It took some doing, but I finally managed to catch up to the extremely busy Juliet Waldron and get a few questions answered ...
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?
I’ve only had a two characters hijack a story, one recently in Butterfly Bride, where the heroine refused the nice hero I’d provided. The weirdest and, truthfully, life-changing experience I ever had was while writing my first novel, My Mozart. The teen heroine began to talk, and then she would not stop. She talked all night so I couldn’t sleep; she talked while I was supposed to be working, too. Eventually, to retain my sanity, I had to quit my day job because it was impossible to focus on anything but the story she HAD to tell. Nanina Gottlieb took over my life. In doing so, she forced me to take writing seriously.
If you could spend time a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please :)
For me, it’s a toss-up between Hamilton and Mozart, but I think I’ll go with Mozart’s Wife for one particularly amazing day in the composer’s life. Constanze and I will go to the first performance, in Prague, of her husband’s famous opera, Don Giovanni. We even know the date, October 29, 1787, close to All Hallow’s Eve, and therefore perfect for a tale of the supernatural. I will be 28 years old, and dressed in ivory silk, , a Robe a la Anglaise, embroidered all over with tiny flowers—with a plumed bergere perched upon my piled curls, with matching gloves and heels, seated in a box with Constanze and the Mozart’s coterie of artistic friends. From here, we are all looking down into the candle-lit jewel-box of a theater. (By some miracle, this relic still exists, and was the venue used for the opera scenes in the movie Amadeus.) Among these writers and musicians crammed in beside us, would be the aged rake Cassanova himself, who is reputed to have helped Mozart and his writer (librettist) with the plot. The performance ended with multiple encores, flowers raining down on the stage, and Mozart weeping, arms open to his adoring audience, declaring Mein Praguers Verstehen mich! (My Praguers understand me!) The after-party, beginning with street celebrations, were the 18th Century version of a Rave which spilled out all over the city.
What is a favorite childhood memory you can share with us?
Soaking in a hot spring on the island of Nevis with my mother. Life with mother had its ups and downs, but back in 1957 when my Hamilton mania began, she decided to take a side trip from Barbados, so I could see the place where my hero Alexander was born. The spring was beautiful—just a crevice in the rocks, surrounded by all sorts of delicate orchids and ferns. It was as if we’d entered fairy land. And because almost no one traveled to Nevis in those days, we were alone there with a slight breeze, the perfume of the flowers, the rustling palms, and the meditative healing of hot water.
What genres do you like to read?
I read a lot of non-fiction because I mostly write historicals because I am always searching for inspiration. I really enjoy light science writing, too, and just finished a really fun book called “My Beloved Brontosaurus” by Brian Switek, which was a break from my usual fare. I am a long-time reader of S/F from the days of pulp onward, although I’ve never completed anything I’ve begun in the genre. Obviously, I read a lot of historical novels in many time periods, favoring writers like Sharon Penman, Cecelia Holland and old timer Margaret Irwin. I also read literary fiction, (Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kincaid, etc.) which I wish I had the chops to write.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite character is Rose, from Roan Rose. She’s flawed, sometimes weak, sometimes full of spite, but she makes hard choices, and then braves the consequences without self-pity. She is wonderfully courageous, and, although it lands her in trouble, she follows her heart. Her spirituality, flowing from the Yorkshire dales where she ends her life, seemed to come from somewhere far beyond my imagination.
Juliet, thank you for taking the time to share with us.