Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Meet Historical Novelist Elizabeth Welsford--Her Debut Novel is a "Hysterical Comedy"!

I met Elizabeth through Absolute Write, a forum for writers to meet each other and post anything about the writing business. It turns out we share the same publisher The Wild Rose Press, as well as a few historical--er, interests. We're both fascinated with Alexander Hamilton, and we've both written comedic novels. When she told me her book is "a farcical comedy, which is rare in the world of historical fiction" I knew I had to get to know her better AND read her book!

The tagline is classic: "Women won't know what's coming when a doctor develops a revolutionary new technique for pelvic massage."

You may know that Victorian doctors gave women 'pelvic massage' in order to treat 'hysteria.' Well, one doctor revolutionized the on.

The Five Step Plan is set in Victorian London, and made me laugh out loud. I'll let her tell you about it--and about her, in the interview she gave me. Enjoy!



It's 1829 and Dr. William Whitcraft has his hands full. When he's not trying to dream up a cure for hysteria—the scourge of London's polite society--he juggles a busy medical practice, a lovely but demanding fianc√©e, an over-enthusiastic patient seeking his affections, and the emergence of an ominous rivalry with a dashing fellow professional. Not to mention a secret dalliance of his own with a locally famous procuress. The Five Step Plan is a light-hearted farce, illuminating the hypocritical world of 19th century English society, where one must navigate the bounds of propriety, while mastering the art of clandestine intrigue.
“Where is she, then?”
“Can’t you hear, Doctor? Just follow the screaming
up the hall and to the right. She’s destroyed every piece
of furniture in her dressing room and has moved on to
Mr. Wedfellow’s study.”
“Good Lord.” Dr. Whitcraft quickened his pace.
The butler followed closely behind. Now that he was
deeper into the house, he could make out the ravings of
his patient, unquestionably in the throes of a hysterical
rage. It was likely going to be a difficult morning.
“Where is Mr. Wedfellow?”
“I would guess he has stepped out, sir.” The butler
rushed past and stopped in front of the closed study
door. Inside, it sounded as though a team of laborers
were rearranging the room.
Dr. Whitcraft stepped forward, flattened his palm
against the door, and leaned in to listen. He grimaced at
a profoundly unfeminine string of curses—and then
there was a monumental crash.
The two men drew breaths and looked at one
another with wide eyes. Dr. Whitcraft pursed his lips
and placed his hand on the knob. It was locked, of
course. “Is there a key?”
The butler’s frightened countenance turned
contemplative. “I believe there may be, sir. In the
pantry. I’ll have to see.”
The butler scurried away. Dr. Whitcraft turned
back to the door. What was the best way to go about
managing this difficult situation? He had diagnosed this
unfortunate woman with hysteria only a few months
back, but it appeared that the rigorous treatment
regimen he had devised was not exactly doing the trick.

About Elizabeth
My name is Elizabeth Welsford and I write historical fiction.  The Five Step Plan is my debut novel, and was published in February of this year by The Wild Rose Press.  It won a bronze in the 2015 IPPYs in the best eBook category. 
The Five Step Plan is a light-hearted farce that tells the story of an ambitious young doctor in 1829 London who stumbles upon a miraculous new treatment for hysteria.  Soon, he’s bombarded by throngs of hysterical females, all of whom seem strangely enthusiastic about this radical, five-step variation of pelvic massage. 
I’m a northern transplant living in the southern United States. Along with having a passion for researching history and writing historical fiction, I'm a Great Dane wrangler, culinary adventurer, and single malt scotch aficionado. When I’m not writing, I’m busy being a mom to two school-aged boys.  

What kind of books do you love to read? Why?

As for nonfiction, I’m a sucker for American history and early presidential biographies.  I’m particularly fascinated by the founding fathers, and what gave them the courage to abandon the status quo in favor of a philosophically driven dream to create a new government.  When I’m in a more macabre mood, I can’t resist a tale of disaster and survival.  If a book involves an explosion in a fireworks factory in 1920’s Cleveland or a corporate driven coal mining catastrophe, then I’m on board.   

On the fiction side, I’ll read anything from the latest cozy mystery to a classic Russian novel.  I do tend to get baffled by heavy duty science fiction or fantasy, but other than that, I’m up for anything.  

What is your stress buster?

Me with a glass of wine cuddled up to my husband and watching a really good TV show.

What is your favorite food? What food do you seek when you're sad, sort of a comfort food?

Cheese.  Be it melted and dripping from a grilled cheese sandwich, or on a plate with fruit, nuts and bread—cheese simply makes me happy.  If I were headed to the electric chair, a lovely cheese plate would surely ease the nerves. 

Describe yourself in one word.


What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done?

As a fourteen-year-old kid, I decided to go to Germany over the summer as an exchange student—and I didn’t speak German.  Turned out to be incredibly fun, too.

How would readers find out more about you?

I have a woefully unattended website at   I am eternally optimistic, however, that my fifteen-year-old son will help me reinvigorate it in the coming months.   

Your writing

When did you write your first book? How long did it take you to write it?  

The first manuscript I wrote is still resting comfortably in a drawer by my knee, and periodically I get it out and tinker with it.  My first published book is The Five Step Plan.  I completed the first draft in less than three months, which is insanely fast for me.  I was having so much fun with the topic of misguided male doctors treating female hysteria patients with pelvic massage, I just couldn’t stop myself.  Of course, there were several more drafts and changes to come, but I pretty much finished it in a year.

What do you think about editing?

There is nothing like having a talented editor get a hold of your book and make it better.  With me, I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally have someone else become as intimately familiar with my story as I was and provide their perspective and input.  I’d had beta readers, of course, and edited it to death myself, but my editor, Cindy Davis, really helped to make it shine.

Where and when do you write? Tell us about your favorite work place and time. Any special reason?  

My very favorite time to write is when my husband is at work, my kids are in school and I have the house to myself for at least several hours.  No commitments, nothing else that I absolutely have to do to distract me.  Then, I can sit in front of my keyboard and just let it all flow, and totally immerse myself in my character’s world.   Heaven.

How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story? How do you go on from there? Maybe you can give us an example with one of your books.  

So far, it’s been plot first and characters second.  I generally become fascinated by some esoteric aspect of history or some quirky idea and then develop a plot around that.  Then, I flesh out the characters around the plot.

What books can you recommend to aspiring writers to improve on style, character development, plot, structure, dialogue, etc?  

I heartily recommend the following books for the newer writer. 

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

     by Howard Mittelmark

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

by Noah Lukeman

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

by Renni Browne 

Your books

Why do you write the stories that you write?

So far, I’ve gravitated to writing historical fiction.  The idea for The Five Step Plan came to me when I was researching fainting couches for my first, unpublished book.  When I discovered that women had actually been draped over fainting couches and treated with pelvic massage for their “hysteria,” I knew at once I’d stumbled across the makings for a comedy.  Although I love everything about writing historical fiction, I can imagine myself in the future writing something more contemporary, maybe even a mystery.    

Which of your books feature your family/friends, etc? What characters are modeled after them? Why? 

Most often, my characters aren’t based on anyone in particular from my life.  Maybe a few traits here or there, but for the most part they are inventions of my mind.  The one exception is Dr. Marplot, my villain in The Five Step Plan.  He is very loosely based on someone my husband knows and who I’ve met on occasion.  I’ve often wondered if anyone will ever guess who it is.    

Have you ever wanted to write your book in one direction but your characters are moving it in another direction? What did you do in such a situation? 

As I wrote The Five Step Plan, I became more and more haunted by my poor, profoundly misguided Dr. Whitcraft.  He’s a good man, whose greatest desire was to make a contribution to the field of medicine and yet, everything he so dearly believed was completely and utterly WRONG.  So, as the story moved along, I couldn’t help but channel him into some other area of scientific research that would perhaps generate some lasting scientific contribution.  

Any new projects, work in progress?
I’m currently working on two radically different projects.  The first is historical fiction that tells the story of a Nez Perce girl who was taken as a slave in the late 1700’s and ends up living among white fur traders by the Great Lakes.   My other project is my first attempt at a contemporary dark comedy about a band of incompetent criminals tasked with stealing a grand piano.   

Do you have or belong to a writing organization?  Which one? 

I’m a member of the Historical Novel Society. 

What books are on your nightstand or by your chair? 

The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunningham

The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

The North West Company by Marjorie Wilkins Campbell

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Northwest to the Sea by Marjorie Wilkins Campbell

Grand Obsession by Perri Knize

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart

I’ve learned something while I typed this out.  First, I am a book hoarder.  Secondly, anyone stumbling on this stack could learn just about all there is to know about me by skimming the titles.    

Do you have a favorite book from childhood? 

The Shining by Stephen King 

Bookmark or Dog ear?

Dog earring a book makes me cringe.  I’m a total bookmark girl, but it’s usually some scrap of paper that I found rather than an official bookmark.  

Visit Elizabeth 

Purchase The Five Step Plan




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