Mary joins us today to share the inspiration behind her engaging Victorian thriller THE WILD PRINCESS that releases next week. It’s a rolicking adventure about Queen Victoria’s bold artist daughter who finds herself ensared in a plot involving expert bombers, a muderous pimp, and the former undercover guard to Abraham Lincoln, one of which vies for her heart.
Tell us more about THE WILD PRINCESS, Mary.
The astronomical success of the historical novels of Phillipa Gregory and Christine Trent prove that readers simply can’t get enough of the British royals–and now I have entered the fray with an exciting and sensual novel of Queen Victoria’s “wild child” daughter, the Princess Louise. The Wild Princess transports us back to Victorian England and plunges us into the intrigues of the royal court, where the impetuous Louise brazenly followed no one’s rules but her own–even marrying a commoner, which no one of royal blood had done in the previous three centuries. Filled with rich period deal, The Wild Princess is an exciting, enthralling read. The Tudors have gotten the lion’s share of attention in historical fiction; it’s high time Queen Victoria and her family got their due.
What made you fall in love with the Victorian era?
I think it all started with Sherlock Holmes. I remember reading The Hound of the Baskervilles while vacationing with my family at a campsite on a lake in Vermont. It was a rainy, dark day, and one of the cabins had been made into a little library. I curled up in a big leather chair in front of the fireplace and read as the wind howled and rain splashed down outside. Perfect atmosphere for a scary, mysterious story set on the English moors. I was 12 years old then. Later, as I read more of Conan Doyle’s stories and started reading love stories, I discovered the sensuality and romance in Sherlock’s stories. Remembering all of that, I thought it would be wonderful to dive back into that time in my own writing.
How do you find inspiration?
These days I find inspiration in history. For The Wild Princess, I got swept up in my fascination with royalty and Victorian settings. I love romance, mystery, gothic stories, and blending all of that with elements from the lives of real people. In writing this and others of my upcoming novels that feature Queen Victoria’s daughters, I go directly to biographies about them and letters that mention family members. The material you can dig out of real people’s lives is amazing. The more I found, the more excited I got. I felt compelled to combine all of my favorite story elements. When I wrote The Gentleman Poet (writing as Kathryn Johnson) I used the journals of two men who were on a ship bound for Jamestown, Virginia, which sank off the coast of Bermuda. That wreck inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest, and inspired me to write the story of one of the passengers on board, a young serving girl.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Oh, I’m a great advocate of plotting and planning ahead. Yes, some twists and turns come to me as I write. But it’s too scary to me, to launch into writing a book if I don’t know how it will end or what events will drive the story forward. By plotting I can avoid at least some revising. There’s always more to do, of course. But at least you have a better handle on the story and you aren’t tossing out reams of pages during the revision process.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
My husband and I wanted an intimate, fun, different sort of wedding. We were delighted when we found we could be married aboard a ship that would sail from New York City to Bermuda. A minister married us the day of our sailing and we honeymooned in Bermuda. And that’s where I discovered the legend of Shakespeare’s connection with the island and its history. I also started thinking about Victoria’s family when I learned that one of the largest hotels on the island, The Princess, was named for Princess Louise, who later became the heroine of my novel, The Wild Princess.
What’s the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
First drafts are always the roughest. There’s nothing you can do but plow through, writing fast and furious, not expecting too much of yourself in terms of perfection. Once you have a dirty draft, you can hammer it into shape and make it beautiful.
Do you have advice for new writers?
When I teach at The Writers’ Center in Washington, DC, I always tell my students to write 6 days a week, a minimum of 90 minutes a day. This establishes a healthy and productive writing schedule. Write forward, never look back when in the first draft. If you stop to fuss over the exact word, you’ll never get past Chapter 2. Keep writing!
Mary Hart Perry is a pen name for Kathryn Johnson, founder of Write by You (email@example.com), an author’s mentoring service. As Mary she has turned in a new direction, to romantic Victorian thrillers. Her first in the series is, The Wild Princess, launched August 1, 2012, from HarperCollins. Mary/Kathryn lives in Maryland with her husband and two feline writing partners, Miranda and Tempest.