[This issue, we sit down for an interview with Australian author, Rosalie Oaks. Here, she discusses her paranormal mystery/romance series, The Lady Diviner; her writing and research; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: You made your literary debut with the Lady Diviner series in January 2021. Congratulations! First, how did you come up with the initial idea for the books? Did Elinor just pop fully formed into your head, or did the story come in fits and starts?
Rosalie Oaks: Elinor was fairly well-formed from the beginning, though she did gain more vivacity as she went along! I sat down and plotted out a draft outline for the story, but of course it changed as I wrote it. I knew I wanted Elinor to have a backstory with the mysterious Earl of Beresford, so I could write a prequel novella as well.
I worked out the magic system beforehand, and wrote a few short stories in that world before I tried my hand at the novels.
ev0ke: Elinor has a very unusual magical ability, and in a world where most people no longer believe in magic. How did you decide what her ability would be? And what other forms of magic are there?
RO: I knew I wanted Elinor to be able to divine jewels, as it creates wonderful opportunities for adventure and mystery. The idea of divination really appeals to me — using intuition to feel or discover things that are otherwise hidden. I’ve often experimented with listening to my own intuition, though I’ve never actually tried to find a diamond, yet!
Elinor’s ability is actually a narrower expression of a larger gift I call Discernment, which can extend to things other than jewels.
Yes, there are other types of magic in this world. it becomes apparent from fairly early on that there are in fact eight other Gifts in this particular world, including Illusion, Diplomacy, Healing, Travelling, Impacting, and Heightening (as well as Discernment). I try to allow a different type of magic come to the fore for each book in the series.
ev0ke: Humans may not necessarily believe in magic anymore, but plenty of magical beings populate Elinor’s adventures. Were there any particular beings or creatures that you absolutely wanted to include? Were there any that were surprises as the story progressed?
RO: I did really want to include vampiri, which is my own invention (as far as I know) — a miniature version of the vampire. It made sense to me that a bat shape-shifter would transform into a tiny person the size of a hand (not a fully-sized human!), and so the vampiri were born. I wanted to do something that was a twist on the usual vampire trope, hopefully in an amusing and lighthearted way. Though the vampiri still drink human blood, and fill a role much like that of the traditional ‘familiar’ associated with magic practitioners.
The selkies were a bit of a surprise. Elinor went for a walk along the Devon cliffs, and there was Jaq, who is a real reader favourite, partly because he is so handsome but also because he is a bit of a rogue. What can I say, he insisted on coming along for the adventure!
ev0ke: The Lady Diviner series is set during England’s Regency period. What draws you to that time period?
RO: I came to the Regency via Georgette Heyer, as so many do, as she was the grand dame of Regency romances. She wrote with a wit and warmth that is unparalleled, and has inspired many authors!
Heyer’s version of the Regency is very much an escapist world of wealth, elegance, and polished manners. I wanted to write novels with the same sense of pleasure, an escape from reality into a frivolous frolic.
The Regency also appeals to me as it was a time where etiquette was very important, and social mores closely guarded. The strict propriety of the gentry and aristocracy gives a great scope for a comedy of manners — and a humorous contrast with the magical antics!
Plus, the Regency must have romance, of course.
ev0ke: What sort of research goes into your writing? Large stacks of books? Hours online or at the library?
RO: All of the above! There are many wonderful online resources that cover the minutiae of the Regency period, and I have a few good research books. And I’ve spent countless hours absorbing the period details from thousands of novels. Someone has to do it.
ev0ke: The Lady Diviner series is now up to four books. How many more adventures do you have planned for Elinor and her friends? And are you planning any spin-off short stories, novellas, or series featuring other characters?
RO: I’m planning another two books in Elinor’s series — perhaps including a heist adventure for the gang. Then I have ideas for a spin-off series around a magic school, centring around the teachers rather than the students.
I have already written a side-story novella featuring Jaq (the gorgeous selkie) and Lord Beresford (the brooding earl), called The Selkie Scandal, which is an inter-novella in the series. And there is a prequel novella, A Pendant for Trouble, which you can get as a free e-book when you sign up to my newsletter list — that tells how Elinor tries to track down a mysterious jewel pendant hidden at a garden party, and becomes scandalously entangled with Lord Beresford.
I’ve had requests to write another novella for Jaq, but we’ll see!
ev0ke: What advice could you offer to writers who are hoping to publish their own work? Mistakes to avoid? Things they absolutely must do?
RO: Gosh, this is a big question! The first thing is to write the best book you possibly can, learning story structure and your craft, because whichever way you publish, the book has to please readers to succeed. Then, once you have a good book, it is a hugely competitive market, so you have to give it the best chance you can — by getting a top cover designer, a great edit, and honing your product pages to perfection. Send out lots of ARCs (Advance Review Copies), get lots of early reviews, and make sure you build a newsletter list.
Mistakes to avoid: giving up after one book. Readers are wary of trying an author who only has one book to their name. Only when I released the third book did I see the series take off. If you expect one book to succeed, you will probably be disappointed!
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
RO: The Lady Diviner series is available in e-book and paperback at all the usual online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play, as well as Book Depository and other places you order your paperbacks.
You can find book one, The Lady Jewel Diviner, here (the link will give you the option to choose your favourite online retailer). Or you can check out my website at rosalieoaks.com, and join my newsletter, and grab your free digital copy of A Pendant for Trouble, a prequel novella to the Lady Diviner series … where the magic, mystery, and romance all begins!
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
RO: The Lady Diviner series is a big enough undertaking for me for now! I have a young family, so my other projects are getting food on the table and keeping the dishes and laundry clean. Mopping the floor has been slated for later.