“Inspirations and Influences” is a new series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.
Today’s guest is debut author Rose Lerner, whose Historical Romance novel In For A Penny is about to be released next week. The book, about a marriage of convenience based on companioship and mutual respect between a ruined lordling and a rich Cit, shook Ana’s world and brought back her love for the genre with a vengeance. And we are delighted to have the author here today to talk about her Inspirations and Influences behind the book:
Please give it up for Rose Lerner:
There are plenty of things that show up in In for a Penny that I love wholeheartedly: making lists, men who speak foreign languages, and ballads about girls who run away to sea, for example. But the influences at the heart of the book are all things that make me angry, and matter to me a lot.
1. A Civil Contract, by Georgette Heyer.
I adore Georgette Heyer. I envy her prose style to the soles of my shoes. And A Civil Contract makes me want to throw it at the wall every time I read it.
It’s about a penniless lord who marries the daughter of a self-made man for her money. Jenny is “too commonplace and matter-of-fact to inspire…passionate adoration,” unlike the woman Adam loves, a high-strung aristocratic girl with beautiful eyes. So far, so good. Except at the end of the book, Jenny’s in love with Adam and he is still not in love with her. Instead, they discover that a marriage of quiet content can be more enduring than passion.
I’m not opposed to that sentiment, and I know a lot of readers love the book for that very reason. But why Jenny? Why is Jenny denied what every other Heyer heroine gets: the passionate adoration of her hero? What if , I thought, I wrote a marriage of convenience between a penniless lord and the daughter of a self-made man where he’s the one who feels inadequate, and she’s the one with the ex-boyfriend?
Until his father’s death, my hero Nev has never had to deal with either responsibility or business management. And my heroine, Penelope, grew up helping with the books in her father’s brewery. Nev is impressed and a little turned on by her accounting skills, but he can’t shake the lingering fear that she’d be better off with sensible, ultra-competent Edward…
2. Jane Austen, especially Sense and Sensibility.
Jane Austen is another writer who remains a huge influence not just on me, but on the entire romance genre. She writes the best comedy of manners ever. She does amazing banter. She writes strong female characters (mostly) and charming heroes (mostly).
And yet, Sense and Sensibility makes me angry. Jane Austen sets up her world so that a girl can be an Elinor, and be sensible and level-headed and live up to her responsibilities, or be a Marianne and be enthusiastic and talkative and willing to take emotional risks. By dividing those traits up into two characters and then making Marianne silly and kind of obnoxious, Austen says that you can’t be both.
I don’t want to choose between being a girl worthy of respect and being a girl who says out loud how she feels. In order to become an Elinor, I’d have to lop off entire parts of myself, lock them away and be ashamed of them and never look at them again. Which is, I think, a thing that people do to themselves. It’s something my heroine Penelope, who wants desperately to be an Elinor, has done to herself. (Luckily, Nev comes along to help her find those bits of herself again…) This brings me to Influence #3:
3. Trying to be taken seriously.
I think we’ve all had the experience of not being taken seriously, of being treated like someone whose thoughts don’t actually count for whatever reason. It’s an awful feeling.
Penelope’s whole life has been shaped by that feeling. Her nouveau-riche parents started out as working-class Londoners, but they sent their daughter to a finishing school for young ladies. The other girls all made fun of her–for the way she ate, the way she talked, the way she dressed. So she watched everything she did, trying to prove that she wasn’t vulgar, that a working-class girl could be just as good as the daughters of lords. That’s something I haven’t experienced personally, of course. But I drew on personal experiences and family history to help me figure out how to write about it.
As a teenager I struggled to present my opinions in a level-headed manner, so that my dad would take me seriously. (Alas, I frequently ended up crying in the bathroom and/or yelling…) As a girl majoring in math in college, I tried to seem confident and smart, and always wore my most serious clothes to seminar. There were whole years of my life when I wouldn’t wear pink. And I love pink!
My grandmother (whose parents came to the U.S. from Poland) made the transition from being very poor as a child to being middle-class as an adult. She remembered showing up to her first day of school speaking only Yiddish, so she didn’t teach her children Yiddish at all. She was very proud of her education. She tried not to speak with a Brooklyn accent. She wanted my mother to be a doctor even though my mother was one of the most squeamish people I’ve ever met.
Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother loved her family and was proud of where she came from. And she really did like opera, it wasn’t just an affectation. But she also censored herself and her kids, and had some bizarre blind spots. For example, she believed that she had a more classy taste in clothes than her own mother, and was always complaining that my mother looked schleppy and giving her fashion advice. Let’s look at some family photos.
My great-grandmother (in the middle):
My grandmother with her mother, and one of my grandparents together (making a joke with their Old-Timey Married People pose):
My mother. On the left she’s in a dress my grandmother bought for her (with her two brothers), and in the right she’s in a dress she bought for herself (with her youngest brother):
To find out if the trend continues into my generation, all you have to do is look at my author photo:
Clearly bright, busy patterns run in the family. Is that because we’re peasants at heart? Maybe, maybe not–but who cares? Of course, I can say that. I can really not care, because I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My grandmother did.
I tried to show that with Penelope. I tried to show that she’s playing a losing game, but at the same time I didn’t want to criticize her for playing. Because in her situation, I think it’s impossible not to want approval, and not to feel like you should be a credit to where you came from.
So there you have it, three of my inspirations and influences! Thanks Book Smugglers for having me!
About the author: I discovered Georgette Heyer when I was thirteen, and wrote my first historical romance a few years later. My writing has improved since then, but my fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When not reading, writing, or researching, I enjoy cooking and marathoning old TV shows. I live in Seattle with two roommates, four cats, and too many books and DVDs to count. You can learn more about the author on her website, where you can find an awesome excerpt of the book, cool characters’ interviews and a contest to win not only her book but also a package of 10 of her favorite Regency-themed books.
Thank you, Rose!!!
IN FOR A PENNY
No more drinking. No more gambling. And definitely no more mistress. Now that he’s inherited a mountain of debts and responsibility, Lord Nevinstoke has no choice but to start acting respectable. Especially if he wants to find a wife-better yet, a rich wife. Penelope Brown, a manufacturing heiress, seems the perfect choice. She’s pretty, rational, ladylike, and looking for a marriage based on companionship and mutual esteem.
IN FOR A POUND
But when they actually get to Nev’s family estate, all the respectability and reason in the world won’t be enough to deal with tenants on the edge of revolt, a menacing neighbor, and Nev’s family’s propensity for scandal. Overwhelmed but determined to set things right, Nev and Penelope have no one to turn to but each other. And to their surprise, that just might be enough.
We have one signed copy of In For A Penny to giveaway. In order to enter, leave a comment on this post. Contest is open for residents of US and Canada ONLY and will run till Saturday February 20th 11:59pm (PST). We will announce the winner next Sunday in our weekly stash! Good luck!