With more than 20 years of publishing experience, Gig Harbor author Sandra Byrd sees her current writing career as a natural transition from her lifetime love of reading.
“Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin,” she said. “Most people who want to write really do that because they love to read.”
Byrd wrote her first novel in junior high, about a doomed relationship between someone from the North Pole who fell in love with someone from the South Pole.
Though that novel did not generate much interest with publishers, her following manuscripts did, with novels published for tweens, teens and adults.
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“I’ve written in every genre,” Byrd said, adding that she got her start writing for ages eight to 12, or tweens. “That was where I fell in love with reading. It was my way to give back. I wanted to write books that other kids could fall in love with.”
Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. Most people who want to write really do that because they love to read.
Romance has long been a genre that Byrd explores in her novels, with a contemporary series called French Twist that blends in her love of food, but historical fiction is her favorite genre to explore.
“Truly my heart and my own reading pleasure has always been in historical fiction,” she said. “It’s important to me because I love history, that it’s not just a romance with historic window dressing, but that the history is accurate.”
Byrd begins her research for a new historic series by reading more than 50 non-fiction books to familiarize herself with the time period, including clothing, mannerisms and other small details that provide her work a high level of detail.
“The thing is that your readers are also historical nerds so if you get something wrong, they know,” she said. “People don’t read historical fiction because they want to read about a 21st-century woman in Victorian England. They want to read about how a Victorian woman would think in Victorian England.”
Byrd currently has two historical fiction series; Ladies in Waiting, based in Tudor England, and Daughters of Hampshire, based in Victorian England that blends in mysterious elements to emulate the classic Victorian Gothic romance genre to add a sense of mystery to her readers.
“In a Gothic romance you’re never sure if the man is who he’s presenting himself to be,” she explained. “Layers, to me, make a good book.”
Her newest book in the Daughters of Hampshire series — “A Lady in Disguise” — will be out to readers in March.
While her books are rooted in historical fact, Byrd does not see her books or fiction in general as the place to teach readers.
“I don’t believe that fiction is there to teach. I want to explore and see the history that’s there but I don’t think it should be pentagogical or pedantic,” she explained. “I don’t think fiction is there to teach, or preach, or lead. It’s there to explore the world through the eyes of the protagonist.”
Providing layers and details to her stories is a way to bring the historic world alive and help her readers get inside the mind of how people thought during the time period she’s exploring.
When I’m not writing then I’m on a fiction binge. Being a writer makes you appreciate so much more well written material because you know the work that goes into crafting that material ... I’m a much more appreciative reader now that I’m a writer than I was before.
“I know some people are uncomfortable with the strictures that historical women faced,” Byrd said. “To me, I enjoy that because they had to be that much more clever. They didn’t have all the tools that we have now. I like exploring how women in that era were able to network with each other. I like how women were able to use the tools they had to bring about the changes that we see now.”
With three more books contracted for the Daughters of Hampshire series, Byrd looks forward to exploring new aspects of Victorian England through the lens of romantic fiction.
“Love is a universal feeling, whether it’s a romantic love or family love,” she said. “Trying to find a bridge between today’s reader and yesterday’s woman is the key.”
With half of the year dedicated to research and writing, Byrd spends the rest of the year catching up on her favorite pastime: reading.
“When I’m not writing then I’m on a fiction binge,” she said. “Being a writer makes you appreciate so much more well written material because you know the work that goes into crafting that material ... I’m a much more appreciative reader now that I’m a writer than I was before.”
For more information on Byrd including where to purchase her novels, visit sandrabyrd.com.