Interview with Sophie Barnes, author of The Infamous Duchess
25 Mar 2019
What can you tell us about your new release, The Infamous Duchess?
Set in 1820, during a time when few women owned property, Viola Cartwright has built a thriving hospital using the funds left to her by her late husband, the Duke of Tremaine. Many believe the young widow to be a scheming fortune huntress who conned the old man out of his money – a certainty that is echoed by her step-son when he returns home to claim his inheritance.
Suddenly, Viola finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit in which she stands to lose everything she holds dear. But she finds a surprising ally in London’s most notorious rake when he arrives on her operating table after a duel. Henry Lowell is a man Viola knows she ought to avoid, but his persistence will gradually have him scaling the wall Viola has built around her heart. And as his affection for her deepens, he will do everything in his power to save her reputation and help her win the case against her.
This was not only a fun but also a somewhat complex story to write. There’s the hospital with all the physicians and surgeries happening. Then there’s the lawyers working on the case against Viola leading up to a trial. Both of these aspects required a great deal of research. And finally there’s the growing relationship between Viola and Henry. I loved watching these characters fall in love with each other. Both are in need of companionship and understanding and they find this with each other while struggling to reach the happy-ever-after they truly deserve.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve always loved creating stories. When I was in school, creative writing assignments were my favorite. I loved literature and art and writing a book one day just to say I’d done it, has been on my bucket list since I was fifteen. But it wasn’t something I ever thought I’d be able to make a living at. So I took the art route instead and ended up working in the fashion industry. But at the back of my mind, there was always that book – the one I dreamed of one day writing.
It wasn’t until I moved to Africa with my husband a few years later and became a stay at home mom while he ran an engineering company that I finally found the time. Initially, I started work on a historical fiction novel about Queen Margaret I of Denmark. But researching such a huge project was a challenge, partly because of where I was located and partly because I had two active toddlers to take care of as well.
But then one day, I visited a local bookshop and I purchased a copy of Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. I had no idea who Julia Quinn was at the time. I didn’t even realize how huge the romance novel industry was or that there were sub-genres – that there was a Regency romance genre. Reading Romancing Mr. Bridgerton opened my eyes to the possibilities that were out there. It wasn’t just a good story, but a humorous one as well. And I knew when I finished reading it that this was the sort of story I wanted to write.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
In no particular order:
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
River God by Wilbur Smith
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (the complete series)
Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
The Physician by Noah Gordon
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
That’s a tough question. I’m really not sure. Maybe Margaret George? I’d love to pick her brain on how to write a fictionalized biography. Maybe then I could actually get around to writing that book about Queen Margaret I.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love creating fictional worlds. They exist in my mind like real places I’ve actually been to, which probably sounds odd, but that’s how it is. Crafting stories in these worlds with characters of my own making is incredibly rewarding. I would hate having to give it up.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up at 7:00 to get the kids ready for school and then drop them off at the bus stop at 8:00. By 8:30 I’m ready to start work, at which point I put in about 4 hours of either writing, editing or promoting, depending on where I’m at in my publishing schedule. I then have lunch and spend the rest of the day on other tasks like household chores and things that need to be done outside my writing. I’ll usually hop online at some point in the afternoon to see what’s happening. The kids come home from school at 3:00 p.m. so I’ll make them some snacks before they have to do homework. At 5:00 I’ll start on dinner. We eat at 6:00 so the kids can have some time to relax before going to bed around 8:00. I’ve been doing story time with them since they were born and they don’t want to give up on that even though they’re over ten years old. Right now my eldest is reading the Percy Jackson books and my youngest is hooked on Diary of a Wimpy Kid, so I continue wherever they left off. Once they’re in bed my husband and I hang out downstairs. We listen to music, chat and watch whatever shows we’re following. Right now it’s The Enemy Within, Blacklist, Project Bluebook and Whiskey Cavalier. If I’m not too tired, I might do some reading before going to bed.
What scene in The Infamous Duchess was your favorite to write?
The one where Viola and Henry go to Hastings. It was so visual for me. I knew exactly what they were feeling and experiencing as they walked on the beach and allowed Viola’s dog, Rex, to race across the sand. There’s a freedom to both characters in this scene and it’s also the one in which they really decide to take a chance on more than friendship and give a serious relationship a go.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I believe that hard word and perseverance will eventually lead to success.
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