– Eleanor Roosevelt
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Is that a good idea? Really? I don't think Mrs. Roosevelt meant things like--touch a spider. Or eat raw sea urchin. But if life becomes predictable and ordinary, your experiences will pale and fade away--and you just have this one life, right? (Far as we know....)
I guess what Mrs. Roosevelt meant was--go for it.
Our guest today exemplifies going for it. And here she shares her journey!
And we have a lovely copy of Death of A Schoolgirl for one commenter who tells us something brave they did! (I drove a stick shift in actual traffic..does that count? I went down the diamond slope skiing...but I splatted. I guess that doesn't count.)
Last month my seventeen-year-old niece came for a visit. She’d never flown without her parents before. She’d never been in a taxi. And she’d never walked through a revolving door. As she tackled each of these new ventures, I noticed the glow of pride suffuse her face. Watching her tickled me, because each experience recalled similar moments in my life. Moments when I felt that panic of uncertainty, that thrill of determination, that shock of the unknown, and finally that welcome relief of accomplishment.
This year I did something that scared me. Something really big. I wrote a historical mystery. Not just any historical mystery… I borrowed the protagonist from Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.
The idea had been noodling around in my head for years.
Could I do it?
Could I pull it off?
Could I manage all the research—and not commit such humongous errors as to make myself a laughingstock?
At an MWA meeting, I was fortunate enough to sit next to Louis Bayard, an author whose work I’ve long admired. We’d corresponded in the past because I’d suggested Mr. Timothy to my online book club, the one I’m in with a dozen other writers. When we had questions about the novel that demanded answers, I wrote Louis. I figured, “What the heck? If he doesn’t respond, that’s fine.”
But he did. Graciously.
Now as we chatted over dinner, I reminded him of our correspondence. He was as generous in person as he’d been via email. I told him I was thinking of writing a historical mystery, but I worried about the research. Seemed to me that he’d done absolutely tons of research. It goes without saying that Louis is an erudite man. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.
He assured me that he might not have done as much research as I thought.
Honest, he said, and he smiled.
And then I started thinking…
Maybe the biggest stumbling block wasn’t the research. It was my fear of doing something new. Something that would cause me to stretch. Something at which I might well fail. Something that could embarrass me.
So, Dear Reader, I wrote the book, my historical mystery.
Death of a Schoolgirl begins where Jane Eyre ends. Jane is happily married to her beloved Edward Rochester, when a cryptic letter arrives from his former ward Adéle. Worried about her safety, Jane hurries to London. Upon visiting the girls’ school that Adéle is attending, Jane learns that a student has died under suspicious circumstances. Taking advantage of a case of mistaken identity, Jane poses as an errant German teacher so she can track down the killer—and safeguard the lives of the children.
And yes, Dear Reader, much of the time that I was writing, I was scared to death!
How about you? What have you done this year that scared you?
Multi-published author Joanna Campbell Slan’s newest work—Death of a Schoolgirl—has been said by Publishers Weekly to “credibly recreate Regency London and the era of the Bow Street Runners.” Kirkus Reviews has noted that the book “refashions a beloved heroine as a surprisingly canny detective.” RT Book Reviews calls it “a very entertaining, believable extension of ” and continues to praise Slan’s work by saying, “she has done an impressive job using rich historical details to transport readers back in time.” Visit an incredibly relieved Joanna at www.JoannaSlan.com