Isolde Martyn is known for her historical romances. Her debut novel was the first novel by an Australian to win a RITA® Award from Romance Writers of America as well as being the first novel to win the R*BY (Romantic Novel of the Year Award) in Australia.
Published works: Four single titles plus two in press.
Publisher/s: Bantam US; Bantam Australia; PanMacmillan, Australia; Berkley Jove US; Mira (HMB) Australia; Bastei, Germany; and Bolinda Audio Publishers.
What is historical romance and which era intrigues you the most?
Historical romance covers such a wide range of stories and quality of writing. It can range from women in pretty dresses and knights in armour against a vaguely historical backdrop to well-researched stories that are about real people. Straight historicals often seem to balk at humour and sex in the writing and that’s a pity.
I tend to write stories that have lots of historical people but I keep getting asked, ‘Well, which genre do you write?’ I guess it boils down to how a book is marketed. However, I don’t suppose anyone asked Diana Gabaldon which side of the marker her stories fall – she just goes ahead and writes.
The Wars of the Roses. I love the intrigue of that period and there are so many fascinating historical characters. Setting stories against turbulent historical times increases the challenge for the hero and heroine and makes it more interesting for the reader.
Sometimes the past catches up with the present, too. It’s very exciting to think that UK archaeologists may have found the skeleton of King Richard III and that they are going to try and reconstruct his face as well as test for DNA.
The other era I find fascinating is the French Revolution but not the guillotine stuff, I might add! Fleur-de-Lis was utterly guillotine-free. The growth of the media, people power and many aspects of democracy arise from what happened in France in 1789-99 but a lot of people just see it merely as a time of violence. I hope readers will enjoy Fleur’s story and see revolutionary Paris from a totally different angle.
What's the most fascinating aspect about writing in this genre for you?
The research and the guesswork. Truly a lot of the so-called facts of the late fifteenth century have been cobbled together from very little. An academic could not have based a whole book around the anonymous woman spy mentioned in a Burgundian chronicle but as a novelist I was free to do just that. What’s more, I’m pretty sure she was Warwick the Kingmaker’s bastard daughter, too.
What challenges did you face publishing in this genre?
The wonderful thing about writing historical romance is that there is a wonderful, enthusiastic sorority of readers out there, whereas for straight historicals it is harder to get noticed by potential readers unless the publisher is making a big effort.
As for hoping for good reviews for historical romance in mainstream papers, tricky stuff! Some newspaper reviewers only have to see the words ‘romance award’ in your bio and the knives are whetted. I just wish such people would a) put their egos on a shelf; and b) actually read the book.
Which authors have inspired you in your own writing? Or which ones do you enjoy reading?
The late Dorothy Dunnett, a true diva, for her research, imagery and humour. I still enjoy reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels and I adored Daphne du Maurier’s novel Frenchman’s Creek. Probably the most romantic story I have ever read. For humour and characters, I loved Sydney writer Karen Miller’s fantasy novel The Innocent Mage.
When you get a chance to relax, what do you like to do?
Go for a bush walk. Mind you, reading a novel that is well crafted and unputdownable is bliss as well. And time we spend with good friends sharing a good Aussie red wine. Purrrfect!
Could you share your latest release, or a selected book, and tell us a little bit about it?
My novel MISTRESS SHORE is due out in February 2013.
My real life heroine, Elizabeth Lambard (also known in history as Jane Shore) was the daughter of a former Sheriff of London, who was a wealthy merchant. She was wed in her early teens to a mercer twice her age and, judging by historic records, she was determined to free herself and obtain a divorce. In her twenties, she became the mistress of King Edward IV and after his death suffered imprisonment by King Richard III until a wonderful man rescued her.
I loved writing this story because Mistress Shore was at the heart of events and, despite being a woman in an age when men were the masters, she managed to rebel against the rules and find her freedom. A lady of intelligence, compassion and courage!
I also am putting up my published novels THE MAIDEN & THE UNICORN and FLEUR-DE-LIS as e-books and a new e-book called THE DEVIL IN ERMINE, which is about the political intrigue of the events of 1483.
You can learn more about Isolde and her books at her website.