Launch: Catherine Kullmann’s A Comfortable Alliance
INTERVIEW BY M.N. STROH
Catherine Kullman was born and educated in Dublin, Ireland and is the author of The Murmur of Masks, Perception & Illusion, A Suggestion of Scandal, The Duke’s Regret, and The Potential for Love. Her latest book, A Comfortable Alliance, was released on March 25, 2021 and will soon be available on Kindle Unlimited.
Using the classic ‘elevator pitch’ how would you describe your book’s premise in two sentences?
Will knows nothing about love; Helena has sworn never to love again. They agree on A Comfortable Alliance—a convenient marriage with benefits—but what if love disrupts it?
Is this novel a stand-alone, or part of a series?
It is stand-alone although set in the same world as my other novels and some minor characters from previous ones reappear here.
Is there something about this particular setting and period that first attracted you to create a novel in this time?
I find the extended Regency period from, say, 1795—the year of the later Prince Regent’s marriage—to 1830, the year of his death as George IV—absolutely fascinating. The events of this period include the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the twelve years of war that ended in the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, all of which continue to shape our modern world.
At the same time that the ruling aristocracies were being challenged by those who saw the need for social and political reform, the industrial revolution, which led to the transfer of wealth to the manufacturing and merchant classes, was underway. Powerful voices demanded the abolition of the slave trade. Women, who had few or no rights in a patriarchal society, began to raise their voices, demanding equality and emancipation. Still very much the age of sail, and of the horse, it was also the dawn of the age of steam. Within twenty years, railways began to transform both the landscape and society.
I also love the music, literature, art and architecture of that time, the fashion—between hoops and crinolines—is still very wearable today, and indeed the Empire line is revived regularly.
What challenges did you face when researching for your novel? Did you discover something so irresistible that you had to include it in your story?
Although it is set in 1821/22, Helena was in Brussels during the battle of Waterloo and is still traumatised by the events of that time which she relives in a flashback. Fortunately, there is a wealth of contemporary journals and other accounts of those uncertain days to draw upon. The most irresistible event was the coronation of George IV. I would have loved to go to town on it, it was so over the top, but had to content myself with including little nuggets in conversation as a detailed description would have stalled the momentum of the story.
The Wassail scene at Rastleigh came to me completely unbidden. I woke one morning with it fully-fledged in my mind and wrote it there and then although I was nowhere near that part of the story and had to work out how to fit it in.
Which character challenged you the most?
Helena who is twenty-five and lives in the country where everyone accepts that she has no wish to marry. As she is expert in avoiding or diverting any eligible gentlemen who might cross her path, Will has to find a way past her guard and convince her to consider marriage to him. Her change of mind had to be both gradual and plausible. Having changed her mind, the question is will she change her heart?
Has your occupation or any life experiences helped you infuse a sense of realism in your story?
I drew on my own experiences for the change marriage meant for Helena. I am over seventy, and the world I grew up in was in many ways more similar to the Regency world than to that of the twenty-first century. My late husband was German. We corresponded for three years before we married, seeing each other only for a couple of weeks at a time during that period. We only got to know one another on a day-to-day basis after the wedding when I went to live in Germany where initially I was dependent on my husband until I got a job. Fortunately, I did not have to deal with coverture, as Helena does, but it was easy for me to step into her shoes and to imagine how displaced she might have felt.
What first inspired you to write historical fiction?
I think the past informs and inspires the present. I love the research, discovering the trivia and minutiae of daily living which enable me to bring my era to life. Historical fiction takes us out of ourselves—transports us to an unfamiliar society recreated partly from familiar facts and partly from a myriad of tiny, new details so that it seems as real to us as our world of today. The setting rings true and the characters’ actions are determined by the laws, morals, and customs of their time, not ours. Sometimes this horrifies us; at other times we find it liberating and long for more romantic, more adventurous, perhaps simpler bygone days.
With history becoming more and more of a niche subject at schools and universities, it is historical fiction that offers readers a connection to the past, a past which, as mentioned above, casts long shadows.
Do you have future projects in the works?
I keep a notebook full of ideas and possible plots. I have just started a sequel to my third novel, A Suggestion of Scandal. I don’t know yet what the title will be—that usually comes to me during the writing of the book when the underlying theme begins to crystallise.
What is the last great book you read?
The Year the Swans Came by Barbara Spencer.
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