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Interview

Check out the interviews held with talented writers and others who contribute to promoting the Belle Epoque!

Interview with Barbara Taylor Bradford, Author of ‘Cavendon Hall’

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barbara taylor bradford
barbara taylor bradford via The Telegraph

Barbara Taylor Bradford is the bestselling author of 28 novels. She has had a long career in writing, both in novels and journalism. Her book, ‘Cavendon Hall’, is about the bond between two families and their devotion to each other during the chaos and social change brought about by the first World War.


Did you base Cavendon Hall on any real stately homes of the Edwardian era?
No. I did not based Cavendon on any stately homes of the era, because almost all of the stately homes in England were built centuries earlier. Obviously, they were inherited by the current aristocrat of the Edwardian period, which I write about. for the most part I created Cavendon Hall from my imagination, whilst borrowing a little bit from a real stately home called Harewood House near Harrogate in Yorkshire. FYI: Harewood was built around the mid 1700s.

How do you make your characters seem as alive and real as possible?
I think I make my characters very real to the reader, because before starting to write them I create a back story about their lives. I.E. Their characteristics, their likes and dislikes, how old they are, what make them tick. I give them a little bio, which I refer to from time to time. This makes them real people for me and it comes across to the reader.

If you lived in Edwardian times do you think you would be the one causing the scandal or the one trying to cover it up?
I absolutely believe I would be the one trying to cover it up!

The book is set around the time of the First World War. Do you have any First World War stories in your background?
No, I don’t have any WWI stories in my background, but being English and interested in English history I know about many periods. I wrote a series called The Ravenscar Dynasty, and the first World War was set in that time so that I had masses of research about the Great War.

Which of the families in your book would you choose to be your own? The Ingham’s or the Swanns? and why?
I would choose to be a Swann. I think they are clever, loyal, and have great integrity. These are all characteristics I admire. In any case, I think because of my feelings about these traits the Swanns come across very well in the story and practically dominate it, which is not a bad thing.

Cavendon Hall
Cavendon Hall – UK cover
Cavendon Hall
Cavendon Hall – US cover

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them.

Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess’s wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters.

For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name.

With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.

Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.

For UK residents only: Enter to win an e-book copy of Cavendon Hall from HarperCollins UK

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Visit Barbara online:
Author Website | Facebook  | Twitter | Pinterest

buy from: Powell’s | B & N | Amazon UK | Indiebound | Amazon

Interview with Sharon Biggs Waller, Author of ‘A Mad, Wicked Folly’.

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Sharon Biggs Waller

About the Author

Sharon Biggs Waller is the author of debut young adult novel, A Mad, Wicked Folly. From her biography on her about page you can find out she is well placed to write an Edwardian novel, having worked at Buckingham Palace, where she had the opportunity of meeting Queen Elizabeth. Her novel has been named one of the Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth and was nominated for the ALA Amelia Bloomer Project.

Interview

How did you come up with the title ‘A Mad, Wicked Folly’? How does it relate to the characters and theme of the book?
The title comes from a letter Queen Victoria wrote in 1870 in response to a report of a meeting in favor of women’s suffrage. She called “Woman’s Rights” a mad, wicked folly.  And stated that the woman named in the report “ought to get a good whipping.”  The hypocrisy in this statement is so incredible to me, coming from a person who was the most powerful woman in the world at the time.  She had no idea what life was like for women who weren’t rich or royal, and how much they needed to have a voice.  As far as my novel and characters go, the title reflects the story’s theme: the death of a dream, preventing someone from being who they really are, giving up on an authentic life, failing to stand up for something you believe in, marrying the wrong person, remaining in a situation because it’s safe, swallowing your own opinions because they are frowned upon…these are all mad, wicked follies.

At one point Vicky poses nude for an art class. Do you have any favorite Edwardian art or artists?
Yes, Vicky poses nude at the beginning of the book.  She’s taking a life drawing class on the sly, and one day when the model fails to appear she volunteers.  Vicky doesn’t feel it’s right to ask someone to do something that she’s unwilling to do.  And this is also a big part of her character arc in the book, especially when she meets the suffragettes.  “Deeds not Words,” was their motto, and Vicky learns how important this philosophy is as the story unfolds. As far as Edwardian artists, I absolutely love J.W. Waterhouse, who was an inheritor of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  The PRB was a group of Victorian artists who painted myth and legend and the natural world.  Waterhouse’s A Mermaid is Vicky’s favorite painting and it features heavily in the book. It’s also my favorite!  It’s housed in the Royal Academy of Art in London but it’s not on display, sadly.  I would love to see it in person someday.

A Mad, Wicked Folly shows a young woman rebelling against tradition. Did you ever go through a rebellious time in your life? How much of her journey can you relate to?
I never really rebelled like she did mainly because my parents were very encouraging when I was growing up.  They wanted us to follow our hearts and dream big, and they would help us out as much as they could.  They couldn’t afford a lot, but they would do what they could.  I wanted a horse so badly, but even though that was out of the question, they made sure I went to horse camp every year and took lessons through the YMCA.  The rest was up to me.  This is how relate to Vicky.  I had to find a way to get horses in my life, so I turned over rock.  When I was 14 I actually called people who had advertised horses for sale in the newspaper.  I figured if they were selling, they probably didn’t have time to ride.  I was right.  I found a farm that needed help with their horses and one thing to the next.  I really learned that if you want something bad enough, you could make it happen.  It also took me 17 years to find an agent.  I promised myself I wouldn’t give up and I used every rejection to get better at writing.  You have to have patience and confidence in yourself, and that comes in time.  Vicky had to learn that there is no easy way; that sometimes the better life and better opportunities are found down that road less travelled.

What did you want to become when you grew up?
Oh, gosh, so many things!  I was a creative kid so I came up with a lot of ideas.  I wanted to be a ballerina, an archeologist, a park ranger, a conservationist, and a horse trainer.  I did become a park ranger and a horse trainer, and I suppose I’m a conservationist now with my organic farm.  I never imagined being a writer.  I was really good at writing in school, and I loved it, but I wanted to be outside, not inside tied to a desk.  I did a lot of writing as a part ranger, and then later after I had shoulder surgery, I started writing for horse magazines.  That led to writing novels and here I am now.  I live on an organic farm next door to a national park, so I divide my time between inside and outside.  The best of both worlds!

Have you ever had to give something up to get what you wanted?
Well, I gave up my horses to move to England.  But I found good homes for them and I was ready for a new adventure.  I have horses now, but I’m not so intense about them.  I used to train dressage, and I was really serious about it.  It was basically all I did.  So I gave that up to move overseas, and although I had a chance to train again in England, I wanted to travel and write and do other things.

Find out more about Sharon and her work on a variety of social media websites, where you can easily go and say hello.

Author Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Twitter | Pinterest

buy from: Powell’s | Amazon | B & N | Indiebound

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Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman

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Matthew Goodman is the author of the book Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World. This book was released on the 26th of February and was published by Ballantine Books.  Matthew Goodman’s book covers the race around the world between two women journalists of the period and their adventures as they sped around the globe. A little known story about two strong women of the period is brought to life again in this book.  His descriptions are wonderful and descriptive, allowing you to feel like you are really traveling with them, across the Edwardian world. I hope you all enjoy his interview and if you want to buy his book, just click the image below and it will take you straight to the Amazon page.

 

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What comes across from your writing is an extreme passion for your topic. Are you a big traveler in your everyday life?

I love to travel! I’ve been to places as far-flung as Shanghai, Prague, and
Managua. Early on my wife and I travelled as much as we could — we had, for
instance, a wonderful few weeks traveling through Italy from Florence to
Rome to the Amalfi Coast — but then we had kids and for the last ten years
we’ve tended to give up B&B’s for motels with swimming pools. But now the
kids are getting older, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to start
traveling the world once more.

What gave you the idea to write a book about Nellie Bly’s and Elizabeth Bisland’s adventures?

Like many people, I recognized the name Nellie Bly (in part because of the
old “Nellie Bly Amusement Park” near my home in Brooklyn), and I knew that
she was a nineteenth-century journalist, but I didn’t know much else about
her or why she was important. Then one day, when I was looking for a new
book topic, I stumbled across a brief reference to her record-setting race
around the world in 1889, and that brought me up short because I didn’t know
anything about it. I thought it was remarkable that such a young woman (she
was only twenty-five — though she claimed she was twenty-two),
unaccompanied and carrying only a single bag, would be daring enough to race
around the world, and do it faster than anyone ever had before her. Then,
when I researched the story further, I discovered that in fact she was
competing against another young female journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, which
is a detail that is rarely included in the historical record. I was
captivated by the notion of these two young women racing each other around
the world — one traveling east, the other west.

Where would you travel in the Edwardian period if you could?

London. I’ve always been fascinated by the London of that period, and my
total immersion in “Downton Abbey” has only strengthened that fascination.

How would you prefer to travel? By boat? By train? Or by modern cars and aeroplanes?

One of the most fun things for me in writing Eighty Days was describing the
steamships and railroad trains on which Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland
rode during their race around the world. I was especially taken with the
railroad cars of that period. The opulent exteriors painted the colors of
plums and chocolate and olives, and stenciled in gilt and silver; the
interiors with wood panels made of ebony, tiger maple, tulip, and other rare
words, carved with flowers, dragons, winged lions, or whatever else suited
the fancy of the craftsman in the railroad shop; watching the scenery pass
by not just from sleeper cars and dining cars, but also library cars and
smoker cars and parlor cars; falling asleep in an upper berth to the rocking
of the train — it all sounds lovely.

What was involved in research for your book?

Eighty Days is a work of non-fiction. I didn’t make up any of the events presented in it, and I didn’t ascribe any thoughts to a character that he or she himself didn’t claim. I took all of the dialogue in the book from a written source such as a memoir, letter, or newspaper article. I went through years’ worth of newspapers and magazines, read guidebooks, travelers’ accounts, letters, histories, and biographies. I took no liberties with the facts — if a particular day was rainy or sunny, or if a particular ship was early or delayed, that’s how I wrote it in the book. But at the same time, I wanted to tell the story as vividly and compellingly as I possibly could, so that the reader would not just know what had happened on the trip, but also experience what it was like: the roll of the steamship on a storm-tossed Atlantic in winter; a slow, moonlit trip through the Suez Canal; being carried on a rickshaw through the back alleys of Hong Kong and Canton; a snowshoe expedition across Sierra Nevada mountains blocked by snowdrifts twenty feet deep. I wanted this to be a work of history that had all the immediacy, all the emotional impact of a novel.

Who did you find yourself rooting for the most while researching the
book, Nellie Bly or Elizabeth Bisland?

I’ve really enjoyed hearing about how some readers find themselves rooting for Nellie Bly to win the race, while others root just as strongly for Elizabeth Bisland. Of course, as the author I knew right from the beginning who really did win, so I didn’t have a rooting interest in the race. My interest, instead, was in portraying the characters as best I could, to try as best I could to make them as fascinating on the page as they were in real life. If I can reintroduce today’s readers to these two daring, courageous women from years past, then I’ll be very gratified.

If you could sit down and chat with anyone from the book, who would it be?

Well, of course I would love to chat with both Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland! Over the past few years I’ve thought about each of them so much, imagined each one so intensely in my mind, that I can’t help but want to meet them in real life. But beyond the two main characters, I must confess I would also love to sit and have lunch with Nellie Bly’s employer, the publisher of The World newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer. He adored the works of George Eliot, read widely in politics and history, loved music and the arts, and could recite long passages of his favorite works from memory. One of his biographers wrote of how “his talk poured forth seamlessly, moving with ease from a discourse on philosophy to the merits of a particular piano virtuoso to an analysis of local politics.” Plus he had a yacht.

To find out more about Matthew Goodman, visit his website at http://www.matthewgoodmanbooks.com.