Using famous sources of inspiration but making your stories your own

 

Charlotte_BrentwoodWho is your favourite author? Mine changes with my mood but Charlotte Brentwood, who favoured Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery as a child, has remained a fan of Jane Austen’s since she discovered the author as a teenager. As she read, she dreamed of penning her own novels about love and self-discovery, set in a fascinating era of history when manners still mattered.

Finding her own voice

Vagabond_VicarThough inspired by her literary idol, when Charlotte began to write, she wanted to find her own voice. So, in addition to continuing to read widely, she wrote two books. It would have been deomoralising, at the time, to think of these as merely an apprenticeship, but that’s what they were, a precursor to something greater. It was only when she had the idea for her third book, The Vagabond Vicar, that she would finally begin work on a novel that would be published.

Charlotte wrote the first 40,000 words during NaNoWriMo. Problem was, she got stuck at this point, unable to progress the plot further. Instead of giving up, she took time out to think, research and create a structure for the story. This gave her the tools she needed to get the entire first draft down.

During this stage, just as she once enjoyed getting to know Jane Austen’s characters, Charlotte loved getting to know her own, discovering their pasts, living through their experiences and witnessing them falling in love.

Telling a fresh story

The Vagabond Vicar centres around William Brook, a young vicar, who feels trapped in his post in a small backwater village, and is determined to escape the country as an independent, single man. Then he meets Cecilia Grant who also has an aversion to being married, especially to the highborn gentleman her mother has in mind. However, just as it seems love may blossom between the pair, dark secrets are revealed and a scandal from William’s past may see the end of not only his career but also his chance at finding lasting love.

This historical romance takes the sweet, romantic spirit and country gentility of Jane Austen. Words like ‘countenance’ and ‘civility’ are sprinkled throughout, the setting is a village called ‘Amberley’ which rings like ‘Pemberley’there are politics among villagers, hierarchies to navigate and eligibility to explore. However, the story is told with a fresh, modern voice, crisp description and sharp dialogue. Despite the occasional repetition and cliché, the prose is compelling and Charlotte has made this period in history her own. There’s no steam but plenty of tension and innocent charm. Rather refreshing these days!

Sharing her characters with the world

To help Charlotte improve and polish The Vagabond Vicar, she joined a local romance writers’ group, hooked up with critique partners and formed relationships with beta readers. They spurred her on.

When she felt ready, Charlotte queried agents. Though many read the full manuscript and their feedback was encouraging, they weren’t sure it could be marketed to publishers. However, the agents’ words fuelled her belief in her story and she decided to forge on as an indie author. Once she’d published The Vagabond Vicar, she reached out to bloggers and reviewers to whom she thought readers of her genre may listen.

The majority of her early readers gave lovely feedback and great reviews. Many more have been in touch with her since to let her know they’ve enjoyed it too. Though getting published has given Charlotte an amazing sense of achievement, it’s these messages from readers that tops it all.

Charlotte is currently working on two books to follow The Vagabond Vicar, the main characters central to their plots. Progress is excusably slow though as romance has come into Charlotte’s own life and she’s currently planning her wedding.

You can do it too

Charlotte has received much encouragement during her journey to publication and the best advice she has picked up along the way is:

  • If you want to get published, there’s nothing stopping you, so go for it! Don’t let the traditional publishing machine be in charge of your destiny.
  • Go in with your eyes wide open. It’s a lot of work, from edits through to design and formatting. Be discerning when it comes to changes suggested by others – you need to trust your own voice and don’t change things if it doesn’t feel right.
  • Work with experts when you need to, but make sure you do what you want – it’s your book!

The Vagabond Vicar is available on Amazon in the UK and US as well as other bookstores. You can also discover more about Charlotte on her website here.

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  • author's avatar

    By: Loretta Milan

    Loretta Milan is the founder of Literary Lightbox. She works as a professional writer and is working on a psychological thriller. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and Curtis Brown Creative’s three-month novel writing programme. Her writing is fuelled by liquorice and marshmallows.

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