Thursday, February 22, 2007

How Do You Do That Thing You Do? Faye Lifts the Veil

Faye Booth, my close MNW neighbor (I'm slotted for September, her novel Cover the Mirrors comes in November, just two doors down), has posted a great description of her writing process on her blog. (Check out her fun and slightly eccentric website, too--it's at a different location.)

Faye's explanation is especially interesting to me as she places her novels in the Victorian period, and I'd always wondered how one goes about recreating historical voice. It sounds like a great deal of work, but it also sounds as if she's done her homework and then some (can you spell 'obsessive'?). She's even dug into the "Language of Flowers" business that used to burden a handful of mixed wildflowers with more allusions than Finnegans Wake.

(Side note to Faye--I remember John Fowles, after completing The French Lieutenant's Woman, remarking that he'd had to make the dialogue slightly more archaic than was strictly correct because upper-and-middle-class Victorian speech sounded a bit too modern to be believable to our ears. Izzat true, or was he messing with the interviewer?)

In any case, I'm greatly looking forward to Cover the Mirrors. And, speaking of enfants terrible, Faye is apparently 26. I was glad to find out she was at least that old, as if she were doing all this while under the quarter-century mark I might have to kill her. And that would be wrong. (And might get me sentenced to Transportation. Oh, wait, I'm already in the Colonies...)

9 comments:

Faye L. said...

I'd always wondered how one goes about recreating historical voice. It sounds like a great deal of work, but it also sounds as if she's done her homework and then some (can you spell 'obsessive'?).
Obsessive is my middle name. :) Well actually, it's Louise, but you get my point. There's an article on writing historical fiction in the 2007 edition of Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, written by Bernard 'Sharpe' Cornwell, in which he talks about the strange little details you find yourself checking, or that boffins write to inform you about when you've published something in error. If I remember correctly (I don't have the article on me at the moment), he's had people tell him when snowdrops and rabbits became part of the British ecosystem.

he'd had to make the dialogue slightly more archaic than was strictly correct because upper-and-middle-class Victorian speech sounded a bit too modern to be believable to our ears. Izzat true, or was he messing with the interviewer?
I can definitely believe that. One of the most frustrating things about setting your writing in a historical period other than the absolutely archaic is that people are constantly pointing out so-called anachronisms in your work that are actually accurate. I swear some people think we went straight from prithee and forsooth to LOL and FYI.

And, speaking of enfants terrible, Faye is apparently 26. I was glad to find out she was at least that old, as if she were doing all this while under the quarter-century mark I might have to kill her.
[cackles] I keep meaning to find out if I'm the youngest MNWer so far or not. It's not something I really think about until other people comment on it.

David Isaak said...

If you aren't the youngest of the crowd, I shall be rather perturbed. Didn't anyone point out to you folks that "precocious" means "cooked too soon"? 26 is okay, though. Barely. 24, on the other hand...

Actually, two of the most promising writers I know just reached drinking age (a relief, as we can now meet in public places rather than at people's houses), and another spectacular writer I know is also 26, though I'm guessing she'll be 28 before she's published. Or 35, if she gives in to her mother's demands to have kids. (Yes, I mean you, JT.)

As to the historical boffins, fight back when you can. In an Author's Note to Patrick O'Brian's "The Surgeon's Mate," O'Brian says (emphais mine):

"Only the other day a learned Dutchman reproached me for having sprinkled eau de Cologne in the forepeak of HMS Shannon in my last book: the earliest English reference to eau de Cologne, said he, quoting the Oxford Dictionary, is in a letter of Lord Byron's dated 1930. I believe that he was mistaken in assuming that no Englishman ever SPOKE of eau de Cologne before that time…”

Jake said...

26 and published, Faye? Great. Now I shall have to adjust my personal goals accordingly. Lessee, that's five years - well, four years, really, since I turn 22 in May. Hmmmm. Better get moving, as they say...

Faye L. said...

David: Fear not, I'm quite good at being annoyingly happy to tell people when I'm not actually wrong. I'm always pleased to be accurately corrected (as I mentioned in the blog entry, I owe one of the historians at Lancaster Castle one for saving me from a real fist-biting error), but I will defend my appearance as someone who has put some effort into the realism of my work.

Jake: If it helps, I'll be 27 by the time my book actually becomes ink on paper! My birthday is 25/10 and Cover the Mirrors' is 2/11. ;)

David Isaak said...

Hi Faye, Hi Jake

Like an idiot I typed "1930" instead of "1830" above, but I guess that would be obvious from the presence of Byron.

Faye, can't you convince them to move up the pub date by one day? Now there's a birthday present.

And Jake--better get writin'.

Faye L. said...

One day? I make it eight.

David Isaak said...

Oh, sorry, I was glancing at the dates American style (MO/DY) and only noticed "10" and "11". I guess getting them to shift it from one month to another is asking too much, then.

(and yes, I know MO/DY/YR makes no sense. Though it does help with alphabetizing within a year--groups everything within a month and then puts in order by day, like the calendar. What would actually make sense is YR/MO/DY, but nobody wants to do that...)

Jake said...

I've seen YR/MO/DY show up a few times, thought I couldn't say where offhand.

Faye L. said...

Oh, of course - I see now. :)

F