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Michelle Styles

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  1. Most books contain symbols/objects that take on large meaning for the characters and The Lady Soldier is no different. Kate and I did put some symbols in to the book and I was wondering if anyone noticed them or were they too caught up in the story. For example, Jen's gold watch symbolizes for her -- her past. When at the beginning of the book, she accepts Tony's wager, Jem feels that she can give up her past to gain her new future as an ensign. However, she then realizes how much the watch means to her. Thus, later when she voluntarily gives it up, she knows she no longer has to hang on to the past because her new future contains her old past. Equally Jem's uniform is symbolic for Jem of the confidence she obtained as a soldier. As Jem Riseley, she knew she could accomplish much. when she feels that that identity is taken away from her -- the uniform and boots she thinks were discarded if not burnt, she becomes much less self-confident. She feels that Tony has totally repudiated her life as a soldier. The discovery of the uniform allows her to begin to reconcile the two halves if you will of her life thus far. When she discovers that Tony also accepts her past life as a soldier in part because he made an active decision to keep her uniform than her confidence/belief in what she has done is restored. Or at least that is what those two objects were meant to do. There are other symbols and I (and Kate when she returns from her holiday) are quite happy to discuss them.
  2. So glad you enjoyed the book, Amy. Like you, both Kate and I like romance. Each genre if you will has its own vocabulary (to a certain extent to meet reader expectation), thus there were classic romance lines. In much the same way as you would expect to see classic fantasy lines in a fantasy or crime lines in a mystery or even classic literary lines in a literary work. It was not until I read Diane Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland that I truly appreciated about fantasy being so formulaic. It is a must read for anyone interested in fantasy btw. Another book that explores the same issue is Self Editing for Ficiton Writers For the writer, it is the challenge of making something seem unusual/different without losing the basic framework of the genre. or the over-riding story.
  3. Thank you for all your answers to Kate's questions so far. Please keep them coming. Kate is currently on holiday in Poland for a week. Yes, I will agree that women have been protrayed as soldiers many times before. The issue of cross dressing was explored a bit in Shakespeare. However, most like Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment (Which I have read -- I am very fond of Terry Pratchett's books) show women in a way that you think -- oh they won't fool anyone. It surprised me when we first started querying publishers that many gave as a reason for rejection -- these things never happened. One major publisher said that although she knew such things actually did happen, she always thought it far fetched. When Kate and I had the request from Hale, we were asked to change Jem's profession as such things didn't really happen. We refused and then cited historical proof to show that women had indeed served in the British army. All of this was very surprising to both Kate and I as we thought most people knew that women for a variety of reasons had indeed served during this period. As for Jem becoming too girly, Kate and I both liked the juxtaposition of someone being absolutely fearless on the battlefield but terrified in social situations. In Jem's defence, she had been injured and so was not quite herself, plus her whole identity as a soldier had been taken away from her and she was floundering and frustrated and to a certain extent trapped by expectations from her past. However, we do take the point. It is one of those things as a writer that you never stop growing or learning about the craft. With each book published, you try to grow, change and make the next book better. One thing as a writer I find fascinating is to read another author's output in quick succession. Generally you do see an upward curve as the writer begins to get a handle on the craft. Dan Brown clearly shows it. TerryPratchett is another one.Patrick O'Brian admitted that it took him several books to get into the Aubry/Maturin series. Early John Mortimer is very different from his later creations. Has anyone else noticed this? FWIW Michelle Styles
  4. I am here at last. Many thanks to all concerned for setting this opportunity up. Kate Allan told me about this group, but I have had other commitments. Not the least of which was finishing the proofs for The Gladiator's Honour, a Mills and Boon Historical set in 63 BCE. I noticed there were some questions about M&B etc. First off, the main reason that The Lady Soldier is not a M&B type historical is the focus. The focus in a M&B hisorical is much more squarely on the relationship between the hero and heroine and all the subplots hark back to the main plot which is the growth of the relationship. The Lady Soldier is more evenly divided between adventure and romance. Second, there was a question about sensuality. M&B Historicals run the gamut from very sexy to not very much at all. It depends on the author, and to a certain extent the story. Robert Hale books in general have less of emphasis on the sensual. This may to be due in part to a difference in the main market. M&B Historicals' main market is North America. Robert Hale's main market is the UK. The historical woman's fiction market is different in both those markets. (In case, anyone wonders -- yes, The Gladiator's Honour has more of the sensual -- it is part of the promise M&B makes to its large number of readers) There was also a question about historical research. As Kate Allan said -- we did a lot of research. For example in addition to the research on the Napoleonic War, we made sure that all the inns, pubs and theatres in London actually existed at that time. The amount research that appears in a book should be the tip of the iceberg. There is a big issue in historical fiction writing circles, if you will, about whether or not you information dump. I am sure you have all read books where page after page is recounting of fact that does very little to further the story. With some authors, if you know the period, you can even tell which research books they used. Both Kate and I feel that historical facts should be dribbled in, and should only be there if it enhances or furthers the story. We want readers to be focussing on the story, rather than on the history. The history should move the story forward rather than be there to show off how much research the author has done. Sometimes, information dumping can give historicals are reputation of being hard to read or even dense. We also both feel that the story had to be possible within the historical context. (This goes for my M&B historicals as well) Accuracy is important. And I, for one, hate reading historical novels where I have to go -- okay in a galaxy far far away... It did my heart good to see so many comments that The Lady Soldier was a pleasant read that passed a summer's afternoon. In that case, it did its main job which is to amuse, entertain and give an enjoyable read. FWIW Michelle Styles
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