Once Upon a First Page

Royalharlotfront_coverBy Susan/Miranda

I love beginning a new book.  Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise.  On page one, every book’s a potential NYT best-seller.  What’s not to love about that?

But then the decision-making begins.  Choosing exactly when to begin a story can be more challenging than actually choosing the story itself.  The book I’m using as my example is Royal Harlot, my fictionalized biography of Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine.

When I write a romance, I know that the first chapter will most likely include the first meeting of the hero and the heroine.  Of course they’ll have had experiences and adventures before then, all the things that make them real to me and, I hope to readers, but the focus of the book must be the love they find for one another.

But writing about historical figures is different, and has its own special pitfalls.  The story’s already there; I can’t go changing this war or that king to suit my plot.  Instead I have to pick and choose the key events of the person’s life and times, and construct my conflicts and pacing based as much as I can on fact.  I especially have to avoid the thousand-page “cradle to grave” scenario: you know, “In Which I Am Born”, which worked very well for Victorian novelists, but would make today’s New York editors shriek with horror. 

So while Barbara had a fascinating back-story before her birth (her mother was a merchant heiress who, at fifteen, went against her father’s wishes to marry a young lord who’d fought a duel to impress her), followed by a tumultuous childhood (her royalist father was killed in the Civil War and her mother’s fortune was confiscated by Cromwell, while the infant Barbara was put out to live in the country after her mother married her dead husband’s cousin), I decided the most interesting part of Barbara’s story began after she came to London as a teenager. 

But a starry-eyed young heroine arriving in the big city is hardly an original way to begin a book, and besides, Barbara had a bit too much historical baggage to make her first appearance as an innocent ingénue.  In just about every other book, both fiction and nonfiction, Barbara is portrayed as a pretty unsavory woman, often an out-and-out villain: beautiful, seductive, and clever, but also greedy, grasping, immoral, and manipulative.  I couldn’t reform her, but I could tell her story in a way to explain why she was the way she was. 

I decided to begin with a nineteen-year-old Barbara, at the most important crossroad of her life.  (The starry-eyed ingenue now appears elsewhere in the book.)  She’s already realized she let herself be pushed into a loveless marriage.  Now, at her husband Roger’s insistence, she is about to risk her life to serve the exiled King Charles.  I wanted to show how her husband is more concerned about using her to gain favor with the king than for her own welfare.  I also hoped to earn some empathy for Barbara and her situation. 

However, Barbara is no ordinary neglected wife.  She’s even more ambitious than Roger. I wanted to make it clear that she, too, is thinking of her own future outside of her marriage. Through her thoughts as she leaves her husband, I wanted to set up what would follow next: that she would meet the king and become his lover, and set the course for the rest of her notorious life.

In addition to establishing the story, I had to establish Barbara’s voice. Royal Harlot is written in first-person, as if Barbara is telling her own story.  I couldn’t be the omniscient narrator explaining life in seventeenth-century England.  Everything had to be explained through Barbara’s point of view.  From her first words, I wanted how she spoke to be as indicative of her character as what she was saying.  That’s why that first paragraph took me so long to get right, and why I kept coming back to it as I wrote the rest of the book.  Now you can decide if I succeeded.

I’ll be giving away a copy of Royal Harlot to a reader chosen from those who leave a comment or question.  Happy new year!

                    *   *   *
From Royal Harlot
Copyright 2007 by Susan Holloway Scott

February, 1660

    I was, I think, a gambler born. 
    I don’t mean a few pennies at whist or ombre, a piddling hand of pasteboard cards.  I speak of grander games, where the stakes are power, titles, great fortunes, even the heart of the King of England.  Mark you, I’m no coward.  I wouldn’t have survived so long if I were.  I know how to take my risks, and my vengeance, too, on those who dared to cross me.  But how I did parlay my beauty and wit to rise so high: that was the game I chose, the game that became my life.
    A gambler, yes.  Yet as I sat in the hired carriage not far from the beach and the sea, I was not half so sure of my courage.  I was only nineteen then, and I’d never yet strayed from England.  The moonless sky was black and wet as pitch, the sea below it clipped with whitecaps.  The little sloop that was to take me across to Holland bobbed and tugged at her moorings, her crew scrambling about her narrow deck with their heads bent against the wind and spray as they made their last preparations to sail.  It seemed a woeful vessel to trust with my life, as well with as the hopes of so many others.
    “There’s the signal, Barbara.”  Beside me in the carriage, my husband Roger pointed at the lantern held aloft by a sailor.  “You must go to them now.”
    “I know.”  I retied the ribbons of my hood beneath my chin, not because they’d come loose, but to give my anxious fingers some occupation.  “Though I wish the sailors could wait until dawn.”
    “Oh, yes, so all the Commonwealth’s navy can be sure to come and bid you a happy farewell.”  He sighed with exasperation.  “You knew this wouldn’t be a pleasure-boat when you agreed to go, Barbara.  It’s too late now for you to change your mind.”
    “I’ve not changed my mind, Roger,” I said, wishing he’d show a bit of concern for my welfare.  “I only hoped the weather were less fierce, that is all.”
    “It’s better this way.”  His pale face was serious in the carriage’s half-light.  “I’ve told you before that if you’re caught, no one will come to your rescue, especially if you’ve no time to destroy the letters.  You’re far safer on a night such as this.”
    I nodded, smoothing my hand along the front of my bodice with a flutter of excitement.  I was courting danger, no mistake.  Hidden between my whalebone stays and my smock were letters of great importance to the Royalist cause, letters of support and promises of money for King Charles in exile.  Sewn into my quilted petticoats were gold coins, too, destined for the royal pockets.  Not once in my short life had there been a king upon the empty English throne.  Cromwell and his sour-faced followers had seen to that with a long and hateful civil war, and hidden away all the country’s natural merriment beneath a grey pall of restrictive laws and false piety. 
    But now Cromwell was dead, and the government he’d created was falling in crumbling disarray.  There were more and more of us around the country working for the restoration of the monarchy.  Roger was thick in the middle of the plotting and planning, and well trusted by the Royalist leaders, which was why, as his wife, I’d been chosen as a courier.  Yet the old laws were still in place, and if I were captured and the papers I carried discovered, I’d be damned as a spy, and sent to the Tower until I was tried for treason.  If convicted, I’d be executed, for there was little mercy to be found among the Parliamentary judges for Royalists.
    “You’re the only one of us who could go, Barbara,” Roger continued.  “There’s no one else who could be spared from our work in London.”
    “You mean there was no one else who was willing to sail to Flanders and risk the smallpox.”  I’d had the disease the year before, one of the rare folk to survive, and with my face left clear and unpocked, too.  I could travel with impunity into any outbreak, such as the one now ravaging the city of Brussels. 
    “Your immunity is a consideration, of course,” Roger admitted.  “But that’s only part of the reason you are being sent, Barbara.  I shouldn’t have to remind you of how important His Majesty’s return is to my family’s fortunes.  I’ve personally given over a thousand pounds I could ill afford to support the king.”
    I’d grown vastly tired of hearing of this famous contribution, trotted out whenever Roger wished to puff his own importance.  “You wish such praise for your precious thousand pounds, while you think nothing that I’m to risk my life for the same cause.  A pretty balance, that.”
    His voice turned sharp, the way it often was when he criticized me.  “You’ve been quite willing to enjoy the benefits of being Mistress Palmer.  It’s high time you returned the favor to my father and me, and prove for once you can be an obedient wife.”
    I looked away at the spray-dappled glass, refusing to let him open this old quarrel again.  We’d so many of them between us for less than a year of marriage, most centered on what he perceived to be my excessive frivolity.  Yet I was no better nor worse than the others among our Royalist friends.  With so much unhappiness in our war-ravaged pasts and only uncertainty to our futures, we all took our pleasure wherever we found it, and gave no more thought when it was done.  Roger had known when we wed that he hadn’t been my first lover, any more than I had been his, and if he continued this harshness with me, I vowed he wouldn’t be my last, either.  Was it any wonder that I now lamented the grievous mistake I’d made, letting my mother push me from her house into such a marriage?
    As if to prove it, Roger’s lecture was continuing still.  “I expect you to present my family’s case to His Majesty, how much we’ve sacrificed by supporting him, and how we hope to be rewarded for our loyalty.  Be agreeable to the king, Barbara, and make good use of every minute you have in his company.”
    “But I will, Roger,” I said, and I meant it far more than my husband, so full of smug conceit, would realize.  Even in impoverished exile, Charles Stuart was reputed to be everything a monarch should: tall, virile, intelligent, and charming.  How could I not wish to break free of my husband’s overbearing shadow to meet such a man?
    “Obey me in this, Barbara,” Roger warned, his misguided idea of a farewell between husband and wife.  “I’ll hear of it if you don’t.”
    “Perhaps you’ll hear of it sooner if I do.” I opened the carriage door, my cloak whipping around me, driven as if from my own anticipation as by the wind.  “Good-bye, Roger. . . .”

    Click here for the entire prologue.

95 thoughts on “Once Upon a First Page”

  1. Typepad is still sluggish this morning, but your intro looks good on my screen. I love learning how other people figure out where to start their stories. I’m so tempted to start with “And I am born.” Way too many Victorian classics in my childhood!

    Reply
  2. Typepad is still sluggish this morning, but your intro looks good on my screen. I love learning how other people figure out where to start their stories. I’m so tempted to start with “And I am born.” Way too many Victorian classics in my childhood!

    Reply
  3. Typepad is still sluggish this morning, but your intro looks good on my screen. I love learning how other people figure out where to start their stories. I’m so tempted to start with “And I am born.” Way too many Victorian classics in my childhood!

    Reply
  4. Typepad is still sluggish this morning, but your intro looks good on my screen. I love learning how other people figure out where to start their stories. I’m so tempted to start with “And I am born.” Way too many Victorian classics in my childhood!

    Reply
  5. Typepad is still sluggish this morning, but your intro looks good on my screen. I love learning how other people figure out where to start their stories. I’m so tempted to start with “And I am born.” Way too many Victorian classics in my childhood!

    Reply
  6. What a great beginning Susan/Miranda. The rest of the prologue was just as good. I love the way you use the characters back-story to create an instant connection between them. Misery always loves company.
    Starting a story is difficult for me. That blank page/screen is so ominous… just daring me to make a mistake. But, I’m going to give your way of thinking a try. “…a potential NYT best-seller.”
    Nina

    Reply
  7. What a great beginning Susan/Miranda. The rest of the prologue was just as good. I love the way you use the characters back-story to create an instant connection between them. Misery always loves company.
    Starting a story is difficult for me. That blank page/screen is so ominous… just daring me to make a mistake. But, I’m going to give your way of thinking a try. “…a potential NYT best-seller.”
    Nina

    Reply
  8. What a great beginning Susan/Miranda. The rest of the prologue was just as good. I love the way you use the characters back-story to create an instant connection between them. Misery always loves company.
    Starting a story is difficult for me. That blank page/screen is so ominous… just daring me to make a mistake. But, I’m going to give your way of thinking a try. “…a potential NYT best-seller.”
    Nina

    Reply
  9. What a great beginning Susan/Miranda. The rest of the prologue was just as good. I love the way you use the characters back-story to create an instant connection between them. Misery always loves company.
    Starting a story is difficult for me. That blank page/screen is so ominous… just daring me to make a mistake. But, I’m going to give your way of thinking a try. “…a potential NYT best-seller.”
    Nina

    Reply
  10. What a great beginning Susan/Miranda. The rest of the prologue was just as good. I love the way you use the characters back-story to create an instant connection between them. Misery always loves company.
    Starting a story is difficult for me. That blank page/screen is so ominous… just daring me to make a mistake. But, I’m going to give your way of thinking a try. “…a potential NYT best-seller.”
    Nina

    Reply
  11. I love this beginning. It tells enough to give a clear sense of Barbara’s character and backstory yet makes us want to learn all the details. The interaction with her husband also beautifully sets the stage for your non-Victorian interpretation of Barbara’s life.

    Reply
  12. I love this beginning. It tells enough to give a clear sense of Barbara’s character and backstory yet makes us want to learn all the details. The interaction with her husband also beautifully sets the stage for your non-Victorian interpretation of Barbara’s life.

    Reply
  13. I love this beginning. It tells enough to give a clear sense of Barbara’s character and backstory yet makes us want to learn all the details. The interaction with her husband also beautifully sets the stage for your non-Victorian interpretation of Barbara’s life.

    Reply
  14. I love this beginning. It tells enough to give a clear sense of Barbara’s character and backstory yet makes us want to learn all the details. The interaction with her husband also beautifully sets the stage for your non-Victorian interpretation of Barbara’s life.

    Reply
  15. I love this beginning. It tells enough to give a clear sense of Barbara’s character and backstory yet makes us want to learn all the details. The interaction with her husband also beautifully sets the stage for your non-Victorian interpretation of Barbara’s life.

    Reply
  16. I’m so pleased you all are doing this! I will look forward to every episode! (I would have made this comment on the announcement, but the link to the comments page didn’t work. A Janus glitch?)
    It’s interesting to talk about the beginnings of a story in January, with Janus there looking both forward and back. In the comic strip “Zits,” Pierce says “Today is the last day of your life so far.” That seems like a good place to start.

    Reply
  17. I’m so pleased you all are doing this! I will look forward to every episode! (I would have made this comment on the announcement, but the link to the comments page didn’t work. A Janus glitch?)
    It’s interesting to talk about the beginnings of a story in January, with Janus there looking both forward and back. In the comic strip “Zits,” Pierce says “Today is the last day of your life so far.” That seems like a good place to start.

    Reply
  18. I’m so pleased you all are doing this! I will look forward to every episode! (I would have made this comment on the announcement, but the link to the comments page didn’t work. A Janus glitch?)
    It’s interesting to talk about the beginnings of a story in January, with Janus there looking both forward and back. In the comic strip “Zits,” Pierce says “Today is the last day of your life so far.” That seems like a good place to start.

    Reply
  19. I’m so pleased you all are doing this! I will look forward to every episode! (I would have made this comment on the announcement, but the link to the comments page didn’t work. A Janus glitch?)
    It’s interesting to talk about the beginnings of a story in January, with Janus there looking both forward and back. In the comic strip “Zits,” Pierce says “Today is the last day of your life so far.” That seems like a good place to start.

    Reply
  20. I’m so pleased you all are doing this! I will look forward to every episode! (I would have made this comment on the announcement, but the link to the comments page didn’t work. A Janus glitch?)
    It’s interesting to talk about the beginnings of a story in January, with Janus there looking both forward and back. In the comic strip “Zits,” Pierce says “Today is the last day of your life so far.” That seems like a good place to start.

    Reply
  21. What fabulous beginning, Susan. Hooked me in from the start and you do make her both strong and sympathetic. She leaps onto the page as very much herself – with no apologies. I like that.
    I’m going to have to buy the book.
    And what an excellent theme for blogging, Wenches. I can’t wait to read the others.
    Happy new year.

    Reply
  22. What fabulous beginning, Susan. Hooked me in from the start and you do make her both strong and sympathetic. She leaps onto the page as very much herself – with no apologies. I like that.
    I’m going to have to buy the book.
    And what an excellent theme for blogging, Wenches. I can’t wait to read the others.
    Happy new year.

    Reply
  23. What fabulous beginning, Susan. Hooked me in from the start and you do make her both strong and sympathetic. She leaps onto the page as very much herself – with no apologies. I like that.
    I’m going to have to buy the book.
    And what an excellent theme for blogging, Wenches. I can’t wait to read the others.
    Happy new year.

    Reply
  24. What fabulous beginning, Susan. Hooked me in from the start and you do make her both strong and sympathetic. She leaps onto the page as very much herself – with no apologies. I like that.
    I’m going to have to buy the book.
    And what an excellent theme for blogging, Wenches. I can’t wait to read the others.
    Happy new year.

    Reply
  25. What fabulous beginning, Susan. Hooked me in from the start and you do make her both strong and sympathetic. She leaps onto the page as very much herself – with no apologies. I like that.
    I’m going to have to buy the book.
    And what an excellent theme for blogging, Wenches. I can’t wait to read the others.
    Happy new year.

    Reply
  26. “I love beginning a new book. Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise” As a reader that is exactly how I feel. I can’t wait to start a new book – and yours sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  27. “I love beginning a new book. Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise” As a reader that is exactly how I feel. I can’t wait to start a new book – and yours sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  28. “I love beginning a new book. Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise” As a reader that is exactly how I feel. I can’t wait to start a new book – and yours sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  29. “I love beginning a new book. Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise” As a reader that is exactly how I feel. I can’t wait to start a new book – and yours sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  30. “I love beginning a new book. Just like that first day of school, the first page is full of opportunity and promise” As a reader that is exactly how I feel. I can’t wait to start a new book – and yours sounds wonderful!

    Reply
  31. -a wonderfully compelling beginning. I really like that you begin with the heroine’s voice, and with her thoughts, not with action or description. I find that the beginnings that usually draw me in either begin with thoughts, or with dialogue.
    Merry

    Reply
  32. -a wonderfully compelling beginning. I really like that you begin with the heroine’s voice, and with her thoughts, not with action or description. I find that the beginnings that usually draw me in either begin with thoughts, or with dialogue.
    Merry

    Reply
  33. -a wonderfully compelling beginning. I really like that you begin with the heroine’s voice, and with her thoughts, not with action or description. I find that the beginnings that usually draw me in either begin with thoughts, or with dialogue.
    Merry

    Reply
  34. -a wonderfully compelling beginning. I really like that you begin with the heroine’s voice, and with her thoughts, not with action or description. I find that the beginnings that usually draw me in either begin with thoughts, or with dialogue.
    Merry

    Reply
  35. -a wonderfully compelling beginning. I really like that you begin with the heroine’s voice, and with her thoughts, not with action or description. I find that the beginnings that usually draw me in either begin with thoughts, or with dialogue.
    Merry

    Reply
  36. What a great first line! It immediately caught me and the rest held me fast. I struggle to find a first line like this in my own writing.
    I can definitely sympathize with Barbara. What else did strong women have those days but to be ambitious? And you do a good job letting us see her thoughts and feelings.
    Thanks to all the Word Wenches for this series. It’s valuable to me to see what influences published authors to make the choices they do. I’m looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  37. What a great first line! It immediately caught me and the rest held me fast. I struggle to find a first line like this in my own writing.
    I can definitely sympathize with Barbara. What else did strong women have those days but to be ambitious? And you do a good job letting us see her thoughts and feelings.
    Thanks to all the Word Wenches for this series. It’s valuable to me to see what influences published authors to make the choices they do. I’m looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  38. What a great first line! It immediately caught me and the rest held me fast. I struggle to find a first line like this in my own writing.
    I can definitely sympathize with Barbara. What else did strong women have those days but to be ambitious? And you do a good job letting us see her thoughts and feelings.
    Thanks to all the Word Wenches for this series. It’s valuable to me to see what influences published authors to make the choices they do. I’m looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  39. What a great first line! It immediately caught me and the rest held me fast. I struggle to find a first line like this in my own writing.
    I can definitely sympathize with Barbara. What else did strong women have those days but to be ambitious? And you do a good job letting us see her thoughts and feelings.
    Thanks to all the Word Wenches for this series. It’s valuable to me to see what influences published authors to make the choices they do. I’m looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  40. What a great first line! It immediately caught me and the rest held me fast. I struggle to find a first line like this in my own writing.
    I can definitely sympathize with Barbara. What else did strong women have those days but to be ambitious? And you do a good job letting us see her thoughts and feelings.
    Thanks to all the Word Wenches for this series. It’s valuable to me to see what influences published authors to make the choices they do. I’m looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  41. I like your beginning. Barbara seems like a strong character who does not find much joy in her life. I like the story from her point of view which allows me to understand a woman I might not have liked at all otherwise.

    Reply
  42. I like your beginning. Barbara seems like a strong character who does not find much joy in her life. I like the story from her point of view which allows me to understand a woman I might not have liked at all otherwise.

    Reply
  43. I like your beginning. Barbara seems like a strong character who does not find much joy in her life. I like the story from her point of view which allows me to understand a woman I might not have liked at all otherwise.

    Reply
  44. I like your beginning. Barbara seems like a strong character who does not find much joy in her life. I like the story from her point of view which allows me to understand a woman I might not have liked at all otherwise.

    Reply
  45. I like your beginning. Barbara seems like a strong character who does not find much joy in her life. I like the story from her point of view which allows me to understand a woman I might not have liked at all otherwise.

    Reply
  46. Great idea for a blog — it’s the sort of thing I, as a reader, always wonder about.
    And it was a great decision you made for Royal Harlot. I remember when I first read the book (which I loved) being immediately drawn in. Barbara isn’t an intrinsically lovable person, but you made her both understandable and sympathetic from the start.

    Reply
  47. Great idea for a blog — it’s the sort of thing I, as a reader, always wonder about.
    And it was a great decision you made for Royal Harlot. I remember when I first read the book (which I loved) being immediately drawn in. Barbara isn’t an intrinsically lovable person, but you made her both understandable and sympathetic from the start.

    Reply
  48. Great idea for a blog — it’s the sort of thing I, as a reader, always wonder about.
    And it was a great decision you made for Royal Harlot. I remember when I first read the book (which I loved) being immediately drawn in. Barbara isn’t an intrinsically lovable person, but you made her both understandable and sympathetic from the start.

    Reply
  49. Great idea for a blog — it’s the sort of thing I, as a reader, always wonder about.
    And it was a great decision you made for Royal Harlot. I remember when I first read the book (which I loved) being immediately drawn in. Barbara isn’t an intrinsically lovable person, but you made her both understandable and sympathetic from the start.

    Reply
  50. Great idea for a blog — it’s the sort of thing I, as a reader, always wonder about.
    And it was a great decision you made for Royal Harlot. I remember when I first read the book (which I loved) being immediately drawn in. Barbara isn’t an intrinsically lovable person, but you made her both understandable and sympathetic from the start.

    Reply
  51. Thank you for all your comments! Barbara was a challenge to me as a writer, but I really enjoyed my time in her “company.”
    This is going to be a good series of blogs — I’m looking forward to reading the methods to the first-page madness of all the other Wenches, too. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  52. Thank you for all your comments! Barbara was a challenge to me as a writer, but I really enjoyed my time in her “company.”
    This is going to be a good series of blogs — I’m looking forward to reading the methods to the first-page madness of all the other Wenches, too. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  53. Thank you for all your comments! Barbara was a challenge to me as a writer, but I really enjoyed my time in her “company.”
    This is going to be a good series of blogs — I’m looking forward to reading the methods to the first-page madness of all the other Wenches, too. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  54. Thank you for all your comments! Barbara was a challenge to me as a writer, but I really enjoyed my time in her “company.”
    This is going to be a good series of blogs — I’m looking forward to reading the methods to the first-page madness of all the other Wenches, too. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  55. Thank you for all your comments! Barbara was a challenge to me as a writer, but I really enjoyed my time in her “company.”
    This is going to be a good series of blogs — I’m looking forward to reading the methods to the first-page madness of all the other Wenches, too. 🙂
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  56. It was so interesting to read about how you chose where to start the novel. I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?

    Reply
  57. It was so interesting to read about how you chose where to start the novel. I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?

    Reply
  58. It was so interesting to read about how you chose where to start the novel. I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?

    Reply
  59. It was so interesting to read about how you chose where to start the novel. I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?

    Reply
  60. It was so interesting to read about how you chose where to start the novel. I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?

    Reply
  61. Michelle wrote:
    “I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?”
    I wish I had! When I wrote about Sarah Churchill, there were so many letters of hers — letters to her husband, her children, and friends –– that it really was an embarassment of richs. Sarah saved EVERYTHING, and even made copies of letters she’d sent.
    But Barbara was a different story altogether. There are very few letters of hers surviving. Unlike Sarah, she didn’t save much of her own correpsondance, and later descendents, living in a more prudish era, burned many of those for being too scandalous. I also suspect that writing was something of a chore for her: her letters have a hasty, rushed quality, as if there are many other things she’d rather be doing, and aren’t particularly literate. That golden age of education for upper-class women during the time of Elizabeth I, when young ladies were taught Greek and Latin along with their brothers, was long done by Barbara’s time. Besides, growing up in the country during the Civil War, her education would have been scattered at best.
    So without her written “voice”, I had to rely on recorded anecdotes from other people at Court (some of her public exchanges with the king were breathlessly repeated with all the zeal of People magazine today), and on her own personality as it seemed to me. She never made any excuses for her behavior. She was supposed to be witty, bawdy, and flirtatious. She liked power, and she liked being rich. She was also proud, even haughty, confident to the point of arrogance, and short-tempered. She could be exceptionally kind and generous to those she liked or trusted, and absolutely horrible to those she didn’t, with a vengeful, vindictive streak that appalled her contemporaries.
    That’s a lot to pack in to a first-person voice. I also had to show the change in her as she aged from an innocent (well, as innocent as she ever was!) teenager to a very jaded, fading Court beauty, twenty years later. All things to take into account….
    Writing in the first-person voice of Nell Gwyn for KING’S FAVORITE (due out this summer) was even harder, because she was illiterate. No letters to help there! Plus I had to make her funny — funny for her time, and funny enough for modern readers that they “got her.” But that’s another blog! *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  62. Michelle wrote:
    “I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?”
    I wish I had! When I wrote about Sarah Churchill, there were so many letters of hers — letters to her husband, her children, and friends –– that it really was an embarassment of richs. Sarah saved EVERYTHING, and even made copies of letters she’d sent.
    But Barbara was a different story altogether. There are very few letters of hers surviving. Unlike Sarah, she didn’t save much of her own correpsondance, and later descendents, living in a more prudish era, burned many of those for being too scandalous. I also suspect that writing was something of a chore for her: her letters have a hasty, rushed quality, as if there are many other things she’d rather be doing, and aren’t particularly literate. That golden age of education for upper-class women during the time of Elizabeth I, when young ladies were taught Greek and Latin along with their brothers, was long done by Barbara’s time. Besides, growing up in the country during the Civil War, her education would have been scattered at best.
    So without her written “voice”, I had to rely on recorded anecdotes from other people at Court (some of her public exchanges with the king were breathlessly repeated with all the zeal of People magazine today), and on her own personality as it seemed to me. She never made any excuses for her behavior. She was supposed to be witty, bawdy, and flirtatious. She liked power, and she liked being rich. She was also proud, even haughty, confident to the point of arrogance, and short-tempered. She could be exceptionally kind and generous to those she liked or trusted, and absolutely horrible to those she didn’t, with a vengeful, vindictive streak that appalled her contemporaries.
    That’s a lot to pack in to a first-person voice. I also had to show the change in her as she aged from an innocent (well, as innocent as she ever was!) teenager to a very jaded, fading Court beauty, twenty years later. All things to take into account….
    Writing in the first-person voice of Nell Gwyn for KING’S FAVORITE (due out this summer) was even harder, because she was illiterate. No letters to help there! Plus I had to make her funny — funny for her time, and funny enough for modern readers that they “got her.” But that’s another blog! *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  63. Michelle wrote:
    “I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?”
    I wish I had! When I wrote about Sarah Churchill, there were so many letters of hers — letters to her husband, her children, and friends –– that it really was an embarassment of richs. Sarah saved EVERYTHING, and even made copies of letters she’d sent.
    But Barbara was a different story altogether. There are very few letters of hers surviving. Unlike Sarah, she didn’t save much of her own correpsondance, and later descendents, living in a more prudish era, burned many of those for being too scandalous. I also suspect that writing was something of a chore for her: her letters have a hasty, rushed quality, as if there are many other things she’d rather be doing, and aren’t particularly literate. That golden age of education for upper-class women during the time of Elizabeth I, when young ladies were taught Greek and Latin along with their brothers, was long done by Barbara’s time. Besides, growing up in the country during the Civil War, her education would have been scattered at best.
    So without her written “voice”, I had to rely on recorded anecdotes from other people at Court (some of her public exchanges with the king were breathlessly repeated with all the zeal of People magazine today), and on her own personality as it seemed to me. She never made any excuses for her behavior. She was supposed to be witty, bawdy, and flirtatious. She liked power, and she liked being rich. She was also proud, even haughty, confident to the point of arrogance, and short-tempered. She could be exceptionally kind and generous to those she liked or trusted, and absolutely horrible to those she didn’t, with a vengeful, vindictive streak that appalled her contemporaries.
    That’s a lot to pack in to a first-person voice. I also had to show the change in her as she aged from an innocent (well, as innocent as she ever was!) teenager to a very jaded, fading Court beauty, twenty years later. All things to take into account….
    Writing in the first-person voice of Nell Gwyn for KING’S FAVORITE (due out this summer) was even harder, because she was illiterate. No letters to help there! Plus I had to make her funny — funny for her time, and funny enough for modern readers that they “got her.” But that’s another blog! *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  64. Michelle wrote:
    “I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?”
    I wish I had! When I wrote about Sarah Churchill, there were so many letters of hers — letters to her husband, her children, and friends –– that it really was an embarassment of richs. Sarah saved EVERYTHING, and even made copies of letters she’d sent.
    But Barbara was a different story altogether. There are very few letters of hers surviving. Unlike Sarah, she didn’t save much of her own correpsondance, and later descendents, living in a more prudish era, burned many of those for being too scandalous. I also suspect that writing was something of a chore for her: her letters have a hasty, rushed quality, as if there are many other things she’d rather be doing, and aren’t particularly literate. That golden age of education for upper-class women during the time of Elizabeth I, when young ladies were taught Greek and Latin along with their brothers, was long done by Barbara’s time. Besides, growing up in the country during the Civil War, her education would have been scattered at best.
    So without her written “voice”, I had to rely on recorded anecdotes from other people at Court (some of her public exchanges with the king were breathlessly repeated with all the zeal of People magazine today), and on her own personality as it seemed to me. She never made any excuses for her behavior. She was supposed to be witty, bawdy, and flirtatious. She liked power, and she liked being rich. She was also proud, even haughty, confident to the point of arrogance, and short-tempered. She could be exceptionally kind and generous to those she liked or trusted, and absolutely horrible to those she didn’t, with a vengeful, vindictive streak that appalled her contemporaries.
    That’s a lot to pack in to a first-person voice. I also had to show the change in her as she aged from an innocent (well, as innocent as she ever was!) teenager to a very jaded, fading Court beauty, twenty years later. All things to take into account….
    Writing in the first-person voice of Nell Gwyn for KING’S FAVORITE (due out this summer) was even harder, because she was illiterate. No letters to help there! Plus I had to make her funny — funny for her time, and funny enough for modern readers that they “got her.” But that’s another blog! *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  65. Michelle wrote:
    “I’d like to hear more about how you figured out her voice. Did you have access to primary materials such as letters she wrote?”
    I wish I had! When I wrote about Sarah Churchill, there were so many letters of hers — letters to her husband, her children, and friends –– that it really was an embarassment of richs. Sarah saved EVERYTHING, and even made copies of letters she’d sent.
    But Barbara was a different story altogether. There are very few letters of hers surviving. Unlike Sarah, she didn’t save much of her own correpsondance, and later descendents, living in a more prudish era, burned many of those for being too scandalous. I also suspect that writing was something of a chore for her: her letters have a hasty, rushed quality, as if there are many other things she’d rather be doing, and aren’t particularly literate. That golden age of education for upper-class women during the time of Elizabeth I, when young ladies were taught Greek and Latin along with their brothers, was long done by Barbara’s time. Besides, growing up in the country during the Civil War, her education would have been scattered at best.
    So without her written “voice”, I had to rely on recorded anecdotes from other people at Court (some of her public exchanges with the king were breathlessly repeated with all the zeal of People magazine today), and on her own personality as it seemed to me. She never made any excuses for her behavior. She was supposed to be witty, bawdy, and flirtatious. She liked power, and she liked being rich. She was also proud, even haughty, confident to the point of arrogance, and short-tempered. She could be exceptionally kind and generous to those she liked or trusted, and absolutely horrible to those she didn’t, with a vengeful, vindictive streak that appalled her contemporaries.
    That’s a lot to pack in to a first-person voice. I also had to show the change in her as she aged from an innocent (well, as innocent as she ever was!) teenager to a very jaded, fading Court beauty, twenty years later. All things to take into account….
    Writing in the first-person voice of Nell Gwyn for KING’S FAVORITE (due out this summer) was even harder, because she was illiterate. No letters to help there! Plus I had to make her funny — funny for her time, and funny enough for modern readers that they “got her.” But that’s another blog! *g*
    Susan/Miranda

    Reply
  66. I am always amazed at the amount of research a writer does in order to get the times and the characters right and then fall short on the diaglogue. You seem to have nailed that too. I have added this one to my list to read

    Reply
  67. I am always amazed at the amount of research a writer does in order to get the times and the characters right and then fall short on the diaglogue. You seem to have nailed that too. I have added this one to my list to read

    Reply
  68. I am always amazed at the amount of research a writer does in order to get the times and the characters right and then fall short on the diaglogue. You seem to have nailed that too. I have added this one to my list to read

    Reply
  69. I am always amazed at the amount of research a writer does in order to get the times and the characters right and then fall short on the diaglogue. You seem to have nailed that too. I have added this one to my list to read

    Reply
  70. I am always amazed at the amount of research a writer does in order to get the times and the characters right and then fall short on the diaglogue. You seem to have nailed that too. I have added this one to my list to read

    Reply
  71. I always like to know what a character’s life was like before the story starts. It makes you understand them so much better. This sounds like a really good story and I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  72. I always like to know what a character’s life was like before the story starts. It makes you understand them so much better. This sounds like a really good story and I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  73. I always like to know what a character’s life was like before the story starts. It makes you understand them so much better. This sounds like a really good story and I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  74. I always like to know what a character’s life was like before the story starts. It makes you understand them so much better. This sounds like a really good story and I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  75. I always like to know what a character’s life was like before the story starts. It makes you understand them so much better. This sounds like a really good story and I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
  76. This really does sound like a great story to read. Like most readers, I probably know very little about this era and have actually avoided it at times.
    However, I’ve already been on the lookout for this book because I really liked the one about Sarah Churchill, though I knew even less about her than about Barbara.
    Is it difficult to write in the first person? I’ve heard that writers usually avoid this. However, I must agree that it seems to be the only voice that is suitable to really explaining the feelings of a person and I think you have done that admirably. Is that the reason you chose it?
    I’m also wondering what drew you to the Restoration and these, so far, three women in particular. You might have already explained this previously before I became more dedicated to this blog. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll go to see wherever you have explained this point before.
    I also am very interested in this whole series of blogs. Being non-creative myself, I find this process, like any associated with writing–except for grammar–totally daunting and yet fascinating.

    Reply
  77. This really does sound like a great story to read. Like most readers, I probably know very little about this era and have actually avoided it at times.
    However, I’ve already been on the lookout for this book because I really liked the one about Sarah Churchill, though I knew even less about her than about Barbara.
    Is it difficult to write in the first person? I’ve heard that writers usually avoid this. However, I must agree that it seems to be the only voice that is suitable to really explaining the feelings of a person and I think you have done that admirably. Is that the reason you chose it?
    I’m also wondering what drew you to the Restoration and these, so far, three women in particular. You might have already explained this previously before I became more dedicated to this blog. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll go to see wherever you have explained this point before.
    I also am very interested in this whole series of blogs. Being non-creative myself, I find this process, like any associated with writing–except for grammar–totally daunting and yet fascinating.

    Reply
  78. This really does sound like a great story to read. Like most readers, I probably know very little about this era and have actually avoided it at times.
    However, I’ve already been on the lookout for this book because I really liked the one about Sarah Churchill, though I knew even less about her than about Barbara.
    Is it difficult to write in the first person? I’ve heard that writers usually avoid this. However, I must agree that it seems to be the only voice that is suitable to really explaining the feelings of a person and I think you have done that admirably. Is that the reason you chose it?
    I’m also wondering what drew you to the Restoration and these, so far, three women in particular. You might have already explained this previously before I became more dedicated to this blog. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll go to see wherever you have explained this point before.
    I also am very interested in this whole series of blogs. Being non-creative myself, I find this process, like any associated with writing–except for grammar–totally daunting and yet fascinating.

    Reply
  79. This really does sound like a great story to read. Like most readers, I probably know very little about this era and have actually avoided it at times.
    However, I’ve already been on the lookout for this book because I really liked the one about Sarah Churchill, though I knew even less about her than about Barbara.
    Is it difficult to write in the first person? I’ve heard that writers usually avoid this. However, I must agree that it seems to be the only voice that is suitable to really explaining the feelings of a person and I think you have done that admirably. Is that the reason you chose it?
    I’m also wondering what drew you to the Restoration and these, so far, three women in particular. You might have already explained this previously before I became more dedicated to this blog. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll go to see wherever you have explained this point before.
    I also am very interested in this whole series of blogs. Being non-creative myself, I find this process, like any associated with writing–except for grammar–totally daunting and yet fascinating.

    Reply
  80. This really does sound like a great story to read. Like most readers, I probably know very little about this era and have actually avoided it at times.
    However, I’ve already been on the lookout for this book because I really liked the one about Sarah Churchill, though I knew even less about her than about Barbara.
    Is it difficult to write in the first person? I’ve heard that writers usually avoid this. However, I must agree that it seems to be the only voice that is suitable to really explaining the feelings of a person and I think you have done that admirably. Is that the reason you chose it?
    I’m also wondering what drew you to the Restoration and these, so far, three women in particular. You might have already explained this previously before I became more dedicated to this blog. If you point me in the right direction, I’ll go to see wherever you have explained this point before.
    I also am very interested in this whole series of blogs. Being non-creative myself, I find this process, like any associated with writing–except for grammar–totally daunting and yet fascinating.

    Reply
  81. what an outstanding topic for the wenches to elaborate on, and how delicious that blog followers get to look at handpicked, superbly written examples of each wenches musings on the subject!
    this particular beginning was fab – short yet giving an overarching story theme, from a deeply personal perspective, and signalling that the speaker might not be someone typically thought of as a ‘nice’ heroine, but promising to be fascinating. an excellent prologue.
    and even the little details were good – i loved ‘wet as pitch’ sky, and how she fussed at her hat ribbons the way a lot of modern women fuss at their hair when nervous.

    Reply
  82. what an outstanding topic for the wenches to elaborate on, and how delicious that blog followers get to look at handpicked, superbly written examples of each wenches musings on the subject!
    this particular beginning was fab – short yet giving an overarching story theme, from a deeply personal perspective, and signalling that the speaker might not be someone typically thought of as a ‘nice’ heroine, but promising to be fascinating. an excellent prologue.
    and even the little details were good – i loved ‘wet as pitch’ sky, and how she fussed at her hat ribbons the way a lot of modern women fuss at their hair when nervous.

    Reply
  83. what an outstanding topic for the wenches to elaborate on, and how delicious that blog followers get to look at handpicked, superbly written examples of each wenches musings on the subject!
    this particular beginning was fab – short yet giving an overarching story theme, from a deeply personal perspective, and signalling that the speaker might not be someone typically thought of as a ‘nice’ heroine, but promising to be fascinating. an excellent prologue.
    and even the little details were good – i loved ‘wet as pitch’ sky, and how she fussed at her hat ribbons the way a lot of modern women fuss at their hair when nervous.

    Reply
  84. what an outstanding topic for the wenches to elaborate on, and how delicious that blog followers get to look at handpicked, superbly written examples of each wenches musings on the subject!
    this particular beginning was fab – short yet giving an overarching story theme, from a deeply personal perspective, and signalling that the speaker might not be someone typically thought of as a ‘nice’ heroine, but promising to be fascinating. an excellent prologue.
    and even the little details were good – i loved ‘wet as pitch’ sky, and how she fussed at her hat ribbons the way a lot of modern women fuss at their hair when nervous.

    Reply
  85. what an outstanding topic for the wenches to elaborate on, and how delicious that blog followers get to look at handpicked, superbly written examples of each wenches musings on the subject!
    this particular beginning was fab – short yet giving an overarching story theme, from a deeply personal perspective, and signalling that the speaker might not be someone typically thought of as a ‘nice’ heroine, but promising to be fascinating. an excellent prologue.
    and even the little details were good – i loved ‘wet as pitch’ sky, and how she fussed at her hat ribbons the way a lot of modern women fuss at their hair when nervous.

    Reply

Leave a Comment