I got to sit down with Catherine Curzon to chat writing, puppers and her new story, An Actor’s Guide to Romance!
Catherine was delightful enough to provide me with a copy of her new story! Both Catherine and Ms. Harkstead are new authors for me and let me just say, I was not disappointed! Here’s my review of the short:
A joy to read! Though the story was short, both of the characters and their dynamic felt complete and unique. The tension was real, believable and enticing and the payoff was more than satisfying. Truly, it felt like a much longer book than it was because each word and interaction really counted. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to friends.
I hope you feel the same way! Now to get to know the author!
When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?
It’s something that I’ve really always done so I’m not sure that I ever made a conscious decision to really be a writer, it’s like breathing – I just do it. When I was able to give up my 9-5 to write full time though, it was one of the happiest days of my life.
What has been your best experience as an author so far?
It was definitely getting my very first contract offer. That was from Pen and Sword for my first non-fiction book of Georgian romps, Life in the Georgian Court, and it launched my whole career. I can remember the moment, on a Thursday night, very vividly – there were happy tears!
In terms of my fiction career though it’s probably working with Pride on the forthcoming Captivating Captains series of MM romances. They’re so supportive and enthusiastic, and to know that they trust us with a series of red-hot romances featuring all sorts of captains (from cavalry to cricket, Regency and beyond, you name it!) is a fantastic feeling.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
Writing non-fiction one has to get used to the challenge of seeking out a hard-to-find source or similar, but it’s all part of the job. I think the biggest challenge is probably the old enemy of writer’s block which, luckily, doesn’t hang around for too long.
When I do get stuck for the next word though I put away my laptop and take my dog, Pippa, for a long walk. Living in Yorkshire, I’m lucky to have some stunning surroundings on my doorstep, and I make the most of them. An afternoon spent cheering on my football team, Huddersfield Town, always helps too – it helps to have a good old shout and clear off the cobwebs.
How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?
Yes and yes. I always have an outline of where the story is going, though the finished book usually ends up looking pretty different. I need to know the main points of the plot before I start just so I have a bit of direction, but it’s all up for change once I get to know the characters.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
Writing historical non-fiction as well as fiction reveals some pretty eye-watering bits of research but when it comes to researching fiction, the most unusual research I’ve probably done was probably for my forthcoming novel, The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, the first in the Captivating Captains series, co-written with Eleanor Harkstead.
Along with lots of reading into conditions in World War I, trench life, and the nuts and bolts of just surviving that conflict, there was room for a bit of light relief too. How much space is there in a stable for a couple of chaps to indulge in some light spanking without waking the horses, after all?!
What advice would you give to new writers in the field?
Persevere and enjoy the ride!
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?
I love to write in cafes with Pippa snuggled at my side but at home, I work in a small, very orange office. The wall above my desk is covered in personal mementos of everything from my theatre show with Adrian Lukis (better known as Mr. Wickham) to the Eurovision Song Contest, whilst Georgians jostle with Huddersfield Town for space on my desk. And there’s always, always tea. How could there not be tea in Yorkshire?
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date?
It wouldn’t be fair on the others to choose just one, but I’d love to spend a night on the town with Adam Fisher, one of the leads of An Actor’s Guide to Romance. Adam’s a famous actor with a love of good times and gossip, and I think he’d be great company over dinner, not to mention rather nice to look at!
What project are you currently working on?
Eleanor and I are currently working on edits of our next novel, The Captain and the Cricketer. It’s a very British romantic comedy of cricket, coupling and criminality, with a splash of scandal and features an uptight rural vet and a TV star who just can’t keep his shirt on! The book’s set during a hot summer in an idyllic English village and there’s a lip-smacking local villain as well as an American billionaire with money on his mind.
I’m also working on my next non-fiction book, tentatively titled The Electress, The Elephant, and The Maypole, about the women in the life of King George I. It’s packed with sex, scandal and even a rather nasty murder.
What’s next for you?
As well as my ongoing projects, in spring I’ll be off to Bath and London for a programme of talks about the more scandalous aspects of 18th-century royalty. I’m super excited to be joining Adrian on stage at the historic Wellington College too, with our Jane Austen show!
Catherine Curzon is a historian and author. In addition to multiple non-fiction titles, she is the author of The Angel on the Northern Line and co-author of An Actor’s Guide to Romance, The Star of Versailles, and the forthcoming The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, the first story in the new Captivating Captains series from Pride.
She has written extensively for publications including HistoryExtra.com, the official website of BBC History Magazine, Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World and has appeared at venues and events including the Stamford Georgian Festival, Bath’s Jane Austen Festival, the National Maritime Museum, Kenwood House, the Hurlingham Club, Godmersham Park and the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine can often be found watching the mighty Huddersfield Town. She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill with a rakish colonial gentleman, a long-suffering cat, and a lively dog.
About the Book!
Tell us a little about your new release: An Actor’s Guide to Romance.
It’s the story of two theatrical legends, Adam Fisher and Thomas Fox, who really are the best of enemies. Cast as lovers in what looks set to be the biggest hit of the year, the small matter of their first on-stage kiss is causing both problems. Over a bottle of wine on one rainy London night, they bring a whole new meaning to (un)dress rehearsal!
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
I have always loved the theatre and there are so many wonderful tales of theatrical feuds and rivalries that setting an enemies-to-lovers story backstage in the West End was just too tempting to resist!
Did you outline the story, or dive right in?
Writing with a partner, it’s really important to know where the story is going and that we’re both heading for the same goal. Once we knew how the story would end and the basic beats and settings, we jumped in and let Thomas and Adam take over.
How did your characters come to life?
Easily! As soon as Adam and Thomas started bickering on page one over the small matter of their first onstage kiss, we couldn’t shut them up. They wanted to tell their own story.
What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?
Definitely getting to know Thomas and Adam. Their constant sniping was tremendous fun to write – they can’t stop trying to outdo each other whether they’re on stage or even in bed! The most challenging was definitely keeping them at short story length, they just love the limelight
What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out?
At the moment it’s a standalone but we do have ideas for more adventures in showbiz with Thomas and Adam, we’ll have to see what happens when An Actor’s Guide to Romance comes out on 23rd January!
Every hero needs his villain. The thorn in his side, the shadow on his sun, the fly on his teacake. Holmes had his Moriarty, Superman had Lex Luther, ET had the lack of intergalactic telephone lines and Thomas Fox had Adam Fisher. From that long-ago audition at drama school when each had chosen a monologue that had stopped the panel in its tracks to the first of innumerable shared curtain calls when a new Jeeves met his Wooster, he was always there, always up for the same roles, his name on the same lists that were proposed for your consideration, matching every single achievement until, still chasing one another’s shadow more than two decades after that very first meeting at RADA, together they had waited for Godot. They were like a mirror image, two careers on parallel lines, from youthful love interest to middle-aged gravitas, each as decorated, as popular, as perfect as the other.
Maybe they always would be until one died or they killed each other.
In any titanic struggle, the parties must know their places and right now, theirs was a dingy basement off Covent Garden, where Thomas and Adam were embracing.
“Thank god we found each other. What would I do without you, darling?”
Adam rolled his eyes. Not enough for it to be noticeable from the front row, but Thomas noticed, because he intended Thomas to notice. Because that was the sort of thing that Adam did, the sort of thing he had always done. He rolled his eyes, gave a little sigh and finally whispered, “Did you have onions at lunch?”
Then he raised his voice to an audible volume and replied, “I feel as though I’ve been searching all my life for something, and I didn’t realize until we found each other.”
Thomas gazed down at Adam’s full lips and, despite sudden stiffness in his neck, began to lower his face to kiss him. Adam blinked, his blue eyes shining when they met Thomas’ gaze, his embrace around Thomas’ waist tightening. He pursed his lips, blinked again and declared, “God, that is oniony!”
Thomas flung up his hands and backed out of their embrace. “I can’t bloody do this, Adam, if you keep titting about!”
From the side of the room there came a flurry of movement as their solo audience threw up her hands, dashing script pages across the floor. Gill Henley rose from her seat in a whirlwind of scarves and floral print and exclaimed, “For Christ’s sake, gents, this scene again! Can you not just plough through and pretend you might actually be in love? You’re supposed to be actors, so act!”
“It was a joke, darling!” Adam was all innocence now, of course, because he would be, wouldn’t he? He put his hands on his hips and addressed Thomas. “You dragged me out of character, Tom Fox. It’s a cheap way to steal a scene.”
“I dragged you out of character?” Thomas felt his face flush as he tried to rein in his frustration. “You keep breaking out of character to comment on my breath! Which, I might add, does not smell of onions. And don’t bloody call me Tom Fox. I’m not a character in Wind in the bloody Willows.”
“Look,” Gill addressed them as though they were naughty schoolboys. “This isn’t a play about being gay. Stop making it the fulcrum of the drama. Your characters being gay is just part of the fabric of their lives, just like your lives. It’s not as though your whole lives are spent camping about and being as gay as gay can be, are they?”
She looked at Adam and narrowed her eyes.
“Yours is, I know that, but as a whole, gay is part of life, not life itself.” Gill held up her hand before Adam could protest. “You have one kiss in the text. It’s not the end of the world. Let’s call it a day and come back tomorrow, lips puckered, ready to kiss and move bloody on, yes?”
“Tell him.” Adam shrugged, already turning to retrieve his coat. “I’m a professional, he’s an onion-eater.”
Thomas clenched his fists. “It was a shallot, Fisher! It was not an onion!”
“Well, enjoy your evening of onions, Tom Fox.” Adam kissed Gill’s cheek and raised his hand to Thomas. “Because I am off home to study my lines. Bonsoir, my fine supporting player!”
He spun on his heel to give a deep bow then, with another wave, opened the door and disappeared into the hallway.
Even though Thomas knew that Adam could no longer hear him, he raised his chin imperiously and declared, “Equal billing, darling! I am no one’s support.”
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