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10 questions with historical fiction author: Tamara Hughes

Tamara Hughes is the author of "Once Upon a Masquerade".
Tamara Hughes is the author of "Once Upon a Masquerade".
Courtesy of Tamara Hughes

Tamara Hughes, author of "Once Upon a Masquerade" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.

1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?

As a romance writer, I would have to say I’d love to have been Jane Austen. While she didn’t write that many books, her stories have endured through the ages. They’ve been told and retold again and again, and most likely will for a long time to come. She was one of the true pioneers of romance fiction, and wow, I’d love, love, love for my work to be shared and enjoyed for a fraction of that time.

2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?

1883. For my book "Once Upon a Masquerade", I researched New York City and found a rich history that amazed me. In the fall of 1882, Thomas Edison lit lower Manhattan with electric light, and in May of 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was finally opened after fourteen years of construction. What most people don’t know is that one week after the opening of the bridge, twelve people were crushed to death because someone screamed that the bridge was collapsing, causing the mass panic of some 20,000 people. So much history to explore. I can’t wait to set another book in this time.

3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?

This is a tough one. The first person who pops into my mind is Albert Einstein. Talk about an interesting person. From what I’ve read, he was a very down-to-earth, sensible guy. A genius, who never wore socks, but very personable. Jane Austen (I had to slip that one in there.) and Gandhi. Wouldn’t those two make an interesting pair? Lincoln (I’ve heard he was a storyteller that amused some and annoyed others) and Winston Churchill to keep everyone on their toes. Yup, I think the conversation at this table would be educational, inspiring, and funny as hell.

4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?

While it wasn’t really a castle, Alma and William Vanderbilt’s mansion on New York’s 5th Avenue was one of the grandest of its time. Alva worked closely with architect Richard Morris Hunt to build the house in the image of a 15th century French chateau. The rooms were ornate and immense, with century old French Gobelin tapestries on the walls and a painting of the marriage of Cupid and Psyche on one of the ceilings. After four years of construction, they celebrated its completion with a costume ball, inviting almost a thousand high society people, including the renowned Mrs. Astor who had the power to elevate their status in society. This mansion no longer exists, but I can only imagine the conversations that took place inside.

5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?

Barbara Longley, author of historical time-travel romance set in Scotland, would be my first choice. She’s a good friend and has traveled to England, Ireland, and Scotland. She’d be a great resource while learning about that area and the history there. My second choice would be Eloisa James. She’s a highly successful Regency romance author. I’ve seen her speak at national writing conferences and am amazed by her knowledge of the industry and her craft. I would love to pick her brain while I travel the world.

6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?

Okay, I’m a romance writer, and I must say I don’t find King Henry VIII hero material at all. Not only did he repeatedly have his wives killed, it seems he ruled for own whims rather than for the good of his country. Now King Louis XIV did appear to be a more upstanding guy. For a romance, he had tons of mistresses, possibly because his marriage was based on political strategy rather than love. So he’s not really a romance hero either, but over his lifetime, he did make changes for the good of France. For me, King Louis XIV is probably more dashing, but from a historical perspective, King Henry VIII was more interesting.

7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?

Good God, his poor wives. I guess I’d have to go with Anne Boleyn. She had the guts to stand up to him when he wanted her as his mistress. Sadly, he convinced her to become his wife and then had her killed when he grew tired of her. Sigh.

8. English monarchy or French monarchy?

Since I haven’t researched the English monarch or the French monarchy, I’ll pose a question I can ponder more easily. Who was worse in Georgian times, pirates or the Royal Navy?

While the Royal Navy served King and crown in defending their country, they didn’t always use the most honorable methods when recruiting crewmen. Back in the day, the Defense of the Realm Act allowed navy officers to impress men into service if captured at sea, and it didn’t end there. Even on land, men were forced or tricked into joining up. In some cases, a shilling dropped into a drink would be considered an advance paid and accepted, with the length of service at eighteen months or longer. Because of these tactics, weapons were locked below decks and only officers had access to the keys. Crewmen were only allowed to carry blunt knives and were many times locked in the hold while the ship was restocked at port. (Although sometimes prostitutes and alcohol would be provided on board.)

Pirate crews, on the other hand, owned their ships. They elected their captain and all plunder was divided amongst everyone on board. They even were compensated for serious injury, such as 600 pieces of eight for a lost right arm or 100 pieces of eight for a lost finger. Men captured weren’t usually forced to join unless they had a needed skill - if they were surgeons, musicians, or carpenters and the like. In fact, if they offered no resistance, captives were treated quite well and were ransomed back to their families. However, once you signed onto a pirate crew, desertion was a punishable offense, and of course, any pirate could be hung if caught by the navy. Although these men were thieves, who used violence to make their living, life as a pirate seemed a bit better than that of a navy man.

9. What three novels could you read over and over?

I read mainly romance, but in several subgenres: historical, contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, and paranormal. Since we’re talking about historical fiction here, I’ve limited myself to my three favorite historical romances. I looked on my keeper shelf where I store the books I go back to when I just want to read something I know I’m going to love. Most of my keepers are old-school books, the originals that got me hooked on reading romance. "Ashes in the Wind" by Kathleen Woodiwiss is a love story in the midst of the Civil War. Whitney, "My Love" by Judith McNaught is a more traditional Regency story rooted in London high society. Finally, "Only Love" by Elizabeth Lowell is set in the Colorado Territory in 1868 in which the heroine is surviving in a lonely cabin in the mountains. I love all of these books and their diverse settings.

10. Tea or coffee when writing?

Ah, an easy one. Coffee. When I write, I have my coffee and a lit candle to inspire me.

Tamara Hughes's official website:

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