Hullo from New York where Mélanie and I are spending a few days meeting with the team at NYLA, doing research at the Met Museum, and seeing friends. Less than four weeks until the release of Gilded Deceit. Here are the answers to last week’s “guess the quote” – no definite spoilers. But do feel free to speculate on the circumstances!

 

1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever claimed not to believe in love.” – Raoul

“You’ve also never admitted to feeling it, so far as I can remember.” – Frances

 

“But I’ve always believed in change, haven’t I?” – Raoul

 

2.

“Dear God in heaven, I could murder him.” – Frances

“Please don’t. I’ve grown quite attached to him.” – Malcolm

 

3.

“I’m not particularly worried about Britain. Britain can take care of itself.” – Frances

 

4.

“Some of my past was cover for my work.” – Archie

“But not all of it.” – Harry

“No, not all.” – Archie

 

5.

“Call it professional courtesy. I hate to see Carfax manipulate anyone. Least of all, those I’m fond of.” – Julien St. Juste

 

6.

. “If you’re going to say you thought they were too old to indulge in such activities, you will seriously insult at least one person at table.” – Raoul to Malcolm

 

7.

“I thought you’d be on my side.” – Malcolm

“If you imagine I’m fool enough to choose sides—” – Raoul

 

With less than five weeks until the May 15 release of Gilded Deceit, it seems a good time for a game of “guess the quote.” Below are some quotes from the book. Guess who is talking, whom they are speaking to, and if you like speculate on the circumstances.

1.

“I don’t think I’ve ever claimed not to believe in love.”

“You’ve also never admitted to feeling it, so far as I can remember.”

 

“But I’ve always believed in change, haven’t I?”

 

2.

“Dear God in heaven, I could murder him.”

“Please don’t. I’ve grown quite attached to him.”

 

3.

“I’m not particularly worried about Britain. Britain can take care of itself.”

 

4.

“Some of my past was cover for my work.”

“But not all of it.”

“No, not all.”

 

5.

“Call it professional courtesy. I hate to see Carfax manipulate anyone. Least of all, those I’m fond of.”

 

6.

. “If you’re going to say you thought they were too old to indulge in such activities, you will seriously insult at least one person at table.”

 

7.

“I thought you’d be on my side.”

“If you imagine I’m fool enough to choose sides—”

Meeting Cinderella

Mélanie and I had an enchanting night last week attending the brilliant touring production of Into the Woods. It’s a favorite of mine and of Mélanie’s as well, thanks to the movie and a local theatre production last year. We play the CD all the time and she can sing most of the songs, which we sometimes act out at home. It was a treat to see this beautiful, inventive production (do go if you get a chance!) done on a fairly bare stage with a great cast who found new nuances in the songs and story.

 

The night  was made extra magical by Cinderella (the golden-voiced and very talented Laurie Veldheer who made the princess both engaging and multi-layered) coming over to talk to Mélanie before the show when some of the cast greeted the audience. Mélanie was in transports and waved to Cinderella during the curtain call. Later we ran in to Laurie Veldheer by the stage door and she couldn’t have been nicer. Mélanie kept saying “I can’t believe we met Cinderella!” Some kids meet Cinderella at Disneyland for the first time. Mélanie met her at a Stephen Sondheim musical. Definitely my daughter :-).

 

With this and Beauty and the Beast it’s a been a week for fairy tales. My characters often refer to “not living in a fairy tale” and yet there are echoes. The line in Into the Woods from the Baker’s song “No More”, “No more curses you can’t undo, left by fathers you never knew” always makes me think of Malcolm. Not that Raoul left him a curse precisely or that Malcolm didn’t know him. But Malcolm certainly is dealing with the often mysterious legacy of the older generation. And it occurs to me that though Suzanne would say she’s the opposite of Cinderella, she does meet her husband while masquerading, she worries about when he will realize she’s not who she claims to be, and she goes from living on the streets to the equivalent of living in a palace. Like the Into the Woods Cinderella, she finds living in a palace has its challenges (though Malcolm is certainly very different from her prince in the musical).

 

Do you see any fairy tale parallels in the Rannoch series?

 

On another note, we’re finishing up a very fun reread of the Rannoch books on the Google + Group. On April 1st we’ll have an Ask the Author thread, and I’ll be giving away an advanced electronic copy of Gilded Deceit to a commenter. Do stop by!

 

 

Melanie and I have seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie twice this weekend (there were are above at dinner after the second viewing, with some new B&B treasures). I haven’t felt such pure joy at a movie in a very long while (probably not since the Kenneth Branagh Much Ado About Nothing, a very different movie but the final images have a certain similarity and I left the theatre with a similar feeling).  It’s magical film, brilliant on multiple levels. It left me crying(to my daughter’s confusion), grinning with sheer joy, and and marveling at the craft. Mélanie loved it too (“I think this is my favorite Belle story.”).
It also left me feeling creatively inspired. I haven’t done much with a Beauty and the Beast story line I realize. Possibly Harry and Cordy – perhaps more than I realized. Harry might not call himself a beast, but he certainly has a caustic exterior and he tends to stay barricaded in his house with his books. Cordelia is certainly a beauty. Harry doesn’t keep her prisoner, but he does marry her knowing she loves another man and is desperate to escape her parents’  house (something he later regrets, not for his sake but for hers, because he wanted her so much he didn’t pay attention to what she wanted/needed). They bond partly over books and she has to leave him, know he will let her go, and then come back to him and have him almost die in her arms to realize she loves him. Harry’s transformation is less dramatic than Beast to Prince, but we do see him change from a bitter loner to a loving father and husband.
I’m gong to ponder more parallels. When Suzanne marries Malcolm she moves into a world almost as alien as the Beast’s castle and at times she feels trapped by her masquerade, but she goes into it willingly to spy on Malcolm. She is shocked to fall in love with him, but she knows he’s a good person from the first.
I will say Ewan McGregor as Lumière convinces me more than ever that he’s right for Bertrand in my fantasy casting and that Emma Watson is my image for Selena in Gilded Deceit.
Who else has seen Beauty & the Beast?

From dinner last night. My caption ” can’t tell you how scared I am really right now about the world grown ups are making for you, Melanie. All I can do is enjoy being with and say how proud I am of people who are working to make a difference and that I’m trying to do my own bit to help make things better.”

I was in the midst of working on copy edits for Gilded Deceit this weekend when the news about the ban on refugees and travel from some predominantly Muslim countries hit. As readers of the series know, revelations about Suzanne’s past have sent Malcolm and Suzanne into exile. Exile in many ways is the theme of Gilded Deceit, with the Rannochs and their friends encountering other expatriates, including Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley. I looked up from fine tuning their longing for home and conflicted thoughts about a home they’ve been forced to leave to read, appalled, about what is happening today. To worry about friends like a young Canadian, Iranian-born singer who now can’t visit her family in Canada for fear she can’t return to the U.S. Or another friend whose father-in-law now can’t come here to visit his toddler grandchildren. Other friends, artists, students, academics  with young children, who now may not be able to travel to and from the country I call home. The plight of those one knows personally brings home the concrete reality, but far worse is the plight of refugees whose very lives are at stake. Many of those refugees have children my daughter’s age or younger. Yes, I tend to focus on the plight of children. Having a young child sends my thoughts in that direction.

Compared to these people, Malcolm and Suzanne and the other characters in Gilded Deceit are comparatively fortunate. They have a secure fortune, and Malcolm was careful in advance to move funds out of Britain. Malcolm even has a house (a very beautiful house) in Italy where they can seek refuge. They may have to look over their shoulder for Lord Carfax and the Elsinore League, but they have financial resources and their own skills as agents to fall back upon. That somehow drives home to me how bad the current situation is. We tend to think of progress. Of the world being a safer, saner, more just place now than it was two hundred years ago. As writers, we devise hair raising situations for our characters. Usually their plight is much worse than what one looks round and sees in the present day. Instead, I look at the news and at people I know personally and find myself thinking ‘“Malcolm and Suzanne are the lucky ones.”

Malcolm struggles a lot in Gilded Deceit with what it means to be British and what he’s done in Britain’s name. At one point he says, “Being loyal to a country doesn’t mean taking on the burdens of the men who run it.”

This weekend, I am having a similar struggle.

 

 

 

 

photo: Alexandra Elliott

photo: Alexandra Elliott

I’ve blogged before about the joys and challenges of being a writer and a mother and the “art of juggling.” I thought back to that blog yesterday. I had to give a presentation at meeting for my Merola Opera Program job, meet up with my daughter’s nanny to drop her off, and later that night finish going through copy edits for Gilded Deceit. It was raining. We were running late. I wasn’t sure I’d told the nanny the right place to meet. Finally, on the way into the meeting, I apologized to a colleague for running late, and she said not to worry and then added, “It must be hard being a mother.”

Later, sitting in the meeting (after I turned around the heel of my Wolford tights so a run wouldn’t show and fished out a blue crayon from my Longchamp tote to make notes because I couldn’t find a pen) I thought about that comment. Being a mother is exhausting at times. It’s rewarding. It can be challenging, especially when one tries to juggle the various parts of one’s life or simply get out the door with a sleepy five-year-old and all the things you need or both your days. But I don’t really think of it as hard. And more than anything else, I think I would call it fun.

Before I was a mother I didn’t play hide and seek tag, set up doll tea parties, or tell stories in the car. I didn’t get to share the wonder of seeing my daughter discover the world.

When I got to the copy edits, I thought about Suzanne and the way she juggles her life, which makes mine look simple. I think Suzanne would say the secret (along with “not minding if you fail”) is finding happiness in the moment. Which I’d agree with.

buckeye

 

Hope everyone is having  a wonderful midwinter, however you celebrate! It’s been a very busy couple of months for me, with the release of Mission for a Queen and working madly away at Gilded Deceit so it can go the copy editor in the New Year. As always seems to happen with a book, there are moments I despair and moments I think it’s working rather well. On my current draft I’m quite excited about how the Rannochs’ adventures on Lake Como are shaping up.

In the flurry of preparing for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to speculate on what Malcolm and Suzanne and their friends might give each other, either in 1818 or if they lived today. We don’t know where Christmas of 1818 will find them, but we could speculate as though they are still in Italy – or wherever you prefer.

I think Malcolm would give Suzanne a garnet pendant surrounded by diamonds (I know he gave her another garnet pendant but she’s fond of the stone and this is a very different design). It could work in 1818 or 2016.

garnetpendant

In 1818, Suzanne might give Malcolm a first edition of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (one of the books William Caxton printed) as a reminder of Britain and something he could read with the children. In 2016 she might give him the same thing (though probably not a first edition!) or perhaps a new iPad, since he might not get that for himself as it’s not as practical as a phone or a computer. And he might keep insisting he was fine with the old one with the cracked screen :-).

Raoul might give Laura a blue topaz necklace in 1818 or 2016, to go with the earrings he sent her before the ball in Incident in Berkeley Square. Laura might give Raoul framed pictures of her and Emily to take with him when he travels – miniatures in 1818, photos in folding travel case in 2016.

David might give Simon a ring in 1818 or 2016, though in 2016 the ring would go with a formal proposal.

What do you think these characters and others might give each other, in 1818 or today?

sleigh

 

Happy holidays!

Tracy