Throughout this blogging experience, there have been some very special moments that stand out. This is definitely one of those moments. I have been lucky enough to interview my favorite author, Beatriz Williams, and I am thrilled to share our Q&A with you all!
1. Your latest novel, A Certain Age, releases later this month. Can you tell readers a bit about the story?
A Certain Age is a retelling of Richard Strauss’s enchanting opera Der Rosenkavalier, set in Jazz Age New York, in which a Manhattan society goddess sends her younger lover to investigate the family of her brother’s fiancée, only to have him fall in love with the young lady himself. It’s all about class and money and the bittersweet passing of time, and especially about the transformation in Western culture in the years following the First World War. Of course, it’s about love and scandal too, as well as being a really personal, moving depiction of three people in love, and I had a wonderful time turning these musical characters into fully-fledged people on the pages of a book!
- One of the reasons why so many readers have loved your books (including myself) is because of the enchanting characters and their relationships. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?
I’m inspired by just about everything, really, although I rarely start with actual people. In the case of A Certain Age, I began with Strauss’s fascinating characters—a beautiful woman conscious that her prime is nearly over, a dashing younger man, a charming ingénue—but they took on their own form once I set them into this story. Octavian in particular veered away from the young aristocratic gentleman of the opera; I kept his age around twenty, but I made him a First World War aviator bearing all kind of scars from his time in France, because that was one of the ideas I wanted to convey: how so much of the Twenties was really a reaction to the horrors of this apocalyptic war.
- How do you do research for novels that are set anywhere from the 1910’s to 1960’s all across the United States and Europe?
Well, I always start with something I know—a family story, a news item, a historical event—and I read a few books on the subject and the period, if I haven’t already. But the point of any novel should be the story that’s being told, and I try to invest not in million tedious details but in a few precious ones that convey a certain world to the reader. It’s in the dialogue, it’s in the thoughts rattling around in their brains, it’s in the way they interact with each other. So I find the most useful research is reading books written at the time and films made at the time. Historical facts are really the easy part. Anyone can Google the price of a subway ride in 1922!
- Although you have continued on with the Schuyler family, Julie Schuyler plays a role in A Certain Age, you haven’t published a traditional sequel. How do you let go of these captivating characters?
My books tend to be made of several lines of narrative that weave together at the resolution, and the next book usually picks up some thread that didn’t get woven in. So I really feel that each book is complete as written, and if I’m going to tell another story, it’s got to start from scratch. The exception is coming up soon, however! My next book, The Wicked City,arrives in January, and it begins a series set in Prohibition New York, in which a straight-arrow enforcement agent teams up with a not-so-straight-laced flapper to break up a bootlegging ring. I was so fascinated by the story of Prohibition in America, but I knew it would take more than one story to convey all the many fronts and facets of this chapter in our history. So the Wicked City books will be released in winter, and in summer I’ll have my stand-alone novels. But they’ll all stay in the Schuyler world, with the addition of the Marshall family introduced in A Certain Age.
- You’ve written under the pen name, Juliana Gray. Why did you choose to publish under a pseudonym and then later decide to reveal this fact to readers?
I was actually pretty up front about Juliana—we had a little teaser when the first one was published, which was only a couple of months after Overseas, but once both books were out we revealed the pseudonym. Since the first six Juliana Gray books were historical romance, however, we didn’t emphasize the connection—they are two different genres, and reader expectations are different, and we were conscious that some Juliana readers would hate the Beatriz books and vice versa! But the next Juliana Gray book, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, kicks off a historical mystery series set in 1906, and while it’s more history-and-mystery focused than my Beatriz Williams books, it’s something I think both sets of readers will really enjoy. I loved bringing these new characters to life, and my publisher bravely allowed me to give my imagination completely free rein, so I couldn’t be more excited about this new series!
- I’m crossing my fingers here, but can we expect to see anything new published from you soon?
See above! 🙂
- What are you looking forward to reading this summer?
I took home a wonderful collection of books from an event in Rhode Island with three other authors, so I can’t wait to get started on Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers, and Jen Lancaster’s By the Numbers, courtesy of Reading With Robin! And my dear friend Karen White’s new book Flight Patterns is fantastic.