A Matter of Class - Q and A with NYTimes Best Selling Author Mary Balogh

by Jennifer Haymore:

We're giving away 5 COPIES of Mary Balogh's A Matter of Class

Read on...

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of over fifty historical romance novels, including the acclaimed Simply and Slightly
series and the current
Huxtable Quintet, of which the final installment is due out in May of this year. 

I started reading Mary's books recently, and she has become one of my career role models. Not only does she continue to engage her
readers in magnificent stories with fresh twists, she has a matter-of-fact approach to this profession that I am trying to learn to emulate. 

I'm thrilled for the opportunity to interview her today!

Welcome Mary Balogh!

Can you tell us about your current release, A Matter of Class?

It's a long novella I wrote for Vanguard Press. Novellas are my favorite type of writing as it always seems to me that they are all beginning and end with none of the troublesome middle. I had fun with this one though it was a challenge. I usually get deep inside the heads of my characters, but the nature of the plot prevented me from doing it this time. I had great fun with the story anyway.

I have read A Matter of Class and thought it was a truly delightful story. How did you breathe such a refreshing air into the tried-and-true storyline of two feuding families from different classes?

There really is no new plot idea in the world. There are only old plots that are so well written in one way or another that they seem new. I hope this is what happens in A MATTER OF CLASS. Character and the development of a relationship are always far more important to me than any other aspect of a story. I try to create characters and relationships that are as unique and unpredictable as real life. And so every story is different from any other even if there are similarities.

A Matter of Class has an absolutely beautiful cover. Can you tell me how that cover came to be and whether you had any input into it?

While I was still writing the story, Vanguard sent me two very different cover suggestions. I chose the one that seemed the more romantic to me though the other was more striking. And then gradually Vanguard worked on my choice, turning the lady so that she was facing out rather than in, dressing her in Regency style rather than in a generic sort of historical costume, and making the background and overall coloring really bring out the aura of romance. Even then they asked my opinion of two versions of the final cover. The result, I agree, is absolutely gorgeous. It is my all-time favorite cover—and I refer not just to my books!

I love the hero of A Matter of Class, Reginald Mason. He’s flawed but heroic, rakish yet gentlemanly, and at the end, I truly believe he loves his heroine and will live happily ever after with her. I also adored Stephen Huxtable in Seducing An Angel, the last of your books I read before this one. Stephen had a powerful sense of honor that just made me melt. How do you come up with your heroes? Do you ever use real-life heroes or actors for inspiration when you’re dreaming up your heroes?

My characters and plots come from my imagination. I am a word person rather than a visual one. I couldn't possibly draw a hero from a real person, certainly not an actor. I dream up the type of man needed for the very sketchy image I have of the story I want to write, and then I dig deep, finding out who he is right through to the level of his soul, and particularly where his deepest vulnerability or pain is. It's a slow process. Often I am well into a story before I know him thoroughly enough to make him into a real, vibrantly alive hero.

Do you ever wish you could go back and change an element of a story that’s already in print?

Yes, often. I work on a manuscript and change and revise it over and over again before I am satisfied enough with it to send it in. I never send it in until I reach that stage. But inevitably I often wish I could go back in and give the story another go-around. And sometimes I discover that I have made an actual factual error in a book when it is too late to correct it. That is really bothersome.

Do you ever want to go back to a finished series and continue the stories?

Well… I wrote the six part Bedwyn series (the SLIGHTLY books) and then wrote a spinoff quartet, the SIMPLY BOOKS. And there is still a book connected with them to come. The only thing I won't do, though several readers ask for it, is write stories for the next generation of any book or series. I like to leave readers with the illusion that my characters are frozen in time at the end of my books and will be eternally young and happy. If I told the stories of their children, I would have to show them as older people. Also since my stories are set in Regency England, the next generation would be in the Victorian era, not my favorite.

I read on your website that you’re a voracious reader, and Georgette Heyer was one of your role models for writing Regency Romance. Who are some of your other favorite romance authors?

Actually I read very little romance. It is too like what I do for a living. And I am always terrified of unconsciously plagiarizing or at least being influenced by trends. I am not a bandwagon writer and don't want to be. However, I do read most of what Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes, and I love Debbie Macomber's women's literature books as opposed to her straight romances. There are others whom I enjoy and admire but don't read often. Nora Roberts, for example.

You were born and raised in Wales. Do you think your heritage serves to make you a better writer of books set in the UK?

Oh, very definitely. Research is all very well, and actually I am very impressed with the British historicals that many American writers write. However, I do feel that voice is of crucial importance to a writer, and my voice is  authentically British. I don't have to work on it. Even though I have lived in Canada for longer than forty years, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing a book that required a North American voice.

Have you ever considered writing in a different genre?

No. I have a romantic outlook on life. I am not just talking about romantic love now. I mean that I am an optimist. I believe in love and happiness and goodness and a whole host of other positive things despite what the media almost overwhelmingly would have us believe. I couldn't possibly write a book that did not have a happy ending and concentrate upon love in all its many facets.

After writing so many books set in the same period, do you have all the knowledge you need, or do you still spend time researching certain elements of your books?

I don't do any formal research any longer, and frankly I avoid any ideas that might necessitate more! However, one never knows it all, and I am always picking up little details that I did not know before.

Do you listen to music when you write? Do you have a “soundtrack” for each of your books or specific “writing music” you like to listen to?

Sometimes I think it would be nice to work to music—adding atmosphere and all that. Then I carefully select music that is soothing or meditative or romantic, and I put on the CD. Usually about an hour and half later I think to myself, "Oh, what happened to the music?" only to realize it must have finished an hour ago. In other words, when I write I disappear so thoroughly into my imagination I don't hear anything outside it.

You have three children—so do I—and started writing when your kids were young. How have you successfully built a writing career around a growing and busy family?

They are all grown and long gone by now. When I started, I was a school principal and teacher, and I had children ranging in age from six to twelve. Writing—I wrote my first five books longhand and then typed them into an old typewriter—was my way of relaxing at mid-evening when everything else was done. It was my hobby, I suppose.

After so many wonderful books, how do you keep your ideas fresh?

People are endlessly original. Everyone is different.  No two characters are the same, and their reactions to what happens are unique to themselves. So even if I use plot ideas that I have used before and create characters who are in many ways similar to others I have used in other books, they will actually react in a quite unique way to what happens in their story and to the other characters with whom they will interact.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block or wondered where you’ll get your next idea? Where do your ideas come from?

I don't believe in writer's block, not for myself anyway. I only believe in mental laziness. Every day when I sit down to write I do not know where to start and my mind is buzzing with thoughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with what I am writing. It would be very easy to tell myself that I have writer's block and go off to do something else until inspiration struck. But it never would. When I sit down, I first try to focus in and then I try to get back inside the book I am writing. Where do the ideas come from? That I cannot answer, but I do know that they are always there when I need them.

What is your writing process? How long does it take you to write a book?

I treat writing as a job (which it is!). I work regular hours, usually first thing in the morning and write until I have written the daily quota. It usually takes me three to four moths to write a book.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write. I know that many beginning writers spend a great deal of time reading how-to books, attending conferences and conventions, listening to writers' groups and critiquing partners. These things are all very well for someone who feels he/she cannot go it alone, but sooner or later every writer has to write and produce a book. I always advise aspiring writers to shut themselves in a room at home and not come out until they have produced the book that is within them.

I’m so excited about your upcoming finale to the Huxtable Series, A Secret Affair, Constantine’s story. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect?

Well, readers know from the other four books in the series that Constantine has been accused of theft and debauchery—and has not denied the charges. Readers know that he has a home and estate in Gloucestershire, but no one knows anything about it or, more to the point, how he could afford to buy it. And readers know that he spends each spring in London for the Season and usually has an affair with a widow of the upper classes—a different woman each year. The heroine in his book is the woman who wants the position for this particular spring! And of course all the mystery surrounding Con is cleared away during the course of the book. And—surprise, surprise!—it turns out that he really is a hero, not a villain.

I’ve read that you believe A Secret Affair is among your best books. That gives me chills! Why do you think it’s one of your best?

The hero and heroine are very well matched, I think, and both are strong-willed, passionate individuals and just brimming over with secrets. In fact, the title refers more to those secrets than to the fact that their love affair is kept secret from the ton.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today!

Thank you! It has been a pleasure.


The first five people to leave a comment here will win a copy of Mary Balogh's "A Matter of Class".  Contest open to North American residents only.  Thank you!


  1. Awesome interview! Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors and it was great reading her take on writing and her books. Thanks!!

  2. I love this interview - it was really great to read about how Mary Balogh sees her booking writing, her personality and how she chooses her covers :)

  3. wow hope this means I can win a copy..you said the first 5 and I am 3th. I love the sounds of these books and sure would like to try one . Mary's personality reflexes in her books and I can tell she enjoys what she does just by hearing about her books. susan L.

  4. I already commented but forgot to say one things to Mary. Your idea of romance is same as mine and maybe that is why my hubby and I will share 47 years of wedded bliss this coming June. ha ha susan L.

  5. Mary, I am such a fan. I love your books, your characters and your voice. Keep them coming. I can't wait to read A Secret Affair. I just cleaned out my bookshelves and have boxes of books to donate, but not a single Mary Balogh book made it into the boxes. I just couldn't give them up. :) Keep 'em coming is all I can say!

  6. Awesome Interview!! I am going to pick up some of her books when i go to the store! :)


  7. What a great interview! Thanks so much Mary for joining us today and for sharing your wisdom with us. And thank you Jennifer for your insightful questions. You've inspired me that's for sure! ;) Can't wait for Con's book - (ps he's my fave hero in the series)!

  8. What an amazing interview. I have to say Ms Balogh always has the most beautiful covers.

  9. Thank you so much to those of you who have commented. The questions were interesting ones--hence the good interview! And if Constantine is your favorite character from the Huxtable series, then I have succeeded. He was meant to be, and that is why I kept him until last (just as I did with Wulfric, Duke of Bewcastle, in the six-part SLIGHTLY series).

  10. So nice to read an interview on PCB today. I loved what Mary said about write,write,write. The improvements in writing just sorta sneak up on you.

  11. Hi gals:

    Susan, and Concertina and Froggy - you all win a copy of Mary's latest book "A Matter of Class" - please e-mail me at joannadangelo@sympatico.ca with your mailing addresses and names and we'll get you your copies!

  12. What a wonderful interview, girls! Quite inspiring.
    Hugs -

  13. Mary Balogh is one of my role models when it comes to writing romance. She brings an authenticity to her novels that, also being a Brit of Welsh parentage who now lives in the U.S., I truly appreciate. :)

  14. Thank you all for having me and for taking the time to make comments. I enjoyed this interview.

  15. Mary Balogh is classic romance and you cannot go wrong. I have hunted down her old regencies and have guarded them well. I have yet to read her newest, A Matter of Class, but I've read all the great reviews. Thanks for the interview.

  16. I loved this interview! Fascinating always to read of each author's process. Especially when it comes to developing characters.

    Really great, thanks for this!!

    --Chiron O'Keefe

  17. Now I can't wait to read A Secret Affair, if it's one of your personal favorites, Mary.

    Enjoyed your interview, Jennifer - I felt like I was at a writers' conference.

  18. Thanks so much for a wonderful interview. The advice to 'write, write, write' is so important given how easy it is to be sidetracked by the million of other things we are supposed to be doing - blogging, reading the how-to's etc. Your straightforward approach is refreshing, just like your books.

    I loved Wulfic Bedwyn's story (I think I cried at the end, I loved it so much - a singlar event in all the romance novels I've read) and now by TBR pile is going to fill up again. Thanks Mary for your time!


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