Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Historical accuracy (and loving the haters)

I don't like it when people don't like my books – but I love it when they hate them. A writer wants to inspire passion, any sort of passion, to have the reader tell everyone they know about their book, and I'd much rather have a reviewer tell a thousand people how much they despise a book than have no one talking about it at all. I'm never going to be bothered by people's opinion of my work (though personally, I'm fragile, so please always tell me I look pretty, even if I don't.) The dear knows I don't like at least half the books I read (or start reading.) Bad reviews also tend to be the most entertaining, and the best thing about me (if I do say so myself) is that I think just about everything is hilarious.

But some people are saying Ladies in Waiting isn't historically accurate. Oh my, have you reviewers gotten my dander up!

A few reviewers have claimed that the female leads, with their unusual career choices and fairly strong wills, aren't realistic for the time. I feel compelled to point out that this isn't so. Yes, it was rare for women to be scientists or playwrights in the 17th Century, but Zabby and Eliza are based on real women of the time: novelist, philosopher and scientist Margaret Cavendish (who appears in the novel as Zabby's godmother) and playwright (and spy) Aphra Behn. So having two privileged girls who believe they can have what appear to be modern pastimes (or jobs) isn't particularly outlandish.

I've also been asked to provide some historical notes, about which parts of Ladies in Waiting are true, which fictitious. Those tidbits too will be forthcoming, and maybe I can update the paperback edition.

I'll tell you more about Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish soon, but in the meantime, here is a picture of Cavendish, the leading female intellectual of her day – bare-breasted! Because 17th century women knew how to be sexy and powerful (even if they mostly used sex to get what they wanted.) Plus, breasts aren't the big deal modern people seem to think they are.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

“Pure filth, constant coarse sex talk, bestiality jokes, heroine attempts to seduce a married man, etc.”

This review of Ladies in Waiting just tickles me. Take a look. I'll meet you right back here in a minute.

Will that sell books or what! Not so thrilled about the average-killing effect of a one-star rating, but hey, such is life. Can you imagine any better endorsement for curious teens than that headline? I wrote the dang thing and I want to re-read it.

Setting aside for the nonce that some of us don't think sex is filthy... (A friend of mine says if it's not filthy you're not doing it right, but she might have been talking about cooking, or gardening, or even child-rearing, I forget.)

Here's the thing – in Ladies in Waiting, no one has sex! Three young women who are relatively innocent, fairly smart, and have a pretty good idea what they want out of life (though they sometimes despair of achieving it) are thrust into a competitive, highly sexualized world where they make choices about whether to cling to their ideals.

The English court in 1662 sounds an awful lot like high school, right?

They are tempted, constantly, by sex and status, but stick to their guns. There is plenty of bawdry in Ladies in Waiting, but the heroines need something to resist, after all. Filth, pure or otherwise (and I do prefer mine pure) was a la mode in the Restoration, as evidenced by the poetry of Johns Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, by the plays of Wycherley and Etheredge, and by the example of King Charles II himself.

So apparently Ladies in Waiting is “ excuse to have lots of sexual talk and to get to roll around in the muck.”

Hmm... well, I don't need much of an excuse, do you? I think people should talk about sex. I think people should talk about everything. Talk about sex all you want, teen readers, just think hard before you do. (I'm a mother now, I have to say that.) Think, argue, joke, explore. Talking about things is safe. Reading about things is safe. Ladies in Waiting might titillate, but it won't corrupt. No book corrupts a thinking mind.

Life is mucky at the best of times. Ladies in Waiting has plenty of muck. Sex, sure, but death and greed and ambition and disease and obsession and maternal devotion and betrayal and true love. All very mucky.

Of course you're dying to know about the bestiality jokes, right? I couldn't remember a single one, then I did a few searches for various farm animals and came up with this blasphemous bit:

“You know what these peasant louts mean when they say a dance, don’t you? They dance in the haystacks, they dance behind the hedgerows, they dance with their sheep if there’s no skivvy about.”

Laws, I clutch my pearls!

XO my lovelies,