Renee Dahlia is a debut historical romance author in 2017. Her book, To Charm a Bluestocking, came out in March, and is set in Amsterdam in 1887.
Welcome, Renee! Please tell us a little about yourself.
Q1. Tell us a little about yourself and where you live.
Officially, I am “an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour.” I live in the inner west of Sydney, in a little Federation cottage, with my family. I balance family, my day job in the horse racing industry, writing, and volunteering at the local cricket club. And somewhere in there, I still find time to read a couple of books a week.
Q2. How long have you been writing and when were you first published?
I started writing about a decade ago *squints at a calendar* when a magazine asked me to write some statistically based articles for the horse racing industry. It began a long series of myth-busting articles, and unwittingly put me on a new path away from data analysis and towards writing. Several years ago, I was asked to write a semi-autobiographical book for a bookmaker. Thankfully he paid me for my efforts, as it remains unpublished while he determines if he wants his story cast back into the spotlight. The process of this project allowed me to wonder if perhaps I might be able to write a novel. It took me four months to write a first draft of To Charm a Bluestocking. Over the following nine months, I joined Romance Writers Australia, did all the OWLS, and edited that first draft into a version that I hoped would appeal to a publisher. I pitched the book at the RWA conference in August 2016, and Escape Publishing said yes. They published it in March 2017. In April 2017, To Charm a Bluestocking was ranked second on the Booktopia New Releases in Romance – so this has been a whirlwind ride!
Q3. What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the edits for the sequel to my debut novel. Escape has requested that I slow down the pacing in the first few chapters, so once again, I’ve been madly learning about new techniques, and applying them to my book. This one, In Pursuit of a Bluestocking, is the story of Marie’s journey towards love and learning to value herself.
I’ve also started to outline the third book in the series, and am about one third into the first (ugly) draft. Tentatively called The Bravest Bluestocking, or maybe, A Bluestocking Takes on the World, this story is about feisty, strong Claire.
Q4. How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Historical romance has grown away from the Regency period in England, and now covers a wider range of history, including some wonderful Australian historical writers. My Bluestockings series is set in the late Victorian era, with plenty of train travel, steam boats, telegrams, and the brand new technology, electricity. I chose this era because it aligned with the real history that inspired this series. The Victorian era was a time of great social and scientific upheaval, and these changes are fascinating. It allows for heroines who can realistically be closer to a contemporary heroine, but with all the fantasy of history (and beautiful gowns).
Q5. What inspired you to write your latest novel?
The Bluestocking series is about three women who graduate from medical school in Amsterdam. The series is inspired by my great-grandmother, Dr Caroline d’Ancona, who is a real life heroine that graduated as a doctor in Holland. I wrote about her here: http://www.reneedahlia.com/2017/04/02/the-real-josephine-who-inspired-to-charm-a-bluestocking/
Q6. Which authors do you like to read?
How do you pick? I adore Courtney Milan, who writes in the mid-Victorian era as well as contemporaries. I’ve recently enjoyed books by Victoria Dahl, Eva Leigh, Tessa Dare, Lisa Kleypas, Alyssa Cole, Beverly Jenkins, and Anne Gracie.
Q7. What is the nicest thing a reviewer has ever said about one of your books?
“This book not only tells of the female struggles for an education, equality and acceptance, but Josephine’s struggle with her budding attraction for Nicholas. Filled with intrigue, and villains who would stoop at nothing to get their way. This book has been an eye opener and an interesting read.”
Q8. Are you a full-time writer? If not, how do you juggle work and writing?
I wish! Life is a crazy juggle, however, I do have two days a week where I work from home. In the winter, my horse racing work slows down, and I have more time to dedicate to writing novels. And in the summer, I spend most of my weekends watching my kids play cricket, so I enjoy the summer sun while bashing out words on my laptop.
Blurb for To Charm a Bluestocking:
Tagline: She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.
1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.
But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.
Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.