Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NineteenTeen Welcomes Patrice Kindl

This week at NineteenTeen we're delighted to welcome Patrice Kindl, author of a number of award-winning novels for young adults. Patrice has shared her home in upstate New York with monkeys, parrots, cats, dogs, reptiles and small mammals, as well as the occasional bird of prey, one son and a very indulgent husband. Her books include Owl in Love, The Woman in the Wall, Goose Chase, Lost in the Labyrinth, and the 19th century set Keeping the Castle and A School for Brides (forthcoming).

NineteenTeen: Welcome to NineteenTeen, Patrice! Keeping the Castle is not your first work of historical fiction…what inspired you to write a Regency-set story?

Patrice: I was reading yet another historical novel in which the spunky heroine scorned marriage for the opportunity to pursue some fascinating and perilous career. Yes, I like those books too, but very few seem to me to have to do with being female in any age but our own. For most of history women had precious few career options, and marriage was by far the best.

Although I definitely consider myself a feminist, I felt like we were rewriting history with a feminist slant that misrepresented reality. Being the sort of writer I am, I also thought that a more accurate assessment might be kind of funny. The Regency period is excellent for this sort of thing because it was a time when women were just beginning to have some slight amount of autonomy and power of choice, particularly as to their choice of spouse.

I have long felt that, “I love you – you are so beautiful!” is morally equivalent to, “I love you – you are so rich!” It is assumed that women will be flattered at being valued primarily for their physical attributes, even though few men would enjoy being seen almost exclusively as a source of income. Sure, men show off their net worth with expensive cars just as women dress to emphasize their best features, but both also long to be known and appreciated for other, less superficial qualities. From the opening pages of Keeping the Castle I wanted to make it clear that, to me at least, marrying for money alone is no worse than marrying for physical attractiveness alone. Actually, marrying for money makes more sense: it may reflect intelligence and ability, while beauty is simply the result of genetic roulette.

NineteenTeen: There are strong Jane Austenish overtones in the plot of Keeping the Castle—a poor but proud young woman trying to find a husband who also likes to dabble in matchmaking—Emma Bennett, if you will. :) Is Jane Austen a favorite of yours?

Patrice: First of all, of course I adore Jane Austen! I know the novels practically word for word. However, I am not sure I entirely agree with the first sentence above. I wouldn’t call Althea proud, exactly. We first see her as quite willing to marry anybody at all who can offer her a respectable family and a sizeable income. It is only as the novel progresses that she finds she does care about more than money and position. I consider her a practical and unsentimental young woman who is doing the best she can with the resources available. Miss Austen’s heroines were considerably more nice-minded than mine; they had been trained to hide their baser emotions and desires behind a screen of manners. My Althea is not a true Regency lady; she forgets to pretend.

NineteenTeen: Who was your favorite character to write in Keeping the Castle?

Patrice: Oh, Mr. Fredericks, definitely! I missed him so when I had to send him off to London. On the other hand, I am terribly fond of Miss Charity Winthrop, now Baroness Boring in the book I am working on now. And, of course, Althea. And I really like Miss Vincy. Hmm. Hard to say.

NineteenTeen: Being that we're history geeks, we have to talk about research. What was your best research moment--the one that made you smile and rub your hands together (metaphorically, of course)? What is the most interesting thing you learned as you wrote Keeping the Castle?

Patrice: Don’t you absolutely love the Internet? It used to be that I had to save up research questions and make special trips to large libraries in order to find out this stuff, and then I never got every question answered.

Okay, shall I choose the lead paint with which ladies used to coat their faces? I had fun with that. Or the discovery that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had mislead me about quicksand (remember the bogs sucking people and moor ponies right up, never to be seen again, in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”)? I had planned to use a pool of quicksand to swallow up poor little Alexander Crawley instead of a tin mine, but it turns out that it is quite easy to get out of quicksand if you keep your head. Look it up on You Tube. Oh, and while reading War and Peace (same time period), I realized that young ladies who kept collections of morbid and depressing quotations were quite common at the time, so I gave this hobby to Prudence Winthrop.

I also found my characters on eBay. I love the miniature portraits that were exchanged between spouses and betrothed couples at the time. I was thinking of treating myself to one, when I suddenly saw one of my characters and just started screaming with laughter. It was Miss Charity Winthrop, and I own her likeness today. You can see them at: http://mybookthemovie.blogspot.com/2012/06/patrice-kindls-keeping-castle.html

NineteenTeen: What were your favorite books as a teen reader? Are there any more recent YA books that you wish you could have read when you were a teen?

I loved Jane Austen, as already mentioned. The Once and Future King (T.H. White) was very important to me. I was a bit of an Anglophile. Oh, of course there are so many wonderful YA books I’d love to have read back then – I grew up in the era of Nurse Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew, Girl Detective. There weren’t a tenth of the great books for teens that we have now. Diana Wynne Jones and Margaret Mahy are two favorites (both gone now, alas!).

NineteenTeen: I do wish Margaret Mahy were better known in the US.  So what’s next for you? Will you be writing more 19th century set work, or exploring other times and places?

Patrice: As foreshadowed above in the question about my favorite Castle character, I am about half-way through a manuscript titled, A School for Brides. This begins about eight or nine months after where we left off in Keeping the Castle. Miss Winthrop and Miss Hopkins have formed a finishing school for young ladies in Lesser Hoo, and we follow the various trials and tribulations of the students there.

NineteenTeen: Hurrah for sequels! Where can our readers learn more about you and your books?

Patrice: Please do visit my website: www.patricekindl.com. Also, Keeping the Castle has a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/KeepingTheCastle


QNPoohBear said...

I'm an adult and I enjoyed Keeping the Castle immensely. I I laughed a lot. I love the names of the characters, especially Lord Boring. I appreciated all the twists and turns in what seemed like a straightforward comedy of manners story. recommend this one to tweens, teens and older readers who are newcomers to the genre or who just want something light and fun.

Patrice Kindl said...

Why, thank you, QNPoohBear! (what, by the way, would any age but our own think of our addressing one another by such outré monikers as the ones we make up for our online avatars?) I'm happy you enjoyed it. A SCHOOL FOR BRIDES has also been fun to write. Patrice Kindl

Cara King said...

I, too, loved "Keeping the Castle," so it's delightful to cyber-meet you, Patrice! (Or, if we are to keep to Regency etiquette, it's so nice to meet you, Madame Kindl.)

And given that I loved your novel, I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise to hear that Diana Wynne Jones and Margaret Mahy are favorites of yours! I love them both, and in particular am a passionate fan of the great Diana Wynne Jones.

Here's my question: did it take you a while to decide on the exact tone of Keeping the Castle? Or did you know what it would be going in? Or was it just what came naturally out of your pen/keyboard/quill?


Patrice Kindl said...

Hello, Cara King. Nice to meet you as well. I am what is known as (to me, anyway) an extreme plunger. I am currently on Chapter 19 of the sequel to CASTLE, A SCHOOL FOR BRIDES, and still don't know how it ends. Honestly, I've no idea how to extricate myself from the mess I've embroiled myself in. The first few hundred words of CASTLE, however, are very similar in the published book to the words I wrote on the first day I sat down to the task. I did not know what time period it was (I toyed with a Middle Ages/fairy tale sort of period) or who my heroine was. I just knew I had a heroine who desperately wanted/needed to get married.
Thanks for your interest! Back to the plot intricacies of SCHOOL.

Anonymous said...

I am very cautious about how I spend my precious book money, so when I saw "Keeping the Castle" on the bookshelves, I thought "Want!" but didn't immediately buy. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it for days, and was compelled to go back and buy it, and I am so glad I did!

I love everything about this book and I am delighted that a sequel is forthcoming! I will be passing it on to my adult and young adult friends and also heading back to look for your other books.

Thanks for sharing some of your writing process here. :)