The Story Behind The Formidable Earl by Sophie Barnes

17 Nov 2020

By Sophie Barnes

Writing The Formidable Earl was more challenging than any other book I’ve ever written, not because of the plot, but because of who the hero is. Looking back, I think it’s because I’ve always loved the heroes and heroines in my books from the get go, which made character development easy. But when it came to writing The Formidable Earl, it was hard.

If you’ve followed my Diamonds In The Rough series from the beginning, you may remember Simon Nugent, the Earl of Fielding, from the first book, A Most Unlikely Duke, where he appears as Gabriella’s arrogant fiancé. While written as a dislikeable character, I always wanted him to have a chance to redeem himself, to grow and become more than anyone ever believed he could be. Even himself.

This transformation from the sort of man most people would feel like strangling for his snobbish behavior and constant fear of other people’s opinion, was tough. And when I thought I’d gotten it right, it turns out I hadn’t. As is oftentimes the case for authors, we’re so engrossed in our own stories and know more than what’s on the page, that we don’t always see the problems with our books. This is why we need beta readers, editors, and proof readers to help the story shine.

When it came to The Formidable Earl, I finished the book early. I was happy with it. My beta readers got back to me with a bit of advice which I implemented and off it went to editor number one. I made huge changes to the plot – changes so extensive that looking back, I ought to have sent it for content edits once more. Instead (thinking I’d done a great job – sigh) I moved on to line edits, made some more tweaks and additional corrections.

Long story short, The Formidable Earl was published to Netgalley with a hero who, as it turns out, nobody liked. Which is pretty disastrous for a romance novel. Having multiple reviewers say that they wished the heroine had ended up with someone else, was not great. So I pondered my options for a couple of days. It was mid-October so there were just two months left until the book was due for release. After receiving a bunch of fantastic advice and encouragement from other authors, I chose to bite the bullet and overhaul the entire manuscript with particular focus on the hero’s character development and a few plot issues reviews consistently mentioned.

Needless to say, October turned out to be extraordinarily stressful. I knew it would be going in, but it was well worth it. My editor was a champ and at the end of it all, I am so much happier with the book as it is today. So far, the reviewers who have read the updated version have given it great reviews. Hopefully readers will also enjoy Simon’s transformational journey and feel as though he absolutely deserved to win Ida Strong when they turn the last page. Keeping my fingers crossed for a successful release.

Sophie Barnes is the author of the new book The Formidable Earl.

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