Q&A: Captivating Characters with Esther Hatch

Esther Hatch is a traditionally published author of Regency Romances. She will chat about how she got started writing Regencies, how she writes captivating characters that leap off the page, and her process from draft to published.

Q. Hi Esther! How did edits go for you this morning?

A. Good! I reached my goal for the day, so still plugging away! Day by day.

Q. Way to go. Are you at liberty to say which book/title this was for?

A. Until book titles are official I cannot reveal them. And this one definitely still has a few titles in the running, but it is the third in my Proper Scandals series.

Q. No worries. How exciting! And who is your publisher, remind me again.

A. I publish with Covenant Communications.

Q. Will this be your third published book, or have you published others before Covenant?

A. This will be my third published full-length book. I have one novella in a Christmas Collection with Covenant, and one novella published with Timeless Romance.

Q. “Proper Scandals”. Was that series title your idea? Did you pitch it to them and then write the book, or….? It really hints at interesting plotlines.

A. I wrote the first book not knowing it would be a series until about halfway through. Honestly, I just fell in love with one of the characters and knew he needed a story. So it was never pitched or submitted as a series until I started working on the second book. And yes, each of the books have managed to have at least a scandal or two. I guess I’m just very drawn to them.

Q. I have watched you on a podcast, where you shared your publishing journey, but for the sake of our readers, do you mind sharing here what your writing background is? And how you ended up getting published with Covenant?

A. Sure! I also begin my writing journey with my childhood. I lived in a small rural community with almost no TV reception. My mom was a big reader and I followed in her footsteps. Reading has always been a huge part of who I am. I didn’t really consider becoming an author (well except that one time, when I couldn’t get past the first paragraph) until my sister-in-law Paula Kremser had me beta read a book she had written. The book was adorable, and for the first time in my life I was able to read a book and then suggest some changes to it. And for the most part those changes happened. Wow! What a moment, I was hooked, not so much on writing, but on beta reading.

Lucky for me Paula and her sister Alice Patron started a writing group and I got to be a part of it. However, they wouldn’t let me just be a reader. Anyone in the writing group had to actually write something. So I did. It took me two years, but I was able to finish a messy first draft of a YA fantasy.  The next day rather than attack the huge amount of editing needed on that one I started a new book. A Regency romance that I was determined to write much faster and get published. I told myself I would write 1000 words a day and finish my first draft in two months rather than two years. I loved the Regency romance genre and I felt like I had a pretty firm grasp on what type of book Covenant was looking for, so after spending two more months editing, I submitted it and sure enough it was accepted.

So, I like to say peer pressure made me become a writer.

Q. That is a fun backstory! Are they still your writing group?

A. They are, but most everyone has gotten a lot more busy. So we don’t meet a few times a month like we used to. We do still beta read for each other when needed. I think we are down to only two very active writers.

Q. You said you had a firm grasp on what Covenant was looking for. Was there a certain flagship book/series/author (other than yours of course) that you think aspiring Regency Romance authors should check out?

A. Julianne Donaldson and Sarah M. Eden are two of the authors that really come to mind when I think of trailblazers and reader expectations for the genre. They are great examples of a place to start.

Q. Awesome. You wrote your first Regency in two months. How did you prepare to write it? How did you brush up on the conventions expected in that time period?

A. That is a very interesting question. I am not much of a plotter or  an analyzer. So I guess I meant I knew what kind of feel I wanted to go for. I also knew the heat level that Covenant expected and was comfortable writing that. What I really wanted to portray in my debut, The Roses of Feldstone was a hate to love type relationship, but with the caveat that they had never really hated each other. They actually loved each other, but because of circumstances they couldn’t show it.

Q. The Roses of Feldstone. Such an evocative title. Did you come up with that, or the powers that be? And what does it mean in context of the story?

A. Yes, I came up with the title Roses of Feldstone. My publisher added the “The” to the front, which I believe was a good move. I love the title. It actually references more than one thing in the story. My main character is Rose and Feldstone is her childhood friend William’s estate. So the most obvious meaning is that Rose somehow belongs at Feldstone manor, and she really does, some of her happiest childhood memories are there. But it also references some of the roses that used to grow on the property. Rose is terribly upset that William had them removed. He knew exactly how much she had loved them. And those roses weave in and out of the story.

Q. Love that. With this book, you’re editing your third Regency. What patterns are emerging for your storytelling? How do you think you are improving as an author?

A. After publishing The Roses of Feldstone, I actually moved into the early Victorian era. Perhaps for a silly reason, but I really wanted my main male character to have an exciting career. He ended up being a gentleman turned railroad company owner. But I think a lot of the story patterns are the same. (But again, I’m a messy writer, so patterns aren’t always my thing.)

Like I said earlier I love a good scandal, it sets up the conflict for the characters so well. I like to give my two characters opposing goals and then see the sparks fly as they try to get around the other one. Despite their differences I want my characters to belong together. For example, in A Proper Scandal Grace (for good reasons) has trust issues with men. She needs a good upstanding gentleman, and Nate is definitely that. She is forced to throw herself at him all throughout that book and he is always the gentleman and never takes advantage of her. In A Proper Charade Patience is fun and wants to see the joy in life, while Anthony is a planner who hadn’t really thought about enjoying life yet. I love it when readers can see what a great match my two main characters are for each other.

Also, I love a good kissing scene. One that is heartfelt and also fun.

Q. Me too! How many words are your stories on average?

A. My shortest is The Roses of Feldstone at 72k. The longest is A Proper Scandal. I think that one ended up being 87k. My novellas were all just under 30k.

Q. I write 40-50K and often it’s tough to get to that wordcount. How do you enrich your plot/story to get to that length? Of course, I have to say, my contemporaries are 50k. But my historicals were 80K….

A. So…I think I had the opposite problem. When I was first asked to write a novella I had to start two other stories before I found one that would work as a Novella. The things I had to remove for a novella to resonate in such a short time were a lot of sub plot, side characters, and a challenging wall between the characters. Once I took those things out my novellas worked great. And I really love my novellas, so I don’t feel like it was damaging to do that. I think it is hard to write a good shorter story if you leave those things in.

So I guess if someone was asking me how to write a longer story I would say, add a bit more subplot to go with your very well rounded side characters, and make certain whatever is keeping your two main characters apart is a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Q. I can’t believe the time has flown! For our last question–I started reading A Proper Scandal and was struck with how strong and opinionated the heroine was. No simpering miss. It was different but in a good way. You do a great job with characterization, of everyone not just the main characters–a detail here and there, an expression, all the way down to what they were wearing–for example, a character touches the hem of her dress with his boot! How do you come up with your characters and their personalities?

A. They come as I write. I don’t know how to say it better than that. I am a huge dialogue lover, so often their personalities resonate with me as I write what they are saying. That being said, I always devote one edit to solidifying characters. I like to make sure they have things they love, little movements that are consistent only to them, and then I layer all of that with a few strong character traits. As a discovery writer I sometimes get those traits from my beta readers. I will ask them to tell me what type of person my character is, and then I will go back and double down on those traits in the character revision edit.

And thank you! That comment about my characters really means a lot to me.

Oh, and the skirt and the boot thing. I don’t know how that didn’t happen more with the huge Victorian dresses! Ha ha!

Q. LOL. I thought that was so funny, actually. And so revealing. Actually, I lied. This is really the last question. 🙂 You have time for one more? If not, it’s okay!

A. Totally!

Q. Pull back the curtain on publishing with Covenant. What steps and how long does it take from the time you draft a book to published?

A. Great question! I’m going to go over a rough timeline. Most of these are give or take a month or two (usually give.)

After submitting expect at least three months before they get back to you. Once your title is accepted they will give you a release month. My debut was nine months after they accepted it. So all in all it took a year for it to hit the shelves. Things are actually going a bit slower now, but for good reasons, they are trying to get their books out to more critical reviewers, and that needs to be done with a final copy months before release, so if you are submitting now, it could be as much as a year and a half before your book would release. Now that I’m publishing with them the only part of that process that has been shortened is the submission process. I submit directly to my editor and usually it is about two months instead of three before it gets accepted. During those nine months while you are waiting for your book to release, it will go through three rounds of edits. A content edit (which is the hardest one) a line edit and a copy edit.

They will make the cover and you do get some input in that. You fill out a form and then they send you about five cover comps. After getting feedback from you they choose the cover based on what they think will do best and the author’s opinion. During those nine months you spend a lot of time waiting and then some time furiously editing.

Q. What a fun peek behind the process. Thank you so much Esther for being so generous with your time and insights! So happy we got to catch up outside of writing sprints on Facebook, Fast Fingers you. LOL. Congrats on your success, and good luck with the edits!

A. Thank you Jewel, I had a great time! I’m always happy to talk about writing. Thanks for having me!

Check out Esther Hatch’s books.

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