GUEST BLOG: My Secret Victorian Life Lynn ViehlTuesday, August 13, 2013 8:00
I always write my novels for my readers, but there are books that I write for myself as well. A great deal of what I wrote in the StarDoc series was loosely based on my experiences working in the medical field. In the Darkyn novels I used some of my favorite characters from history as models for my immortals. I even turned my dad the chef into a minor character in one of my Kyndred books (and put him in charge of the restaurant he always wanted, too).
A few years ago during National Novel Writing Month, I decided to work on an idea I’d had on a back burner for a long time. I knew going in that the concept would probably be difficult to sell and what I wrote would likely end up on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. Still, writing isn’t always about selling — sometimes it’s a way to stretch the imagination, try something new, and work on your storytelling (and NaNoWriMo is perfect for that, too.)
I had a marvelous time writing the novel, and once I’d finished the first draft I knew I had something special — something with the potential to become a series. To get a second opinion, I asked my friend Jill to read it. I had another motive in asking Jill, who is a lovely friend but also one of my toughest critics. She never lets me get away with anything, so if there was something wrong with the book, she’d be the first to tell me.
Jill agreed, and, as soon as she’d read the manuscript, she called and asked me to meet her for lunch so we could talk about it. And this was definitely not a good sign; if she’d liked it she would have told me that over the phone.
I arrived at the restaurant where Jill was waiting and noted the decidedly grim look on her face. Once we ordered, I poured her a cup of tea and asked, “Okay, how bad is it?”
“You can’t publish this novel.” Jill offered me the cream before she added, “It’s a disaster.”
I wasn’t expecting the worst, but here it was. “That bad, huh?”
“It’s all in there, everything,” she said. “Right there, for anyone to see. The gowns, the tea carts, the letter writing, even the crazy quilts–”
I frowned. “What about them?”
“You’ve never told anyone about them,” Jill said firmly. “If you publish this, everyone will know about your secret life.”
That made me laugh. “I don’t have a secret life.”
“Oh, yeah?” Jill gestured around her. “Where are we? A tea room. You love tea and crumpets and scones and all this British stuff.”
“Part of my family is British,” I reminded her.
“Sure they are, Sherlock,” she snapped. “And how many of them quilt and embroider and paint watercolors and write long letters with fountain pens and make their own clothes?”
That put me on the defensive. “I use a computer for work.”
“Uh-huh, but only because you have to.” She leaned forward on her elbows. “When was the last time you watched television for longer than the two minutes it takes to get the forecast from the Weather Channel?”
“I do not have a secret life,” I insisted. “I can’t. I’m an author.”
Jill nodded. “And how will you explain the baking? Do you think every woman out there uses 19th-century recipes, too? Don’t tell me there’s nothing better than your great grandmother’s German chocolate cake; it takes two dozen eggs and all day to make it.”
“It only takes seven eggs,” I corrected, “and five hours — and there is nothing better. So I like a few old-fashioned things, so what?”
“A few? Like your collection of cabinet cards and tintypes? Not to mention the needle cases, the sewing tins, and the antique lace?” My friend sighed. “You even collect newspapers and magazines that are so old Lincoln probably read them.”
“I like the advertisements. They’re funny.” I saw the look on her face and threw up my hands. “What does any of this have to do with the book?”
“Nothing,” Jill said. “There’s nothing wrong with the book. I thought it was a terrific story.”
“Right.” I was starting to get a headache. “So why, exactly, shouldn’t I publish it?”
“If you do, people are going to realize there’s more to you than space doctors and vampires,” Jill warned. “You’ll be putting your secret life out there for everyone to see. Everyone will know you’re a closet Victorian.”
I thought about that for a minute. “And that would be as bad as, say, people finding out about your secret Star Trek life.”
Jill folded her arms. “I don’t have a secret life. I just collect some memorabilia.”
“Like DVDs with every Star Trek episode and movie ever made, which you watch while wearing that Lt. Uhura uniform and holding your pet Tribble?” I asked sweetly. “Not to mention the wall of Star Trek action figures, ship blueprints, Enterprise models, oh and the Spock bed sheets–”
“Okay.” Jill scowled at me. “Shut up.”
“The point is, everyone has a secret life,” I said. “But it isn’t always that secret. My readers probably figured out long ago that I’m very old-fashioned. Now, with this book, they’ll see why — and isn’t that the reason we tell stories to each other? To share what we love?”
“I guess you’re right.” My friend gave me a suspicious look. “You’re going to write about this, too, aren’t you? And tell everyone I dress up in a Lt. Uhura uniform to watch my DVDs?”
“Absolutely.” I refilled her tea cup. “But I’ll be sure to tell them how cute you look in it.”
[Ed. Lynn is very generously offering a terrific giveaway, part of which she made herself in her secret life!
A handmade quilted and beaded Victorian tote, designed and made by Yours Truly
Signed bound print copies of Her Ladyship’s Curse and His Lordship Possessed
A enamel rose jewelry holder from Victorian Trading with glass pearl earrings and bracelets
A pretty notecard and pen set
You can see all of the items here. Leave Lynn a meaningful question or comment to be in the running. Good luck!]