Oregon Shakespeare Festival


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Gilded Deceit is out, both as an ebook on all platforms and a trade paperback. So excited to have the Rannochs’ Lake Como adventures out in the world. Do share your impressions, either here or on the Google+ Group where we have a lively discussion going (and are very friendly to lurkers and new members!).

Gilded Deceit’s release coincided with my birthday, which I celebrated with Mélanie and friends in Oregon. I’ve been gleaning inspiration for the Rannochs’ next adventures at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – particularly fun to see a wonderful Henry IV Part I, which is the play in which Malcolm and David met Simon and Oliver in an Oxford production when they were undergraduates.

Cheers,

Tracy

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TracyMelMemberLounge

 

Greetings from Ashland, Oregon where Mélanie saw her first Oregon Shakespeare Festival play last night, a very fun production of The Wiz that she loved. Here we are afterwards, bathed in the green lights of the Emerald City.

TheWiz

Some friends and I also saw a fabulous matinee of Richard II yesterday. I was really struck by all the lines about exile in light of Malcolm and Suzanne’s current situation. It seems a good time to post this snippet from the next full novel, which is inspired by John of Gaunt’s “This England” speech.

Also, I just got my first look at a draft cover for the novella.

Mission for a Queen 2

 

“Darling.” Mélanie turned to look at her husband. The brace of candles cast flickering light over his face. The flexible mouth, the deepset eyes, dark now with concern and yet steady with confidence. “Has it occurred to you that when if they learn the truth, they may well see me as the woman who betrayed their country and their father.”
“I doubt it.” Malcolm’s tone was even and matter-of-fact. “Not given the way they both already question things. Besides, by the time they’re old enough for us to tell them, they may well not see Britain as their country anymore.”
She turned her head away. “Damn it, Malcolm—“
“There’s no particular reason they should,” he said. “Neither of them was born there. It’s not their mother’s country. Jessica won’t even remember it.”
Mélanie could keenly recall a moment on their first to Britain four years ago, after Napoleon’s first abdication. Colin had wanted one of the Royalist Bourbon flags vendors were selling in Hyde Park, and Lady Frances had bought one for him. The sight of it clutched in his small hand had cut her in two. So why did the thought of the children growing up alienated from Britain now tear at her with a physical wrench? “It’s still their father’s country.”
“Well, yes. And I suppose I want them to know that. Though at the moment I’m more aware that it’s the country I had to flee.”
“Because of your wife.”
“Because of my spymaster. Who claims to be working in its interests. I walked away once before.”
“Because of your family.”
“Mostly. I’d probably never have gone back if it wasn’t for you. So in a sense I’m where I might have been a year and a half ago anyway.”
“Malcolm—“
“I almost didn’t go back when I left the diplomatic corps, you know. We talked about where else we might go, and I came closer to considering it than I even admitted to you. A fresh start had an appeal. I wasn’t sure it was fair to inflict what I’d have to face in Britain on you. I was afraid of what it might do to us. Of the person I might become. The person I did become to a degree. At the same time, I had this absurd sense I had to face the past. And as much as I didn’t want to put you through that, I could never have done it without you.”
“Darling—“
He tightened his grip on her hand and carried it to his lips. “That’s the thing, sweetheart. For all we’ve been through, I’m not sorry we went back. If I never see Britain again, I won’t have to live with the questions I lived with before we returned. I’ll always be grateful to you for getting me through that.”
Tears stung her eyes. “I didn’t get you through anything you couldn’t have managed much better without me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, beloved. And why I can be happy now. I wonder how Thurston and the contessa’s children feel,” he added after a moment. “There’ve never seen Britain and likely never will.”
“And yet their father’s still an Englishman,” Suzanne said.
“More than I will be in fifteen years, I suspect. Being an agent comes in handy when one has to blend into a new country.”
“Being an agent has to do with the surface.”
“And changing the surface can change what’s underneath. You should know that better than anyone.”
“In a way. But it hasn’t changed who I was born, as you just pointed out.”
“No. But you always believed in your cause more than I did in mine. If it can even be called that.”
“Oh, Malcolm. You’ve always believed in it.”
“What? If you mean the Crown—”
“The scept’rd isle, the little eden, the demi-paradise—“
“I’m Scots.”
“It’s the same island, darling.”
“We’d have to ask Shakespeare what he meant.”
She shook her head. She knew on some level that being away from his country would always tear at him. And she knew with the same certainty that he’d never admit it.
“The children won’t have the same view,” he said. “They may not be particularly attached to any country, which isn’t a bad thing.”

Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland in the OSF Member Lounge

Happy Friday! I’m very pleased to announce that the Teresa/Tracy Grant Google+ group is starting up again, thanks to the wonderful Betty Strohecker. If you’re a member, be sure to check it out. If you aren’t a member, do consider joining. There’s a icon to join on this site. i’ll be popping in myself, though it’s primarily a group for readers.

At Crater Lake

At Crater Lake

8.31.jpgTracyMellunch

Lunch at the Crater Lake lodge

Earlier this month Mélanie and I had wonderful trip to Ashland, Oregon. We saw friends, ate some great meals, went shopping, took a great day trip to Crater Lake (Mélanie was fascinated by the model showing how it was formed by a volcano), and my friends and I saw some amazing theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As always those performances were a wonderful source of creative inspiration for my writing. Among the highlights was Sweat, the world premiere of a play by the wonderful Lynn Nottage. Set between 2000 and 2008 in Reading, Pennsylvania, a manufacturing town in which the factories are closing down, the play manages to at once offering a broad social commentary and create vivid, heartrending portraits of specific characters so real you feel you could step on the stage and into their world. A great example of examining complex ideas by showing not telling. It opens in 2008 and with two characters being released from prison and then moves back in a time to the events that got them there. This creates wonderful dramatic tension. I love playing with narrative and timelines and how it can affect how a story unfolds.

Shopping!

Shopping!

Après theatre in Ashland

Après theatre in Ashland

Another highlight was a brilliant Antony & Cleopatra directed by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch. The tension between personal relationships and the political stage could not be resonate for me with my own writing. Suzanne and Malcolm are minor characters in world events compared to Anthony and Cleopatra, but the tension between personal loyalties and desires and political loyalties (and sometimes sheer political expedience) is one they and many other characters in the series know well. Miriam Laube and Derrick Lee Weeden brought Cleopatra and Anthony to life in fabulous performances that made the two characters at once larger than life and very, very human. In the “One more gaudy night” scene, Anthony, who has just talked boldly about charging back to battle, has a moment the reveals his own qualms about success. A few moments later, Cleopatra’s concern for him flashes across her eyes when he isn’t looking. Anthony and Cleopatra are flawed characters who make flawed choices at times. They aren’t always loyal to each other. But in the end their love for each other survives the political maneuvering, even if they do not.

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Dinner at Alchemy, one of our favorite restaurants

Après theatre

Après theatre

Family portrait

Family portrait

At intermission, a friend and I were discussing how wonderfully clear and exciting all the political intrigue felt. John Tufts as another stand out as Octavius. Cold, scheming, but not entirely without empathy. All in all a brilliant night of theatre on a trip filled with wonderful theatrical moments and wonderful writing inspiration.

Drinks on our terrace

Drinks on our terrace

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

Dinner at Amuse, another favorite

In closing, a question inspired by blog discussions the past couple of weeks that perhaps is not unrelated to the love and politics themes of Anthony and Cleopatra. At the end of The Mayfair Affair Raoul tells Laura “I have no right to ask you to feel any sort of obligation. But I feel one.” When the novella opens six weeks later, Laura has been muling what this means. What do you think it means? What if Raoul offering/committing to?

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Visiting our friends at Weisinger Winery

Brunch at Brother's, a favorite haunt

Brunch at Brother’s, a favorite haunt

5.15.15TracyMelGreetings from Ashland, Oregon, where Mélanie and I are enjoying a few days with friends at the wonderful Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and celebrating my birthday :-). We’ve already seen some great theater, including a fabulous, touching, romantic Guys & Dolls.

Just popping in to say The Mayfair Affair is now officially out in the world. So excited to hear what everyone thinks of it. Feel free to use this thread to post comments eventually as you have a chance to read.

Happy weekend!

Tracy

11.8.14DunnettDayMélanie and I just got back from a wonderful lunch party celebrating the Scottish Historical Novelist Dorothy Dunnett. All around the world, Dunnett readers gather on International Dorothy Dunnett Day (the Saturday closest to November 9, the date of her death) to celebrate her work. At 1:00, we toast in her favorite Highland Park Whisky. The pictures above shows our group toasting and below you see Mel and me with our lovely hostess Olive DePonte.11.8.14TracyOliveMel

Dunnett has been a huge influence on me as a writer, and this seems a good time to repeat a post about her work and her influence on my writing that I first put up in 2007. First, because everyone has been so kind about entering into the discussion of Mélanie’s and my Halloween, a few pics of Halloween and our recent trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for closing weekend (I saw All the Way, Cocoanuts, and The Tempest for the second time – all were amazing).

Arrived in Ashland, a stop at the Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland, a stop at the Member Lounge

A Halloween close up of our Elsa and Anna outfits while shopping at <a href=In our Elsa & Anna costumes shopping at Paddington Jewel Box

Ready for the Halloween Parade through the center of town

Ready for the Halloween Parade through the center of town

A visit to our friends at <a href=Visiting our friends at Weisinger’s of Ashland, our favorite winery

A magical dinner at <a href=A magical dinner at Alchemy Restaurant & Bar

A leisurely brunch at<a href=A leisurely brunch at Brothers’ before we headed home

I first discovered Dorothy Dunnett’s books the summer between high school and college. I picked up “The Game of Kings”, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, and spent a couple of days curled up on the sofa, glued to the page. I promptly devoured the rest of the six volume series. I told my mother she had to read them. It took her a bit of time to get into “The Game of Kings”, but soon she was as hooked as I was.

For those who haven’t yet discovered the Lymond Chronicles, the series begins in 16th century Scotland (when Mary, Queen of Scots, is a young child) and ranges all over the Continent. At the heart of the series is Francis Crawford of Lymond, mercenary, scholar, musician. Brilliant, tortured, an enigma to the reader and to most of the other characters. A lot of the fun of the series is trying to find the key to the fascinating code of who Lymond is, both literally (his parentage is in question) and in psychological terms. There’s a wonderful supporting cast of characters, both real historical figures and fictional characters blended seamlessly together. There’s adventure, angst, political intrigue, witty dialogue, and poetic allusions. The writing is wonderfully rich (Dunnett was also a painter), the pacing breakneck.

After the Lymond Chronicles, my mom and I both read Dunnett’s stand alone novel “King Hereafter” and her contemporary mysteries. And then to our excitement, she began a new series, the House of Niccolò, set in the 15th century, beginning in Bruges but again ranging all over, this time as far as Timbucktu and Iceland. The hero of the new series was a young dyeworks apprentice named Nicholas, dismissed as a buffoon by many but with abilities which lead him to rise in the commercial world and pull him into political intrigue in more than one country. Again, fictional events are blended with real historical events and mysteries abound. Reading the Lymond Chronicles, I thought, “it would have been really hard to read these as they were written and have to wait for each book.” With the House of Niccolò we had to do just that, with two years or so between each book. With their complex characters, intricate plots, and cliffhanger endings, the Dunnett books cry out for discussion. My mom and I talked about them endlessly, but we didn’t know anyone else who read them. I was thrilled to meet fellow writer Penelope Williamson and discover she was also a Dunnett reader. Penny and I spent many long lunches analyzing Dunnett’s books and speculating about what would happen next in the Niccolò series.

Then, in the mid-nineties, Penny and I both got online. We discovered there were whole online groups devoted to discussing Dunnett’s novels. Suddenly we could analyze and speculate with people all over the world. Dunnett readers tend to be a wonderul group–warm, friendly, well-read. I’ve had a great time geting together with fellow Dunnett readers both in the Bay Area and while traveling. In 2000, Penny and I and a number of our other Dunnett-reading friends went to Scotland for a conference in honor of the publication of the last book in the House of Niccolò series. Even now the series is finished (and Dunnett sadly passed away a few years ago) we love to get together online and in person to discuss Dunnett books and other books (not to mention tv shows from “Deadwood” to “Spooks/MI-5″ to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (which seems to be a particular favorite with Dunnett readers) :-).

Dunnett talked about reading and being influenced by other writers I love–Sabatini, Orczy, Heyer (certainly you can see bits of Andre-Louis Moreau and Percy Blakeney in Lymond, no to mention a touch of Peter Wimsey). She’s been a huge influence on me. I can see a number of echoes of her books looking at “Secrets of a Lady”–the conflict between brothers, questions about parentage, the loss of a child. I still pull out her books and reread certain scenes when I have to tackle an action sequence or a sword fight (“The Game of Kings” has the best sword fight I’ve ever read).

Have you read Dunnett? Do you enjoy discussing her books? Are there other authors you discuss with friends, online or in person?

Arrived in Ashland, tickets collected, a stop at the Member Lounge

Arrived in Ashland, tickets collected, a stop at the Member Lounge

Mélanie and I spent last week in Ashland, Oregon, visiting friends, eating some great meals, and (for Mummy) seeing some great theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival while Mel played with some wonderful babysitters. The theatre highlight of the trip was Great Society by Robert Schenkkan, a sequel to All the Way, the play about Lyndon Johnson’s first year as president and the passing of the Civil Rights Act which OSF commissioned and premiered two years ago and which recently took Broadway by storm and won the Tony for best new play. Great Society picks up the story after LBJ’s re-election and chronicles his nights to pass Medicare and other social program legislation, the increasing quagmire of the Vietnam War, and his ultimate decision not to run for a second term. Like All the Way, it is written in the style of a Shakespeare history play, with the protagonist addressing the audience at times, a large cast of characters (including Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and J. Edgar Hoover) from different groups, large scale scenes set on the public stage contrasting with domestic moments of key characters with their families. As an historical novelist, I’m in awe of the way these two plays bring history to life.

8.25.14TracyMel

A visit to our friends’ house on the Applegate River – a glorious day with lunch outside and time for Mel to chase butterflies and pick a peach

 

It was a brilliant production and particularly exciting to follow it up with an also brilliant Richard III.  Schenkkan’s LBJ is far more sympathetic than Shakespeare’s Richard III, a flawed ambitious man who is also trying to do genuine good, but there are some wonderful parallel moments in the two plays – LBJ and Richard’s opening monologues to the audience, scenes in which both of them try tactics that have worked in the past to manipulate, respectively, Robert Kennedy and Elizabeth Woodville, this time unsuccessfully, and closing speeches by the “new king” – Richard Nixon and Henry VII. Both casts were fabulous with amazing performances by Jack Willis as LBJ and Dan Donohue as Richard III. In the curtain call, both looked like completely different men, a sign of how much they had transformed themselves in the performance.

Dinner outdoors at Peerless before Richard III

Dinner outdoors at Peerless before Richard III

Another standout of the trip was a magical production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods which did full justice to the complex music while also bringing out the dramatic nuances of the story. A mix of fairytales (among them Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel) at it’s heart it’s a story about parents and children poignant, starkly sad at times, ultimately hopeful. I cried through the last fifteen minutes.

Sharing time at the hotel with our cats, all excellent travelers

Sharing time at the hotel with our cats, all excellent travelers

All the plays were wonderfully inspiring for me as a writer. Political intrigue and family drama go to the heart of what my books are about. I came home excited to get back to writing. I can’t wait until Mélanie is old enough to take to some of the plays. Meanwhile, it’s fun telling her about the plays. And on the drive home, we listened to the CD of Into the Woods, to which she announced “I like the music.”

Savoring time on the deck at the Member Lounge before we headed home

Savoring time on the deck at the Member Lounge before we headed home

As you may know from my Facebook and Twitter posts, I recently was in Ashland, Oregon, for the closing weekend of the season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Crisp air, gorgeous autumn leaves, snow-capped mountains, lovely time with friends, and a glimpse of three of our own Leslie’s books prominently displayed in the Tudor Guild gift shop. And three wonderful plays, all of which I was seeing for the second (or in the case of Measure for Measure the fourth) time.

One thing I noticed is that all three plays dealt with theater in a variety of ways. Saturday I saw Ghost Light, a fabulous, wrenching world premiere developed by Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone, written by Taccone, and directed by Moscone, It’s a wonderfully theatrical play both in style (moving back and forth in time, combining elements of dream and reality) and in substance, as the central character struggles to come to terms with his father’s assassination while directing a production of Hamlet. The scenes of the production team discussing how to handle the Ghost of Hamlet’s father, and of Jon, the central character, working with his acting students and auditioning actors are spot-on and at moments hysterically funny.

Saturday I saw a matinee of Julius Caesar, a play, as the production notes pointed, filled with theatrical references, from the assassins meeting in the porch of Pompey’s theater to the political theater of Marc Antony’s funeral oration (not to mention the fact that Antony’s scene where he seemingly makes peace with the conspirators just after the assassination is a brilliant piece of acting). That evening I saw Measure for Measure, another play where the story is largely played out upon the public stage (particularly in the denouement) while a key plot element involves one woman playing the part of another in a secret tryst.

During breaks between plays I was working on a sequence in my current WIP, The Princess’s Secret, (I recently posted a teaser) which takes place backstage at the Comédie-Française. I love theatrical references in books and plays. Actual scenes backstage and onstage become metaphors for the roles we all play – with different people, in different aspects of our lives. For the fine line between illusion and reality, for the difficulty of discerning truth amid artifice and the way that theatrical artifice can sometimes ring with truth. Reading Isobel Carr’s great interview with Joanna Bourne on History Hoydens last week about her new book The Black Hawk which concerns Napoleonic spies, I was thinking that a large part of why I love writing about spies is that like actors they too play many parts, though on a rather more dangerous stage. The sequence I was working on set at the Comédie-Française gave me lots of opportunities to play with the parallel, as it involves the escape from Paris during the White Terror of an actress who is also an agent.

Do you have favorite books that deal with theater, whether on stage or backstage? Does theater become a metaphor for other elements in the story? Writers, do you like writing scenes set in the theater? Do you get inspiration from plays?

I’ve just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Aline to Gisèle, commenting on Charles/Malcolm and Mel/Suzette’s reactions to their wedding anniversary and her own changing feelings in light of her betrothal.

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