Guess what? It’s time for my very first author interview on this website! I’m excited to welcome Ranee` S. Clark to my blog today, who has just released a charming historical novella, A Lady and a Spy.
Here’s a bit about it: Blanche Audley’s old-fashioned grandfather cut off her mother after she married Thomas Audley and his millions of “new money,” and for the last ten years since her parents’ deaths, Blanche has lived under the gloom of his disappointment. So when she recklessly loses a thousand dollars to Etta Channing in a game of baccarat, she will do anything to keep her foolish actions from him. Except he oversees every penny she spends of the wealth her father left her, leaving her no way of paying the debt without his knowledge.
Until Etta offers her a deal. Alexander Whealdon, one of the most eligible bachelors in town, needs a companion to shepherd his younger sister through her first season. Etta wants Blanche to take the position and use it to infiltrate the household and pass along information that will help Etta get her hooks into the reserved Mr. Whealdon. It seems like an easy way to pay off the debt and save face at the same time. But the more Blanche sees of Mr. Whealdon’s playful side, not to mention his surprising generosity, the less she wants to help Etta win him over.
Backing out means humiliating herself and disappointing both her grandfather and Mr. Whealdon, not to mention losing Miss Whealdon’s trust and friendship, but if she goes through with her promise to Etta, she will lose what might be her last chance for love.
I asked Ranee` a few questions about this book in particular and her writing process in general.
Wendy: Welcome, Ranee`! I’m so happy to have you here today. Okay. Here’s my first question: do you know how to play Baccarat?
Ranee`: Hahahaha. Not at all. I researched the basics, but when I did the research, I concentrated mostly on its believability as a part of the story; its believability as something Blanche would have played.
Wendy: What types of books did you read or films did you watch as research?
Ranee`: My biggest research help was “Seasons of Splendor” by Greg King. It’s a great, great book on the Gilded Age. The other books I concentrated on were manners and social books published in the time period and even cook books.
Wendy: Interesting! What made you decide to set your book in New York in 1894?
Ranee`: My last novella (“A Contemptible Affection”) was set in Regency England, which I love, but I also adore the fashion of the Gilded Age in New York. I read “The Luxe” series by Anna Godberson a few years ago, and although those books aren’t my favorite, it made me love the time period.
Wendy: Hm. I haven’t read that series, but maybe I will check it out. As a follow-up question: I read “A Contemptible Affection” and am writing a Regency myself right now. They are both such different eras, but there are also many similarities. What’s the same and what’s different about a Season in Regency England and a Season in New York just before the turn of the century?
Ranee`: So many of my differences came more in attitude differences between Americans and the British. The Americans at that time were more lax about chaperoning duties (which came up a lot in A LADY AND A SPY). At the same time though, the Victorian Era was a bit more uptight than the Regency Era. The middle class had begun to play a bigger role in society, and they had a more prudish outlook than the upper class–which had held all the power during the Regency era.
Wendy: Interesting. I don’t know much about the Gilded Age, but I *do* love Art Deco! Hahaha–is it too early for that?
Ranee`: Hmmm. I’m not sure. Blanche’s grandfather’s house is Rococo revival, if I remember right, which was popular in the mid-century. He’s sort of living in those glory days of the Knickerbockers, those old families that settled Manhattan.
For the Whealdon household, I was inspired by this blog post. So it was a mix of Renaissance and other things…just very opulent, which shows the excess of the upper class in New York during that time period.
Wendy: Ooh, cool. That house is amazing. Switching gears a bit now, how many kids do you have? How are you able to balance being a mother and being a writer?
Ranee`: It’s so hilarious that you should ask about being a mom! I’ve just been trying to bounce my youngest (7 months) on my knee while I typed, and finally had to hand him off.
Wendy: Typing one-handed definitely slows down the process . . .
Ranee`: Yes! Although I’ve gotten really good at it. I have three little boys–7 1/2 and 5 years, and 7 months.
Wendy: Lovely! Boys are so fun. I have two of them, myself.
Ranee`: Before the baby was born, I used to write almost exclusively at nap time. My middle one takes really great naps (still!) so I would have 3 or almost 4 hours of quiet writing time. Squishy, my 7-month-old, doesn’t allow that. Almost all my editing and writing for the last few months, especially the intense editing I’ve been doing on THE GAME PLAN in preparation for submitting it soon, has been done at night. My husband and I put them to bed around 7-7:30, then we hang out for a while and when he goes to bed at 9, I stay up and write/edit.
The change has been hard. I even had to give up a great editing job I loved, but I do what I can to develop my skill and get things done. This fall both my oldest will be in school, so hopefully I’ll get more day writing in.
My biggest help is my husband’s support. He’s always willing to take the kids and let me have time if I need it. He’s awesome.
Wendy: Hooray for supportive husbands! What’s the difference in writing when writing a novella vs. a novel?
Ranee`: Novellas are SO much easier to step back and see the whole picture. The planning is easier. The revising is easier. It’s easier to see where I’m on pace and what is sluggish.
Writing a novel is just more intense, lots more little things to think about, sub-plots, etc. Novellas are fun for me. Novels still are, to an extent, but novellas are like a stress reliever. So is researching for them. I love my historical novellas and the fun things I learn.
Wendy: Well, I’ve loved reading them both.
Ranee`: Thank you so much. That’s just the best thing to hear.
Wendy: Is there a tradition or custom that happened during your book’s time that you’d want to bring back today?
Ranee`: Dancing. Balls. I love to dance. I love to get dressed up and be pretty when I have the chance. I think that it would be awesome to attend a ball or two.
Wendy: I agree! Who can we petition to get that put back into society today? Okay, one last question. Do you keep a journal, and if so, how has it effected your writing?
Ranee`: I don’t keep a journal. (Gasp!) I actually do digital scrapbooking and that’s how I keep track of things going on in our family, so not a lot of journaling.
Wendy: Thanks so much for talking with me today, Ranee`!
Ranee`: Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my stuff. So fun!
Wendy: You’re welcome. It was delightful!
Ranee`: It was!
For a chance to win A Lady and a Spy (and who doesn’t love free books?) visit Ranee` at her blog here.
Ranee` and her personal superhero, her husband, live in Wyoming where they are raising three future super-villains. When she’s not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in her living room or losing to one of her sons at Uno, she loves to read and write. She has a bachelor’s degree in history that is probably useless, but she had a lot of fun earning it. She blogs about writing, reading, and editing at http://raneesclark.blogspot.com.