Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its All in the Details: Dec. 8 A visit with author, Victoria Janssen

My apologies to Victoria-(*stomping snow off boots) I'm afriad this midwestern storm and all the hoopla surrounding it has adled my barin and I forgot today was Tuesday! And that Victoria was getting in to the manor!!  Come on where its warm and let me take off my gloves and scarf...brrr...the snow is picking up in intensity out there, so my guess is that Victoria--like it or not, you're here for at least a day or two!!  Maybe you could share some of your fav holiday recipes as well--you dont have to make them--eating them is good enough for me!;)

So wrap your hands around your warm cuppa and help me welcome the talented Victoria Janssen to the LIT Manor!  And, btw, Victoria, I was in a Barnes & Noble last week and picked up the book in real life!!  Looks like a great read!

A fellow Spice author and with an imagination like no other, Victoria has brought to the reading world a bevy of fantasy, sensuality and history in her work! Her latest release, MOONLIGHT MISTRESS is another in her line-up of steamy, smart reads! Weclome, Victoria! Please tell us about your new release and what inspired this story. I see the cover gods at Spice once again were amazing in their gift! What a tantalizing cover!

 It's great to be back at Lust in Time!
My new book from Harlequin Spice, a historical with werewolves, is titled The Moonlight Mistress and it's out this month. I've been amusing myself by going through my copy and re-reading my favorite moments, many of which are bits of historical detail. I love the tiny bits best.

See, I am a total geek and really love research for its own sake. It grieves me that I don't have time to read every one of my research books cover to cover…I buy rather more research books than I really need, and some of them are only peripherally related to the topics of my novels, but they're all just so interesting! And that's not even counting the books I check out of the library.

Just in case some of you readers are research geeks as well, here are my favorite World War One historical bits from The Moonlight Mistress and where I found them. I think that often the most interesting details, that give the greatest sense of realism to the narrative, are not the most major. It's the tiny, unusual facts that stand out for the reader.

The novel's opening line is "There were no trains to Strasbourg." And this is absolutely true. When the first declarations of war were flying back and forth, all sorts of daily activities were affected. I pored over Lyn Macdonald's 1914: The Days of Hope, which is a collection of first-person accounts placed into chronological order. One of those accounts, from the very day Germany declared war, mentioned in passing that there were no trains to Strasbourg. I couldn't shake that bit of information from my head; something about the specificity of it, and the narrator's shock that things were not as they should be, perfectly summed up for me the feelings of a character who's just found out they are stranded. I never considered using another opening.

"Best of all, there was a shower…with brass fittings on three walls in the shape of lily blossoms, and tiled in green-and-white patterns like lacework." Though I took liberties with the decorative elements, this idea of this period-appropriate shower originated in one I actually saw, at Casa Loma in Toronto; the real shower actually had six taps at three different levels. As a side note, the fancy ducal stables in The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover were based on stables I saw at Casa Loma.

The extensive section on the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in France, and the subsequent battle and retreat, was mostly drawn from first-person accounts in Macdonald's 1914 with some fragments of information coming from several more general accounts of the First World War, including John Keegan's The First World War and, to a lesser extent, Paths of Glory: The French Army 1914-18. The fate of the regiment's boy trumpeters – to be left behind when their regiment sailed to war – came directly from the first-person accounts, as did the information that bandsmen might be assigned to be stretcher bearers. More than one account mentioned that many of the soldiers had new, ill-fitting boots. Even the crops growing in the fields the soldiers passed were all noticed by contemporary observers.

Many of the quotidian details about the lives of the British soldiers I drew from Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918 by Richard Holmes, including small economic facts such as this one: "…Lincoln owed Hailey a guinea sixpence, enough for a new overcoat."

Finally, most of the information about the hospital where Lucilla goes to work were extrapolated from The Women of Royaumont: A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front and several other volumes about or written by British nurses and VADs. After taking the basic information, that there were hospitals staffed almost entirely by women, I blended details from different sources to suit my purposes, combining occurrences and locations. For instance, "She managed a greeting in Hindustani; her phrases were limited, but efficient" was drawn from a first-person account by a nurse who served on a hospital train, in Diary of a Nursing Sister on the Western Front: 1914-1915. Shipment and supply problems at Royaumont led me to include this bit of detail: "Tanks of nitrous oxide were procured, but some of the tanks of oxygen needed to mix with it had leaked and arrived empty, and had to be replaced."

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. At the start of a project, you never know what details you might need and which sources might have the best details, so it's best to check out a wide range, and to pay close attention to everything.


So true, Victoria  and the more detail , the more real it becomes for all of us as readers as well as writers, I think. Thanks for stopping by today and sharing with us the backstage process of this fascinating book! I think I have another for my TBR pile!!


Genella deGrey said...

Hi Victoria!
That shower sure caught my attention! ;)
Moonlight Mistress sounds great!

Victoria Janssen said...

I would love to have one of those old-fashioned showers...assuming it worked as well as a modern one.

Kristina Cook/Kristi Astor said...

Took me a while to stop drooling over the cover before I could actually *read* the post, LOL! So good to have you here at the Manor, Victoria! The book sounds wonderful--I cannot wait to read it!! And I appreciate the WWI sources, as I'm about to start research for a novella set just post WWI--very timely!

Like you, I love little obscure details--somehow they really make things more 'real.' I especially love your opening line and the story behind it!

Victoria Janssen said...

Thanks, Kristi! I hope you enjoy the book.

Amanda McIntyre said...

Hi Victoria

What era of history that you've written have you enjoyed researching most, which would you like to do more of and...are there eras that you'd like to write more of?


Kate Pearce said...

You know I'm a big WW1 buff too so I enjoyed the authenticity you brought to the book-and the sex scenes were awesome too :) I loved it!

Victoria Janssen said...

Amanda, World War One is my favorite. Though the Crimean War has loads more cholera, and I plan to write something set then, too.

I'd also like to try a straightforward European Victorian one day. And maybe something set in World War Two. And an Edwardian.

Kate, thanks!

Cecile said...

**Waves to the Ladies of the Manor**
Hello Ms. Victoria! It is very nice to meet you! And I am so agreeing with Kristina... it took me a couple of minutes to get past the cover.. **Hawt**

Now... I will also agree with Genella... I am loving up that shower. I soo want one of those. The attention to detail is what gets me. I might not recall it later when I am chatting with someone... but when I am reading about it, those things make me feel like I am right there! Can not wait to check this book out!!!
Hope all you ladies have a wonderful day/night!

Hope the snow-in is not to bad for those fellow bloggers!

Janet Mullany said...

Great post, Victoria, and a lovely cover. I find WWI history fascinating and moving; the amount of slaughter in the trenches every day was phenomenal. I love the war poets, too.

My father (99 next month!) has memories of traveling on a train alone in England when he was very small and being befriended and fed chocolate by young soldiers who were on their way to the front.