Hi, Jeanne! Great to have you here and I have to say, I adore your cover. Beautiful! Looking forward to learning more about you and your books. Let's kick off with my questions...
1.) What did you want to be when you grew up?
All the usual. Missionary. Courtesan. Dancer. Anything that didn’t involve a lot of housework, which was the most boring thing I could think of. I hate being bored. Of course I knew all along I would be a writer. I can’t remember when I started writing…sometime in kindergarten when they gave me a pencil and the alphabet.
2.) Coffee, tea or hot chocolate?
All three, at different times of day, or the year. Coffee in the morning. Melt-the-spoon strong. Tea in the afternoon with my husband, when I finally crawl out of my work room. Hot chocolate in the winter, in front of the fireplace, after snowshoeing or just shovelling the walk. Serenity, for me, is a blizzardy day, all white outside the windows, pasta and red wine for supper, my cats curled up on the sofa, and nothing to do but read, read, read and occasionally stroke a cat. Serenity is the opposite of boredom.
3.) What genre do you typically read? Why?
I read as much historical fiction as I have time for simply because I love the sense of travel, of inhabiting other lifetimes that it provides. I think of historical fiction as my calling, just as surgeons think of the operating room as their calling. But to keep my imagination supple I make it a point to read as widely and broadly as possible, anything that looks interesting. Currently I’m reading a biography of Salvador Dali, and Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession, by Ian Bostridge. The Dali bio is about the visual world as created by a man of intense and surreal imagination; Bostridge’s study of Schubert is about the intensity of the musical world. Both feed my imagination.
4.) Share a favourite childhood memory.
I’m seven years old, sitting on the back porch of my aunt and uncle’s house in Rochester, New York, and there’s a huge storm, rain coming down in buckets, steaming past and through the screens of the porch and my uncle and I just sit there, laughing, half-hiding under a soaked blanket, and even when the thunder and lightning start we stay there, refusing to hide indoors. He was normally a serious, not very approachable man, but he loved a good storm and ever since that day, so do I.
5.) Do you have any shameless addictions? ie. Tea, Books, Shoes, Clothes?
Oh so many. Actually, all of the above. I love Japanese green tea, French shoes, clothes that are comfortable but have a bit of edge to them. And books. Books and more books. My father used to tease me that I read books by the pound, and I still do. I’m training myself to use library books as much as possible since my house has run out of bookshelf space. I do, though, get a sensual thrill from opening a new book that no one else has opened and read. Freud, I suspect, would make much of that.
6.) What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?
For me, and for most writers I know, it’s the sheer every-dayness of it. Every day you have to go to your desk or wherever it is you work, even on those days when you think there is absolutely nothing moving or useful in your imagination. If you wait for inspiration, you may never finish the book. And strangely enough or not, inspiration is more likely to come when you are working, not when you are avoiding work. For the bad days, I remember Anne LaMott’s fabulous book about writing, Bird by Bird. Some days you just have to give yourself permission to write badly to avoid not writing at all. You can always revise it later.
7.) Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages a day?
Yes. Otherwise I may write a sentence and call it quits. My rule is either two pages or two hours, whichever comes first. Most days I get a little more, but I don’t require it. The writer part of me has many childlike qualities, including disliking bullies, and requirements can be so bullying. After the writing stint, I fill in my workday with research and reading and editing the pages.
8.) What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I wrote a brief mystery series once, only three titles, and I had mixed feelings about it. I knew how much time of my writing life it was going to occupy, time I could not give to any other project and that felt a little confining. I’m not a writer who can keep two or three projects going at a time. I hate multi-tasking. On the other hand, a series gave me more time with my characters and I thought of it, really, as a nineteenth century serial rather than somewhat isolated and sequential novels. I brought them forward in time and was able to make the interesting changes that happen to people over time.
A Lady of Good Family
by Jeanne Mackin
Raised among wealth and privilege during America's fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and to marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. How she becomes a woman for whom work and love, the earthly and the mysterious, are held in delicate balance is the story of her unique determination to create beauty while remaining true to herself.
My grandparents had a farm outside of Schenectady, and every Sunday my father, who worked in town, would hitch the swayback mare to the buggy and take us out there. I would be left in play in the field as my father and grandfather sat on the porch and drank tea and Grandma cooked. My mother, always dressed a little too extravagantly, shelled the peas.
A yellow barn stood tall and broad against a cornflower blue sky. A row of red hollyhocks in front of the barn stretched to the sky, each flower on the stem as silky and round as the skirt on Thumbelina’s ball gown. In the field next to the barn, daisies danced in the breeze. My namesake flower.
I saw it still, the yellows and red and blues glowing against my closed eyelids. The field was my first garden and I was absolutely happy in it. We usually are, in the gardens of our childhood.
When I opened my eyes I was on a porch in Lenox, a little tired from weeks of travel, a little restless. My companions were restless, too, weary of trying to make polite conversation as strangers do.
It was a late-summer evening, too warm, with a disquieting breeze stirring the treetops as if a giant ghostly hand ruffled them. Through the open window a piano player was tinkling his way through Irving Berlin as young people danced and flirted. In the road that silvered past the inn, young men, those who had made it home from the war, drove up and down in their shiny black Model T’s.
It was a night for thinking of love and loss, first gardens, first kisses.
Mrs. Avery suggested we try the Ouija board. Since the war it had become a national obsession.
“Let’s,” I agreed eagerly.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, A Lady of Good Family, explores the secret life of gilded age Beatrix Jones Farrand, niece of Edith Wharton and the first woman professional landscape design in America. Her previous novel, The Beautiful American, based on the life of model turned war correspondent and photographer, Lee Miller won the CNY 2015 prize for fiction. She has published in American Letters and Commentary and SNReview and other publications and is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in Ithaca.
A Lady of Good Family is available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other bookstores.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Jeanne will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host.