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!