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Written by JJ Barnes

I’m delighted to share with you my interview with romance author Rachel Brimble. I asked her about her writing experience, her books, including her latest novel Trouble For The Leading Lady, and the writing advice she can bring to aspiring authors.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I am an author of over 25 published contemporary and historical romance novels as well as a wife and mother to two fabulous daughters. When I’m not writing, I love walking the English countryside with my beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler. If I can’t do that, then you’ll find me reading or knitting in front of the TV. I watch far too many period dramas and crime shows!

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I was really young when I started to dream of being a published author, I would say around eight or nine. Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series was my earliest inspiration!

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Rachel Brimble, author of Trouble For The Leading Lady
Rachel Brimble, author of Trouble For The Leading Lady

When did you take a step to start writing?

A lot later! When my youngest daughter started school full-time in 2005, I had a ‘now or never’ moment and finally got serious about publication. My first novel was published by a small US press in 2007 and I have had two books published per year ever since.

Writing is hard and takes a lot of commitment, but I really believe it is possible for anyone to be published if they believe in themselves and willing to put in the hours.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I would say the idea came to me mid year in 2005 and the book was published in the summer of 2007.

How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

I take 5-6 months to write a book from idea to final draft these days and then the release day is usually 5-6 months after submission so it’s probably about a year from idea to release for each book.

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Trouble For The Leading Lady?

Trouble For The Leading Lady is the second book in my latest historical trilogy, the Ladies of Carson Street, but both books can be read as single titles. The inspiration for the series came after I read The Five by wonderful writer and historian Hallie Rubenhold. It is about the victims of Jack the Ripper and inspired me to write about three very different women whose life circumstances lead them to become prostitutes.

I like writing about the lower classes in history, have them struggle and suffer before building to the happy ever after they deserve.

What were your biggest challenges with writing Trouble For The Leading Lady?

My biggest challenge is the same with every book – plotting! I am very much a plotter and think that I have everything figured out before I start writing. Then I hit the 45-50,000 word mark. Everything slows right down at this point and it’s like walking through mud for a while until I came out the other end and race to the end.

The best advice I was ever given as a writer was to ‘give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft’ – remember that all can be ‘fixed’ in the following drafts.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Nancy Bloom is a good time girl with a big heart but also struggles with deep pain and scars from an incident in her past – I am not entirely sure what inspired Nancy as an individual, but I wanted all three of the heroines in my trilogies to have events in their pasts that they need to make peace with in order to find their liberty.

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

There isn’t really an antagonist in Trouble For The Leading Lady – rather than an individual, I would say the circumstances are what the hero and heroine are fighting against. The story takes the reader from a brothel, to the theatre to the workhouse – there is lots going on!

What is the inciting incident of Trouble For The Leading Lady?

The inciting incident is when my hero, theatre manager Francis Carlyle, is in a local tavern and Nancy stands on a table and begins to sing – he immediately knows he has found the star of the play he has written. He approaches her and Nancy rebuffs him initially, not trusting him after she has been made promises with regards to the stage before. It is a pivotal moment for them both…

Trouble For The Leading Lady, from The Ladies Of Carson Street, by Rachel Brimble
Trouble For The Leading Lady, from The Ladies Of Carson Street, by Rachel Brimble

What is the main conflict of Trouble For The Leading Lady?

I would say learning to trust again – this is theme that comes up time and again in my novels, but I think it is at the centre of all our lives. We all experience hurt, love, disappointment and joy so what happens to many fictional characters is relatable to us and we care about them and their journeys. That care is the ultimate aim for every author.

In Trouble For The Leading Lady, Nancy learning to trust again is definitely the main conflict.

Did you plot Trouble For The Leading Lady in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

As I said above, I am definitely a plotter – I write a synopsis and chapter plan before I start writing.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Trouble For The Leading Lady need?

Yes, I have always been traditionally published so have worked with a number of editors over my career – on the whole I have loved each of them and honestly believe every writer should fully trust their editor. They are more often than not right about the changes they suggest!

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Again, see above – Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Everything can be fixed later, just get the story down from start to finish. SO many writers never finish a book so don’t even know if they are capable of writing a full-length novel. This is the most important thing to establish from the outset!

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

Well, the third and final book in the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy will be published in Autumn 2021 which I am super excited about. As well as that, I have just finished the initial draft of the first book in a brand new series set in past British royal courts…

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I am super proud of everything I have written… even the stuff I wish I could change from early on in my career. Writing is a craft that can be learned, and I have most definitely put in the hours of training! It has been worth every ounce of the blood, sweat and tears I have shed over the last 14 years.

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