I’m part of a great group of writers called the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group. We meet once a month for a (very) brief business meeting, lunch, and a presentation. I met the woman I’m about to introduce you to at one of these GRRWG meetings. Her name is Diana Lloyd, and she’s wonderful–she’s funny, kind, and gives great hugs.
Now, it’s unlikely that most of you will ever get to experience a Diana hug. And that sucks for you. However, I’m about to tell you something awesome–basically it’s the best part.
Diana is a fantastic author.
I had the pleasure of reading an earlier version of this Golden Heart Nominee (Hello!), and I absolutely adored it. Diana’s characters are a delight and her playful sense of humor shines through–in both dialogue and narrative. I adored HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BARON, and I’m hoping you’ll give it a chance, too. I’ve got the blurb and excerpt below, but before we get to that, I thought we could get to know Diana a little better, first.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
It’s such a cliché, but I LOVED books as a child. I decided I wanted to be an English teacher or a librarian because when I was young I associated those jobs with being around books. When I was older and not a teacher or a librarian, I started writing down story ideas in a notebook, but I was still afraid to actually start writing. When the kids were a little older I got up the courage to attend a Romance Writers of America local chapter meeting. That’s how I found out that my writing really sucked. I dropped out of the group and spent the next few years learning everything I could about the craft of writing. When I came up with Quin and Elsinore, I knew they were the characters that were going to finally get me to write the story. I rejoined Romance Writers of America, entered their Golden Heart contest and became a finalist. I didn’t win the award, but I got offered a 3-book contract from Entangled Publishing. Twenty years passed from the time I first scribbled down the idea of having a baron lose his shoe at a ball and the day my novel was finally published.
What made you realize you wanted to write romance?
I started out reading everything—history, biography, true crime, Steven King and Daniel Steele. As I aged, like fine wine, I realized the books I most liked had an HEA. Romance guarantees that. Having an HEA is like ice cream on cake, not only do you get a satisfying story-you get a little sweet something at the end.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
- My children. Because they grew up to be kind, thoughtful, well-adjusted adults despite the fact that when they were toddlers I told them that yogurt was ice cream.
- Going to Europe all by myself. I suffer from anxiety, so getting on that flight (my first) alone was the hardest thing I’d ever done and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I navigated Paris by myself, participated in a German Volksmarch, and drank a bier at the Hofbräuhaus.
- Getting published. From initial idea to first sale it took me 20 years.
Do you have any pet peeves?
So, so many. Number one right now is people at a store check-out counter who do NOT HAVE THEIR SHIT TOGETHER. I’m waiting for the day there is a special line just for people who know what the hell they are doing. Also on the list; slow drivers who camp out in the middle lane on a 3-lane highway, parents who let their children run about like drunken sailors on shore leave, litterbugs, and chatty old men.
Are there any skills you’d like to learn?
I have always wanted to play a musical instrument. Despite many attempts (violin, flute, clarinet, piano), the only thing I can play is the radio.
Which of your characters would you least want to take a road trip with, and why?
My heroine, Elsinore. What a handful. She’s perky and chatty and a wee bit impulsive. She’d play with the radio, want to stop to see the Corn Palace or the world’s largest ball of twine. She’d wave at strangers and yell “hello there” out the window. All I want to do is hit the gas, crank the radio to my jams, and sing along with the wrong words loudly and off-key like I do when I’m alone.
Who are your favorite book boyfriends?
Colin Sandhurst from Tessa Dare’s A WEEK TO BE WICKED. And my Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen, from Jane Austen’s PRIDE and PREDJUDICE. Colin appeals to me because he’s calm with an unconventional sense of humor. He’s like a kid’s toy, he wobbles but he doesn’t fall down. He’d be a riot to have around. Mr. Darcy appeals in the opposite way. He’s thoughtful, overly serious, and a bit dour. But he’s loyal and steadfast, you could rely upon him in an emergency.
What’s your least favorite word?
Mucus. Phlegm. Quim. I’m not too thrilled with “moist” either.
What’s your favorite curse word?
Shit. It’s the Swiss Army knife of curse words. I’m pretty sure it will appear in every book I write. Of course, in historical romance, it might slip in there as “shite.”
City or country?
City. I’m not fond of dirt. Or bugs. Or gardening, which combines the two.
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. If it had good Wi-Fi I could happily live in a cave on a deserted island. Addendum—as long as there was no dirt or bugs in the cave.
Questions about the book.
How to Train Your Baron is your first ever release. First off, congratulations! What can you tell us about it? How did the idea come to you?
As a child I loved the story of Cinderella and other fairy tales. We had one of the very old editions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Mother Goose, and Hans Christian Anderson in the house, with the original stories before they were…sanitized. Dang, those original tales were dark! When I started writing I thought about twisting those fairy tales around and even mashing them together. After all, those stories endured for hundreds of years for a reason.
What do you like best about Quin?
He’s a survivor. Despite all the horrible things he’s witnessed in his life, he keeps trying. He doesn’t wallow in misery, but he carries the baggage along until he’s forced to deal with it. He tries so hard to keep himself together, keep everyone safe, and keep everything chugging along like the little train that could. Despite that, he still recognizes love and allows himself to fall into it a little bit at a time.
What do you like best about Elsinore?
She hasn’t been tarnished by the world yet, so she possesses the sort of wide-eyed innocence that makes her think she can accomplish anything if she just puts her mind to it. She knows she has a lot to learn and just barges ahead to learn it first hand, so she can move on to learning the next thing. She’s a lot like the younger, more naïve me. I grew up very sheltered and didn’t learn how the world really worked until I got my own apartment. I find Elsinore a refreshing change from characters who already have their shit together when the book starts. Elsinore has to earn her happy ending.
Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to write? If so, how?
Quin’s fear of poison and the reason behind it. In doing family genealogy research, I discovered my great-grandfather died from being poisoned. That death immeasurably effected the next two generations, determining who moved away, who stayed behind, and which children were farmed out to other relatives to raise. Further research pointed to the most likely suspect and their identity shocked me to the core. I’d sat on this person’s knee, held their hand while I walked to school—all while other people in the family secretly suspected them of murder. I’ll never know if the person I suspect really did it, they passed away before I even started my research. Any family members who might have known more took their suspicions to their grave.
If you were to cast your book as a movie, who would you choose to play your characters?
What’s up next for you?
I have a Historical Romance Holiday novella coming out November 1st titled LOVE REKINDLED AT CHRISTMAS. My novella LET IT SNOW is the story of how a friendly holiday game can go terribly, terribly wrong when a bit of fire is involved.
I’m also working on books 2 and 3 of my “What Happens in the Ballroom” series. Book 2, ESCAPING THE EARL, is a Georgian era mash-up of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Julianna Latham meets an Earl who wears his scars on the outside and hides his heart and an Earl with a wise, smiling face who would do anything to hide his treachery. As she decides which Earl is the real beast, she is offered passage on the sea journey that could take her back home and away from them both. Publication date TBA.
Book 3 is LAST LORD STANDING where rake Kerrigen Northam survives on looks, wit, and little white lies. When one of his falsehoods turns out to be not so harmless, he struggles to make everything right again. Caught in his web of lies, Liberty Chalford must find a way to save both their reputations. In this Regency mash-up of Pinocchio and The Three Little Pigs, Liberty and Kerrigen discover the truth of what they seek exists in each other. Publication date TBA.
What would you most like readers to know about you and your books?
Perfect people are boring. I’m not perfect and neither are my characters. They have quirks, flaws, irrational fears, temper tantrums, unreasonable expectations, and make impulsive missteps. Just like me. I want my characters to be relatable and likable. Readers should care about what happens to them, cringe when they do something stupid, laugh when they make a joke, and cheer them on toward their happily-ever-after. I hope readers find my characters’ adventures entertaining and enjoyable. I hope they find me on Amazon and buy some books and leave a review.
Diana Lloyd, mother of gingers, writes stories with kissing and cravats. Diana lives in Michigan with her husband of 32 years, also a ginger. Writing historical romance demands that much like Alice in Wonderland, Diana falls down a lot of rabbit holes for the sake of research. If you enjoy things like spending four hours researching the etymology of a single word only to delete that word in the next editing pass, you can write historical romance too. Diana loves writing engaging stories of romance where couples learn to work together to create their happily-ever-after.
I encourage anyone who enjoys historical romance to give me a follow or a shout-out.
Here’s the blurb:
When Elsinore Cosgrove escapes a ballroom in search of adventure, she has no idea it will lead to a hasty marriage. The youngest daughter of a duke, all she wants is to make her own choices. Now she’s engaged to an infuriating, handsome Scottish baron who doesn’t even know her name! Using all her feminine wiles, along with advice gleaned from a training guide for hunting hounds, Elsinore is determined to mold her baron into the husband she wants.
Quin Graham is a man with many secrets. If another scandal can be avoided with a sham marriage, so be it. Only his fiancée isn’t at all what he’s expecting, and the clumsy, curious, and clever Elsinore refuses to be set aside. For reasons he’s unwilling to explain, the last thing Quin needs is to fall for his wife
“Papa?” Elsinore clutched the shoe to her breast as her father avoided her gaze. A dull ache began throbbing behind her eyes. Surely she would not be forced into a poor match. She’d only be twenty next week, hardly a spinster. Her father was not a cruel man. His laughter had echoed through the halls just this afternoon as they readied for the ball—she’d made a witty remark, and he’d vowed it so clever that he was going to repeat it at his club.
“I don’t believe you could make it through the rest of the season without another scandal, not with the disobedience you’ve already shown.” There was no anger behind his words, only resignation.
“What disobedience?” she asked warily, afraid she already knew the answer.
Her father harrumphed and shook his head. “Did you not climb up, unassisted, in a complete stranger’s high-perch phaeton on Bond Street last week?”
“I’d never been in a high-perch before, and it was so smart. Brother promised to teach me the ribbons this year, and I decided I wanted a carriage just like it.” It was a quick and convenient lie. In truth, she’d spied Lady Throckmorton and her dandified son and scrambled off the walkway to avoid them. Pendergast Throckmorton, heir to a viscountcy, wasn’t only an uneducated, self-centered fop, he was permanently attached to his harridan of a mother’s elbow. Elsinore would have thrown herself in front of a moving carriage to avoid yet another invitation to take tea with Lady Throckmorton.
“Half the ton saw you scampering up into a phaeton like a circus monkey,” her father continued.
“I assure you, I was as un-monkeylike as possible,” she said meekly.
“Oh good. I was worried you’d made a spectacle of yourself.”
Elsinore winced at the sarcasm in her father’s voice. As the youngest, she was accustomed to a measure of clemency not enjoyed by her older siblings and his words stung.
“Shall I mention the incident at the Trent’s musicale?” he asked.
Deciding a bit of truth would serve her better, Elsinore stood up straighter before explaining. “In an attempt to avoid unwanted attention from Lord Butterworth, I chose the most efficient point of egress.”
“You jumped out of a window!” her father roared back. A large man with long, stark white hair, his tone of voice reminded Elsinore of why he was considered a persuasive force in the House of Lords.
“It was a French window,” Elsinore muttered. “And it was more of a skip than a jump.”
Her mother stopped sniffling long enough to ask, “And what is wrong with Lord Butterworth? He’s the heir of an earl, for heaven’s sake.”
“He smells like rotting eggs.” Elsinore wrinkled her nose.
“They all smell, dear,” her mother said. “You need to learn to breathe through your mouth.” Her father snorted at her mother’s explanation.
“I refuse to spend the rest of my life breathing through my mouth. I’ll look consumptive. A measure of cleanliness should not be too much to expect from a prospective husband.”
“Have you already forgotten the scandal at the Dardens’ country house, which caused your season to be deferred to this year instead of last?” her father interjected, clearly unhappy with the direction their conversation had taken.
“For the hundredth time, I didn’t realize they were going to swim. I thought the young men were going to have an adventure, and I didn’t want to miss it. I left as soon as I saw… That is, as soon as I realized they were unclothed. It was an innocent misunderstanding, hardly a scandal. There was no harm done to any party involved and no reason for Darden to tell his father he spotted me.”
“No harm?” her father exclaimed. “If their cousin hadn’t chosen that very weekend to elope and distract everyone, I don’t know what we would have done about your reputation.”
“I had to tell everyone you had a putrid throat all last season and had been sent to the country to recuperate. We’re lucky beyond measure that their scandal was more interesting than yours, or people would still be talking about it,” her mother added.
Elsinore looked down to the drooping hem of her ripped gown, the ragged edges of white silk now gray where it trailed along the floor, and the telltale spots of red wine marked her as unsuitable. She clutched at the sleeve that, thanks to popped stitches, refused to stay in place on her shoulder, as she gathered her thoughts. She had to admit, she really did look a fright. She was tired of explaining herself, and every time she tried to consider the possible consequences, her stomach flipped in the most alarming way. She wanted to scream.
Instead, she whispered, “I just wanted to make my own adventure.”