First let me apologize for putting this post up two days late. When I scheduled the post last week I wasn't thinking clearly and posted it for Thursday the 4th at 12 a.m. and not Tuesday the second at 12 a.m. and never realized anything was off. However, better late than never so I'd like to share a quick, but insightful little Q & A between multi-published author Lauren Willig!
Book Cover Taken From Goodreads.com
1. Where did you get your inspiration to pen The Ashford Affair from? Was there a lot of research involved?
Like many of the best things in my life, The Ashford Affair came about as a result of a combination of dumb luck and concerted procrastination. At the time, it was the fall of 2010 and I was just finishing up the ninth book in my Napoleonic-set Pink Carnation series. I knew that I should be thinking about starting the tenth book… but it’s a sad truth that there’s no book less attractive than the book you know you’re meant to be writing next. Somehow, the obligation factor sucks much of the fun out of it. Whereas other plots suddenly become forbidden fruit and therefore interesting….
Which is where dumb luck comes in. Just as I was dragging my feet over starting the tenth book in the Pink Carnation series, my friend Christina sent me a copy of Frances Osborne’s The Bolter, about the dramatic life of Idina Sackville and So On (the extra So On is for extra husbands). Edwardian aristocracy, World War I, farming and partying in Kenya…. My imagination was caught. Fortunately, I’d turned in that ninth Pink Carnation book early, so I had some time to play. I settled down with a large pile of research books and set out on my very own arm chair safari into the world of 1920s Kenya.
To answer the second part of your question, I spent several months doing nothing but background reading for this book—and it was a pure joy. There are so many literate, snarkily amusing memoirs of life in that era, so many biographies that read like fiction. I got to read them all and call it “research”.
2. Can you describe a bit of your writing process for us?
There’s the procrastination bit—I’m never more productive than when I’m avoiding doing something else—but since I already discussed that above, I’ll go straight to the second lynch pin of my writing process: caffeine. I wrote the first hundred pages of The Ashford Affair (after a few months of false starts, that is) in a mad, caffeine fueled, four day marathon. I blame it entirely on the settings on my tea machine. Back in my grad school days, when I spent a year living in London, I learned to take my tea strong enough to dissolve a spoon. If it’s not brick red, it’s not worth drinking. What I didn’t realize was that the medium setting on my tea machine produced brick red. The strong setting produced—well, one very jittery author and twenty-five single-spaced pages a day.
I’ve since learned to keep my tea machine on the “medium” setting.
When I’m not locked up in personal writing boot camp, my daily writing routine revolves around Starbucks. Around ten in the morning, I pack up my Netbook and toddle off to my favorite writing Starbucks (not to be confused with my favorite stop and go Starbucks or that Starbucks I go to if I’m on my way to the grocery store but don’t really like otherwise), where I plunk myself down at a table if I’m lucky or the counter if I’m not and nurse a grande something-or-other (the drink changes with the book) until I have a sizable chunk of prose. Once I’ve broken through that morning writing slump, I come back home and revert to the larger laptop that lives on my desk, working through until early evening, occasionally with a top-up cup of tea to keep the caffeine level in my blood up to acceptable levels.
3. What was the hardest part of writing The Ashford Affair?
Often, when I get a stuck on a book, it’s because I’m having trouble getting to the heart of what makes a character tick. With The Ashford Affair, I had the opposite problem. From the get-go, I had a very strong sense of who my historical characters were and where they were going. The problem? Figuring out how to frame their story. I blundered my way through several drafts of the first few chapters. In one version, the story was being told in the first person by a much older Addie, looking back. In another version, I was back to the third person, but there was a much more fifty-fifty split between chapters in Addie’s perspective and chapters in her cousin Bea’s perspective. It wasn’t until I seized on the idea of using Addie’s granddaughter, Clemmie, as a pivotal part of the story that the structure of the plot finally clicked into place for me. Once it did, the book started moving forward rapidly. With the help of some extremely strong tea, as mentioned above.
4.What was your favorite part of writing The Ashford Affair?
After ten years of writing novels set in 1803 and 1804, hanging out in the twentieth century felt like an exotic vacation. There were flappers and war-scarred World War I heroes and lots of cynical people making witty quips as bits of ash flicked from the ends of their cigarette holders. I very much enjoyed getting to explore a different time and different settings. The research was such fun, including instructional videos from the late 1920s on how to fly your personal aeroplane. (Because wasn’t everyone going to have one?)
Since the book goes back and forth between the historical and the modern, I also had the guilty pleasure of caricaturing law firm life via my modern heroine, a sixth year associate at a white shoe New York law firm. Finally, my brief legal career came in handy….
5. If you could describe your novel in 30 words or less how would you describe it?
From the inner circles of Edwardian society to the red-dirt hills of Kenya and the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl….
Author Photo & Bio Taken from Goodreads.com
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