Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reading Tuesdays: The Edwardians through the 1930s

I've decided to start a new feature here on le blog called "Reading Tuesdays". I intend to chronicle what I am reading or what I want to read. I'd love this to be interactive so please leave a comment on what you are reading or what you want to read. Perhaps I can draw from the comments and send out a prize? Maybe not every week, but I do have some ARCs from my current stint as a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society, so there's some to go around. Let's get started.

No Angel (The Spoils of Time, #1)Currently I am reading "No Angel" by Penny Vincenzi. I've read this novel so many times my poor copy is quite worn. But it's a lovely novel with a fine, but flawed heroine. It's really a saga as "No Angel" starts out in 1902 and goes to the 1920s. The sequels cover the 1930s through the 1960s and both are worth a read. I decided to pick this one up yet again since it is set during the time I am researching for my new project "Gaiety Girl". I'm generally used to writing novels set in the oh-so-proper 1800s, so I'm learning to relax the language a bit by reading other authors' work.

The Aviator's Wife Sitting on my coffee table is "The Aviator's Wife" by Melanie Benjamin. It's a little late for the Edwardian period but who's counting? I like Melanie Benjamin as an author even though she writes literary historicals. She somehow manages to craft interesting stories without boring me to death. I read her debut "Alice I have Been" a few years ago so I'm looking forward to picking up the "The Aviator's Wife" back up after finishing "No Angel."

Moving on to future reads...

A Spear of Summer Grass"A Spear of Summer Grass" by Deanna Raybourn is on the top of my list. Deanna is one of my favorite authors. I am a huge fan of her "Lady Julia Grey" series. This novel is a bit of departure as it takes place in the 1920s in Kenya. It seems that "Out of Africa" style books are all the rage right now. The notorious "Happy Valley" set of the era has been fairly overlooked by historical fiction, so it will be interesting to see this time period come to life as more and more authors explore it.

"Summerset Abbey" by T.J. Brown is being touted as the antedote to "Downton Abbey" withdrawals. I read a sample on Amazon and it's pretty good. Amazon e-book samples have saved my life. No more do I have worry about picking up a novel and losing interest while reading the first chapter. Phew! I have it on hold at my local library, so I hope to read it soon.

Parlor GamesAnd finally... "Parlor Games" by Maryka Biaggio starts out in 1917 but goes back to 1887 in pursuit of May Dugas, a charming con artist who winds her way through society while being relentlessly pursued by a member of Pinkerton's Detective Agency. It definitely looks good.

So...what are you reading now? Or do you have something you are eager to read right now?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

An Interesting Detour

As many of you know, I'm notoriously flighty when it comes to my writing. I've posted numerous times of the various WIPs I have going and as you know, I switch gears as often as I change clothes. One week may be all about "A Convenient Misfortune" which is set in Revolutionary War Charleston (South Carolina) and the next may be "A Scandalous Bargain" (Georgian London) or "Rebellion" (1790s Ireland). So many stories, so little focus. I love all of the story lines and the characters that I craft, but nothing has grabbed me beyond a ten or twenty chapters. I always lose my steam. A deep part of me has wondered if it's just not the time or place for any of these stories because if I was passionate about them, writing it all out should come easy, right?

So I haven't done much writing on any of my current WIPs the last few weeks. I have been focusing on one of my paying side gigs (historic preservation consultant) and preparing for a busy re-enactment season. In the in between times, I have been brain storming A LOT. This is mostly due to my new obsession Netflix. I've only just discovered the joys of streaming it through our (I mean, my hubby's) XBox and so I've been watching everything from Dawson's Creek to Gossip Girl to foreign films and medieval melodrama. While many writers would consider me lax for falling down the hole of popular culture, my brain has always been sparked by ideas presented in movies and television. Of course, I am very careful not to plagarize, but I find it stimulating to get an idea from a British melodrama and taking it to whole other time and place.

Lillie Langtry, 1885
Well I'm happy that I discovered what I think may be my magic bullet. I have been frenetically jotting down novel ideas--I have pieces of paper all over the house, which amuses my hubby--but nothing has stuck. Until this past Sunday. I was watching the new miniseries on PBS "Mr. Selfridge" and was momentarily struck by a comment about one of the characters, Lady Mae. She was a Gaiety Girl who married a lord. While I don't care for her character in the least, I was fascinated by this one tidbit concerning her past. Was it common for actresses to marry into the aristrocracy. A quick Google search later and I had my answer. Yes. In fact, several actresses and music hall perfomers ended up marrying titled gentlemen during the Edwardian period. The relaxed moires of this time period had led many of these men back stage to cavort with these women. Well I should say that the aristocracy had made mistresses of actresses for quite some time, and depending on the time period, they may or may not have made a big deal of it. The Victorian period was, of course, very restrictive, but with the ascension of Edward VII to the throne, society rules relaxed considerbly. The king himself even took actresses for his mistresses--Lillie Langtry spent three years with him and even famous Sarah Bernhardt was reported to have enjoyed the eventual king's favors.

But still, taking an actress as a wife was rather risky for any titled gentlemen. And yet, they did it. There was even a name for those aristocratic hangers-on--they were called "Stage Door Johnnies". So I thought, what about writing about a poor girl who makes it in the theatre only to eventually marry a lord? And I was off to the races. I have a fairly good outline of what's going to happen and it's no Cinderella story, I can tell you that. I am though fairly certain that this story will end up as a saga or perhaps multiple novels. I am intending to structure it that way, so that it could put out as either.

I've had loads of fun researching the time period, deciding on who is who, who lives where, who does what, etc. Actually, all this researching has made me long for London, which is one of my favorite places on earth. I traveled many places but I always feel at home in England.

So what about you? Any new ideas in the offing or are you devoted to just one WIP at this time?