Friday, January 11, 2013 Posted by Dina N
(And remember to stop by and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Mistress of My Fate. )
1. How would you describe Mistress of My Fate to readers in one sentence?
A homage to the great literary traditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with a distinctly modern sensibility for twenty first century readers who like historically accurate tales of female triumph over adversity. (Miraculously, I managed to fit all of that into one sentence!)
2. What was your favorite part of the publishing process? (Getting acquired, seeing the finished book, etc.) and please describe!
There are so many things I like about the publishing process, that it’s difficult to pick one in particular. Every stage is exciting in its own right. There’s nothing better than handing in a finished manuscript, the sense of relief is enormous. In many ways, it’s like a birthing experience, as the final months and weeks of writing a book are extremely intense. Most writers find themselves exhausted by the time they hit the send button and dispatch the manuscript to their editor. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that this is not the end of the hard work – there’s a whole additional phase of rewriting and editing which can be equally as grueling especially as you’re often racing against the clock to get the edits done by a final publication deadline. Only once the manuscript has bounced back to you for copy editing and been sent off for a third or fourth time can you really relax, look forward to publication day and book a vacation!
Mistress of My Fate really grew out of years of research, which I undertook for both my non fiction books and for my academic career. There are so many untold stories of women who are unknown as historical figures, and I found these tales utterly gripping. The archives and libraries are full of them; kiss and tell memoirs of actresses and courtesans, trial records documenting the lives of servants, midwives, apprentice mistresses, prostitutes, and school girls, and of course reams and reams of personal correspondence, diaries, and pamphlets. It often makes me sad that so few of these unique voices ever get heard outside of academic circles. We hear a lot about queens and infamous mistresses, but very little about how everyone else managed to face the challenges of every day life.
I really wanted to give these women’s voices a chance to be heard, albeit via a fictional channel. What fascinates me about them is that they reveal how little women had and were permitted in life. Women weren't even recognized as individuals, the law regarded them as chattel, no different than an inanimate object, or a horse. They couldn't vote or hold property in their own names. If there were problems in a marriage, their husbands could take away their children, without any justification. A woman couldn't even instigate an action for divorce, instead she had to be divorced by her husband. Additionally, a certain degree of chastisement was permissible within marriage. Although it was frowned upon socially, a man could legally beat and rape his wife. What made life truly impossible for those who desired freedom from such hardship, was that women were made to rely on men for all of their financial and legal needs, and high born women were not prepared for any vocation other than marriage. Much like Henrietta, they possessed no viable skills and were virtually unemployable.
4. Do you see yourself in Henrietta?
That’s one of those questions that authors dread!
There are certainly aspects of me in Henrietta, as most writers will draw upon their own experiences in life in order to shape their characters. I especially enjoyed writing about Henrietta and Lady Catherine as naive, self-absorbed teenage girls, and tapping into my own memories of what that was like – the highs and lows, the ridiculous crushes, the hair brained conversations. However, the way in which Henrietta is most like me is in terms of her physical description. I’m very petite and quite childlike in appearance, and as a result have found that people treat me differently. Often, they’re disarmed by my tininess and make assumptions that I’m helpless or much younger than I am. I wanted Henrietta to possess this ‘super power’ and learn to use it to her advantage. Not every strong woman should physically fit the description of an Amazonian – courage and strength comes in all guises!
5. What would you like readers to take away from Henrietta’s story? Survival, strength, etc?
I think there are a lot of lessons in Mistress of My Fate which apply as much to women in the twenty first century as they did to women in the eighteenth. I feel it’s quite important to follow what you know in your heart to be the right course of action, regardless of whether society agrees with your choices. That takes a lot of courage, in any era. Of course, we have it much easier now than women who were forced to live life against the norm in other periods. One of the things that reading about history provides us is a sense of perspective on our own lives and the times we inhabit. There are some aspects human nature that never change, but western society has evolved so much since the 1790s that we should all be extremely grateful for the opportunities and freedoms we enjoy today!
Thank you, Hallie, for stopping by! You can visit Hallie's website to learn more about her and her books, and connect on Twitter (@HallieRubenhold) and Facebook.