A little later this month, after In Loving Memory is released, there will be a web feature called Ten Interesting Facts about Shaun Deeley, presented by Joanne Guidoccio .
I’ll share the feature widely, of course, because Mr. Deeley is one of the two main characters in my historical romance novels, and I’m a little in love with him. I hope that love is infectious. All of my books seem to have men as their heroes, and I’ve always been a little in love with all of them, but Mr. Deeley has turned out to be special. He burst out of me in a flash of inspiration, a character in what began as a screenplay about researching family trees and solving ancestral mysteries and, for some unfathomable reason, he was born into Regency England.
I wasn’t overly obsessed with Jane Austen. I was hopeless at History in school. If you were to have told me at the start of my writing career that my most successful stories would be about a gentleman who was born in 1791 who suddenly finds himself transported two centuries into the future, where he continues his time travelling adventures with a museum worker named Charlie, I’d have fallen over laughing. Time travel! Historical romance! Regency England? And now the Blitz!?
Of all the heroes I’ve written about, Mr. Deeley is definitely my favourite. He’s impetuous, and fearless, and his behaviour and philosophy come from a much more genteel and mannered time, which does lead to some humorous situations in the present – and in the past.
I’m not quite sure where in my imagination Mr. Deeley himself actually came from. Perhaps he was always there, lurking, my secret lover just waiting for the right time to reveal himself. Physically, he’s tall-ish, and he has dark, rather long hair (as was the fashion in 1825, when he first met Charlie). His occupation was groom at Monsieur Duran’s manor. He was afforded a classical education (inflicted upon him by the very aged and imaginatively diminished Reverend Hopwood Smailes) and, in fact, he speaks Latin – which you’ll discover, somewhat humorously, when you read In Loving Memory.
He constantly amuses Charlie, and frightens her at times, too – when he first came to live with her, he tried to boil water using the fireplace in the sitting room – with disastrous results, especially to the plastic tea kettle. Charlie is cautious by nature and a little bit hesitant when it comes to taking risks. Mr. Deeley is the perfect foil for her, because the biggest risk he ever took was leaping into the 21st century with her. He can be frightened – and is, several times, in the new novel. But he’s also practical and quite logical, so common sense usually prevails.
There’s one more thing about Mr. Deeley. He’s a hero who has suffered. I have a philosophy, which I share with Emma Braden, the wise old spywriter who created Jarrod Spencer’s character in The Cilla Rose Affair. “Closet sadists,” is how Emma refers to the female readers of her spy novels. “The essential difference between male readers and female is that men like their heroes to have near-misses. Life-threatening situations from which they narrowly escape, virtually unscathed. The ladies prefer a spot of torture—nothing too dangerous, mind you—just enough to impart a semblance of suffering, from which their hero ought to be delivered in one piece—if perhaps a trifle bruised. Heroes who have suffered require mothering. That’s the secret of writing for women.”
What do Richard Sharpe, Jamie Fraser, that guy from Starship Troopers and Shaun Deeley have in common? They’ve all been subjected to the lash.
Come on ladies, ‘fess up. You love them even more because they’ve been flogged, don’t you?
You won’t read about Mr. Deeley’s ordeal in Persistence of Memory, or In Loving Memory, or even in the little bonus short story that’s included at the end of In Loving Memory, Easy When You Know How.
A couple of years ago I contributed a short piece to an anthology put together by a group of writers who were then under contract to Fable Press. The idea was to give our characters an extra adventure, to help promote our novels. The theme of the anthology was “carnival” and for my story, I created a village fair at Stoneford, and sent Charlie and Mr. Deeley back in time with the help of a gypsy fortune teller and a tarot reading.
The Rider Waite tarot card that caused all the trouble!
They ended up in 1848, where they met Charlie’s direct ancestor, a young trouble-maker who was about to be quite deservedly flogged in the village square for bad behaviour.
A typical village stock and whipping post in an English village.
Charlie was aghast. She knew this ancestor was a hemophiliac – she carried the gene herself – and this punishment would undoubtedly kill the poor fellow. And if Augustus Duran (the son of Sarah and Louis Augustus Duran the Greater) died in 1848, Charlie herself would never be born.
You’ll have to read the short story yourself to find out just how gallant Mr. Deeley can be. Due to contractual agreements I can’t post it publicly…however if you email me I might be able to help 🙂 (winona at winonakent dot com) (replace the usual words with the usual symbols).
And that will give you just one more reason to love Mr. Deeley and enjoy his next big adventure with Charlie.
In Loving Memory is released on July 26 by Diversion Books. You can buy it online at all the usual outlets, and you can order it from your favourite brick-and-mortar bookstore.
Please join me at the online launch party (on Facebook) on July 26, 12 noon Pacific, 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK. 1940s music, Ration Book delectables, and free party favours!