Tuesday 6 February 2018

Interview: Rebecca Rosenberg

This morning, I'm happy to be welcoming author Rebecca Rosenburg to The Writing Greyhound ahead of the release of her latest novel The Secret Life of Mrs London. Read on to find out all about her writing process, inspiration, research and, of course, the book itself!

How did you first become interested in writing?
My friends and I started a writing club where we would each write scenes and share them. Something caught fire with me; I kept writing, couldn’t stop. I went to as many writing workshops and bought as many writing books as I could to hone my words. In the end, I believe what Jack London said - just write your thousand words a day and keep going. The story gets better!
the-secret-life-of-mrs-london, rebecca-rosenburg, book

Tell me about The Secret Life of Mrs London. 
The novel starts in San Francisco, 1915. Just as America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, struggle under the strains of marital discord. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband. But Jack doesn’t see it that way. Until Charmian is pulled from the audience at a magic show of the beguiling escape artist, Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own troubled marriage. And suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her, and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.
What’s the best part of writing fiction? 
Escaping into another world, where part of it exists, like the location and historical crumbs left by the characters, but the other part exists only in my mind. The trick is to breathe life into it so readers experience it too.
What drew you to writing about the past? 
I write biographical historical fiction, telling the stories of real people who lived remarkable lives. I don’t want their stories to die with them, or become a caricature or stereotype of who they were. There are clues left behind in history, and if one pays close attention to them, they paint a picture a person with complex feelings and thoughts far deeper than history has portrayed.
Did you undertake much research for the book? 
Research is the fascinating part, where you don’t have to work, just be observant and enjoy! I visited the Houdini Museum in New York, walked the street where the Hippodrome Theatre and the Flat Iron building where MacMillan Publishing was, saw Houdini’s brownstone. I read the letters and diary excerpts of Charmian, Jack, and Houdini. I watched Houdini’s escapes online. I watched Jack London’s original movies and read at least half of his fifty books. And, of course, I read and reread 5-6 biographies of Houdini and London. The most telling was Charmian London’s two-volume biography, Jack London. Lastly, I wrote The Secret Life of Mrs London at Jack London Park, Beauty Ranch, on the steps of their cottage and at the ruins of the burned lodge-mansion, Wolf House.
What’s your writing process like? 
I write by candlelight before anyone is awake, usually from four to noon. That way, my own life does not intrude with the story and I can lose myself in the character.
rebecca-rosenburg, author

Which authors inspire you? 
I love Daphne Du Maurier, the mystery she creates. I am endlessly inspired by Gone With The Wind, the depth and detail, the drama. Wow. I read a wide variety of authors: Martha Conway, Patricia V. Davis, Barbara Davis, Camille Di Maio, Kay Bratt, Patricia Sands, Joy Jordan-Lake, M. K. Todd, Jodi Piccoult, Ian McEwan, Martin Cruz Smith.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 
Write every day to get into the flow. If you have trouble with the flow, or everything is too predictable, start a free-writing session, and let your character tell you what you are missing that is disturbing, complicated, not expected. Never write a scene where things end on an even keel. End with a troubling, unresolved feeling, or something worse. Your characters never agree. If they do, you don’t need two characters. Each character has a distinct goal at opposition to every other character in the room.
What are you currently working on? 
My new novel is Champagne Widows, based on the five widows from 1800 to 1932 that made champagne the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
What are you reading at the moment?
Do you ever get overwhelmed by the number of books to read? I have a book club and a writing group so I read their recommendations. Right now, for Champagne Widows, I am reading Demons of the Night, tales of the fantastic, madness, and supernatural from the nineteenth century; Fashion Victims, about fashion that kills; and several histories of Champagne.
What are your ambitions for your writing career? 
My ambition is to write fascinating stories. I am in drafts of three at the moment. And I have a fourth in mind, which I won’t let myself think about.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading? 
I travel to France to drink champagne. I play Mahjong with friends every Friday afternoon and drink champagne. I volunteer and support a Culinary Apprentice program for at-risk young adults and the Valley of the Moon children’s home, reading the kids bedtime stories. I drink champagne in my lavender fields and take in the peace of Sonoma Valley. Oh, and did I say, I love champagne?
The Secret Life of Mrs London is available to buy now. For more information about Rebecca and her writing, you can visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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