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A Regency Lady Meets 21st Century Technology
by Lesley-Anne McLeod

 

What has the life of a Regency lady to do with the complexities of modern technology? Very little indeed if one means a 'real' Regency lady--a lady who lived and loved, worked and played in the England of the Prince Regent (later George IV) 1811-1820.

But if you will stretch your definition of a Regency lady to include me--Lesley-Anne McLeod--author of six full-length Regency novels and several Regency novellas and short stories, then there is a connection with technology.

You see, I do consider myself a Regency lady. I know of the manners and modes, the social classes and the aristocracy, the countryside, the fashions, and the interests that involved any woman living in the Regency era. I know as much about the niceties of social behaviour in 1815 as I do about the social structure of the present day. I can tell you more about the spencer or pelisse than I can about the latest style of jeans or tattoos. My friends say that I even talk 'funny'!
As a person living in the 21st century though, I have to use ingenuity and imagination to make the 19th century real for me, and for my readers. As a writer, I created a lonely viscount and an obstinate young woman for Daughter of Trade, and three young people exploring London in Three Wise Monkeys. In my newest book, The Disadvantaged Gentleman, I developed a lady in need of reformation. I've represented the Regency world that I love to my readers in the hope that they will love it too.

Fiction writing is a creative world. A writer becomes accustomed to challenges in creating plots, characters and settings. Nowadays, we have also to become accustomed to technology.

It was necessary for a Regency lady like me--selling books in a very modern form on the Internet--to become comfortable with computers and the electronic world. It wasn't always easy. I began slowly. Each day I learned a little more about my computer, my software programs, and my own capabilities. Each day I became a little more comfortable in this new world, a world as different from my everyday life as my Regency world.

I changed from writing in longhand--in the same way Jane Austen did--to using a word processing program on a computer in about 1985. It was a marvelous improvement. I don't know how Jane managed without it! With a computer, authors can give more attention to writing and less to literally cutting and pasting handwritten revisions.

Once I was familiar with word processing, I turned my attention to the Internet. With a dial-up connection and a very modest level of capability I began to investigate the World Wide Web. It was a 'brave new world'. Within it, I could research my Regency world in detail, and in only minutes. I could access documents of the period that I would never otherwise find or see. I could visit country houses and city mansions with which my characters might have been familiar. Costume galleries, museums, maps, and journals are at my fingertips and they make the Regency world come alive in my writing. A high-speed connection made my internet travels even easier.

Eventually I began to look for a publisher and I found one in Awe-Struck E-Books on the Internet. Publication with Awe-Struck meant that I had to increase my knowledge of word processing to include editing skills and the many formats in which documents can be created, and saved. I can now think in pdf and html as well as early 19th century English.

As an electronically published author, I had to have a website. When that became a necessity, I had enough technological expertise to create my own. I still do all my own maintainance and updating. It is a wonderfully creative exercise, and I sometimes find myself using writing time to 'play' with my website.

I also had to become familiar with image processing so that my book covers could reflect the Regency world in a very new framework. When I became confident enough, and knowledgeable enough, to tackle graphics projects and image manipulation, my entry into the technological world was complete. I could turn the information I discovered about the Regency into print items that everyone can enjoy. First, I made my own business cards. Then I started to make bookmarks--a little ironic really when my books are electronic! A brochure about my writing was my next project, and it has been a wonderful tool for promotion. And now I have developed a booklet about the Regency, a little package of information that can enhance a reader's enjoyment of the period. I use it for special giveaways.

My most recent technological challenge has been the making of book video trailers. They are a great tool for promotion, and readers seem to enjoy them very much. I learned to use video/slideshow/movie making programs and found it challenging
and satisfying. It's another stimulating exercise that satisfies my creative urges.

I live with one foot in the 19th century and one in the 21st century. Each century has unique delights and special pleasures. I am fortunate to be able to enjoy the best of both worlds!

© Lesley-Anne McLeod 2007
Permission granted for personal use only. Email request for other permission.