BLOG TOUR – Mistress Suffragette
The SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column is a place at Shannon Muir’s author website open to interviews and guest posts from other authors. One thing Shannon firmly believes in for readers not only to learn about new books available, but about those who craft the tales behind them. As its name implies, SHANNON MUIR’S INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS weekly column features writers from all genres of fiction who want their potential audience to get to know them, and their works, better – and occasionally may offer features from Shannon herself that support readers to discover words.
This week, find out more about the book MISTRESS SUFFRAGETTE .
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INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
What initially got you interested in writing?
I have been writing since I was six years old. It started with poetry, then morphed to diary entries. After that, I started writing restaurant reviews for my school paper. Later, I wrote features for the school paper, followed by my first novella. I knew I wanted to write, and my mission was to find the right form.
What genres do you prefer to write in?
I enjoy writing fiction—both long form, like my debut novel, Mistress Suffragette, and flash fiction. I also enjoy writing articles.
Are there any authors you prefer to read and why?
Mostly I love reading the classics, such as novels by Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte. I have probably read The Great Gatsby five times to study how F. Scott Fitzgerald handles voice and point of view.
How did you make the move into being a published author?
I believe that writing is a process, and that if you treat the process seriously eventually your work will be published. I take two writing classes a week in Manhattan where I live. In one class, I am allowed to submit twenty pages every few weeks; and in the other class, I am allowed to submit 10 pages every few weeks. In each class, fifteen readers, my fellow classmates, read and comment on each other’s pages. The deadlines and all the feedback help keep me writing and revising so that I am conveying the intended message.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love to be woken up by one of my characters. It’s a great feeling to dream about my story, then wake up in the middle of the night saying, “no, this is how the story needs to work.” When that happens, I bound out of bed and run to my computer to capture it all.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
It’s a serious commitment. I write seven days a week. Sometimes it’s a challenge to sit down and write pages, but I also believe that it’s essential to write every single day.
Do you have any tips for writers who find themselves experiencing writer’s block?
There are two schools of thought on this, so I am going to express both. One school says, “write your way through it. Just keep writing and the block will disappear.” The other school says, “take a break and give yourself permission to relax.” One thing that works for me is to write something else. In other words, if I feel blocked writing my novel, sometimes I say, “today’s the day I am going to write an article about writing.” Or maybe I’ll write some flash fiction or creative nonfiction that day.
What advice would you give to people that want to enter the field?
Write something every day. Start with small, achievable goals. For example, tell yourself that you will write for one hour a day. Over time, you will amass a significant body of work. Also, I would say: try not to fret about what other people think about your career choice. Many will tell you that you can’t do it. Cut those folks out of your circle if you can. You want to surround yourself with people who believe in you and who will cheer you on. Last, never stop submitting your work. Today maybe you haven’t been published yet. Tomorrow, you’re winning a gold award.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
I believe that the search for love and the search for independence do not have to be mutually exclusive. My heroine struggles with both searches, and I believe this is the human experience. Also, my novel Mistress Suffragette, takes place during the late nineteenth century when choices for women were more limited.
Is there anything else about you that you think readers might find interesting?
I am happy to say that I am working on the sequel to Mistress Suffragette now. I am hoping it will be a trilogy.
Find out more about…
(Kindle edition) $20.48 (paperback)
Author: Diana Forbes
Publisher: Penmore Press
Genre: Romance/Historical Fiction/Victorian/Political/NY Gilded Age Fiction
Rhode nIsland is a target for a certain kind of “suitor.” At the
Memorial Day Ball during the Panic of 1893, impoverished but feisty
Penelope Stanton quickly draws the unwanted advances of a villainous
millionaire banker who preys on distressed women—the incorrigible Mr.
Daggers. Better known as the philandering husband of the stunning
socialite, Evelyn Daggers, Edgar stalks Penelope.Skilled in the art of flirtation, Edgar is not without his charms,
and Penelope is attracted to him against her better judgment. Meanwhile a
special talent of Penelope’s makes her the ideal candidate for a paying
job in the Suffrage Movement.In a Movement whose leaders are supposed to lead spotless lives,
Penelope’s torrid affair with Mr. Daggers is a distraction and early
suffragist Amy Adams Buchanan Van Buren, herself the victim of a
faithless spouse, urges Penelope to put an end to it. But can she?Searching for sanctuary in three cities, Penelope will need to
discover her hidden reserves of courage and tenacity. During a
glittering age where a woman’s reputation is her most valuable
possession, Penelope must decide whether to compromise her principles
at Tremont House that afternoon was a woman. I use the term loosely. Her name
was Verdana Jones, and her topic, “The Dangers of Irrational Dress.” I had
never considered the complex maze of corsets, petticoats, and bustles
“Irrational,” but apparently others of my gender did and the sentiment had
blossomed into a full-fledged Movement. Some of these undergarments were
encumbrances, but they were all perfectly logical. Moreover, every woman in the
world wore them.
Verdana had red hair, but she wore it cropped in a mannish fashion that was
most unbecoming to her otherwise fine features. She had a square chin and
large, childlike eyes, and in a Boston
fog I’d be willing to bet that she was often confused with a young boy. Her
outfit contributed to this confusion. It was outlandish by modern standards and
excessively unladylike. She sported a loose white tunic worn over ankle-length
trousers, known as “bloomers,”
and big, chunky boots instead of shoes.
rectangular wooden platform rimmed the front of the spare lecture hall. Twenty
hard-bitten women and three scraggly men dotted the aisles. The women, many
sporting bonnets, looked dour and preoccupied as if they were gearing up for a
contest of who could show the least expression on their faces. Verdana clomped
up to a wooden lectern to deliver her tirade. I couldn’t help feeling that, by
her dress anyway, she was a poor advertisement for her cause.
would keep women down argue that ‘ladylike dress’ symbolizes discipline,
thrift, respectability, and beauty,” Verdana bellowed in her giant bloomers.
Her voice sounded throaty from too many cigarettes. “But any dress that
requires corsets and tight-lacing is degrading and dangerous to a woman’s
health,” she boomed. “Corsets and tight-lacing are designed to make our waists
look tiny and our bosoms look large. Our undergarments are crafted to make us resemble
ornaments. We women, outfitted like hourglasses, are ornaments in our own
homes. And we spend all day inside our homes trying to struggle into our
corsets, laced petticoats, complicated boned lining, and bustles, all so that
we may decorate them on the outside with frills, ribbons, and lace. We are so
pampered—or are we?”
thick with meaning, rose a horsey octave. “Instead of fretting over whether we
have twenty-inch waists, we would be better served worrying about why we must
depend on men to dress us up in these outrageous, unhealthy outfits. Why can’t
we earn our own keep and decide for ourselves what we should wear?”
women applauded. Others silently knitted: some knitted clothing; others knitted
their brows. All in all it was a sullen group. Mother was right about this
Movement. It was filled with hardened, bitter women. I didn’t want any part of
Verdana’s harangue I rose to leave, in dire need of fresh air. I had never
heard so much drivel about the evils of ladylike dress and the positive
attributes of horrible bloomers. But Lucinda looked up at me like a sorrowful,
brown-haired puppy dog that could not be wrested from her spot anytime soon.
Her dark face wrinkled into an accordion fan of disappointment. I hesitated,
not wanting to let down my friend.
there. The lady in the bustle!” Verdana cheerily called toward my buttressed
behind. Recognizing that I was one of the few women in the hall outfitted in
the very clothes she’d just lambasted, I intuited that she must be talking to
me?” I asked, turning around to face her. I felt twenty pairs of women’s eyes
and three pairs of men’s riveted upon my rear.
she called out from where she still stood on the stage. “Tell us. What do you
think about Rational Dress?”
not certain you want to hear.” Where oh
where was the exit?
she prefers Irrational dress,”
Lucinda playfully called out from her seat. She cupped her hands to her mouth
like a speaking trumpet. “Just look at what she’s wearing.”
laughter from the crowd directed at me, even though Lucinda’s dress was not
markedly different than my own.
supposed to be a lecture,” Verdana announced. “It’s supposed to be a
conversation. So, instead of leaving the fold before we’ve been properly
introduced, why don’t you join me up here on the dais and defend what you’re
wearing to the group.”
the room laughed.
hate speaking in public,” I said, to even more laughter.
that my little sister had once said in the heat of an argument? You’re quite good at boring your class to
don’t think of it as public speaking,” Verdana shouted. “Just come up here, and
tell me how you feel.”
How did I feel? I felt betrayed. I felt that my parents should not have asked
me to support them. They should have protected me instead of trying to send me
to New York. I missed my home and
my horse. I even missed Lydia
a tiny bit. I was nowhere near old enough to be living on my own in a strange
city. Verdana wanted my opinion? Then very well, she would get it. I liked corsets and petticoats and
bustles. They offered some support in a world that was mostly unsupportive.
Verdana. Did I want to dress like her? Not in a lifetime of Sundays. How would
I feel if corsets were forbidden? As if the last domain over which I exerted
any control had been taken away from me. They could take away my home. They
could take away my fiancé. But I’d be damned if I’d let them take away my
prayed to God that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Then I took a deep breath
and strode up to the small wooden platform. I opened my mouth to speak. But if
I had a thought, it flew out of my head.
hung open. No words came out. I was speechless.
from the heart,” Verdana urged quietly. “It’s always best. You’ll see. So, I
take it you like corsets?” she asked
me in a normal speaking voice.
said to her.
nodded. Under her breath she said, “Good. Now, just explain why. Pretend
there’s no audience and that you’re just talking to me.”
answered, frustrated at how small my voice sounded.
“Believe me, it’s a knack that develops with time. Just breathe.” She continued
to slowly nod her head, silently willing the reluctant words from my mouth.
another deep breath and felt my lungs expand. “Hello, my name is Penelope.” I
exhaled. Phew. That was hard.
name?” she asked.
your last name, dear?” she coaxed.
I felt my face get hot. Little wisps of hair stuck to my face.
relation to Elizabeth Cady Stanton?”
felt like I had to think about each word, almost like a foreigner struggling to
said, continuing to nod her head. “You see? It’s not so very difficult. Keep
the wet hair up off my face and turned to the crowd. “I enjoy the prevailing
fashions, as you can see.” Thank God. A whole sentence.
she said, with a broad wink at the audience. “Tell us more.”
to my light pink gown. I twirled around to model it for the group. Some tepid
applause followed, which surprised me. Two women set aside their knitting.
I continued. “But I came to Boston
to escape from the advances of a particular man, not all men, and do hope that
what I’m wearing today won’t prevent me from socializing with the men, or more
importantly, the women of Boston.”
clapped. I thrust back my shoulders, lifted my chin, and met Lucinda’s eyes.
“To me, it matters not if a woman’s waist is twenty inches, twenty-one inches,
or even twenty-six inches—as long as it doesn’t prevent her from keeping her
light applause followed, and I only wished that my sister had been there to
and petticoats offer some structure,” I pressed, “in a world that unravels as I
speak.” My voice was strong, and the words were coming readily. “Every day,
another bank fails. Our institutions falter. As women, we can fall to pieces or
we can stay strong.” I pointed to my torso and looked about the audience,
meeting one woman’s eyes and then another. “Structure, shape, support. I will
wear my corset proudly, as I face another day.”
bowed her boyish head at me and stretched out her arms diagonally, one below
her hip, the other high above her head. “And that, ladies and gents, is the
other side of the argument,” Verdana boomed to heartfelt applause.
didn’t let you finish,” she whispered, as the audience applauded. “For a
novice, you were brilliant.” Verdana clapped her arm around my shoulder. “But
speaking in public is also a matter of knowing when to stop. You always want to
leave your audience wanting more.”
think the audience did?”
squeezed my shoulder. “Of course they did. They clapped, didn’t they? Boston
audiences are difficult to rouse, believe me. But you did, and now they want
Perhaps that had been the problem with my French classes. No student had ever wanted more.
does it feel?” she pressed. “To leave them wanting more.”
stage I’d felt almost like a different person. Brave, gutsy, and confident. I
wouldn’t mind feeling that way every day. What was it about this stage that had
caused me to throw caution aside and just express my feelings?
widened as we both waited for me to put words to my emotions.
copyrighted Mistress Suffragette by
Diana Forbes (Penmore Press, 2017)
sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. When
she is not cribbing chapters, Diana Forbes loves to explore the
buildings where her 19th Century American ancestors lived, loved,
survived and thrived. Prior to publication, Diana Forbes’s debut won 1st
place in the Missouri Romance Writers of America (RWA) Gateway to the
Best Contest for Women’s Fiction. A selection from the novel was a finalist in the Wisconsin RWA “Fab Five” Contest for Women’s Fiction. Mistress Suffragette
won 1st place in the Chanticleer Chatelaine Award’s Romance and Sensual
category, and was shortlisted for the Somerset Award in Literary
Fiction. Mistress Suffragette won Silver in the North American Book Awards and was a Winner of the Book Excellence Awards for Romance. Mistress Suffragette
was also a Kirkus Best Indies Book of 2017. The author is passionate
about vintage clothing, antique furniture, ancestry, and vows to master
the quadrille in her lifetime. Diana Forbes is the author of New York
Gilded Age historical fiction.
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