sex and adventure – women risking everything – their reputations, their lives, their fortunes, for love. It’s very freeing that Ellie Albright, the heroine in A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, can’t clap a cell phone to her ear and call the police when she’s in trouble; Hugh Davenport, my hero, can’t access a therapist to work out his hostility towards his mother, and my villain can’t be found via his credit card purchases. Working in the past is awesome.
ELIZABETH: Did you start out writing A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing knowing it was going to be a series, or were you thinking it was going to be a single book that later evolved into a series?
ELF: It took me four years to write this book. Romance is a genre that has very set rules – I had to learn those rules to my bones before I could really create, plus, I’m stubborn. I had to write a scene first – even if my critique partners warned me in advance – before I learned that it didn’t work. If I’d thought about a series before I started, I probably would have quit. So, the answer is, no, I didn’t have a series in mind, but as I learned to relax into the genre, know my way around a little, romance writing became such a joy that I had to start another book.
ELIZABETH: As I mentioned in the intro, Regency romance readers may be surprised by the heat level in your books as regencies are traditionally more “tame” than what you’ve written. Inquiring Lady Smut minds want to know, why are your books steamier?
ELF: One of the first Regency romances I ever read was by Sabrina Jefferies, whose love scenes are scorching hot. I thought, heavens to Betsy, I could never be so graphic! My hand may have even clutched my heart, I can’t remember. Once the story got underway, however, my inner poet seized on the sex. Beyond the throbbing members and heaving bosoms, I thought, ‘What does a man’s leg look like in moonlight – that slash of shadow under a taught thigh muscle… and what does the curve of a woman’s hip feel like to a man when he first runs his hand over it – the skin, smooth and soft, the bone fitting perfectly into the cup of his hand… Well, you get the picture.
ELIZABETH: Oooooh, I sure do! OK, as I fan myself to calm down . . . You’ve said that you think a good tag line for your books is “Regency romance with a gothic twist.” Could you talk about that?
ELF: “Regency romance with a Gothic twist,” is my warning label. Not all Regency romances, but most Regency romances, are what I think of as parlor dramas. The hero and heroine have a personal battle that takes place, typically, in the confines of a magnificent English estate. In A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, there’s a struggle between the hero and heroine, but also an exterior conflict where the stakes are life or death. Pretty dark for a novel taking place in 1816. I didn’t want readers taken by surprise by the book’s intensity. And the sequel, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, is even more “Gothic.”
ELIZABETH: And what about the horse who plays a prominent role in Rogue. What’s the appeal for you?
ELF: Growing up, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, one of the greatest young adult novels of all time, was my bible. I was mad for horses, and when I became an adult, I vowed I would seize my chance to write a horse race and give it all the Walter Farley magic I could muster. Hopefully, the clash of thoroughbreds in Rogue is more exciting than a worm versus a slug. Readers, let me know.
ELIZABETH: In your past you were very active in the theater. Has your theater background helped with your career as a writer?
ELF: Yes, absolutely. I have a highly dramatic sensibility and that all stems from my days trodding the boards. It has nothing to do with my personality, which is exceedingly calm, cool and collected (I lie). But truly, theatre gave me a good feeling for dialog and dramatic structure that serves me well in writing fiction.
Aspiring writers! become an actor first, starve for several years, forage for food, then take up fiction, then starve for several years…
ELIZABETH: Oh but we’re SO happy you’ve made the sacrifice! Tell me, are you blogging? Where can we find you?
ELF: A few years ago I started a blog exclusively about my cat, Sufie. It became such a pain, though, chasing her around every day with the camera. She wouldn’t stay in the poses, she resented the intrusions on her privacy, the interviews weren’t going well. I gave up. Now, I’m planning a blog titled, The Writer’s Cat, and I’m looking for others to submit stories about their felines. I’ll sit back and let everyone else do all the work, while Sufie soaks up the peace and quiet. Hopefully a few gals from Lady Smut will make contributions. As for where you can find me, my Web address is elfahearn.com.
ELIZABETH: Great! So what’s next for you?
ELF: Crimson Romance, my publisher, bought the second book already, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, so hopefully it will be coming out in the next six months or so.
ELIZABETH: Sounds great!
Elf Ahearn is a professional writer with nearly two decades of experience. Her first novel, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is available at Amazon.com, and BookStrand.com. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband and her pesky (yet adorable) cat.
Thanks for being our guest today, Elf!