Friday, November 15, 2013
Stories That Won't Let Us Go
Such was the case for my 2008 young adult novel, La Petite Four. I know some of you were first introduced to my writing through that book, and I've received a number of lovely e-mails from readers about it. But the thing was, I was never entirely satisfied with it. No, that's not quite true. I was glad to see it published. Lady Emily wasn't entirely satisfied with it.
Lady Emily, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Emerson and the heroine of La Petite Four, remains the loudest character I have ever written, even after finishing more than 25 manuscripts for publication. It isn't that she runs about shouting. She tends to have a great deal more class than that. But she speaks in my mind so clearly that I could swear she was standing right next to me.
Here's the first thing she ever said to me: "I despise pink. It neither makes the bold statement of red nor whispers the purity of white, yet I am convinced that I would make my father the happiest of all men should I dress in nothing but that color. Pink, he thinks, is singularly feminine. It is simply not me."
She wasn't content to recite narrative or dialogue. During the process of completing La Petite Four, she argued quite strenuously with me over certain parts of the story my editors felt were very important. For instance, the editors wanted a more exciting first chapter. Sounds reasonable enough; good advice, actually. I was on my third revision, struggling, fighting with Lady Emily every step of the way, when she said, purely out of spite, I might add, "I want to run away." So, in the version of La Petite Four that saw publication, I had Lady Emily run away from her boarding school to reach her father before her betrothed so she can change the duke's mind about her having to marry.
Lady Emily was not amused.
When the rights to the story were returned to me, I decided to revise the story to her liking and reissue it along with its prequel, the former A Dangerous Dalliance and now Secrets and Sensibilities, where Lady Emily first learns her sleuthing skills. Here was her chance, her opportunity to tell her story, her way. Did she cooperate?
"I am tired of being rewritten," she complained, pointed nose in the air.
I promised her this was the last time. And so, in hopes of finally doing Lady Emily's story justice, this week I published the ebook, Art and Artifice, a retelling of La Petite Four that I am happy to say Lady Emily endorses heartily. Perhaps that's because this time I let Bow Street Runner Jamie Cropper say a few words as well. He's a gentleman, for all he's been raised in poverty. He wasn't nearly so strident about how he was portrayed, but then, he likes to have a little fun.
Have I finally silenced Lady Emily? No. Now she won't let me be until I finish the sequel, Ballrooms and Bribery. That will have to wait until next spring.
This time I get to listen to my own voice for a change.
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