My first guest is Grace Burrowes, NYT Bestseller!

My first guest is Grace Burrowes, NYT Bestseller!

Today begins my Author Spotlight Wednesday endeavor, and who better to launch it than New York Times Bestselling historical romance novelist Grace Burrowes! I am deeply honored to welcome Grace to my blog, and very thankful the publishing fates crossed our paths. Grace and I met several years ago at one of the RWA National Conferences (I can’t recall just which one) due to the fact that we share the same publisher. Gradually over time we have grown to know each other better, and Grace has shown her extreme kindness to me on a number of occasions. Including being here today!

So let’s welcome Grace Burrowes to the blog with a BIG round of applause!

graceburrowesGrace Burrowes grew up in central Pennsylvania and is the sixth out of seven children. She discovered romance novels when in junior high (back when there was a such a thing), and has been reading them voraciously ever since. Grace has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a Bachelor of Music in Music History, (both from The Pennsylvania State University); a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University; and a Juris Doctor from The National Law Center at The George Washington University. Her debut novel, The Heir was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Top Five Romances for 2010, and is the first in an eight-sibling historical romance series published by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Grace’s website: www.graceburrowes.com
Grace’s Facebook Page
Grace’s blog
Twitter @GraceBurrowes
Amazon Page

 

 

Language Dilemmas and the OED by Grace Burrowes

As a writer, some days stand out from all the rest: The day you finish your first manuscript, the day your hero finally, finally tells you why he left the heroine all those years ago, the day you get how to wrap up the story with a perfect, satin bow. I love the writer days, even when the author days aren’t so cheery.

One writer day from early in my publication journey that stands out for me is the day Regency author Sallie MacKenzie mentioned that she always writes with the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online open in her browser.

“You can get it online!?” I squeal. One credit card transaction later, I had a new favorite toy.

OED imageIn fact, online is the only way you can use the current version of OED. The old print version, one volume about eight inches thick, with type so small I needed a magnifying glass to read it, is no longer sold—alas for every household that needed a temporary high chair. (see image to right)

OED is my most favorite reference, also my favorite rabbit hole. As much as is practical, I try to avoid using words that hadn’t been invented in the Regency, and I try to stick to Regency meanings for them. Because all we have are written records from that time, it’s impossible to be absolutely certain what spoken usage entailed, but the written word is often informative enough.

Some of my British readers, for example, insist that referring to the season between summer and winter as “fall” is a lazy, Yank expression. OED, with many, many citations, clarifies that at least through the Regency, Brits used term as American do, to refer to autumn. The Victorians are responsible for shifting British usage—busy people, those Victorians.

Similarly, OED refutes the notion that our Regency characters would never use the word “momentarily.” They would not use the term to mean soon, as in, “I will be finished momentarily,” but they would use the word to mean fleeting, or instantly. “I was momentarily struck dumb,” for example.

I love this stuff, though, alas, OED cannot solve every puzzle. I call this the Great Cufflink Dilemma.  Cufflinks as we know them—the little pieces of jewelry that hold the cuffs of a sleeve closed—have been around since the 1600s, but in Regency parlance they are sleeve buttons. When describing this wardrobe accessory, the author must choose between accessibility and accuracy, or some compromise of the two, and this is only one of many language choices facing an author of historical tales.
Darcy letter English is an enormous, fascinating language, one with many stories of its own to tell, but it’s also the very stuff of characterization and narrative. Would Darcy’s letter make half the impression it does if he’d started out: Dear Lizzie: Don’t worry that I’m just writing to tick you off again the way I did last night.

Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar TongueOh, no, it would not. When I’m struggling to ensure that my characters remain as true to their time as good story telling allows, OED is my surest and dearest asset. And if I ever reach a point where OED no longer holds my interest, there’s Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), about which, more on some other day!

Grace’s questions for you are: What are some of your favorite Regency turns of phrase? Are there some you don’t care for?

 

Comment on this post to win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon to use as you wish AND two signed copies of Trenton: Lord of Loss. That means 3 lucky winners will be chosen! Deadline to comment for selection in the giveaway is May 3 at midnight.

 

trenton_450

Latest Release ~ Trenton: Lord of Loss

 

After a short, troubled marriage Trenton Lindsey, heir to the Wilton earldom, finds himself a widower with three small children. His year of mourning leaves him adrift, until his brother Darius forces him to take a repairing lease in Surrey. Social conventions require Trent to call on his recently widowed neighbor, Elegy Hampton, Lady Rammel, and as friendship develops, consolation of an intimate sort tempts them both. Just as Trent acknowledges the joy and pleasure to be shared with Ellie, an unseen enemy threatens him and Ellie, too. Can he reach for the love Ellie offers, when some one else is trying to take his life?

 

A sampling of Grace’s many novels ~~

Burrowes novels

 

FYI – Anyone can access the online OED. Here is the link: http://public.oed.com/about/free-oed/  Viewing for free requires an active library membership. A personal subscription can be purchased, but it is not cheap!

 

56 Comments for My first guest is Grace Burrowes, NYT Bestseller!

  1. Hi Grace and Sharon! Wonderful post as usual, Grace. I’m playing catch up on the Lonely Lords series, but have read the Windham series and the MacGregor series a couple times (yes the whole series – I feel compelled to reread when I get the most recent book 🙂 ) I am loving how the Windham books and the few Lonely Lords books that I’ve read work so well together. You get to see what was going on ‘off page’ in another book. I’m also jumping for joy inside because I just downloaded “Worth: Lord of Reckoning”. I do have to finish “Douglass” first….

    I don’t have a favorite term. But I will say I have always disliked the term Chit. It grates on my modern girl nerves. 🙂

  2. Wonderful post, Grace. Thanks for sharing. I love the English language. Even at a young age, I would read the dictionary when there was nothing else in the house to read! English was my late husband’s second language (he spoke six). He learned Oxford English in school, and was so precise as to how he used the language because he considered it a gift not to be taken lightly. To be able to communicate with others on their level, whatever that level, was something he took great pride in (that might sound haughty, but in fact, he felt humbled). Now I live in Budapest, Hungary after having lived in Croatia for four years. I have come to deeply respect any spoken language, and yes, when I write, a dictionary and etymology browser are always open!

  3. I’ve loved the Oxford English Dictionary ever since I became aware of its existence when I was a teenager. Some of my favorite sayings from that era are the various slang terms used to refer to inebriation and to ladies of ill repute; I think that’s a holdover from my Georgette Heyer days.

  4. I’ve been a fan since I read The Soldier then had to backtrack and read The Heir, since then I read them all in order, except for Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait. I have st to finish it because I keep losing it, that’s what comes of having home full of books. The only problem now is having to wait for the print version of her latest book. I think the term that I find most amusing is when the hero talks about his “John Thomas”, I tend to laugh when I read that. I’m a little confused by the term “jumps”, I realize that is, or so it seems, a type of corset, or stays, but I still don’t understand it fully. I tried doing a Google search for a definition but all it brought up was things related to ice skating and gymnastics.

    • Molly, I got to wondering how Regency women with a baby at the breast dealt with back-lacing corsets. That kid, if colicky, could be noshing sixteen times a day. Turns out from the early Georgian period forward, there was a form of corset that laced up the front. The term “jumps” is an English corruption of the French “jupe” and refers to a front lacing (or buttoning) garment for supporting a lady’s attributes. When the hero and heroine are in close quarters and intent on getting closer, jumps are an easier option for the couple to undo than back lacing stays (and said to be more comfortable, because they lacked (much) stiff boning). This article might be helpful:

      http://thedreamstress.com/2013/08/terminology-whats-the-difference-between-stays-jumps-a-corsets/,

  5. Wow, what a great article! If I weren’t moving you to the top of my TBR list becayse your books sound wonderful I would be moving them because I am a fellow Penn Stater! Go Lions!

    As far as Regency terms I dislike, I have to say “ain’t” really bothers me (is that used legitimately in Regency novels?), mostly because it sounds so bad in current conversation. I also wonder how much contractions were used, as I suspect they weren’t encouraged in written communication.

    I’d like to echo the thoughts above, that I LOVE authors who make the effort to ensure their novels are as historically accurate as possible. And, I could easily get lost in a dictionary too! I’ve got my library card in hand….

    • There are something like 250,000 Penn State alumni in the Alumni Association, and they are statistically, the most supportive of their alma mater of any major university (in terms of $$$ and visits). That’s particularly cheering in light of the school’s difficulties last year.

      I agree with you about “ain’t.” It might have been cool back in the day, but our associations with it mean I reserve ain’t for the secondary characters who aren’t too likeable. Sometimes, it sounds OK with the old folks who used it freely in the Georgian period, but mostly…. nah. It ain’t fittin’, as Mamie from Gone With The Wind would say.

  6. When I was a child my mother had a huge dictionary full of illustrations, and it was my favorite pastime to browse around and find all sorts of interesting words and information in it. I love Regency stories, but I must confess I can’t think of any phrases I particularly like or dislike, it’s all interesting to me. I do notice when phrases are used that don’t seem to fit the period and I appreciate all the research a good author does to make their story historically accurate.

    • Barbara, we kept a Webster’s Collegiate in the bathroom. I have at least four books my bathroom now, and a veritable quilt of them up on my bed. An interesting book is a true friend.

      • We have a friend who always has so many books on his bed that he’s teased that instead of changing his sheets, he turns a page on each book.
        We have a number of giant dictionaries, but I’m glad to know of the online OED.
        When my son was two, I once found him sitting on our giant Webster’s in just a diaper. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was memorizing the difference between the American and British number systems. Not only had I not known he could read but I had no idea there WAS such a difference!
        Books open up so many worlds and new horizons.

  7. Following Grace’s blog appearances and reading her very own blog is as much fun and informative as reading her books. Grace, you slay me, and that is certainly not a regency nor victorian term… just a “yankee” term that means, you rock!

    As for the different historicals, I must admit to pure ignorance when I first started reading them. At first I was like, why powdered wigs in this story but there doesnt seem to be any in this one. Why this type of dress but now the bosoms are not pronounced in this one. THEN I realized, wait, there are era’s and dress codes and changes in language.

    Only took me about a year before I realized I wanted to know more about the books I was reading. I usually had to look things up manually in a library when I first started…then the computer made it even easier. I loved the different times and started trying to choose favorites but it became a non issue. It was authors I wanted, no matter what time period.

    I have to say, as far as language, since we are reading romance, I was always surprised by the different intimate names…for body parts, for adoration, for intimacies….shocked at first when I read the “c” word for that male thing and then after a while, humored by the different names ….

    I LOVED Trenton a great great deal. I found it rather a healing book on all accounts. No need to enter me in the contest but thanks for yet another interesting and thought provoking blog post.

    • The plethora of terms for certain body parts boggle the brainbox, as does the number of terms for money. Worth Kettering has occasion to remark on this… Or, he will, when his book comes out.

      I agree with you, Hope. I tend to read authors, not periods, so when Jennifer Ashley started Scottish Victorians, to Victorian Scotland, I did go. Same with Eloisa James–she can write Georgian, Regency, or a Paris memoir, and I’m there.

  8. What a fascinating topic. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s posts and responses too. I am a reader who is definitely pulled out of the story if I run across glaring anachronisms, so I SO appreciate the work that you do to write correctly for the time period while walking the line of not confusing your readers. And you do a great job of it! I love your books.

    • Thanks, MIchelle. I’m sure somebody’s working on a program, one that allows you to set the year–1818, for example–and the program will highlight all the anachronistic words, and link to a historical thesaurus. I’m sure every historical romance author would pay dearly for such genius. Until that day, we’re stuck with what “sounds” wrong, or what our readers point to us.

  9. I’m just so grateful that you make the effort Grace! I love historical romance and I read A LOT of these books. To me the most important thing in a book is a good love story that is well written, with characters that I can care about. I will let a lot “slide” if it meets those qualifications.

    I’m no historian or language expert, but there are some books that are riddled with historical errors or use language that can only be described as modern slang. If there is enough of it – I will put the book down.

    Needless to say, you don’t fall into that category. I love your stuff!

  10. Wonderful, fascinating post! I’m a librarian and often use the OED print and online edition with patrons. I find it interesting that you not only try to use words but historical meanings as well in your writing. That is why they are so authentic and beautiful to read. I have to say I enjoy the slang phrases such as “bloody hell,” “jingle brains” or “bollocks” as they often make me laugh out loud. Let me just finish up by telling you how very much I am enjoying your Lonely Lords series. Brilliant concept and wonderful stories about honorable and sexy heroes. Darius, Gareth, and Douglas are my favorites (so far). I’m now up to David.

    • Maria, those are my earliest complete manuscripts (along with Andrew). I consider Gareth my “foundation hero,” the first guy to tell me his entire story, fortunately, he came with family, and the family came with family, and the family came with friends… I’ve often been asked to do a chronology, but I’d have to go back and re-read everybody first. I’m too busy writing…

  11. Can’t answer the question. I did enjoy the interview with Grace Burrowes. Had no idea she had written so many romance novels. Each one looks good.

    • Tea, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and spent several years scribbling away for the fun of it before I got tired of friends and family asking if I’d ever try for publication. That back log of completed manuscripts has come in handy now, though it left my editor with quite a puzzle as to where to start with me.

  12. I also write with my on-line OED open. Congratulations on your latest release!! Trenton is a wonderful book!! No need to enter me in the contest, I’ve already read it! Tweeted and shared on FB.

  13. I never thought I’d agree with Sharon and say an author was too prolific, but then I never thought I’d fall behind on Grace’s books either. Just means when I get caught up and have a few days to read, I can have a Lonely Lords orgy.

    My computer came with OED which is always open when I’m working, but I’m thrilled to have the online links to OED and Grose’s.

    • Livia, I’m not prolific, particularly. I just hoarded up manuscripts for a few years before attempting publication. Things will slow down next year–they had better, or my house will fall down.

  14. I’m an incredible word nerd…so reading that I can use my library card to access the OED is verrrryyyy dangerous. I can DEFINITELY get sucked down the rabbit hole very quickly. I have to agree with Anji that “casting up accounts” perturbs me, “bit of muslin” is another.

    I will confess I’ve never read any of your books, but I will definitely look them up promptly. Any particular place I should start? =D

    Thanks for this post, I absolutely enjoyed it.

    • Stephanie, it’s hard to say where to start, but I’m very fond of Douglas’s book. He has a foot in each of two series–the Windham Family series and the Lonely Lords. The Windhams are earlier work, but most readers enjoy the continuity. The Lonelys are on only loosely connected, and the Windhams have secondary roles in many of them.

  15. Welcome GRACE BURROWES!!

    It is a delight to have Grace as my guest today for my first foray into hosting authors on my blog. It appears thus far to be a great delight to my readers as well!

    Sorry to be chiming in late today. I stayed up too late last night, as usual, and rather enjoyed lounging in bed for the morning. But now the fine espresso brewed by my barista husband is kicking in, so watch out world!

    Grace, I loved your post. As a historical writer I deal with the same challenges of chasing words and phrases to their etymology. Not an easy task. My question is: Do you take the time to look up most words, if it is new to your writing? Or do you only check on those that “feel” modern, or that spark a question mark in your brain? And along with that, have you chosen on purpose to use a word or phrase, knowing it was not in use during the Regency, because it “fit” the scene or created the impact you wanted?

    Thanks again for being on my blog!

    • I’ll start with the last question first, Sharon, because I know it’s one that plagues every historical author whose stories are set in the early modern era. The object of my game as a story teller is to keep the reader in the story. I’m NOT a historian, and I’m not writing historical fiction. Then too, nobody is certain in every detail what was going on with the spoken word 200 years ago, particularly when much of the population was rurally isolated and illiterate. We know the written sources usually lag the spoken word, but do they lag by fifty years? Ten years?
      All of that said, I make a good faith effort to avoid anachronisms, though my modern ear won’t catch them all–nobody’s will. And yes, sometimes, I’ll use words knowing they’re historically wrong. An example: The appropriate word for what we call a child’s diaper would have been “clout.” Diaper, in the Regency, referred to a particular brocade-like cloth, not something to keep a baby tidy.
      Clout smacks of loincloths to modern readers, so I went with the word nappy. 95 percent of my readers are American, and to them nappy is both British and old-fashioned. Some Brits think the word originated in the US (it did not), and others are aware that term dates from only the 1920s. Not one reader wrote to call me on the repeated use of this modern word in Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, but several complimented me on getting it “British.” Er, um, well. I bent the rules in the right direction in this instance for most readers, apparently, but I’m sure there were a few purists out there wincing or even tossing the book.
      I do not rely on my copy editor to vet my word choices, but she usually catches a few that flew right by me. I’m sure the knowledgeable reader is catching even more.

      • I agree with you 100% Grace. Especially the part on being unable to fully know when a word or phrase might have been used before ever written down. The balance between the historical facts and entertaining a reader is very important… and the hardest part. Your diaper example is a perfect illustration.

        And the American vs. British issue is another consideration. I tend to chose words that are American is sound and spelling (no “glamour” or “favour” for example) because I know my readers are primarily American. Not that they would not understand simple things like “favour” but if I started down the track of writing British I would surely mess up worse!

        And indeed thank goodness for an awesome copyeditor!

  16. I read a history novel once where they used contemporary American terms and it was quite off putting. The word I like most in regency novels is “indeed”. It seems to me an all around word with different meanings and just by the way of saying it, it can tell you moods as well. Thank you, Grace, for clearing up for me, where your knowledge of regency English comes from. I thought, you would have to dig yourself through tons of letters and other written material to get a feel of how people would have talked in that time.

    • Manuela, you do dig through tons of material, though it’s more like Scrooge McDuck, frolicking in his money bin. Right now I’m reading Robert Burns: A Lfe In Letters, Mark Twain’s autobiography, Country Life Lost… there’s no end of the excellent source material an author can enjoy. I also think people write differently with a quill pen. We know the difference between typing on a keyboard and writing with pen and ink. Think of that difference–more thoughtful, more personal–and magnify it times ten, because a quill pen on stationery was not the easy endeavor we undertake with a ball point pen.

  17. I love reading stories where the vocabulary matches the setting. If I ever read a Regency-set novel where the heroine shouts out “OMG!” I’ll probably need to burn the book. Lol

    I’m curious about what part of PA you are from. I also graduated from Penn State. I met my husband there and ended up stuck in State College for 20 years! I did really love the UP campus, though. I’ve since moved a bit south where it doesn’t rain quite so much! (Though we didn’t make it out of the state!)

    • Gretchen, I was born, raised and educated in State College. My dad taught in the university’s food science department, five of my brothers and sisters went to college there (big discount for faculty dependents). I love the place, but the university sort of used up all the cultural oxygen if you let it. Right outside town, there’s a very different Centre County, and that’s more home to me.

  18. Language is fun. It’s also interesting to see how it changes throughout the ages. I remember reading the first act of Romeo and Juliet and how I didn’t understand the insults flying between the 2 clans at all without a dictionary. I can’t think of any specific phrase though since I didn’t remember it!

    • I’ve seen some clips of Shakespearean dialogue rendered in the accent of the day, and it’s actually easier to understand, though you’d think the opposite. When lines are made to rhyme by conforming them to Elizabethan speech, more meanings come clear without that dictionary.

  19. Terribly interesting to know the back story on the dialogue in regency stories. Thanks for having Ms. Burrowes, one of my absolute favorite authors.

    • It’s tricky, Anne (a word that didn’t mean then what we use it for now), because not only were certain words not yet invented, other words (like tricky), weren’t available on the same terms the readers today would use them. Always a balance, between authenticity and the reading experience, and I seldom get it right for every reader in every scene.

  20. I have read Grace’s Scottish romances, bit haven’t been able to read the single gentlemen’s name books. As it is early and I am sick can’t think of a turn of phrase right now

    • I love those Scottish Victorians, Alisha. I read Jennifer Ashely’s MacKenzie series and was yanked into the world. My Christmas book this year adds to the series, and I don’t think it’s done with me.

  21. Thanks, Leslie! I don’t think of myself as a humorous writer, but sometimes, I’ll read over a manuscript that’s facing revisions and realize how even a self-possessed, well educated, wealthy young man–perhaps especially such an individual–finds humor empowering. As an author, if you can give a character a sense of humor, it’s more likely readers will stick with that character, same as in life.

  22. I’ve not yet read Trenton, but have read all of your novels. You have a wonderfully, witty delivery that characterizes (does the OED have characterise?) your books. Thanks, Sharon, for hosting Ms. Burrows today!

  23. I just checked and discovered an individual subscription to the OED online costs £215 plus VAT (if applicable). It apparently can be accessed free at most public libraries in the U.S., something I didn’t know. Thanks for the mention.

    • JerryT, a subscription occasionally goes on sale, at least on this side of the Atlantic. I figure for a dollar a day (at its most expensive) it does more to improve my historical world building than any other dollar I can spend. Of course, trips to Merry Olde are the very best investment in that regard.

  24. Thank you to Grace for such an interesting and informative post. I have not one but several comments to make!

    Firstly, regarding Regency turns of phrase; I like the use of the word “directly” as in “straight away” – “I will close with the attorney directly” (Mr. Bingley in the P&P 1995 dramatisation). I’m not so keen on “casting up one’s accounts” probably as it refers to vomiting.

    Secondly, thanks for the info about the OED. I just put my library card number into the log in box and it worked!! A new world of wordy goodness to explore.

    Thirdly, Grose’s Dictionary can be downloaded for free and I now have it on my Kindle. Yet more wordy goodness.

    Fourthly, I have to confess that I AM one of those Brits who has been getting somewhat annoyed at the use of “fall” in Regency-set novels written by US authors. Next time I see it (or hear it, as I’m a big audiobook fan) I’ll try muttering “OED, OED” to myself.

    Fifthly, thank you to Sharon for introducing a new author to me. I haven’t come across Grace’s work before. My TBR List is getting so long that I’m going to have to retire so I can have more time for reading (I wish!).

    Finally, (cos I’ve waffled on long enough), does anyone else think that the young man on the cover of “Trenton: Lord of Loss” looks like Aiden Turner? He’s played Kili the dwarf in The Hobbit films, John Mitchell the vampire in the original Being Human made in the UK and is set to play Ross Poldark in the remake of The Poldarks due out next year. He’s also rather gorgeous, don’t you think?

    • Anji, now as we all dart off to google oed.com, we’ll make a frolic and detour to google “images of Aidan Turner.” No reason not to appreciate some excellent scenery. I think Trenton also look a LOT like the fellow on “Gareth” an earlier Lonely Lord. The Victorians sanitized a lot of excellent Regency vocabulary, but more significantly, it wasn’t until they got hold of the language (or their elocution instructors did), that what Americans think of as the English accent became pronounced, though THAT is a Victorian contribution of which I heartily approve!

  25. Thank you for a wonderfully entertaining passage Grace! Reading so many books I have certainly come to appreciate authors that take the time to do extensive research, which makes my reading experience richer.
    I already have two of your books on my kindle patiently waiting to be read and the list below looks very tempting 🙂

    • Vee, for me the language research is purely fun, but no matter how much of it you do, there are words that slip through the cracks. My copy editor just flagged “billy-goat” for me. Victorian, not Regency! “Legendarily” even more recent! I always wonder, if they didn’t have billy goat, what did they use? And down the rabbit hole, I do do!

I love to hear from you!