Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Everyone Should Have an Aunt Dove, a guest post by Deanna Raybourn

Today, we're delighted to have New York Times bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn as our guest. Like our own Debs, Deanna is Texan - a 6th-generation native! She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the only university in the world to have an annual Golf Cart Parade.  Deanna's novels, which have been nominated for five RITAs, two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, the Agatha, two Dilys Winns, a Last Laugh, and three du Mauriers, are set in Victorian England and the European colonial world between wars. A long way from the Lone Star State? Yes, but as Deanna shares with us here, she's had inspiration along the way...




In all the books I’ve written—five series novels, three stand-alones, four novellas—I’ve never based a character on someone I know. Until now. In CITY OF JASMINE, I created the rather gloriously over-the-top Aunt Dove, a larger-than-life woman who wears enormous costume jewels and totes a parrot named Arthur Wellesley on a biplane tour around the world. Elderly in the 1920s setting of CITY OF JASMINE, Aunt Dove was once a famous Victorian explorer, an adventuress who made her way by her wits and her people skills. She has drunk Russian grand dukes under the table and may have started a minor land war in South America. She has had more lovers than she can count, and no one quite knows what happened during a few months when she went missing in 1878 after discovering absinthe…

Aunt Dove is loosely based on my own great-aunt, a woman who charmed my family so much that when she divorced my great-uncle—the first in her string of husbands--we kept her. She was a flamboyant dresser, preferring gold lamé slippers with curled-up toes and embellished caftans. If it was brightly colored and bejeweled, she liked it, and everywhere she went, she trailed a cloud of Youth Dew, spicy and strong and unforgettable, just like her. She had the decorating instincts of a magpie; the shinier, the better. She once gave me a small crystal chandelier that hangs over the desk in my study. Every day when I write, I do it with the warm, glittering glow of that light and the memory of a woman who made Auntie Mame look like an amateur. 
 
And every day I try to think about the life lessons I learned from her. Now, without a string of husbands to my credit—I’m still doing delightfully well with the one I acquired in college—I haven’t known quite the same ups and downs that she experienced. But I have learned resiliency, the ability to look today in the face and spit in its eye and say, “Was that the best you’ve got? Because I’m going to kick you into tomorrow.” At least I hope I have! And I know that when you’re kicking today’s tail between its legs, you need to do it with a good pedicure. (I never knew my great aunt not to wear coral polish on her toes. I always keep mine spiffy, but I prefer a nice blood red—venous, not arterial.) 

I also know that it’s important not to save things for special occasions. Every day was a special occasion in my great aunt’s book. So she stocked her house with fresh flowers and wore the good perfume, put on dance music and poured a cocktail. She lived the whole of her life that way, never saving her enthusiasm for the big things. To her, everything was big, and everything deserved her excitement. Even in her 70s she was exuberant, with a childlike enthusiasm for anything that thrilled her. A great conversation, a lovely meal, time with people she adored, she bubbled over with joy for all these things.

And yet. I never knew anybody quite as perfectly pragmatic when circumstances demanded it. Her fortunes—like those of all good adventuresses—rose and fell. When they were high, she kicked up her heels and painted the town red—jungle red! And when they were low, she rolled up her sleeves, loaded on the rhinestones, and got to work rebuilding, one brick at a time. All in all, she was a dame—in the very best sense of the word. I’m not sure we even have dames any more, but if we do, I aim to be one when I’m old and sassy and still painting my toenails red.
So, really, was there any way I could NOT base a character on a woman like that? Because she already was a character—with more stories than I could ever tell.

Meet Aunt Dove for the first time in WHISPER OF JASMINE, the free digital prequel novella to CITY OF JASMINE.


What about you, dear readers? Do you have an Aunt Dove in your life? Or ARE you the Aunt Dove in someone else's?

You can learn more about Deanna's books, and read excerpts, at her website. You can friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter as @deannaraybourn, and join her at her blog. 

20 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Aunt Dove sounds like a perfectly delightful adventuress . . . . I can't say I've ever had an Aunt Dove in my own life, but she sounds like a wonderful tribute to your great aunt . . . .

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Youth Dew! NO perfume more evocative of a certain time and type of woman--what a wonderful story, Deanna!

(I try to be the Aunt Dove of our family...in my own way of course. I adored Auntie Mame, and I think I saw it and read it at a very formative time. I did not latch onto the kimono--bejeweled slippers element, but am still working on the go-for-it attitude!)

Congratulations on your wild success!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome Deanna!

Aunt Dove sounds like she needs a series of her own... : )

Hallie Ephron said...

I LOVE the story of Aunt Dove, Deanna... J'adore Auntie Mame.

And Hank, I'd say you're shoe-in (!) for the role.

Mary Sutton said...

I also think Hank would make a great
Auntie Mame. =)

No Aunt Doves in my life. Which now makes me rather sad, because this post makes me wish I had one.

And this line alone would get me to pick up the book - "She has drunk Russian grand dukes under the table and may have started a minor land war in South America."

Kristopher said...

Oh, how wonderful to see Deanna Raybourn here at Jungle Reds.

If any of you JRW fans have not yet read Deanna's first Lady Julia Grey novel, Silent in the Grave, stop reading this comment now and go buy this wonderful mystery. You won't be sorry!

Deanna - please tell me you are not done with Lady Julia.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Mary, you have US! xoo

ANd yes, Kristopher, I'd love to know the answer to that one too!

Mary Sutton said...

This is true, Hank. The mystery community is like a big old family filled with interesting characters, isn't it. =)

Ellen Kozak said...

All my aunts were domestic and domesticated, alas. However, our mom had a bit of Auntie Mame in her, I think, and such tendencies may well lurk beneath the surface of my sisters and me.

Maybe if I hadn't gone into law, a notoriously staid profession (at least, until lawyers were allowed to advertise).... That's why the science fiction series I wrote, about the pun-packed amorous adventures of a woman judge in outer space, was written under a pseudonym.

The great thing about being a novelist is that you can do on paper all the things you wouldn't dare to do in real life (or if you did, you'd never tell).

Deanna Raybourn said...

Thanks so much for the warm welcome, darling Reds! Kristopher, my publisher has asked me to continue Julia's story in digital novellas--the next one, TWELFTH NIGHT, is due out June 1 with BONFIRE NIGHT following November 1!

Leslie Budewitz said...

What a fun story! I've got a couple of aunts who, while not quite like Dove, set young girls' hearts and minds aflutter with their adventures -- and their outfits!

My late mother-in-law is a character in the ms. I just turned in, and it was great fun to revisit another era through her: the days when a woman might go to a meeting to work on establishing a town art museum wearing a chartreuse leather and suede cape over chartreuse ankle skimmers and be seriously styling.

Linda Rodriguez said...

What a wonderful story! I have a couple of Aunt Dove types in my family and cherished the few years I had them before they passed on. Yes, aunt dove deserves a series of her very own!

I, too, think Hank is the Reds' Aunt Dove/Auntie Mame, minus bejeweled slippers. Can you imagine how lucky those grandkids are to have Grandma Hank?
xoxoxo

Pat D said...

Family figures big in Deanna's books, so go read them! Not to mention adventure, mystery, and really hunky men. No Aunt Dove in my family, darn it. But I try to come up with interesting things to do with my granddaughter when she's visiting from Ohio. Texas and northeast Ohio--different cultures entirely.

Mark Baker said...

I don't have anyone like Aunt Dove in my life, but she sound delightful.

Kathy Reel said...

I have been a fan of Deanna's for some years now, having found the Lady Julia series when it just had a couple of books out. And, yes, I agree with Kristopher, if you haven't read the Lady Julia series, I encourage you to buy or check out Silent in the Grave. Lady Julia and her Gypsy Nicholas Brisbane are full of witty conversation that will delight you. The pair, along with my Reds' couples, are among my favorite series' couples.

Now, I was a bit disturbed when you, Deanna, turned to the two new series, but, as I've told your before, I worried for nothing. A Spear of Summer Grass with Delilah Drummond is wonderful, and City of Jasmine with Evangeline Starke and her unforgettable Aunt Dove is amazing. The men in these novels are also delicious, and there is, as always, that witty banter that is so much fun to read. Of course, the e-books that accompany the three series are great treats while waiting for the next big adventure. And, Deanna, I'm so happy to know that there will be more Julia and Brisbane, and that it will be coming soon!

I first met Deanna at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival, where she stood out as the most charming, interesting person in the room. Then, last month I attended the Virginia Festival of the Book based solely on Deanna's appearance there. I got caught up on having my books authored by her signed. I feel most fortunate in having seen her twice. Oh, and, Deanna, I think you have a lot of Aunt Dove in you. Great spirit and humor!

Carroll Robinson said...

Aunt Dove immediately reminded me of Auntie Mame, but her own personality and though I am neither, but an aunt, I am wearing coral polish on my toes which I decided to do while reading this book--channeling??--I have not read Whisper of Jasmine, but went back and went over it some after starting CITY to get a sense of it and will read it later---though there are some patches in the book -- I don't want to spoil it -- am nearing the end and find the relationship between Gabriel and Evie quite interesting and well drawn--I find myself thinking about about why each of these characters are drawn to each other and I have to say I get put out with both of them sometimes a little like I used to do with Scarlett in Gone With the Wind-- it's interesting to me, because we weren't supposed Delilah that much, but I thought Delilah was in a way more mature than Evie is -- but I am not finished so this is speculation and not written in stone --and Aunt Dove has just arrived back on the pages again where I am.

Carroll Robinson said...

Aunt Dove immediately reminded me of Auntie Mame, but her own personality and though I am neither, but an aunt, I am wearing coral polish on my toes which I decided to do while reading this book--channeling??--I have not read Whisper of Jasmine, but went back and went over it some after starting CITY to get a sense of it and will read it later---though there are some patches in the book -- I don't want to spoil it -- am nearing the end and find the relationship between Gabriel and Evie quite interesting and well drawn--I find myself thinking about about why each of these characters are drawn to each other and I have to say I get put out with both of them sometimes a little like I used to do with Scarlett in Gone With the Wind-- it's interesting to me, because we weren't supposed Delilah that much, but I thought Delilah was in a way more mature than Evie is -- but I am not finished so this is speculation and not written in stone --and Aunt Dove has just arrived back on the pages again where I am.

SharonTX said...

Hi Julia -

Can't wait to read your new book!

The closest thing I had to an Aunt Dove was one of my mother's sisters - 22 years older. She was married for over 50 years, but I think he was husband #3.

One difference was that she was not around the family as much as Aunt Dove. You couldn't just drop in on her, because she was away so often. She was a very independent person and was well into her 90's before she stopped "picking up" new skills - some profitable enough to pay for her travels. She went on vacations all over the world with a group of friends, and spent weeks at a time in places in the US she wanted to paint.

One of the most eccentric things I can think of in my relationship with her was that when I was in my late teens and she was in her 50's, she gave me a few hand-me-down clothes and I actually wore them. (Fortunately, her taste wasn't at all Auntie Mame-ish!)

A handbag she gave me was my favorite all through college - but there were dresses, too. Classic sorts of things, several silk shirtwaist dresses in wonderful colors, suits perfect for teas or dressier occasions (once they'd been hemmed). And I had a much better collection of scarves then than I do now!





beviant said...

My "Aunt Dove" was Auntie Ev, who was glamorous and sexy and always took me out to eat at a fast food place which my own mother, who was a fundamentalist christian, didn't approve of. She got me through the difficult time that was my adolescence, promising me her costume jewelry and letting me pour my heart out to her. She danced wildly and dated wildly once she divorced her husband, who was an alcoholic. Unfortunately, she got breast cancer in the 1960s, and had not only a breast but her arm as well cut of---a radical mastectomy that isn't done any more, thank goodness. This didn't faze her: she remarried and moved down from Canada to the warm and dry southern California to go on living life larger than life.

Epyxa said...

Mostly educational I can say. The book is a real gift for the people who is dedicated in the first place.