Letters, Missives, Epistolaries . . . You’ve Got Mail!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Today she tells the story behind the story of her latest historical fiction novel, Dear Heart: The Courting Letters. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults.


Dear Heart: The Courting Letters

Dear HeartA trip to my mailbox these days might yield bills, ads, and the usual collection of junk mail.  The sight of a handwritten letter nestled in the pile delights me. It was not always so. More than a century ago, letters and illustrated postcards were the main ways people communicated, be they friends, relations, or lovers. Phones were an expensive luxury.

Almost twenty years ago, when I discovered an antique writing box filled with courting letters from 1909-1910, even a cursory reading had me hooked.  Here were two people, Gertie and Fred, courting (a.k.a. dating, getting to know one another) via the written word and little packages they sent to each other. Separated between Ipswich, England, and St. Paul, Minnesota, a letter took ten days one way by train and ship. No instant communication was possible! The letter sent was usually not the one answered. I knew there was a story here, and it never let me alone.

I began by transcribing the letters. Fred wrote sixteen-page letters single-spaced. Gertie’s handwriting was creative, often spilling over onto play programs and church bulletins.

At my daughter Kirsten’s suggestion, I interwove a fictional modern couple’s story to add contrast. I chose 2010 in Chicago and Spain as the setting. Some elements—emotions, needs, hurdles, obstacles—are universal. But most young people in love today don’t write letters.  Multiple other vehicles for communication exist. The restraints that existed in 1910 have softened, but not disappeared entirely.

My research entailed digging deeper into the historical events mentioned in the letters and in the two eras.

I purposely highlighted the contrasts between the two stories—modes of communication, technology, transportation, dissemination of information, fashions, speech. One of the most interesting contrasts involved women’s rights and freedoms.

My modern heroine, Lisa, despite her troubles in the dating world, has the freedom make choices, to be an independent woman. My 1909-10 heroine, Gertie, though she admires the suffragettes, hesitates to tell Fred her true feelings; people criticize her for refusing to marry someone else she doesn’t love.

A peek at Lisa: “With the click of computer keys, the Internet made it possible to communicate with more than one person at a time. Lisa crawled into bed and clicked off the lamp. I’m just one small soup can on a grocery soup aisle filled with an array of brands. Why pick me?

A peek at Gertie: “Men had the best of it. Women, relegated to loving someone, but not showing it, must wait to put their true feelings into words until asked to be someone’s wife.” At another point, Mr. Jones, who rents a room from Gertie and fancies her, is off to a men’s-only meeting at church. Gertie writes, “How I wish I were a man.”

My vision for this book included illustrations. So I enlisted my artistically/graphically talented daughter Kirsten to turn photos, paintings, postcards, luggage tags, and letters into 27 vivid chapter openers and 17 interior illustrations.

Writer Wallace Stegner once said, “Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.”

So in Dear Heart: The Courting Letters, I attended to the lives of these two real people and invented two other fictional ones. Of the twenty-two books I’ve written, this one is close to my heart.

I hope readers will become as fascinated with history as I am and be inspired to listen to their hearts and persevere despite obstacles.

Persistence is the key to writing success. If an idea won’t let you alone, then follow it. Learn about the craft, research, revise, and read. Above all, write what you love!

Dear Heart is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and bookstores.

Visit Judith at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.



So You Want to Write Romance: Hybrid authors will share their publishing journeys

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
HeraHubLogoHera Hub, a spa-inspired coworking space for entrepreneurial women, will host an Authors’ Salon featuring two Southern California romance writers discussing their paths to publishing. Through eFrog Press I have had the opportunity to meet many authors and helped select the speakers and will lead the panel discussion on writing process, publishing, and marketing.  Details: Tuesday, October 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Carlsbad. Register online at http://tinyurl.com/authorsalon. Can’t attend? A follow-up blog will share their wisdom.


There are so many ways to get published in 2015. Jan Moran and Judith Lown have published  traditionally as well as indie. Both also write romance but Moran writes historical and contemporary fiction and Lown focuses on the Regency Period. Both know how to write a compelling tale that keeps their readers turning the pages. They will be featured speakers at the October Authors’ Salon on writing and publishing romance (see details above).

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran_medMoran will talk about her historical novel, Scent of Triumph (St. Martin’s Press). A very long plane trip to Paris seemed much shorter as I read the ebook edition. I began to understand so much more about the perfume industry that, of course, I had to purchase a very special new scent. I was in Paris after all! As Moran said:

“I write stylish books for smart women. My characters are often running a business, and juggling their love life and family responsibilities. Like real people, they make mistakes, but they always save themselves in a creative manner. In both my contemporary and historical novels, I write for the modern woman who wants to enjoy all life has to offer.”

Much like her characters, Moran draws on her international travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic details. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway) and nonfiction books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). I enjoyed Moran’s presentation at the SDSU Writers’ Conference in San Diego and invited her to be part of the Authors’ Salon. She also presented at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) earlier this year.

Judith Lown began reading historical Regency romance during a stressful time in her life when she was a social worker helping disintegrating families. She needed to escape during her free time, and began reading historical Regencies. Lown said:

“This genre was created by Georgette Heyer and her Regencies were marked by heroines of taste and courage and heroes who could more than hold their own with ladies who knew their own minds. Heyer despised sentimentality, cowardice, and both mindless conformity on one hand, and self-indulgent non-conformity on the other.”

BostonTanglefinal10.11.2015_medIn her newest title, Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America, Lown transports three of her English characters from previous books to Boston where they interact with the upper class and, of course, there is a love story—a tangled tale. Lown’s heroine Drusilla Fortesque is a lady who knows her own mind and Lown laces her writing with wry wit and avoids sappiness. Heyer would be proud.

Judith Lown has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and her understanding of family systems theory helps her develop rich, character-driven plots. She is a dog lover and an active volunteer for the Greyhound Adoption Center which has inspired her to include a canine character in each of her novels.

During the panel discussion, authors will share their writing process (very different), their publishing paths, and advice to aspiring authors. If you do not live in San Diego County and cannot attend this stimulating evening (did I mention wine and dessert?), watch for a follow-up blog where I will share all their practical advice!

Georgette Heyer: What Makes An Incomparable?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Judith LownJudith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog. Today she pays tribute to Georgette Heyer during the week of her birthday. Note that A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance will be free to download from Amazon on August 16, Heyer’s birthday.

Georgette Heyer:  What Makes An Incomparable?

Geogette HeyerGeorgette Heyer might not have been the first writer to use Incomparable to designate a lady whose beauty is sufficiently compelling to thaw the hearts of icy Lords, turn erstwhile warriors into babysitters, or, most importantly, transform notorious rakes into faithful, monogamous husbands.  However, she can be credited with establishing the Incomparable as a fixture of the Regency Romance, just as she established the Regency as a staple among romance novels.

But of all the Incomparables brought to life by Heyer, none is as deserving of the title as she is, herself.  No.  She was not a great beauty.  No. She did not have a dashing career as the most sought-after debutante.  She did not even participate in a London Season. Indeed, before she was of an age to do so, she was writing her first novel, The Black Moth, in order to entertain her seriously ill brother. All the same, she well earns the title Incomparable.


Founder of a Literary Genre

Who else founded a literary genre?  Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Louis L’Amour?  The list is short.

What other writer whose career extended from 1921 to 1974 has her own Amazon page with audio, paperback and e-editions available—all with 4+ star ratings?

What is it about Heyer’s novels that set them apart from so many other historical novels that have their time of popularity and then fade? The answer, I believe, is that Georgette Heyer, while wholly absorbed in the mores and fashions of a specific time in history, had a keen eye for ageless human foibles and eternal human values.


Heyer’s Era

Think about what was happening in England and the world during Heyer’s writing career. It began just after World War I had concluded, which left behind widows, orphans and single young women whose chances for marriage and family had died in the trenches of Normandy.  The Ottoman Empire was collapsing.  Armenians were the victims of genocide.  Maimed and shell-shocked veterans were struggling to find their bearings in civilian society. Then came the worldwide Depression.  Fascism, Nazism, and Communism gained adherents.

World War II consumed the ‘40’s.  Heyer’s beloved London barely survived the Blitz.

And when the war ended Britain withdrew from its Empire and experienced the longest period of food rationing of any country following the war.

Then there was the Cold War and the specter of a nuclear holocaust.

When Heyer died in 1974, long held social customs were being abandoned, and it was not at all clear that The West would win the Cold War.


Author wonders, do you read for character, plot, or setting?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Judith LownJudith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog.

A perennial question for readers is: Do you read for character, plot, or setting?  Of course, this is an artificial choice. Most of us read for all three—or at least we don’t want a major disappointment in any of these three elements.

But, in a romance novel, plot and setting will not compensate for undifferentiated or unconvincing characters. The plot, after all, is already known: Man meets woman.  Man loses woman/Woman loses man. Man and woman find each other. Even if this plot plays out in an engrossing setting, it still will fall flat if there is not something unique about this particular man and this particular woman. If the plot is satisfying, much of it will be the natural playing out of the character and motivations of this man and this woman.

Do writers create or discover their characters? I’m not sure. I do know that characters won’t be shy about telling a writer what they will or will not do. Lady Constance actually let me know that she was quite worried that I was the one who was writing her story. She wasn’t at all certain that I was up to the task.


The Roots of Regency Romance: A primer for authors

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Judith Lown is the author of A Match for Lady Constance (Avalon) and A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance (eFrog Press). She is hard at work on a sequel but still makes time to blog.

Judith LownThe first Regency Romances weren’t historical; they were contemporary fiction written by Jane Austen.  But her work established critical standards that are still used to evaluate romantic fiction today—200 years after she wrote.  Any literate female who reads English will be able to tell you when she first read an Austen novel and which is her favorite.

The first historical Regency Romances were written by Georgette Heyer from 1934-1972. It was Heyer who introduced the ton—London’s most select society—to fiction readers.  And her unique perspective on what makes a lady admirable and what makes a gentleman honorable is the yardstick by which connoisseurs of traditional Regencies still measure Regency Romance writers.


So You Want To Write A Regency Romance?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Judith Lown

Judith Lown

No problem.

Dress some ladies in high-waisted, low-necked gowns with narrow skirts and puffed sleeves. Have them say “lud.” Be sure that the heroine is a) a saucy miss, b) pluck to the backbone, c) a minx.  Her best friend has “more hair than wit.”

Gentlemen must wear high shirt points with elaborately folded neck cloths, coats, and inexepressibles molded to reveal all masculine attributes. The hero may or may not be titled, but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

Mix all ingredients in London’s Mayfair, a stately country home, an idyllic village—or any combination thereof.

Voilà, you have a Regency Romance!

Not. So. Fast. (more…)