Christina here. A little while ago the Wenches were discussing how we got into writing and whether we always wanted to be writers and had been making up stories since we were little. I didn’t, and it never occurred to me that I could be an author – I preferred to read other people’s stories. At home, though, I did an awful lot of daydreaming and I played with dolls all the time, particularly my Barbies. I made up different adventures and scenarios for them every day, almost always romantic ones. My Barbie wore her wedding dress so many times I ended up having to wash it frequently! I think that probably counts as the beginning of my author career and all those plots came in handy when I finally did begin to write.
Joanna here with this month's question for the Wenches:
Do you have a hobby or handicraft that's important to you? Does it ever find its way into your writing?
Alas, I am not crafty, except perhaps in my plotting. I learned basic sewing as a girl and made some of my own clothes because that's what girls did in that time and place, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it, and I was a complete loss at handcrafts. I botched cross-stitch and never mastered crochet and had zero interest in embroidery. I did learn to knit in college because it was a way to keep hands busy when we sat around and talked, and I even managed a few large needle sweaters. But they weren't very good except for basic warmth, and I haven't knit since I got out of college.
With the exception of young Bree, the hero's daughter in Sometimes a Rogue, my female characters aren't very interested in handwork, though they can mend things as required. And now that I think of it, Laurel, the heroine of Not Quite a Wife, crocheted baby blanket squares while on a long carriage ride, but that was more because poor babies needed warm blankets. I don't think she was much interested in crocheting for crochet's sake. <G> So I guess you could say that my lack of handicraft interest has made its way into my writing!
On the other hand, while I don't have much gift for crafts, I have my share of interests. As an art school graduate and a professional designer, art and design creep into stories, most strongly in River of Fire, where all the major characters are artists and don't know how they feel unless they have a paint brush in hand. <G> And I love music, though again I have no particular talent other than being able to do some research, but it's fun finding a four hand piano version of Vivaldi quartets on youtube, then telling my characters to take it from there. <G> A nice thing about writing is all the elements we can weave into our stories!
Nicola offers us music:
It’s interesting how many writers are also creative in other artistic fields. I have absolutely no talent for painting or drawing, or sewing, knitting or making anything with my hands. As a child I did make patchwork cushions in my sewing classes at school and I was also passably good at cookery, which I think is another creative talent. However it was music that I loved and singing was a hobby of mine from childhood.
I studied music at school and learned the piano and wrote some (bad) songs. I joined my school, college and church choirs and was also a member of a local choral society that toured Europe one summer. That was very exciting. My first love was always church music but I have tackled just about everything except opera! My singing tutor was a very fierce Scots lady called Mrs Buchan who had been a professional singer and was a very inspiring teacher.
A number of characters in my books are musical and have good signing voices. Some of my heroines are talented at the piano or other musical instruments. When I am researching a book I do enjoy seeing which pieces of music were popular in the period and choosing something that my heroine might be singing or playing in the drawing room after dinner to entertain the other guests. In Unmasked, the heroine Mari gives away the secret of her ancestry by singing a Russian folk song. When I write musical characters I am always reminded of Mary in Pride and Prejudice who loved playing the piano even though she had little aptitude for it, and her father saying: “You have entertained us long enough!”
characters are going to have gardens as most people in the past did until the
worst town developments of the 19th century, which led to the allotment
movement — an awareness that people, especially the poor, need a place to grow
food and also to have touch with the land and growing things.
Most of my characters are wealthy enough to have estates and gardeners, but they still take an interest. Interestingly, my book-in-progress, The Viscount Needs a Wife, has a hero and heroine who don't. They're both London people, not fond of the countryside, and know nothing about how to grow anything. I like to be different!
Anne here, hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
I've been thinking about presents. When you're a child, the fact of the present is usually enough, but sometimes it's the meaning of the present that's important. Looking back at the presents of my childhood, only a few really stand out. Most of them I don't remember at all, and as for where they are now, that's anyone's guess.
But I still have the pair of marble horse-head bookends that my dad gave me one year, that combined my two eleven-year-old passions — reading and horses. (I actually wanted a real horse, but sadly that never arrived.) But this set of bookends was my first grown-up kind of present, and I was so proud to get them.
In several of my books I've had a young girl yearning for a doll. I'm not quite sure where this comes from — I was never a doll kind of child — I preferred living animals, and my teddy. But I suppose a doll stands for someone of your own to love, and I think we can all understand the kind of yearning a young, lonely girl might have for a doll. Dolls are symbolic in so many ways.
In my book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE — which hit the shelves on Tuesday — my heroine's father, having no son, worked his motherless young daughter her hard, training her to run the estate, and treating her as a boy. But one day he returns from a trip and Isabella spies a present in his bag…
Papa's bags were right there. The flap of one was open. Bella was tempted to peek.
What she saw took her breath away — a golden-haired china doll, the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen in her life, dressed in a pink velvet dress, with real lace, so beautiful it almost made her cry.
Last time Papa had brought her a riding crop, beautifully tooled, and of course, Bella had been delighted, even if it was the kind of thing you gave a son. And she did love riding.
But this gloriously beautiful doll was for a daughter, a most beloved daughter. She didn't know what thrilled her most — the beauty of the doll, or that Papa had thought to bring her something so lovely, so special. It made all her hard work worthwhile.
Every detail of the doll was perfect, even down to tiny oval pink fingernails on her dimpled china hands. Her shoes were of palest pink leather, fastened with tiny pearl buttons, and she wore white stockings made of silk. The doll's eyes were bright blue, with long lashes made of real hair and they seemed to smile at Bella, like a friend, like a sister.
She hugged the doll to her. She'd always wanted a sister. She would call her Gloriana. She lifted the dress to see what the doll wore underneath — and heard a sound at the door. Someone was coming. Quickly she thrust the doll back into Papa's bag and hurried away.
She would have all the time in the world to play with her doll.
She changed into her prettiest dress and waited until dinner time with barely suppressed excitement.
"Have you been a good girl, Isabella?"
"Yes, Papa." She felt almost sick with anticipation.
"I've brought you something from the city. Do you want to know what it is?"
Her hands were shaking. "Yes, please Papa."
He handed her a parcel, square and heavy, too small to be the doll. "Well, go on, open it."
She unwrapped it. It was a book; Equus, on the care and treatment of horses. Puzzled, she glanced at her father, thinking perhaps he'd played a trick on her and would produce the doll in a minute. "Is that all, Papa?"
He laughed. "No, of course it isn't all, now where did I put it?" And he started patting his pockets.
And Bella laughed with him, laughing too loudly in relief and delight that Papa had joked with her, when normally he was so serious.
"Ah, here it is." He pulled from his pocket a small twist of paper.
Bella's laughter died. She eyed the brown paper twist. She knew what it contained and it wasn't a doll.
"Thought I'd forgotten your sweet tooth, did you?" He gave her the little packet of boiled sweets." Now, come and give your father a kiss and then run along upstairs with your treasures."
Were you a doll kind of child or were animals more your thing? Were you ever disappointed in a present, as Isabella was? Do you still love getting presents? On wordwenches we give our guests the most stupendous cyber gifts, no expense spared. If you could give yourself a stupendous gift, no expense spared, what would it be? I'll give a copy of my January book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE, to someone who leaves a comment.