Welcome to The Selective Collective. Together with our friends at The Book Addict’s Guide, Gone Pecan, The Grown Up YA and Teen Lit Rocks, we’ll be exploring a new release in its entirety, from review to author spotlight, to a roundtable chat, among other fun things.
This week, we’re discussing Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
I’m so excited to have Abby, debut author of Wentworth Hall, here to discuss her book, writing, and her biggest literary crushes.
Abby, who has influenced you most as a writer?
I have two big inspirations. One started in childhood when I discovered “Little Women” as a girl and went on to read everything else its author Louisa May Alcott ever wrote, including some of the romances she dashed off just for the paycheck. Her main character Jo March was such a role model of passion, empathy, and independence. In addition Alcott wrote in such a way that I felt I was in the story with the characters and it was always a place I wanted to be.
My other big inspiration is, to this day, the author Margaret Atwood. I admire her writing so much, her humor and her originality. She gets behind the surface of things in a way that just knocks me out.
I’ve read that your love of Downtown Abbey inspired you to write Wentworth Hall (I must confess, though it’s currently in my Netflix queue, I haven’t watched an episode yet. Don’t hate me!). Were there other parts of your book, be it experiences or people, that were inspired by your own life or was it all pure imagination?
Every writer uses his or her life when writing fiction. It’s a lot like the “method” in acting where one reaches for the emotional truth of the characters based on ones own emotional memory. As a younger person I did a lot of restaurant work to pay my way through college. That made me familiar with the behind the scenes goings on of kitchens and waiting on people. Since that time I have stayed in fancy hotels and good restaurants as a customer. I have had the experience of being both the served and the server. I know how the served can be oblivious to the ones serving and I also know how it feels to be invisible to those one is serving, and also the camaraderie of being part of a wait staff. This, I think, gave me excellent insight into all the characters. I also have sisters and brothers and know something of the dynamics between older and younger siblings. Also, I have been in love—both failed and successful—and so know something of that, as well. The only part that was imagination was the setting.
(I would never hate you for missing “Downton Abbey.” But you should check it out.)
What type of research did you do in preparation to write Wentworth Hall?
I am a huge lover of history and always have been. I particularly love the early 1900s. There was so much technology happening in terms of electricity, communications like the phone, the radio, the telegraph and travel innovations like the car and air travel. Social mores where shifting around. Under this very staid surface there was a veritable earthquake of change. The old aristocratic systems where crumbling which is a big part of the story of “Wentworth Hall.”
Since this is my first novel it was very daunting. I immersed myself in the period first by reading as much about the clothing and historical events of the period. Then I moved on to period novels. I particularly like Anna Godbersen’s Luxe books (though they’re set a bit earlier, 1899) and Suzanne Weyn’s Distant Waves. The movie Titanic was a help in visualizing the clothing and so was, of course, “Downton Abbey.” (I adore the rich, sumptuous clothing of the period.)
What do you do when you aren’t writing (and watching Downtown Abbey, obviously)?
I like to hike, and kayak on a nearby lake. I enjoy going out with friends to dance to several of my favorite local bands. I am a lover of restaurants. If I have a stretch of free time I will travel. Last summer I went to Edinburgh Scotland and loved it.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst thing?
I’ll start with the worst. It is the precariousness of making a living. A writer is always on the hunt for the next publishing opportunity. Since I have just been published for the first time and Wentworth Hall has been so well received, I am hoping things will be easier from now on.
I LOVE being a writer. I’m not chained to a desk. I can make my own hours and since I am a night person that matters to me. But mostly I love being consumed by an art form that means everything to me. I’m always looking at landscapes, listening to people talk, reading stories, watching movies, viewing art, and generally living my life with an eye to how it could enrich my writing. Being a writer is not a job but a way of life.
This blog is one inspired by massive, sigh-inducing crushes on literary characters and my overall need to spazz over my favorite authors and books. Which author(s) and/or literary characters would give you cause to fangirl?
When I was a girl I had a huge crush on Sherlock Holmes and read every story about him. I also thought Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was pretty cool in a dark, mysterious way. After that I shifted my fantasy love interests to movie and rock stars. Most lately I thought Thad in Distant Waves was awfully dreamy.
I definitely hear you on Mr. Rochester. Love him. Thanks so much for stopping by, Abby!
Please be sure to visit my blogging partners in The Selective Collective and check out the fabulous things they have in store:
The Book Addict’s Guide- Casting Call
Gone Pecan- Book Review
The Grown Up YA- Wentworth Hall Fashion
Teen Lit Rocks- Roundtable Discussion
If you’d like to win a copy of Wentworth Hall, leave a comment with your e-mail address in the comment section. The contest closes on January 16th (one week from now) at 9pm PST. The winner will be chosen at random using Randomizer. Good luck!
Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending all of The Selective Collective ladies copies of Wentworth Hall.