Adventures in History and Romance

Monday, June 27, 2011

Interviewed by a Charming Rake

I’m participating in a blog chain with my fellow Heart of Carolina Romance Writers this month. This has been my first time doing a blog chain, and it has been loads of fun. At the bottom of this blog entry you’ll find a list of all the participants. I highly recommend reading their posts--you will be delightfully entertained!

The theme of this blog chain is...
Have one of your characters, from one of your stories interview YOU!

Part One: Briefly describe your interviewer.

Part Two: The interview, with — ‘you’ being the subject!

Everybody on board?  Here goes!

The Character...

Mr. James Simpson is a secondary character (but please don’t tell him that--after all, everyone is the hero of their own story, right?) in my yet-to-be-published book The Heiress Returns, set in 1851. James is London’s most amiably scandalous bachelor. He is so much fun to be around that any trouble he gets into never seems to stick. He’s also a master at witty banter. Although his time period is a few decades before Oscar Wilde’s plays, if you’ve ever seen “The Importance of Being Earnest” you’ll know what to expect from James!

The Interview...

I wait for James impatiently, because I’m leaving for New York very early Tuesday morning and I have a ton of things to do before I go. FINALLY James arrives, looking quite dashing in his perfectly tailored suit with yellow cravat and matching waistcoat. He removes his top hat as I let him in. Somehow the hat has not managed to disarrange his wavy brown hair.

His blue eyes twinkle as he gives me a gorgeous smile and kisses my hand. “A pleasure, Mrs. Harrington, as always.”

I try to reprimand him, despite smiling in return. “You are late, James.”

James takes a moment to check his cravat in the hallway mirror and says with a gleam in his eye, “I apologize. I’m afraid a certain young lady kept me out very late...”

“No doubt,” I reply dryly. I lead him to the living room and offer him a chair.

He looks around with amusement. “What a charming little cottage. Where is the main house?”

I try not to sound too taken aback. “Erm, this is it. It’s only a modest ranch, but we like it. Shall we get right to the interview?”

“Yes indeed!” He leans forward in his chair, his hands on his gold-handled cane, looking as though he were in a theater and an exciting play was about to begin. “I have several burning questions to ask you. I confess, I find you extremely fascinating.”

“Me? Fascinating?” I can’t help blushing.

He nods. “You seem to have made some decisions that I consider quite shocking.”

This startles me, as I can’t think of much that would shock James. “I’ve led a fairly tame life, actually. Although I have traveled a lot, and those three years I spent in Montreal and Ottawa, Canada were amazing--”

“No, no, no, I’m not talking about all that,” James breaks in. “What I want to know is, why did you do it?”

“Do what?” I say, not comprehending. “Get married? Move to Raleigh? Decide to become a writer? That last question’s easy. See, my mother was a writer. Margaret Wayt DeBolt -- she wrote a wildly popular book called Savannah Spectres, and also Savannah, A Historical Portrait. She was a journalist, but I’ve decided to go the fiction route...”

I stop myself. James is laughing and shaking his head.

“You’re not taking notes,” I point out.

“Dearest, you’re missing the point,” James replies. “What I want to know is, why, oh why, did you make me the secondary character?”

Oops. Somebody told him. Also, I should have known this interview would be largely about James.

He confirms this as he continues, “It hurts my pride to think I am only in the book for comic relief.”

“That’s not the case at all,” I hasten to assure him. “You play a vital role in the story, after all.”

“I’m aware of that,” he says, somewhat pettishly. “The so-called hero and heroine...”

“Geoffrey and Lizzie.”

“Right. They would never have gotten together in the end if it weren’t for me. So why am I not the hero?”

I try to think of a diplomatic way to explain. “You see, James, in my books the hero and heroine get married in the end. You have stated plenty of times that you are not the marrying kind.”

He looks incredulous. “Have I?”

“Remember that conversation where Lizzie asks Geoffrey, ‘How many men would face any obstacle, and go to the ends of the earth for their love?’ Do you remember the remark you made when you overheard this?”

He looks at me blankly.

I try to imitate his joking tone as I quote: “I certainly have never flung myself off the map for another. It sounds terribly uncomfortable.”

James waves a dismissive hand. “That was all in jest, of course. I was merely trying to lighten a very tense situation. Actually, I am a hopeless romantic. Remember the time I told my aunt that I would never marry simply for money?” He adds as an aside, "Even though God knows I need it..."

I smile. “I remember. You said, ‘I shall wait until perfect love falls upon me. Or knocks me over’.”

“I also said that I have no doubt that I shall succumb in time. In the meantime, I intend to live in the present and make myself merry, rather than worry about whom I shall marry.”  He smirks, looking quite pleased with his little joke.

“James, I will let you in on a little secret,” I say with the air of one imparting an important confidence. “The Heiress Returns is the first in a trilogy. I have big plans for you by book three.”

“Ah, hah!” he says. “I knew you had something up your writer’s sleeve. What is it? You must tell me everything.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” I say with mock seriousness.

His eyes sparkle. “Being coy now, are we?” He considers the information I’ve given him. “Book three. Why not book one?”

“You have to admit, Lizzie and Geoffrey’s story is quite compelling,” I say, in an effort to appease him. “She pretends to be a missing heiress, sort of like the woman in Anastasia. But then she falls in love with Geoffrey, the man who is supposed to be her brother-in-law. And Geoffrey, who is the youngest son of a baron, is dealing with having suddenly been made a baron himself--a position which he did not want and was not trained for. His story reminds me of George VI in The King’s Speech. Except he does not stammer.”

I can see that all of this is not convincing James. So in desperation I add, “You take the lead in a later book because I want to save the best for last, of course!”

“Now you are talking sense!” he proclaims.  “That’s what I love about you--you have an innate sense of timing.”

“Speaking of timing...” I check my watch. “James, we’ll have to cut this short. I’m going to New York tomorrow, and I’ve got to get packed.”

“New York? That backwater? Whatever for?”

“I’m going to the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America. I’m looking for an agent and an editor for the book. I want to get it published, so that many more people can get to know you!”

James rises and reaches for his hat. “Well in that case, what are you waiting for my girl? You must leave right this instant!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little chat with James. Please stop by the other participants’ blogs, where you’ll find more great interviews!

6/6: Aimee Laine :
6/8: Lyla Dune :
6/10: Carol Strickland :
6/12: Amy Corwin :
6/14: Lilly Gayle :
6/16: Rebekkah Niles :
6/18: Laura Browning :
6/20: Andris Bear :
6/22: Marcia Colette :
6/24: Nancy Badger :
6/26: Sarah Mäkelä :
6/28: Jennifer Harrington : (Hi, everyone!)
6/30: Scott Berger :

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mary Stewart and Memory Lane

The recent reissues of Mary Stewart books by Hodder and Stoughton got me thinking again about one of my favorite all-time authors.

I discovered Mary Stewart books in high school and was instantly enthralled, working my way through every one.  They were the perfect blend of adventure and romance.  She was also ahead of her time when she added a paranormal element in Touch Not the Cat.  Years later, as I am now trying my own hand at writing, her books are uppermost in my mind as the standard for quality and style.

Her gorgeous and evocative descriptions of the locations in her books made me want to get to France, Greece, England and Scotland. Still working on that list, but I did get to France in 2007.  While in Provence, I toured the places around Avignon, Nimes, and Marseilles mentioned in Madam, Will You Talk. Although the landscape has changed over the years, it was still so easy to imagine the events of the book. I especially loved the Temple of Diana in Nimes, the spot where the hero and heroine meet. Here is a photo of me and my hubby at that very spot:

Also loved, loved, loved the Pont du Gard:

The ruins of Les Baux, which were wild and lonely at the time Mary Stewart wrote about them, are now a bustling tourist attraction, but they are marvelous nonetheless.

From the vantage point at the top, you can look in one direction and see the wilds that inspired Van Gogh:

On the other side, green and manicured farmland and grapevines, with a hint of the Mediterranean Sea in the distance:

Last fall as I was touring the lush and beautiful countryside in England, I kept remembering the opening line of The Ivy Tree: "I might have been alone on a painted landscape..."

Her books are so lovely and intelligent as well as filled with action and suspense. I hope these reissues will garner a new legion of fans.

PS: Many thanks to Vanessa Kelly, who inspired my trip down memory lane with her own wonderful blog post last week about Mary Stewart!