Interview with J.B. Wadsworth

Author of Pearls & Steel

My name is J.B. Wadsworth, and I write historical romances set in the Gilded Age. I've always been fascinated with this era--the culture, the architecture, the pomp, the inequality, you name it. This era is so rich in eccentric historical figures and events that I'll probably stay here for quite a while. I have written two books in "A Gilded Age Romance" series, which are clean historical romances set in New England. "Pearls & Steel" was a runner-up in the New England Book Festival 2021 in the Young Adult category. It was also named as a finalist in the American Fiction Awards 2021 in the Romance: Historical category. "Ninety-Nine White Horses" was named a winner in the New England Book Festival 2021 in the Regional category. I'm a fan of all things Jane Austen, whether it is one of her books, podcasts about her, or movies of her stories. L.M. Montgomery is also one of my favorites. I love traveling, researching for my stories, and concocting a blend of history and fiction to produce the finished novel. My favorite part of the research process is spending hours rummaging through nineteenth-century newspapers in the special collections room in the local library and finding some hidden gems to make my characters come alive.

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How would you describe Pearls & Steel to a new reader?
  • This is a clean, historical romance set in the late 1860s that focuses on one couple's attempt to overcome class inequality and find love on the other side.
What was the inspiration behind Pearls & Steel ?
  • I actually wrote my second novel, Ninety-Nine White Horses before this one (see ). When I finished writing it, I found that I needed to tell the story of Sheridan Baird and how he ended up in New York City, hobnobbing with the steel robber barons in the 1880s.
Which authors do you admire?
  • I love Jane Austen and her ability to use wit and sarcasm all while telling a good story. L.M. Montgomery was also very talented in bringing the reader into her settings and making the reader care about the characters. J.K. Rowling is one author who can tell a really good story and keep the reader hooked until the very last page and wanting more.
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
  • I grew up around horses, so when I moved to New England, I made sure we visited the UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, Vermont. The green, rolling hills surrounded by white board fences, the lush, fern-filled valleys and the beautiful autumn leaves made a lasting impression on me. The bucolic scenery of Vermont had to play a role in my book. Another location in the book is Pittsburgh, which was the hub of the steel industry in America. New York City was the home of many robber barons of the Gilded Age. So naturally, it is also a location in my book, Pearls & Steel. I studied old maps and descriptions of the city to make my book come to life.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
  • Number one: Study the craft of writing fiction. There are so many mentors out there who offer great advice to get you started and keep you going when you get stuck.
    Number two: Practice, practice, practice.
    Number three: Don't give up when you get negative feedback. Look at the feedback with objectivity. Take what's helpful and leave the rest!
What's your writing process?
  • I use the method offered by James Scott Bell to get a rough outline of where my story needs to go. [I listened to his course on The Great Courses about Writing Best-Selling Fiction.] Then I begin writing. I try to write every day. I do not set a word limit. I find that some scenes come to me easier than others. If a good idea happens upon me that is not in my outline, I go with it and see where it leads me. Then I analyze whether I need revise my outline. I submit my novel, one chapter at a time, to my wonderful writers' group, getting feedback from them and revising as necessary. When my whole novel is complete, I make the necessary revisions and send it out to beta readers. Then revise again, according to their feedback. Then send it to my editor/husband, who rips it apart, and I revise again. As you can see, for me, revision is a very important part of writing a novel.
Which character in Pearls & Steel has had the greatest impact on readers?
  • I would have to say Sheridan Baird. He is flawed and headstrong, but he is also heroic and loyal. I find that readers root for him more so than any other character in this book. He has some horrific things happen to him but manages to come out on top in the end.
Who is your favorite character in Pearls & Steel?
  • I love both Sheridan and Elinor, but the character I had the most fun writing dialogue for was Joshua Roberts, Sheridan's boss when he moves to New York. I enjoy using the slang of that time period, and Joshua is a somewhat rough, uncouth character with a good heart.
What are the themes in Pearls & Steel?
  • That making sacrifices for those you love makes you cherish them even more. That even when things seem their darkest, goodness can be found. That friendship and love are worth fighting for. That we should never judge someone solely on their outward appearance. That is okay to be vulnerable.
Where next? What are you working on now?
  • I am making the final revisions on my Book 3 in "A Gilded Age Romance" series, titled, "A Fortunate Burden".
    Here is what it's about:
    What a person hides says more about them than anything else.
    On April 1st, 1898, Naomi Manwaring finds herself booted to the curb outside the boarding school she has called home for the last six years. Now that she is eighteen, her absentee father considers his duty done and refuses to acknowledge her. She decides to join her aunt and uncle, who are some of "the cottagers" in Newport, Rhode Island, and make her home amongst the upper crust of Gilded Age society. When she saves a chambermaid from an untimely death, Naomi finds herself on the wrong side of normal where the cottagers are concerned, and things go downhill fast. Now she must choose between helping her new friend or saving her tarnished reputation.
    Ezra Dawson, the son of a department store tycoon, has rejected his inheritance and left home to write for The Register, a New York newspaper. He dreams of being assigned to cover the Klondike Gold Rush, but instead, his editor sends him to Newport to report on the social doings of the cottagers. To make things worse, his old flame and colleague, Vivian Sant, also arrives in Newport to “help” him. Much to Ezra’s chagrin, Vivian tails him everywhere, determined to win back his affection. But because of her past betrayal, he no longer wants anything to do with her. Naomi Manwaring, who is unlike any girl he has ever met, grabs his attention. After saving Naomi from a compromising situation, Ezra starts snooping into her personal life and discovers unsettling facts—which she refuses to explain. Despite his best efforts, he can’t resist being drawn to her.
    After Ezra makes a disastrous accusation against Naomi, their promising relationship begins to unravel. They both have things to hide from each other. If Ezra discovers her secret, will Naomi lose everything? And if Naomi finds out about Ezra’s involvement in her disgrace, will she ever be able to forgive him?
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Is love really worth any price? After being driven from his home in Vermont by a mother perched on the edge of insanity and a money-grubbing old woman who won’t let him marry the woman he loves, Sheridan Baird seeks his fortune in the steel mills in Pittsburgh. But when his worst fears come true and his love marries another, he wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to have perished in the Civil War like his brothers. Then, he meets the attractive and sophisticated Elinor Taylor from Manhattan. Encouraged by the death wish of a good friend and in a reckless bid to seize control of his fortunes, Sheridan moves to Brooklyn, New York, to try to win her heart. Things rarely go according to plan, and he ends up fighting, not only for Elinor’s love but also for his very life. Elinor Taylor, the daughter of a wealthy financier from Manhattan, chafes under the constraints of upper-class society. When her parents take it upon themselves to find her a husband from among the snobby, self-important New York elite, she rebels by providing her own bachelor to court. Things veer off course when he falls in love with her, and Elinor and her parents spend Christmas in Pittsburgh, where she meets Sheridan Baird, a steelworker from Vermont. Now, she must determine if she should settle for a safe marriage to a good man from a Knickerbocker family or chase her dream of marrying a man she can both love and respect.