Please welcome Sarah Baughman to my blog today. Find out what inspires this author of Regency-era romance. Thanks, Sarah, for visiting today!
By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?
Sarah Baughman — I first wrote a “book” in third grade, when we were supposed to write a story, which we then copied into a blank picture book. We were supposed to write ten pages, but I, being the overachiever that I was, wrote thirty and broken them into several chapters. It was called The Day Sara Went Back In Time; my mother recently dug it out of storage in their basement and sent it to me. Later, in middle and high school, I was always writing something or other. Even then, I favored historical fiction. My writing took an academic turn in college, but a few years after my husband and I married, we had our first child and I began writing fiction again. That’s when my Regency Silhouettes series was born.
BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?
Sarah — My parents have always been supportive, but I think that there’s some level of “They’re my parents; they have to think I write well” involved in my thinking there. I’m not naturally a confident person, and it’s taken me some time to be able to say, “I do _____ well.” On some level, even now, I have to talk myself into being courageous enough to put myself out there. I’ve had many excellent teachers through the years who encouraged my writing, from elementary all the way through college. It is difficult to name just one, but my middle school advanced placement teacher, who later was also my creative writing teacher in high school, was probably the most influential and encouraging. She always gave me honest, encouraging feedback, and really helped me begin to believe that I wrote well. Several years ago, I met a friend who has really become my sounding board and so much more for my writing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s also an encourager in my personal life, in my faith, and in so many ways. And I pray that I’m the same for her. She was the first to read my current books, and I know I can always count on her for honest feedback. I also have to mention my husband. He’s never read my books (He picked up my proof copy of Penelope’s Hope and read the first few lines, then immediately put it back down. He’s more of a Harry Turtledove or Star Trek reader, and he teaches Ancient History at the college level. Regency Romance isn’t his genre of choice. But he’s always been nothing but encouraging, even in the face of the large financial commitment self-publishing demands. He believes in me, and knowing that he wouldn’t enjoy my books really grounds me and gives me a healthy perspective in this: not everyone will like my books, and that’s just fine. I know I have a narrow readership by choosing this genre, but I love it, and enjoy writing it, and if I can touch just a few lives, it is worth it.
BTB — Your novel, Penelopeʼs Hope, contains a strong Christian message. Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?
Sarah — I love that you term it “faith threads” . . . it describes beautifully how I see our lives, and how I want my books to reflect life in a fictional setting. I’m a sew-er. I love to sew, it’s a creative release for me, and I love using my hands and my mind in tandem to create something. I’d love to take up weaving, but quite frankly, I don’t have the time or the space. Our lives are woven together by the Master Weaver, created with a specific pattern in mind, sharing threads with other people we meet. Sometimes some threads have to be cut or ripped out, sometimes new threads are woven in, but it’s all part of the same fabric that makes us who we are. My faith is a constant part of my life, and one that I am so very grateful to have been given by the Master Weaver (God, if you haven’t picked up on that 😉 ). It colors all I do, and without it, the fabric of my life would look a lot different. However, it isn’t the only thread in there. There’s compassion and patience, impatience with my children at times, insecurities and uncertainty and unwavering holding to the cross of Christ. Not all the threads are ones I want, and some I wish were stronger. But they make up me. And as my life goes on, and God continues to weave my life together, those threads change and strengthen or weaken, and He continues to make me into the woman He would have me be.
Now, as to my writing. I know that my life isn’t perfect. I don’t trust as I should, I know my failings and struggle against them. However, I also know that I’m a continual work in progress. And that’s what I really want to show in my writing. No one is made perfect on this earth; we will always struggle with sin until we are made new in the New Creation. It’s hugely important to me that my characters are working on things, are struggling with pet sins or with their understanding of who God is and what His heart looks like. Because we all are. But by His grace, He uses the experiences and hardships we face to reveal to us more and more of who He is.
BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?
Sarah — I want to be more formal in my writing schedule. During this season of my life, though, that isn’t possible. I’m a mom of four, the eldest of whom was received into our family last (he’s a cousin of my husband), and therefore requires a good deal of emotional energy to help adjust to life in our family after the death of his mother. It’s been almost five years, but the struggle is still real. Add into that my part-time job at the preschool where my youngest attends, and the involvement of both my husband and myself in our church’s activities, and I really just don’t have time to write every day. Some semesters, my husband doesn’t teach at a time that I’m not working, and he will often stay home from his office in the history department of the university he teaches at, allowing me to go to a coffee shop and write. I also have a friend with a son close to the same age as my youngest, and we will trade boys twice a week; this also gives me some time. So, I carve out time when I can.
BTB — Penelopeʼs Hope is a Regency-era romance. Why did you choose this genre? What challenges did you have in creating the “flavor” of this era?
Sarah — I’ve loved Jane Austen’s novels for a long time, and what could be more fun than writing something taking place in her lifetime? As I started researching the era, and learning about other books set during the period, I also discovered the Regency Romance. I sometimes find it strange that I began writing it without realizing there was an entire sub-genre of this time period. Once I learned of the era, and discovered Georgette Heyer, the mother of the Regency Romance, I started reading several of her books, as well as some others (Linore Burkard, Julie Klassen) as a means of getting a feel for the genre, as well as rereading some of Austen’s work. Once I had my own plotline and faith-story-arcs, I began researching the historical era. It’s a fascinating time, filled with incredible social disparity, an off-kilter moral compass in much of society (and Society), and a culture on the brink of change. Add into this the Napoleonic Wars, which caused a great deal of loss to people personally, as the wars demanded the lives of men called to battle as well as the dedication of resources that reduced the standard of living for many. Granted, the upper classes’ reduction was proportionally lower than others’, but none remained unaffected. My biggest challenge in writing the flavor of this genre was keeping it once I found it. With my busy schedule, there were times that I didn’t write for days. Coming back to the story after such an absence was difficult. Once I found ways to be sure that I wrote nearly every day, it was much easier to keep.
BTB — What kinds of research did you do for this book?
Sarah — Aside from the questions of “What was happening in London, in England, and in the world during the months when this took place?” and “What did people wear during this time period?”, I needed to learn about painting during that time. Ready-made canvases in packs of two and airtight seals on tubes of paint were not really available. Sure, some artists would be able to purchase canvases already stretched, and possibly pay someone to mix their paints. But for Penelope, who was on a very tight budget, it was necessary to know how she would mix paints, what surfaces she would paint, and the like. In creating the character of the Invisible Painter, I also needed to consider how a professional artist would conduct business—especially if he (or she) wished to remain anonymous!
BTB — What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing your novel?
Sarah — I had to take a breath and think a moment before answering this one. It’s been interesting reading the reviews left or the emails readers have sent me, and seeing all of the different things they take away. I think before publishing, I would have said I wanted them to take away a sense of hope, even in the darkest of circumstances. However, now that I’ve seen that different readers take different things, most likely dependent on the different seasons of life they are in – seasons of want or plenty; seasons of confidence or uncertainty; seasons of hope or sadness or peace or turmoil – I want them to take whatever God speaks to their hearts.
BTB — Penelopeʼs Hope is the first book in a series? When can readers expect to read book 2 and can you give us a little sneak peek of the novel?
Sarah — Yes, Penelope’s Hope was started after I had already written most of Book Two, entitled Violet’s Daybreak. Each book in the series will focus on different characters, but they are all connected to one another by family or friendly ties. The release date for Violet’s Daybreak is May 1st. The final edits are being implemented, the cover photos are taken, and the cover reveal is scheduled for April 1st.
BTB — What would you like to share about your personal life?
Sarah — My personal life is pretty open. It’s busy, and so full of blessings and challenges and happiness and so much more. I believe I mentioned before that my husband and I have a large family; we were married almost thirteen years ago, and have since been blessed with three children by birth, as well as the custody of one of my husband’s cousins when the child’s mother passed away. My husband teaches ancient history, focusing on the Roman Empire and the early Christians. Our firstborn is ten now, and loves drawing, painting, sculpting . . . anything art-related. She was part of my inspiration for that aspect of Penelope’s Hope. Our second-born, a seven-year-old boy, is into all things train. He loves having fun with his siblings and can be a stinker one minute and the sweetest thing the next. I was about five or six months pregnant when we received custody of our now-eldest. He’s almost fifteen now and enjoys playing baritone in band and poring over maps and books of geography. Our youngest is a four-year-old bundle of energy who loves art and sports, trains and building, maps and jokes. I love seeing how he imitates his elder siblings (most of the time I love it, anyway) while still maintaining his own unique personality. Besides working part-time at the preschool and caring for my family as best I can, my husband and I both are very active at our church, both in the Sunday School and the College Ministry. Life is a bit hectic at times, but I really love how full it is. I know someday I’ll miss the craziness my kids bring to my life, so I’m doing my best to enjoy it and roll with it while I can. God is certainly good through it all.
Thanks so much, Sarah, for sharing with us today!
Sarah Baughman grew up in Ohio and received her Bachelor’s degree from Concordia University Chicago. She was married after college, and has lived in Missouri, Michigan, and Alabama before moving to Texas. Along the way, she and her husband had three wonderful children and received guardianship of a fourth. Besides writing, she enjoys volunteering at church, sewing historic clothing, and spending time with her family.
Having written stories almost since picking up her first pencil as a child, Sarah is thrilled to be publishing her first novel, Penelope’s Hope. Look for the release of Violet’s Daybreak, the second installment of the Regency Silhouettes series in the winter of 2015-2016. It is her prayer that her writing will uplift and encourage her readers while also giving glory to God.