First, a bit about the book:
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.
To be published: January 23, 2014
by: Viking Juvenile.
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?
I don't think it's a secret that I absolutely adore historical fiction, and with art and suffragettes and scandal involved, I don't think there's any way I could turn this one down! So with some answers to my excited questions (especially about her MC, Vicky), here's Sharon:
Jess: "Twitter Pitch" your novel to me (140 characters or less).
Sharon: Edwardian teen struggles against societal constraints to realize her dream of becoming an artist. Set against the backdrop of the fight for women’s suffrage. Some nudity. : )
J: Haha that's excellent! Which of the characters are you most excited for readers to meet?
S: Such a great question! Well, Vicky of course, the protagonist. And Will, the London police constable who is also her muse. But I also have a real soft spot for Vicky’s fiancé, Edmund. He’s such a frat boy who means well but he doesn’t want anything to spoil his fun.
J: They certainly sound like an interesting bunch... I'm curious as to how they're going to play off one another! What would you say is Vicky's biggest fear in the beginning of the novel?
S: She’s so afraid of being discounted, of being shunted off to one side and labeled “just a girl” instead of a serious artist who has something to say. I think that resonates with women of all ages today. We want our voices to be heard, to know that we have a place in the world and that we count.
J: Agreed, that's definitely a fear that transcends time so well. I love when historical fiction has elements like that which bring out a connection to our lives. What do you admire most about Vicky?
S: I love that she refuses to give in, despite so many roadblocks. I love that she’s willing to make sacrifices, to step outside her boundaries. This stubbornness, I suppose you could call it, holds her in good stead when she’s really challenged as the story progresses. I don’t think she would have survived without it. I also love that she’s willing to see people for who they are, to look past class. I believe the suffragettes had that ability. For the most part, class lines were blurred in the fight for women’s suffrage. Meetings and rallies saw women of all social standings, all mixed together.
J: I am so excited to meet Vicky! What draws you to historical fiction from a writing perspective?
S: There’s so much drama there, just waiting for a writer! I love creating an exotic world, and history is full of that. Just think of it: King Henry VIII’s court, Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War I, the Revolutionary War, the voyage of the Mayflower. What if you were a teenage girl during this time? What was that like? When I think of situations like this, my imagination starts creating stories. I love contemporary novels too, but my imagination doesn’t kick into gear in the halls of a high school like it does in the cobbled streets of an English village.
J: My inner writerly side completely agrees with you on that. I've been coming up with stories since I was little and the ones set in the past were always my best and the ones I was most excited about. It's also why I love reading the genre so much! How much research did you have to do for the novel?
S: So. Much. I began when I lived in England, but I started seriously researching women’s suffrage and Pre-Raphaelite art in 2009. I went back to England in 2009 and met with the curator of women’s suffrage at the Museum of London. I walked in Vicky’s footsteps and imagined how her life would have been. I’m a hoarder of research books. I just counted for you and I own 33 books pertaining to women’s suffrage, art, drawing, food, fashion, and daily life of the Edwardian era. All research for FOLLY.
J: Can you share a favourite quote from A MAD, WICKED FOLLY?
S: I’ll share two. My favorite is in the beginning after Vicky is accepted into the student’s circle for posing nude. She’s arguing whether a particular painting is maudlin or not when a young artist asks if a critic will find a subject ugly, and Vicky replies:
“They are entitled to their opinion. But an artist should only worry about his or her own expression. An artist shouldn’t let the critic hold the paintbrush.” I think about this a lot when it comes to my own work, particularly with my work in progress. It’s hard, with sophomore novels not to agonize over every word, and worry if my editor, agent, or readers will like my new stuff. Then I think about Vicky’s comment. I think I wrote that line to remind myself that we have to write the book that’s in us, not the one that others want to read, necessarily.
So here is a favorite of my editor, Leila Sales. She has a real affection for Edmund. And by the way, she has an incredible book out now called THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. Get it, read it. You will love it. So good. Anyway, in this quote, Victoria has just asked Edmund about money, something that is taboo in the Edwardian era. And he replies: “Oh, let’s talk about money now, do!” Edmund shifted from foot to foot. He was truly irked. “Oh, Jolly good! Sometimes, Victoria, you are so middle-class! You’ll have the money, and let’s say no more about it.”
Poor Vicky, right? Awkward.
J: Haha oh boy, Edmund sounds like he may be a bit of a handful! Can you share a secret about A MAD, WICKED FOLLY?
S: Hmm, well, Vicky has a little something in common with Banksy. And that’s all I’m going to say!
J: Ooh, intriguing! Have I mentioned how excited I am to meet this girl? Because I can't wait! Thank you, Sharon, for answering my questions!
About the author:
Sharon Biggs Waller grew up around artists and developed a passion for Edwardian history and the Pre-Raphaelites when she moved to England in 2000. She did extensive research on the British suffragettes for her novel, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY when she wasn’t working as a riding instructor at the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace and as a freelance magazine writer. She also writes non-fiction books about horses under her maiden name, Sharon Biggs. She is a dressage rider and trainer and lives on a 10-acre sustainable farm in Northwest Indiana with her British husband, Mark. Visit her atwww.sharonbiggswaller.com.
Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Blog / Pinterest / Instagram
Pre-order A Mad, Wicked Folly:
Amazon / B&N / Chapters Indigo / The Book Depository