2014 Feature: Manor of Secrets and Brazen by Katherine Longshore

I am absolutely delighted today to close off my 2014 features with one of the authors I adore most. She's here to share a bit about not one but TWO books she has coming out in 2014. A warm welcome to the wonderful Katherine Longshore!

First, a bit about her 2014 books:
Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore.

To be published: January 28, 2014
by: Point (Scholastic).

Goodreads Blurb:
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. 

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

Brazen by Katherine Longshore.

The Royal Circle #3.
To be published: June 12, 2014
by: Viking Juvenile.

Goodreads Blurb:
Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Katherine is here today to share a little bit about how she managed writing these two detailed historical books at the same time without getting all mixed up. I personally am very impressed that she does it so well! There may be a few fun tidbits about both stories in her post and it'll certainly give you a great intro to both books. Without further ado, Katherine!

When I write a novel, I get deeply involved in it. I think about the characters while falling asleep and wake up with songs from my playlist in my mind. I get insights while driving and have to pull over and write them down. The last scene I wrote replays itself while I walk or shower or wash dishes, and I edit, reimagine or discard pieces as I go along.

This is why I always thought I’d never be able to work on two books at the same time.

And then I was offered the opportunity to write a “YA Downton Abbey” while I was still writing my third Tudor book. I jumped at the chance. You never know what you can do until you try, right? And fortunately, the differences between the two books helped me keep them separate, even when I had concurrent deadlines.

My first draft of BRAZEN was “pansted”—I wrote it by the seat of my pants, feeling my way through and letting the characters say and do whatever it was they were going to. It took me a year of writing it off and on (while revising TARNISH). The finished novel looks very different from that first collection of scenes.

I plotted MANOR OF SECRETS. I had a five-page, single-spaced synopsis. I had a beat sheet. I had a map of my story arc. Every day, I’d finish my writing time by jotting down notes on what happened next, and would spend the next day writing those scenes. I wrote the first draft in six weeks. The finished novel looks quite similar to that first draft.

BRAZEN is set in the sixteenth century in the court of Henry VIII. I’ve been reading about Henry for more than ten years, and writing about him and his court for four of those. I know this world very well, and can rattle off genealogies more easily than I can do that of my own family. When I need to research, it’s to discover specifics—who was where when, what kinds of gifts were given during the Christmas season of 1534, how long it took to travel from London to Windsor. Those kinds of things.

MANOR OF SECRETS is set in 1911. Before last year, everything I knew about that era came from Downton Abbey, E.M. Forster and my final project in a costume design class. I had a lot of catching up to do, and I read voraciously. History, literature, fashion, society. I read everything I could get my hands on that had “Downton” in the title, and then some. I rewatched the BBC reality program, “Manor House”. My favorite books were those recounting the stories of the girls who worked “downstairs” in country manor houses. Housemaids, scullery maids, kitchen maids. I was amazed at the brutal hours they put in, the acceptance of them, and the girls’ ability to remain optimistic in the face of it all.

The Tudor era was beautiful and dark and treacherous and luxurious. 1911 was a time when the future was visible on the horizon—equality and justice and the dissolution of Victorian etiquette—but people were still bound by the past.

All of my Tudor novels follow the actual histories of actual people. The fiction comes from my interpretations of characters and from the necessity of filling in the blanks when
historical accounts are lacking. While writing BRAZEN, I railed against the strictness of history, and against its bitterness. But ultimately, both made the story more powerful.

MANOR OF SECRETS is entirely fictional. The characters, the setting, the events. The details are historically accurate—the Coronation and the long drought of the summer of 1911, the fashions, the rumors of unions and strikes, the whisper of impending war. It was both liberating and terrifying to invent the rest.

Mary Howard narrates BRAZEN from the first person point of view. I have her tell her story in the present tense to give it immediacy and to allow the reader to spend time in someone else’s shoes, so to speak. If I were to tell her story with the benefit of hindsight, she would have had too many emotional responses to events while telling how they happened, so I felt I couldn’t write in past tense. Through the course of the book, Mary learns the magnitude of her friendships, the breadth of her love, and the depth of her grief, and gains independence in the process.

I wrote MANOR OF SECRETS alternating the points of view of the two main characters—Charlotte Edmonds, the duke’s daughter, and Janie Seward, the kitchen maid. This can be tricky in first person, so I switched to third—something I’ve never done before. And I discovered an amazing range of narrative and descriptive possibilities that I hadn’t encountered in first person. The distance from my characters took a little getting used to, however, but reading great third person novels (like Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi) helped me to gain insight as I tried to plumb the thoughts and feelings of my characters from outside their heads. Charlotte and Janie both learn that things are not always as they appear on the surface—friendships, families or flirtation.

On a more personal level, the difference between writing these books was both challenging and liberating. BRAZEN had to be drawn from a deep emotional well and every revision wrung me out but was also cathartic, like a marathon. I knew I’d done some hard work when I finished that book. MANOR OF SECRETS was intended to be light and accessible, which was great fun to write, but my editor had to put the reins on when I went overboard with literary references and social commentary, which are my natural inclination. Each revision was a lesson in efficient use of language, in making points and emotions concisely clear and in choosing which historical details made the biggest impact on the story. I came away from each revision feeling that good, clean, sweat, like you get from wind sprints.

Novels are like children—there are no favorites, but there are different things to love and appreciate about all of them. I love that BRAZEN makes me cry and that MANOR OF SECRETS makes me want to explore. Mary taught me about the complexity of love and Charlotte and Janie reminded me of the simplicity of friendship. These books will appeal to different readers for different reasons and will be read with a vast variety of reactions. But that’s part of the joy of being a novelist—incubating the story until it’s ready and then watching it fly. I look forward to hearing what you think.

Thank you, Katherine! That was so interesting to read and I absolutely love hearing about the process and how the books came to be the way they are from the authors themselves. Having these two be different in so many ways seems to really have helped them come together distinctly on their own despite having been written at the same time. I'm so looking forward to seeing all this come out in the novels!

Find Katherine:
Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Website / Blog / Pinterest

Pre-order Manor of Secrets:
Amazon / B&N / Chapters Indigo / The Book Depository

Pre-order Brazen:
Amazon / B&N / Chapters Indigo / The Book Depository

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