Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Deanna Raybourn Talks About Those Intrepid Victorian Ladies

   RHYS BOWEN: I'm so thilled to have Deanna Raybourn as my
     guest today. First she's a really nice and fun person, great to hang 
  out with, and second we both share an interest in spunky lady 
  explorers:    those Victorian ladies who crossed deserts and fought 
  tribesmen while wearing corsets! ( And she looks like a young Joan
  Collins, doesn't she?)  So welcome, Deanna.


 DEANNA RAYBOURN: Heaps of thanks to the Reds for inviting me to come and hang out and chat about Veronica!

One of the questions all writers dread is, “Where did you get your ideas?” The answer for me is usually some strange alchemical reaction of research, imagination, and serendipity that I can’t quite define. But not with Veronica Speedwell! The inspiration for her character is one very intrepid, very memorable Victorian explorer by the name of Margaret Fountaine. I have been studying the Victorian female explorers ever since I graduated from college. When I’m between projects and can give myself up to reading for pure pleasure, I often reach for the collected anthologies of travelers—in particular the indefatigable 19th-century women who packed up their corsets and crinolines and set out to see the world. My bookshelves are stuffed with their exploits, my favorite accounts being journals written by the women themselves on their expeditions. With great affection and tongue firmly in cheek, I call them the parasol and petticoat brigade, but they were so much more! Most of their formative years were spent in stereotypical 19th-century households with tatting and tea-pouring their most demanding activities. But for each woman there came a tipping point, a crossroads at which the traveler realized she wanted much more than her narrow existence could offer. 

That’s when she packed her hopes into her carpetbag and set off to see the world. I find their courage both extraordinary and incredibly inspiring; they faced obstacles and setbacks with astonishing equanimity, pushing forward across the next frontier, past the next horizon. They blazed new trails, sometimes forcing a path through lands their male counterparts dared not attempt. Luckily for me, many of them wrote about their experiences and those journals and letters make for fascinating reading.


Many years ago--so long I don’t even remember how or where I encountered it, I was lucky enough to come across Margaret Fountaine’s first journal, a nondescript, twee-looking volume entitled Love Among the Butterflies. (The second book has an even more sentimental title--Butterflies and Late Loves.) A lepidopterist who hunted butterflies on six continents, Fountaine enjoyed a career that spanned more than five decades, giving her a measure of independence and even a certain acclaim amongst butterfly-hunters. (There is a plaque marking the spot where she died on the island of Santo Domingo at the age of seventy, butterfly-net clutched in her hand.) I settled in to read her journal, expecting a serious journal about lepidoptery with some pithy observations about foreign travel. Imagine my surprise when it took a delightfully salacious turn as Fountaine described not only her butterfly hunts, but her numerous flirtations! It was utterly enthralling to read about her affairs, and the more I read, the more I knew I would someday create a character with the same indefatigable energy, the same zest for life and adventure. Veronica is influenced by all of these unforgettable Victorian explorers, but her career as a lepidopterist is a special homage to Margaret. Like her inspiration, Veronica is forthright, dynamic, and uncowed by danger—in fact, she seeks it out and comes alive because of it.


Veronica’s second adventure, A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, is available now! Join her and partner in detection, natural historian Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, as they race against time to save an innocent man from the hangman’s noose and unmask a killer who threatens to expose secrets most royal


RHYS: Okay, I'm hooked instantly by the thought of royal secrets.
And Deanna will give away a signed copy to one of today's commenters.

43 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

I think expedition journals such as you’ve described are one of the most interesting ways to experience the time in which the writer lived. I wonder if reading Margaret’s journal gives you ideas for people and events other than Veronica characteristics and her lepidoptery?
Congratulations on the new book, Deanna . . . I agree with Rhys on the royal secrets and I’m looking forward to reading Veronica’s latest adventure.

Karen in Ohio said...

Deanna, I'm also a fan of intrepid women, and enthusiastically look forward to reading Veronica's tales.

In your reading have you come across Isabella Bird's remarkable diary, called A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains? She was British, I believe, and sickly, but still made her way solo across the wilderness, including some long treks on horseback. Not much romance, at least up to the last third of the book, which is as far as I got before forgetting to finish it. But quite an adventure.

Mark Baker said...

I have heard great things about this series. I really need to sit down and start it.

Grace Koshida said...

Thanks Rhys for introducing us to Deanna Reybourn. I have seen Deanna's series discussed a few times lately. A new series to add to my TBR list!

Jeanne Adamek said...

I loved A Curious Beginning! Can't wait to read the second in this series...

Edith Maxwell said...

I love the sound of this journal, Deanna! Can you recommend any other late-Victorian journals by women, or collections of letters? Best of luck with the new book. Like others here, am adding it to the ever higher TBR pile.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

So great to see you Deanna! I'll never forget the moment at the RITA awards when you one out over Nora Roberts!
Have a little bit about voice, if you will… How do you get your brain to think and write like a Victorian woman? Do you sometimes I slip into it in real life? I am trying to imagine you at the grocery store :-)

quirkfarms said...

Loved the first. Look forward to the second.

Hallie Ephron said...

A delightfully salacious 19th century lepidopterist - sounds irresistible! Congratulations on the new book, Deanna.

Kristopher said...

I'm a huge Veronica Speedwell fan, so it's nice to learn a bit more about her origins. Readers, if you haven't tried this series by Deanna - or her Lady Julia Grey mystery series - you are in for a treat.

Marianne in Maine said...

Hi Deanna. It's always a thrill to have my favorite authors stop by the Reds.

I loved the first book and have been waiting (not always patiently) for Book 2. I downloaded the audio version on Tuesday and I can't wait to start it.

Thanks for the background information. Very interesting.

FChurch said...

Women were barely mentioned in my graduate anthropology/archaeology classes--but quite a few of your intrepid women, Deanna, were in the field, exploring. Love finding their stories.

Someday, archaeologists will excavate a pyramid,and there they will find my bones, under the remnants of my towering TBR pile--still clutching the latest Veronica Speedwell adventure!!

Cathy Akers-Jordan said...

Veronica Speedwell sounds like a cousin to Amelia Peabody (one of my favorite heroines)! I'm looking forward to reading about Veronica's adventures. :)

Mary Sutton said...

I love that cover. And I love the image of an adventuresome lepidopterist. (I'm sure I misspelled that.)

Funny how we have the image of Victorian women (or ladies, at least) firmly in our minds as wearing tight corsets, pouring tea, and holding parasols. Yet some of them not only broke that mold. They shattered it.

Libby Dodd said...

This is a great series.
It is truly wondrous to consider these intrepid women! What they managed is quite awe inspiring.
Thank you for putting one in fictional book form for us to enjoy!

Ingrid Thoft said...

Congrats, Deanna! I'm tired just thinking about traveling wearing corsets and the like! Are you a butterfly enthusiast yourself? Did you have to do much research on the subject?

Unknown said...

I found the first Veronica adventure while searching for Silent on the Moors(still searching) and devoured it! Most enjoyable...and I'm definitely looking forward to the second installment!

Susan D said...

I'm a big fan of Intrepid Lady Travellers, especially early-to-mid 20th century. Amazing how many there were, who also wrote about their adventures.

Veronica Speedwell sounds like a winner. I must check her out.

Janice from Toronto said...

Really enjoyed the first Veronica Speedwell, looking forward to the second, love all those strong Victorian ladies, they deserve medals just for wearing the corsets let alone going adventuring in them!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Deanna! Happy book birthday!

I loved the first Veronica Speedwell book. Interesting choices about the names. There is an actor named Scott Speedman (from Felicity TV show), though I never heard of a real person with the last name Speedwell.

Someone commented that Veronica could be Amelia Peabody's cousin. When I think of British history, there has always been strong, independent and intellectual women through history. Look at Boadicia. Look at Queen Elizabeth the First. Mary Shelley. Ada Lovelace. And there are many more.

Speaking of corsets, I was thinking about American pioneer women who had to work the land. I would be surprised if they wore corsets while farming. Trying to remember if the movie True Grit with the Kim Darby character was set during the Victorian era.

Look forward to reading your new book!

Diana

Celia Fowler said...

I am so glad you visited Jungle Reds today -- I really look forward to reading your books!! I love the names Margaret Fontaine gave to her journals -- they remind me of my baby sister who, when she was only four, was playing the piano and singing a song she named "Butterflies are Free in my Yearning Heart." She has always had a way with words. I love the book cover for A Perilous Undertaking -- it is very appealing and inviting ~

Rhys said...

If Deanna hasn't stopped by yet, I know she is on a plane, on her book tour. Let's hope she's not delayed and can visit later!

And Mary, those Victorian ladies DID wear corsets, and layers of skirts and all kinds of uncomfortable clothing and they still crossed deserts and mountains and met dangerous tribesmen and dug up buried cities. They were amazing.
Rhys

Karen in Ohio said...

I just got the botanical connection, Deanna! Very clever.

Deborah Crombie said...

Deanna, such fun! I must have been living under a rock because I have missed the first Veronica book so am going to buy just as soon as I sign off here! I love these intrepid Victorian women, and Amelia Peabody is one of my favorite heroines of all time.

For real life accounts, two of my favorites are Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa and Beryl Markham's West with the Night, although I suppose you'd have to classify them as Edwardian rather than Victorian.

Good luck with Veronica and have a great book tour!

SharonTX said...

I see Deanna will be at Murder by the Book tonight - no reason for flight delays at this end. It's blustery, mostly cloudy and already 76 degrees.

MBTB introduced me to Deanna Raybourn the day I made a book run when it became apparent that hurricane Ike was actually going to hit us. Among the books I came home with were Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary. As it turned out, the print in mass market paperback of Silent in the Grave was too small for me to read by candlelight or lantern (we were without power for 8 days)so I could only read it during the day. It only took the opening lines of that book to make me a fan:

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."

I enjoyed the first Veronica Speedwell book very much and am looking forward to picking up the new one.

SharonTX

Deanna said...

Yes, just got off a plane and the wifi is spotty! Thanks. To the Reds for holding down the fort. I don't have an option to reply to each comment, so I'll have to leave a couple of comments and batch my responses. First, thanks so much for all the kind words! I just KNEW there would be other people who loved the intrepid Victorians as much as I do!

Deanna said...

Joan, Margaret is an ongoing source of inspiration! She's given me a lot to think about and her exploits have been a great springboard for Veronica's backstory.

Deanna said...

Karen, I have read Isabella Bird and if you're enjoying her book on the Rockies, be sure to check out her other travel journals--especially the Sandwich Islands!

Thanks, Celia--I love the covers too! Penguin has done a fabulous job of capturing historical whimsy...

SharonTX said...

I just wanted to add a request to leave me out of the selection for a copy of the book. I'll be picking up a copy the next time I'm out of the house.

Also there's a long excerpt one Deanna' beautiful website: http://www.deannaraybourn.com/a_perilous_undertaking_excerpt.html

Sharon TX

Deanna said...

FChurch, I LOVE that Veronica will be included in your excavation!

Mary, that's what I appreciate the most about these women--shattered expectations!

Ingrid, I didn't know much when I started, but I'm much better-informed now. I even raised a trio of Painted Ladies to watch them go from the larval stage to full butterflies. Releasing them was such fun!



Deanna said...

Edith, you might like to start with one of the collected biographies. I particularly recommend SPINSTERS ABROAD, VICTORIAN LADY TRAVELLERS, and WOMEN OF DISCOVERY. From there you might find a particular explorer you'd like to read more about.

Hank, ha! As to voice, Victorians--bless them!--wrote a LOT. Letters, journals, memoirs, they recorded everything. The more you read, theceasier it is to slip into their voice. Also, in their private correspondence Victorians were much more casual and modern than we tend to think. More shattered expectations!

Pat D said...

Deanna, it's lovely to have you here. I am still lamenting the end of the Lady Julia Grey and Brisbane series. Those were such fun. It's a good thing Veronica Speedwell has stepped in to provide adventure and to torment poor Stoker.

Kathy Reel said...

Some years back, I attended the Southern Kentucky Book Festival. I was especially excited because Deanna was going to be there, and I was reading Lady Julia Grey and loving the series. Well, I wasn't disappointed. Deanna stood out in a room full of authors and readers, with her enthusiasm and gorgeous self. She was like a light shining in the middle of it all. I was so happy to meet you, Deanna, and I have now been a fan for close to ten years. You've still never disappointed.

From the beginning, with Lady Julia Grey, all of your female characters have had that spunk and wonderful curiosity that drives them to expand their boundaries and not settle for what society deems a woman's role. Your interest in Victorian female explorers is fascinating, Deanna, and you've inspired me to look into some of the real life women, as well as read Veronica Speedwell. Oh, and the Veronica Speedwell covers are simply delicious. Penguin is a favorite publisher for covers for me. In fact, one of the Christmas presents I gave to myself was Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, with an introduction by Audrey Niffenegger.

Thanks for stopping by the Reds today, Deanna. I really need to reconnect with you at the next Bouchercon or somewhere and have you sign some of my Julia Grey books.

Deanna said...

Pat, never say never! With the TV series in development there is a chance for more Julia!

Deanna said...

Kathy, that is so kind of you! I love to meet readers and I'm so glad that comes across. I'll happily sign your books anytime!

Anonymous said...

I love Veronica's "take no prisoners" attitude. Even England's royal family can't intimidate her!

Karlene Barger said...

I love Veronica's adventurous "never say die" attitude. Nothing daunts her!

Beverly Fontaine said...

I love Veronica, Deanna! I am halfway through the second book. I downloaded it yesterday. And my daughters and I are hoping for more Lady Julia. My oldest (a modern Europe historian) got me started on your books and I never looked back.

I was so disappointed that the Lady Julia series had ended and mentioned it to Lauren Willig at a gook signing. She told me that she had read your manuscript for the first Veronica book and that I was going to love it. She said that she never thought you could outdo Lady Julia as a character, but that Veronica was every bit as good. Lauren was right!

I also love your standalone 20th century books. Evangeline Starke, Delilah Drummond and Poppy are terrific characters. You have a gift for writing interesting/strong female characters.

Susan B said...

I loved the first book in this series!

Anonymous said...

Deanna,

I forgot to ask if Revestoke and Bram Stoker are the same person?

Diana

Kait said...

Bringing up the tail of 40 comments here, but I had to say this sounds like a wonderful read. Just my cup of tea!

Jenn McKinlay said...

A sassy lepidoterist? The librarian in me is all aflutter! I love to read memoirs, especially from times past, what a wonderful way to be inspired to write a series, Deanna. This is fascinating. I can not wait to check out the Veronica books. Like Debs, Amelia Peabody is one of my all time faves.

Angela Garrett said...

I loved the first book in this series (and the Lady Julia series!) and am looking forward to reading the new one. Thanks for the Love Among the Butterflies recommendation!