Historical Eye Candy: Fire trucks!

September 28, 2011

Okay…so if you’re a lover of all things historical then you can totally spend hours looking at innate objects from any time period and love every minute of it.  Sometimes words just aren’t needed for a post.  Pictures tell it all.  So from time to time you’ll see a (as I’m calling it) “Historical Eye Candy” post!  I present to you our first post of this new series: Fire trucks!   Come enjoy these photos!  They were taken at OSV in July during their “Fire & Ice” day.  People brought in their antique firetrucks and displayed them for the public to enjoy!  And enjoy them I did.  I hope you like them as much as I did.


Contest Winner: Faithful

September 23, 2011

Brian Kelley you won the copy of Faithful! Email us at damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com with your mailing information so we can get the copy out to you! T


Gruel

September 20, 2011

America Frugal Housewife

GRUEL

Gruel is very easily made. Have a pint of water boiling in a skillet; stir up three or four large spoonfuls of nicely sifted oat-meal, rye, or Indian, in cold water. Pour it into the skillet while the water boils. Let it boil eight or ten minutes. Throw in a large handful of raisins to boil, if the patient is well enough to bear them. When put in a bowl, add a little salt, white sugar, and nutmeg.

…presented to you from The American Frugal Housewife – Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy, by Mrs. Child…


The Other Side of the Story

September 19, 2011

In ninth-grade English, I had an assignment to re-write a fairy tale from a different point of view.  My partner and I chose “Snow White” from the point of view of the mirror.  While it’s interesting on its own to write from the view of an inanimate object, that exercise was an eye-opener.  Each character in a story, no matter how large or small a role they play, sees the story’s events from a unique perspective.  Perhaps the most important of these perspectives, next to the protagonist’s, is that of the antagonist.

The well-done antagonist has a mind of their own.  They participate in many of the events that the main character does, but they see them in a completely different way.  Sometimes the antagonist is just plain evil–the various stepmothers and kingdom usurpers of fairy tales, villains of fantasy stories, outlaws in westerns.  But sometimes the antagonist isn’t so much evil as just using their point of view to see things differently from the main character.  Because of their past, or their present vantage point, they want something that’s in conflict with what the main character wants, putting the two of them in conflict.

My work in progress is more along those lines.  The antagonist of the book is actually the protagonist’s grandmother, to whom she is very close.  The grandmother loves the protagonist as any grandmother loves her first-born grandchild.  She wants the best for her–but her view of “the best” comes from a very different place than the protagonist’s.  And it goes deeper than a teenager trying to strike out on her own.  Events in the present parallel events in the grandmother’s youth, and the grandmother sees the current events through that lens.

As I forge ahead with my third draft of this book, I am forced to look at every scene from those two points of view.  My protagonist’s view of her grandmother doesn’t take into account all these past events because she doesn’t know about them until much later.  But, unlike in my first draft, the grandmother can’t suddenly start seeing things that way when the main character makes her discoveries.  She sees things her own way from the beginning.  Not only that, but she deals with cultural shifts toward matters such as divorce, high school dating, and abusive relationships.  These things are handled differently than they were when she was young and dealing with them.  It’s been a wonderful challenge for me to keep these things in mind even as I’m writing a contemporary novel.

Have you ever thought about your story (or someone else’s) through the eyes of another character?  What do you discover about the story?


Contest: Faithful

September 16, 2011

To be entered to win a signed copy of Faithful, simply tell me about any national park you’d like to visit.  Or tell me about a national park you’ve visited and why you loved it.


Author Interview: Janet Fox

September 14, 2011

Everyone welcome Janet Fox, author of Faithful, a young adult historical novel set in 1904. Sixteen year old Maggie Bennet is looking forward to her debut as part of Newport, Rhode Island’s high class society. Her dreams are put on hold though, when her father drags her halfway across the country to Yellowstone National Park in search of her mother who disappeared the previous year. When she learns her father plans to stay in Montana, Maggie is furious with her father for dragging her away from her family, friends, and the only life she’d ever known.

1. Hello Janet. Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to stop by Damsels in Regress to talk with us. I really enjoyed Faithful. Maggie made a huge impression on me. So often when I read a book, the protagonist is “perfect.” She or he doesn’t really have any faults. Maggie though isn’t perfect. She does things that really do annoy the reader, but she’s so real and her emotions pure, so it’s possible to forgive her and understand her actions. She’s really well written. Did you have a hard time balancing Maggie’s snobbishness with her genuine good-heartedness and getting the reader to love her despite her faults?

Thank you so much! And thank you for being willing to appreciate Maggie’s considerable flaws.

Maggie was not an easy character to write – or to love. In my early drafts, I had lots of comments from my critique readers about how difficult it was to like her. I had to tone her way back, rein her in, so to speak. I was trying to balance her upbringing (in which she was really spoiled) with her conflicted feelings about her mother. Once the story took her to Yellowstone, and she began to open up her heart, I liked her more, and I think readers did, too.

The trick is always, when starting with a difficult character, to get readers to move past the opening pages when the character may not be likeable to the point when the character digs deep and admits her flaws. I know some of my readers couldn’t make it past that point – and that’s okay.

But I do like to write about nuanced characters, not perfect people. So ultimately I’d rather struggle to bring a difficult character to life than to write about someone two-dimensional, and I’d rather read that kind of book, as well.
And if it sounds like my characters “live” in my head, they do.

2. I love your setting! Yellowstone in 1904 is not a common time period or location you find covered in historical fiction. How did you decide to write a story set in Yellowstone?

Thank you! At the time I started the novel, my family was spending every summer in a cabin not far from Yellowstone (now we live here), and my son was of an age where we took lots of trips into the Park. I fell in love with Yellowstone, and it suddenly seemed a natural thing for me to write about the things I loved best and knew extremely well, including the setting. Which I find to be truly magical, in every sense.

And I have to say, I now see that there is a true need for an American “mythos” for teens – settings and times and cultural aspects of our country that are not often explored in YA historical fiction. So that’s what I’ve set out to do in my series.

3. As a follow-up to the previous question, what type of research did you do to find all the details you incorporated in the novel (which were wonderful and seamlessly worked in!)?

Oh, my, thanks again! After spending all that time in the Park, the research came very easily. We’d listened to lots of lectures by rangers and other experts, and taken tours. And there’s a wonderful new Research Center in Gardiner, just outside the Park, and I spent time there collecting data.

There are also scores of books about the history of the Park and the region, and I loved reading them. In other words, the research was a treat!

4. I know I get attached to certain scenes in my novels that end up getting cut. Was there any one particular scene that you especially loved but didn’t make it into the final novel?

Not really. There was a scene with Edward that I liked but it had to go because it slowed the early action. There was another scene with Kitty that I had to drop. But these were not scenes I truly loved. Those made it into the final novel. My favorite scene – the climax, with the bear (no spoilers!) made it in almost completely untouched by me, my editor or anyone. I wrote that scene in a frenzy of a few hours; it seemed to write itself. I think I would have dueled to the death to keep that scene.

But those attachments for me are few and far between. I will edit anything, because I really believe that no work is perfect. Except that scene with the bear. 🙂

5. Graybull is one of those characters you love to hate. Every time he was in a scene my skin crawled at his actions and I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. He came to life on the page! Was it fun to write him? Did you base his actions off anything you’d come across in your research?

Graybull was a hoot to write. I had a complete image of him in my head. He was based a bit on the European gentry of the time who traveled through the American west and carried with them a sense of entitlement – “oh, those poor ignorant Americans.” I read about one English lord who was thrown out of the country for shooting animals in the Park (against the law, but he didn’t care) and thought, “That’s George.” And it was also a matter of crafting a character who looked down on women, which many men did at the time.

I had to restrain myself from making him too one-dimensional…but frankly, I had a great time playing up his ickiness.

6. You have a sort of a companion novel Forgiven out and two more planned. Can you tell our readers a bit about them?

My second novel Forgiven, just out, follows Kula Baker from Faithful on her own journey. So that I don’t spoil either novel I’ll just say that Kula must go to San Francisco in 1906 in order to save her father, and there she finds love, and loss, and she encounters the great earthquake of April, 1906.

My third novel, Moll, is set in the mid 1920s, and it’s my current work in progress. It follows an entirely new set of characters through what I’m calling a “noire romance.” This story has many more elements of mystery – even a hint of the paranormal – while still being faithful to that history which encompasses the era of flappers, gangsters and Prohibition.

In the fourth novel, Paradise, I plan to bring back characters from all three previous novels and place them in Paradise Valley, Montana, just north of the Park, in the mid 1930s. I’m very excited about this one, and hope that it captures not only the time and place but a sense of epic quality. Here’s hoping.

7. Finally, I’m always curious to know what other authors are reading. What books are on your to-read list? And do you have a favorite historical novel?

Confession: I’m enthralled by The Game of Thrones series, and I’m reading book 2 now. But I did just finish Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever and adored it. And I loved Chime (Frannie Billingsly) and I’m reading, as I can tolerate its tormented characters and high tension, Tim Wynne-Jones brilliant Blink and Caution. Oh, and Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls – awesome. My favorite historical of recent reading is Judy Blundell’s gorgeous Strings Attached.

Thanks so much for having me!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! We thoroughly enjoyed it!


Book Review: Faithful

September 12, 2011

Faithful
Janet Fox
Historical
Ages 14+
336 pages

Sixteen year old Maggie Bennet is looking forward to her debut as part of Newport, Rhode Island’s high class society. Her dreams are put on hold though, when her father drags her halfway across the country to Yellowstone National Park in search of her mother who disappeared the previous year. When she learns her father plans to stay in Montana, Maggie is furious with her father for dragging her away from her family, friends, and the only life she’d ever known.

Maggie’s not a character that is always easy to like, but she’s real. Born and raised with the expectation that she was above most people her attitude at times can make the reader want to shake some sense into her. She’s got her flaws, but Maggie grows throughout the novel. She learns to look at the world from others’ points of view and realizes that she’s not better than anyone else. It’s not just about her attitude toward people, it’s also about Maggie discovering just who she is and who she wants to be.

While most historicals, this one included, are about the protagonist’s journey, the use of setting in this novel was wonderfully done to help aid the plot of the novel. Many times settings can bog a novel down and prevent the story from moving forward, but the author managed to work in a vast amount of information on 1904 Yellowstone by using it to create conflict. What I also loved about the setting was its uniqueness. While I enjoy reading novels set in the more popular historical settings, it was so refreshing to get lost in a new setting that was so well researched and so integral the story.

The pacing is great. I practically flew through the novel. I would read at night and not realize how much time had passed because I was so easily caught up in the story! Faithful is a wonderfully descriptive novel that is a heartwarming tale of one girl’s ability to learn to love, grow, and understand the true meaning of faithfulness.