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“Write what you know!” will surely sound familiar to anyone who has ever taken a writing class, from school on up. It sounds like very restricting advice. Does it mean you can write only the sort of story that can be concocted from your own life experiences? What if you have lived all your life in the same place, maybe somewhere rural or otherwise far removed from any of the big centers of human activity? The range of possibilities for stories you can write would seem miniscule if that were indeed true, though many very successful and famous authors have done just that. Jane Austen, for example! 

Writing what you know need not be so restricting, however. For there are many ways of knowing and not all of them require personal experience. We can know by making the effort to learn, whether by travel or reading and other research or by empathy and the use of the imagination. If personal experience were the only way of knowing, I would not have been able to write a hundred and more novels and novellas, almost all of them set in Regency Britain with characters from the aristocratic classes. Although I grew up in Britain, I did it somewhat later than the early 19thcentury and as a member of a working class family in Wales. 

When I wrote A MASKED DECEPTION, my first book, published in 1985, I had read all of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and numerous other authors who wrote Regency-era romances—Edith Layton, Barbara Hazard, Joan Wolf, Catherine Coulter, to name just a few. I had read history books and had done my best to find out as much as I could about details like clothing and vehicles, food and manners, etiquette and gender roles and all the other details necessary for a novel but not so easy to find in history books. At least, it was not easy in those days, when there was no internet. Because I grew up in Wales, I still had a British “voice” and a feel for what it was like to live in Britain. When I believed that I could deal convincingly and accurately with the world I had chosen for my own stories, I started writing longhand at the kitchen table during the evenings after my school classes had been prepared and all my student papers had been corrected and graded. I was not at all sure I knew enough (I’m still not) but I did my best and kept on learning. I am still doing it! 

If one is going to write about something about which one has no direct experience, then one really ought to make every effort get it right, to make it as authentic as possible. Do the homework! Do the research. When I set BEYOND THE SUNRISE in Spain and Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars, for example, I read exhaustively about every maneuver and every battle that was fought there and every shot that was fired, or so it seemed. I ended up using only a fraction of what I had learned, but I have found that that is always the case. One rule of writing fiction is that one should never let one’s research show! One should never include a fascinating historical detail just because it is fascinating. It needs to serve a purpose in the plot. 

There is another type of knowing in addition to experience and research, and perhaps it is the most important of all. It is imaginative knowing, the ability to create a world that is all your own even if it must conform to historical fact (the exception to this is fantasy, but even fantasy must have a logic that makes it seem authentic). It is the imaginative ability to put yourself in a particular setting and know what it feels like to be there. It is, most importantly, the ability to identify and empathize with your characters. It is essential to good fiction to know (not just to understand) them to the very depths of their soul, to know how they think and speak and behave, to know their history, to know where their deepest pain lies. It is important to know their world, for they do not exist in a vacuum. They live in a particular place at a particular time, and that setting can make all the difference. If they go to Vauxhall Gardens in London for an evening of revelry, it is of course important to know as much as possible about the gardens. It is equally important to know imaginatively what it feels to be there at a particular time in history and on a particular occasion with a particular set of companions, all senses and emotions alive. It is essential to be able to convey all these levels of knowing to the reader. 

If a character is deaf or blind or maimed or is very shy or plain or unusually beautiful or any of a myriad other things, it is important to know what that feels like and to find a way of making sure the reader feels it too. Being deaf in the early 19th century, for example, meant something very different from what it means today. Most deaf mutes (as they were called then) ended up in insane asylums because it was assumed they were mentally defective. Showing a deaf mute from the inside in SILENT MELODY was a huge challenge but one I absolutely loved taking on. Much of this type of interior knowing has to come from the imagination, from an ability to identify with other people’s idiosyncrasies and joys and pains and, in this case, to know what it feels like to be deaf and unable to communicate with other people. Here is one question I had to consider: Was it debilitating for the deaf heroine, making her hopelessly dependent upon the pity and aid of her family? Or were there depths of experience that made her world a place of wonder unknown to all the people around her who were handicapped by their ability to hear and speak? Hint: she is the heroine, so there can be nothing abject about her.

There is still no better advice for any writer than to write what you know. However, it is not such confining advice as it first appears to be. Your knowledge can always be expanded. Always! You have to put effort into acquiring the knowledge, it is true, if you want to write with authority and credibility. But learning what you need to know is part of the fun. It does not mean just reading old tomes in the bowels of dusty libraries (though it can include that!). It can also mean travel or watching movies or reading novels. And of course these days there is the internet with its unlimited access to a wealth of knowledge upon any subject under the sun. And then there is the imagination, a writer’s most precious gift, to go to work upon all the variously acquired knowledge in order to produce a riveting and believable work of fiction that is uniquely your own. 

To one person who leaves a comment below by Thursday, January 10, I will send a signed copy of either BEYOND THE SUNRISE or SILENT MELODY—winner’s choice.

[The winner is JERICCA CROW. Congratulations to her and many thanks for all your comments. I really enjoyed reading them.]


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Showing 95 comments
  • Sarah BARBOUR

    Can’t wait to re-read Silent Melody and read Beyond the Sunrise. I have so Many of your book on my keeper shelf.

    • Debby Connelly

      I am pretty sure that I have read every one of your books. I would like either one of these books. It’s been a longgggg time since I’ve read your first two novels. Pick me please! 😊

    • Wendy Castling

      That was the advice I was given when I first started writing over twenty five years ago and I have found it to be invaluable. You certainly know your subject Mary and reading your stories, getting to know and believe in your characters has given me so much pleasure for many years. Thank you.

  • Kristin Milstead

    Interesting post with a valuable perspective! Thank you.

  • Winona Peterson

    History is filled with fascinating people! Even if they aren’t the ones who end up in the history books, there is so much to learn from the past. The tapestry of past life ways is a richer place for having these “silent” individuals included in the narrative. Love the concept of a deaf heroine! Can’t wait to read it!

  • Sara Boynton

    I agree you should write what you know, there is nothing worse than reading a book with incorrect facts. Also the problem I find being from England, when you read a book by an American author, is all the American things in the book i.e. American food. I understand the books are for a worldwide audience, but authors should never write about things that would never have happen in regency England. Maybe this is why I like reading your books, knowing you are from Wales, I trust you would know what to include and what not to include so a books sounds English.

  • Judith Bovee

    Love all of your books!

  • Barbara

    Love reading history especially journals etc. Find very odd and interesting things.
    Love your books especially for the inner dialogue, the development of the characters as the book progresses and that you are true to the period.

  • Christina Mol

    Well researched writing will always be a more enjoyable read. When you write what you know, it is the most researched because you have personally lived that experience. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes can improve how you see the world. I enjoy your writing.

  • Yvonne Parsons

    I only found your books about a year ago however I have managed to read a lot of them since that time and would love to add either of these books to my list of books that I have read!

  • Marivi Sanz

    Very interesting post. Whenever i hear/read someone saying that writers should “write about what they know” I’ve always wondered if people who write mysteries are real life detectives; if the people who write about crimes are criminals themselves; if the people who write about science fiction have actually travelled to the future to tell their stories in our time. I think they should say “know about what you’re writing”. It’s a tiny detail, but it makes all the difference, and it can make the experience of reading a historical romance, a mistery novel or a science fiction exhilarating or absolutely disastrous. Luckily for us, you know about what you’re writing, and reading your books is an absolute pleasure. Thank you for taking the pains of learning about the tiny details that we don’t see in your books, but we know they’re there.

    And Happy New Year! 🙂

  • Margaret

    Mary, I have read so many of your books. I have not only been entertained with the plots but also feel as though I have lived through the historical time period in which your book is written.

    I also like your appreciation of English punctuation!

  • Kayla

    Thanks for inviting us to your blog, Mary. I enjoyed that 🙂

  • Dawn Noonan

    Such wonderful advice. I have often thought about writing but fear of being thought ridiculous keeps me from trying. Maybe now, I will!

  • Lorraine Hawkins

    How inspiring! It is so true. I have always asked myself how can I possibly know if what I know is what I should write. Your explanation gives hope to all. Thank you.

  • Ute Rozenbilds

    Start with an enticing fact. Something that grabs your attention as a historical author. Then read and reasearch to add colour, textures, sounds, tastes and smells. Above all, see it through the eyes of your character. What do they notice, and why do they notice. What is in their backstory to make those experiences come alive.
    Dribble in the facts, dressed up as the characters world, and the reader sinks deeper into your books.
    Which is why we all pick up a Mary Balogh book without hesitation.
    Multilayered characters driven by complex backstory, involved in a world full of well researched settings.
    And why authors who dump chunks of internet cut and pasted data lose their readers, who then don’t bother coming back.
    Keep writing Mary. We are here for the long haul.

  • Cynthia Rinear Bethune

    I don’t recall ever being pulled out of your stories by the jarring notes of irrelevant or anachronistic historical facts and detail. It makes for a thorough escape into the stories and characters! When I felt as though I needed a reliable source of information about maritime archeology for my own novel, I discovered a free FutureLearn online course, which helped with proper terminology and procedural information, not to overwhelm the novel with facts but to put my characters in the correct environment. I’ve since taken several, including “Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo”– my interest having been piqued by several Regency era novels.

  • Vikki

    I love that we have the internet now. What I write will never be published. Now, I can explore as many of the times and places I wondered about as a child, and as a young woman. Love your post!

  • Jeanne Hined

    Please Any will do I love your books

  • CarolW

    I had considered the importance of research into events and circumstances during the Regency period, but I hadn’t considered the complexity of writing about a unique physical attribute (beautiful or plain) or a handicap like deafness or blindness. Thanks for sharing yours writer’s perspective.

  • Nicole Alvarez

    Just finished Someone to Trust. What a lovely book! You are one of the few authors I am never disappointed in. Thank you for the hours of entertainment you have provided. I have enjoyed every hour!

    I also get a kick from your Facebook posts.😉

  • Catherine Stout

    Write what you know is about experience. But not necessarily the exact experience. I have always thought a great deal of your empathy and understanding for those who were somehow broken came from your experience as a teacher. I too teach, and have always been amazed at some of the burdens my students carry and their ability to rise above. I think that having a great deal if empathy goes further than ” write what you know”. You process that

  • Beverly A Broxson

    I enjoy reading your books.

  • Pam Pegg

    I grew up with a partially deaf cousin, and took her deficits in stride, as she did mine. Children take so much more in stride. Love your books. While going through storage I found a 15 year old copy of SLIGHTLY MARRIED, and thoroughly enjoyed rereading it. Now I have to find copies of the rest of the series, of course. First book I’ve read without my Kindle in a while, and I enjoyed turning the pages rather than swiping, lol.

  • L. Herman

    I love all your books – you “get” the way people are. Things they don’t even realize they will feel. I don’t know how to explain it but I identify with it – the psychological aspects of relationship I guess. To my thinking, there’s no one who does it as well as you, But how do you know those feelings? Maybe you’ve felt some of them but not all probably. Anyway your books are my escape, keep them coming please!

  • Irina

    I love to read about the historicsl aspects as well and I always enjoy novels that feel authentic and keep close to the facts and the events.
    Informative and interesting post as usual, thank you!

  • Amparo Martínez

    Thanks for sharing. Research must be a hard job but it is worth the effort. Your books sound true.

  • Mary Beckey

    I absolutely love your books and I am guilty of reading till the end. No housework. No phone calls. No television. Just reading.

  • Delilah Trenaman

    I have recently found your books and enjoying reading them . I really enjoy historical romances that are very well researched as yours are.

  • Annette N

    I thank the Good Lord for the fact you were at your kitchen table creating people for us to meet. I know that finding information now is much easier. For me the internet has provided a door into Never-Never Land. I look up “this” bit of information and the next thing I know it is two hours later and I have gone from the original bit to something completely different.

    I have looked for a fact which have been in some of your books. I have never been to England, so there have been certain places or events which inspired me to go and look to find out more.

    In fact, I think that is a sort of weakness in my character, I want to know more.

    In any event, I thank you for what you have taught me about facts and figures. Most of all, I thank you for what you have taught me about humanity. You have introduced me to people I was happy to meet.

  • Robin Choate

    Well said. I always assumed it meant learn about your subject before you write about it.

  • Sandra Higgs

    I love the English voice you bring to your novels. I am an Aussie married to a Brit so I understand the difference. Thank you Mary for your wonderful books and the brilliant advice for aspiring writers.

  • Betty Franklin

    Very interesting article with a different viewpoint to consider.

    I’ve been rereading the Bedwyn series and the Huxtable series over the past couple of holiday weeks – have had to order a few books which apparently I read from library copies originally. Still love them as much as I did the first time I read them!

  • Penny Martin-Fish

    Just started reading Someone to Trust. Love your series and being reacquainted with beloved characters. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

  • Melanie

    I can always get a sense when an author has really thrown themselves into the details of the book… especially important when it’s historical fiction. 🙂

  • Rorie Leszczynski

    I know theove of a family…something you highlight prominently in your books! I also know my city and its history..Tampa. I adore your books! Thank you so much for them.

  • Jackie Phillips

    I discovered your novels about 8 years ago and have been reading them ever since.

  • Shawn Cormier Warren

    I truly enjoy your writing. I have a great many of your books in paper format, as well as e-book format. Some of them, in both formats! The Survivors and Bedwyns are among my favorites.

  • Tanya

    I love how I am transported to another time and place as I read your books.

  • Sara Sturtz

    New books, Mary? The best new year’s gift ever. Yippee!

  • Andrea Nichols

    I love reading your books. Your characters are so intriguing that I tend to miss them for days after I have finished a book. Makes rereading a series so enjoyable, it’s like catching up with a friend.

  • Kat Tolle Wiley

    Silent Melody is my very favorite Mary Balogh book and I have read them all! That book got me hooked on historical romances almost 20 yrs ago! I have read my copy so many times that the binding is starting to go!

    Loved this blog!!

  • Celia Lewis

    Your books are a “standard” to me, for historical romance books! I live all the details of wars, travels, health issues and more. The Social class distinctions are so well done. Glad you’re continuing to live writing stories..
    I’m still glad to be reading them! 😊

  • Vicoria Smith

    I always enjoy your novels!

  • Geri Borseth

    I have everyone of your books! I keep them and re-read them. I just loaned 3 to a friend who had never read any of your work, she is now hooked! Your advice here is awesome!! Thank You!

  • Elane

    I have a few of your books, I should have more, saved on a Pinterest board. I love learning about new things I read about in books, history mainly but too many others to mention. One thing I do is keep a journal of quotes from the books I read that pertain to my life. Here’s what I wrote from one of the books.
    The Proposal by Mary Balogh. Sometimes I find a passage in a book that mimics my life or thoughts so much I have to write it down. This is just one. “I regret much in my life, but there is no point, is there? At this moment we are both in exactly the spot to which we have brought ourselves through our birth and our life experiences, through the myriad choices we have made along the way. The only thing over which we have any control whatsoever is the very next decision we make.”
    I actually have a lot of quotes from your books in my journal.

  • Alicia Murphy

    I have always loved Silent Melody. I attended a deaf college, although I am hearing. I am so impressed by how well you captured Emily’s inner life, how she communicated, all that she missed & all that she saw, and the depth of her understanding.

  • Nina Schirmer

    I would love to win either of these books. What a helpful and interesting blog.

  • Tracy Mason

    I cut my teeth on Barbara Cartlands. History and location may first attract, but what pulls you back is the story. Knowledge of a historic time period may expand with each book read, but nothing beats well developed characters and storylines to make the reader crave more. I only wish you could write as fast as I read.

  • Victoria Hull

    I love your books & I can’t wait to read the next one. This is very valuable advice & one day, I hope to be able to write what I know (probably not until retirement) & perhaps translate that into a paper, blog, article or book that someone else might enjoy reading. Sorry for the run-on sentence…I’m a work in progress. 😂

  • Cheryl Sease

    Your books always ring true with authenticity. I’ve enjoyed every one of them I’ve read so far. I also write, and this blog post was valuable to me and one I’ll share. It does feel limiting to “write what you know,” and I appreciate your perspective that allows the expansion of this idea and something that is attainable.

  • Melanie Rose P.

    I love reading your books. I find them very delightful, warm, and inviting. I enjoy re-reading your books!

  • Agnes

    I have always felt that you wrote a very realistic Regency (and Georgian) world and that it was easy to feel being in it. I felt I could trust that you researched what you wrote about, that the feel of the everyday things and the characters’ attitudes are both realistic but not formulaic. I loved reading both Silent Melody and Beyond the Sunrise (with the latter, I actually looked up the Peninsular campaign and maps of Portugal to understand it better but the book explained it very throrughly without being dry and didactic, and it gave such a realistic experience – for example – of being on the run in an area of military campaign that I enjoyed it immensely).
    Thank you!

  • Ellen

    One reason I love your books is that they do not make me crazy, by bad historical detail. I get so angry when I hear Roger de Coverly described as a quadrille or when a character just goes outdoors (past their own property) without their bonnets and hats. Or even worse, when they do things that were not done in their times. I love relaxing with your books, because I know that these details won’t be lost.

  • Christine

    A Happy New Year and lots of ideas for you (and for us to read).

  • Carolyn

    Love all your books. You are definitely on my auto-buy list. Own all your books 📚
    Would love and cherish a signed copy of any of your books 📚

  • Dana Overfelt

    I’ve often wondered why, or how, some authors write works that allow me to be transported into the lives of the main charactors. I’ve never been to a ball, had lessons in transfigurations, or fallen on a rocky slope only to be rescued by a giant of a man, but these things are vivid in my mind. The idea of “imaginative knowing” is new to me but it resonated with me. Thank you for that insight.

  • Mary Koester

    I have read your work for years and always enjoy your voice. Not only have I read them, but I’ve listened to many as well. I would love to read Silent Melody. It touches a place close to home.

  • Tully Ehlers

    Dear Mary,
    These are two of my favourite books of yours…Just love them, just because the motives you mentioned, the unexpected sets and the heroine with disability. I’m not a writer, cannot creat a thing of my own, but I’m a literature translator, so, in order to rewrite a story I need to imagine…and know…to put ir right in my own language. with the context…I’m particular with the settings…I’m translating right now a canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables collection…and I need to know , in order to choose que right words…It’s wonderful, and a huge challenge…Thanks for your insight, always so passionate. And I do hope I win this time haha

  • MHamrick

    I know laundry. I can get out almost any stain and fold fitted sheets perfectly. That would be a very boring book! I am eternally grateful for writers like you who can weave enthralling tales that take me out of the laundry room and across time and oceans to other worlds.

    • Les

      A stain on fitted sheets. There is a story there. It’s not about the stain, but about where it came from and what it can mean to someone. Every stain found on your laundry is representative of something that happened.

  • Jennifer Elms Martin

    Thank you for such an interesting post! I believe that you should write what you WANT to know. I love the majority of your characters and stories and always look forward to the next one!

  • Jericca Crow

    What an amazing perspective! You truly seem to understand what makes your books so uniquely special. I’ve only read a couple of your books but this just pushed me into lifelong fan territory. Keep up being awesome!

  • Chris Waterous

    I would love to win a copy of Beyond the Sunrise! Happy New Year, Mary Balogh!

  • Lesley Fenton

    I enjoyed this post as much as any you have written and it confirmed for me why I love your books.
    Some years ago my mother and I read all the journals of L. M Montgomery. We had been life long devotees of her stories, especially of course the Anne series. Her journals were equally compelling as they revealed how she had taken her own life experiences and transformed them through her imagination. I loved this blog! I have a feeling we could all benefit from writing our life experiences together with the lessons we have learned from them in a kind of therapy. Even those of us who are not blessed with your talent could do it. In our heads!

  • Kay

    I agree that “knowing” isn’t about personal experience and my favourite way of “knowing” is “learning”, whether through research or travel or musing. So, in the end, the idea is to write what you know, which for me, means we all come from a particular perspective, preferences, all those things that make us the writers we are, but especially what’ve we’ve read. I’ve never agree with Harold Blooms idea of the “anxiety of influence”, at least not in romance writing, whose authors have struck me with their generosity towards their teachers, whether they’ve met them in person, or in the pages of their books. In the end, what we’re actually doing, I think, is writing what we’ve learned, what we didn’t know, and in the act of researching, musing, drafting, revising, becomes what we know.

  • Nancy L Gessner

    I enjoy your books very much. Having recently read 2 books about Georgette Heyer that included how her meticulous research enriched her books I can relate to how that knowledge shaped her books. Writing about what you know is definitely part ly personal experience and partly knowledge gained from learning. Thank you for your insight!

  • Rosemary E Sherwood

    Even though I now buy your books on Kindle, I have still kept a shelf full of most of your books. I Remember the first book that I read of yours was “The Secret Pearl” and I knew then that I would always love your books.

  • Lisa Schultz

    Thank you for this blog post Mary. Although your research doesn’t “show”, it so thoroughly informs the thoughts and actions of your characters that their behavior seems natural and true, even though that would not be the way a modern person would react. But that’s why we believe your plots and your characters; we have become immersed in their reality.

    Thank you for sharing your gift (and your hard work, I’m sure) with your readers.

  • Becky

    I love both Beyond the Sunrise and Silent Melody – two such different stories! LOVED them! You continue to amaze me with your ability to make every book and each set of characters so distinct and unique even during the same era (and series where we meet the same characters in each book.) In a genre where an author can write scores of books and series that all blur together, your incredible talent sets you far above most (you remain my absolute favorite!) I’ve read every book of yours at my library and had to buy a few…..I”m hoping my library picks up ALL your books so I don’t go broke! Never stop writing!!

  • Sharon Pickering

    Omg ‼️ The one thing I know for sure is that you are a fantastic author,I re-read your books over and over . You are in the top 5 of my extremely favorite authors . ♥️🦋🌹❤️🌈🙏🏻

  • KY

    I’ve read Silent Melody, but not Beyond the Sunrise. Can’t wait to read it!
    You’ve written so many books. Do you ever forget what you’ve written?

  • Rhonda

    I’m enjoying the latest “Someone” series! Happy New Year and hopefully many new books to come!

  • Barbara

    The number of writers writing Regency Romance without doing even the minimal research necessary to get forms of address correct, is mind boggling. I hate it, it throws me right out of the story!

  • Jeannine Chew

    I love reading Historical Romances. I appreciate the amount of detail you put in your books. I would love either book. Thank you for writing interesting books

  • Rhianna

    I absolutely love your books. The richness and feelings that you are able to convey to the reader amazing.

  • Rhianna

    Absolutely love your books and style of writing.

  • Maria D

    Love your books!!

  • Melissa Christiana

    I can’t begin to imagine all the research that goes into a well written historical romance. Your books make it possible to learn a little about history because of all of your hard work. I don’t enjoy reading stories where the author obviously didn’t do the necessary research they should have. A great story always has some truth in it.

  • Joyve Milewski

    Well I really enjoy your books and have read most of them. Looking forward to reading many more.

  • Julie Kennedy

    Such great stories from you each and every time. Always a treat to read. Thank you for your hard work and sharing your talent with all of us.

  • Outi

    Writing what you know is a good advice, but unfortunately some authors take it too literally. As a reader I don’t need or want a lecture when I’m reading a historical novel, if I’m curious enough I can search for more information. One of the reasons why I like your books so much is that you have obviously done plenty of research but haven’t forgotten that the story comes first and you don’t add historical details just because you know them.

  • Betty Strohecker

    Love your books. You always take me to the place you’re writing about. I want to live in your world’s.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Felicia Lewellen

    Love all of your books!!!

  • Judy Owen

    I do believe that one must write what one knows, but can use of range of experiences to draw from. With the wonders of the internet, research on just about any topic is possible, and from there, our imagination can fly. I agree that only a fraction of the knowledge research is actually used in the final story, but the rest gives us that mindset that makes the setting and characterization real. Your characters are always multi-layered, and your stories are so varied. Thank you for creating so many people that I feel I know.

  • Nikki charles

    My writing sucess is only in my journal. Your writing are always worth reading we will stick with reading for now.

  • Deborah Smith

    I’ve actually decided that this year will be the year that I start on the book I have thinking about writing for a while! It’s going to be a non-fiction book about the Wars of the Roses, just because I want to and to show that I can!

  • Silvia M. G.

    Wow, this is an interesting topic. I think that every good book must have a lot of research. I´m doing my thesis dissertation and it´s just like that. Research, learn and write. Not every article or book will be reflected on the paper, but it will be part of the context. I´m still learning!!!

  • Jennette Marty

    I have recently discovered you through the Westcott series that was given to me as a gift. I look forward to finding more treasures in your amazing library of books. Thank you for a chance to win! Can’t wait for the next Westcott installment!!

  • Jill Ridge

    Thank you for sharing so much of what you put in to your writing. Amazingly, you accomplish all of those ” shoulds” . I see that it is no accident why I love the worlds you create and especially the people you meals so real and endearing. You are truly in a class of your own. I wish more people could do what you do. I wish I could. You give a wonderful tutorial. It sounds like a tremendous amount of work. It has to be a labor of love. Thank you for all the love and wisdom you share , both here, and in your stories. Your work has greatly enriched my life.


  • Tracy

    I personally have to disagree with the “write what you know” advice. I write fanfiction based on the tv show “Hannibal,” and I always write from the point of view of Will Graham. Well, I’m obviously not a man, so I don’t know what it’s like to be male, and I’ve been told (by a lot of men as well as women) that I write Will very well and that my “voice” for him is authentic to the tv character. I also don’t know what it’s like to be an FBI agent, an empath, or to be the object of obsession of a cannibalistic serial killer, but in spite of that, I like to think that I can delve inside Will’s head pretty well and that I have his “voice” and character captured accurately in my stories. I don’t think that you have to necessarily “know” a character’s personal experiences to write them well.

  • Penny

    ‘Write what you know’ sounds simple, but I agree with you, Mary, it is much more complicated than that. We ‘know’ things because we have firsthand experience of them. But we can also ‘know’ things because we have taken the trouble to research or learn about them. As a writer with a background in history, I try to use my knowledge to add texture and depth to my stories — but I don’t know everything (if only)! That’s when my research begins. I use everything at my disposal to glean the information I need: libraries, archives, the internet, even visits if I can manage them. Inserting that knowledge into the story without overwhelming the reader with facts is a skill I aim for, and which you have entirely mastered.
    So you are quite correct, Mary, ‘write what you know’ isn’t a restricting rule, rather it’s an encouragement to discover as much as you can.

  • lisa bossoli


  • Robert Blouin

    Dear Mrs. Balogh:

    Congratulations for the Westcott series. I love it. It’s a very special series. Books are more connected than in earlier series, although all are still stand-alone if the reader wants to read them out of order. Which I did partly. But then I ended up rereading Someone to Honor in order to fully appreciate the glimpses of family members in it. Or I reread it partly for that reason. (I had read Someone to Honor right after book one, Someone to Love). But now I am back to proper order! I just finished reading Someone to Wed and Someone to Care. And wow. Someone to Wed is one of your very best books. But then… one should be careful before saying such things. And I just loved that in Someone to Care you wrote about people a little older. And each book in the Westcott series is very unique. The whole series is a gem. And I still haven’t read Someone to Trust nor the recent novella, Someone to Remember. At first I thought the Westcott series was a little slow or less intense in some ways compared to some earlier books or series. And the number of family members needs some getting used to, of course – but now I really feel it as a plus in the Westcott series because it gives it a more “global” feel, that of a family saga with books that are more connected than in any earlier series you wrote. So it is really a new chapter of reading Mary Balogh from this reader’s point of view. A beautiful and rich new chapter with a different pace but the same intensity I had discovered a few years ago when I first opened one of your books. The series that came just before it – the Huxtable – was the best in my opinion until I got to know and feel more the Westcott series. I had also read the Huxtable somewhat out of order, going from first to third book. The third, At Last Comes Love, is so good. The dialogues are wonderful. Like watching actors on stage in a play with extremely witty and lively dialogues. And the two main characters are such a pair! Both so unique and so different from each other. You paint them so well. Reading that book I thought it was your best, period. And I reread it for the pure joy of the dialogues. Not many of your books are as centered on dialogues as the first part of At Last Comes Love. You are a master of dialogues. This very quality made me appreciate less – for a while – the fifth Huxtable book, A Secret Affair, Hannah and Constantine’s story. For a while, their story, written in a deep and sensitive way, left me wanting because I had been absolutely charmed by At Last Comes Love, which had pulled me right in with its dialogues. Because of that I only read a part of A Secret Affair and left it aside for a few months. When I came back to it, it was without the expectations that At Last Comes Love had raised in me. I started again on page one of A Secret Affair, ready to discover it and to read it for its own sake. And I loved it. But a different kind of love that came mostly after a third of the book, which means after the first romantic parts. Those romantic parts are very satisfying, but this time the most compelling story was not the initial romantic part, but rather everything that comes after. And I was totally hooked, thinking it was one of your very best, maybe even better than At Last Comes Love! But comparing books that are so different would be silly. There is less dialogue in A Secret Affair, or rather a different pace in the dialogues. And interaction is at a deeper level, and between two characters who are very wary. The reader has to be ready to dive deep to appreciate A Secret Affair. And this whole series, that of the Huxtable family, remained for a good while the one that I thought I liked most – until I entered more into the Westcott series. So I will just say that those two series feel like a new chapter in reading Mary Balogh. And with those I am also finding that I get more and more into the habit of reading again some books – which is rather unusual for me. The first book of yours that I surprised myself rereading is Simply Perfect. I just love Mrs. Martin. I also read again Slightly Dangerous (of course I read it again! I could add). What a book. What a character you created – the Duke. What a streak of genius. I also recently reread The Secret Mistress, for the pure pleasure of the lively character, Angeline. There is also something so lively, so fresh in the writing. In the first few pages this quality of the writing pulls me right in, so that a “light” story – maybe reflecting something fresh and lively in Angeline’s personality – was very rewarding even on second reading. I came back to this book because I needed a pause from “depth” after being captivated for months by the Huxtable and Westcott series. I am not even finished with the Huxtable. I have kept the second book for the upcoming Holiday season. I also kept for the same reason the fifth Westcott book, Someone to Trust. I might be able to wait a couple more weeks before reading the first page in either of them. And I have not even ordered yet the novella Someone to Remember. I want to thank you for your books. This very long message does not – cannot – convey the pleasure of being on the page, reading… reading someone who, I feel, is intense, painting with words, not rushing to finish and tell us where the plot is going, but rather making sure the reader enjoys all the way, the walk through the paragraphs, the thoughts of the characters, their dialogues and hopes and emotions. It is a very intense experience, reading those books. I feel respected as a reader, I feel I am given much because the author is naturally generous. It is felt on the page, it is a beautiful experience. It is rich. One feels those stories are not written to sell, but to communicate, to look together at landscapes. And here the landscapes are those unfolding emotions, and dignity, and honor. Thank you. – I am not a native speaker of English (I’m a French Canadian), so please make allowances for possible unusual ways of saying things. But I read mostly in English, and your books are a pure joy in that regard. Congratulations for Someone to Wed. It is just so good! It stands by itself as a great literary work. Who cannot relate to Wren? Thank you. Very best regards. Robert Blouin

  • Donna Heath

    Hi Mary, I have enjoyed your books for years, but I must admit that I love your short stories the most. I read No Room AtThe Inn and Star of Bethlehem every Christmas, but I enjoy rereading many of your short stories as well. I know it is not easy to write a good short story and after writing three Regency novels, I am finally ready to launch my first short story. ( I Believe mine would be called a novella rather than a short story due to the number of words involved. ) I tend to write long novels so I have found it a challenge to write “a period piece” that is fairly bare-boned while still having an interesting storyline and compelling characters. I plan to publish it ( Sir Savage’s Carol) and my latest novel, Loving Letters, on Kindle soon. My first novel, The Forfeit, has been on Kindle for quite a while and I have been pleased with its reception. I began to write Regenccies after reading Georgette Heyer and several of he author’s you mentioned in this post. And of course I have read all of Jane Austen’s books many times. I think Persuasion is my favorite because it has a second chance in it. Thank you for your lovely stories and for your advice to write what you know. Py

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