“Secrets of a Lady” will be in book stores tomorrow, July 31. The release of a book is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking for authors, I think. It’s so exciting to finally see your book on the shelf, it’s so nerve-wracking to wonder if people will actually buy it now it’s there. I’m so glad that this time I get to share the excitement and the nerves with my friend Monica McCarty, whose “Highlander Untamed” comes out on the same day (Monica and I will be signing books at the Border’s in Stonestown, in San Francisco, from 12:30-2:00 on the 31st). I just posted a new entry in the Fraser Correspondence, Mélanie’s reply to Charles’s query from last week in which he is trying to trace the source of a Shakespeare quote. This got me to thinking about Mélanie and Charles’s habit of quoting Shakespeare, which seemed a particularly apt topic in the week “Secrets of a Lady” will arrive in book stores.
No matter how much work I do on mapping out my characters in advance, I’m never quite sure how they talk until I start writing dialogue. I always struggle to get the voices “right”. When I wrote the first scene between Mélanie ahd Charles (which needed to establish them and their relationship before their jewel-box life is shattered), Mélanie just naturally made a reference to “Othello”. It was a good way to set up the theme of jealousy and the different ways people react to the betrayal of a lover or spouse which echoes through out the book. It also gave me the idea that Mélanie and Charles trade Shakespearean quotes and references, almost a sort of private code they use between them. It’s a bond they discover early (soon after their meeting as is seen in flashback). It gives them a way to express feelings they are sometimes unable to frame in their own words (intimacy is a risk for both of them, particularly Charles).
As I wrote more and found myself circling back to Charles and Mélanie’s “Othello” conversation, I got a further idea for the Mélanie and Charles books. I began to focus on two or three Shakespeare plays for each book, plays which have something thematically in common with the story I’m trying to tell. I use quotes from these plays to bring out thematic echoes in my books. Thinking about and referring to the plays helps refine my own thinking about the story I’m trying to tell. For “Secrets of a Lady,” besides “Othello”, I found myself referring back to “Measure for Measure”, with its corrupt world in which truth is elusive and no one is quite who they seem, and “Troilus and Cressida”, with its stark portrayal of war and the toll it exacts on love and personal relationships.
“The End of Reckoning”, my original title for “Secrets of a Lady” comes from a quote from “Measure for Measure” (“Truth is truth to the end of Reckoning”) and “Daughter of the Game”, the title under which “Secrets of a Lady” was originally published, comes from a quote from “Troilus and Cressida”. Despite the change in title, I kept both quotes at the start of “Secrets of a Lady”, because both, I think, remain relevant to the story I was trying to tell.