Release date: August 15, 2012.
I am so pleased to have my very first guest post here on Rose City Reader. Rayme Waters, author of the soon-to-be-released debut novel, The Angels' Share, explains how she incorporated the themes and lessons of 19th Century fiction into her novel.
Please visit my giveaway post for a chance to win one of three advanced readers' copies of The Angels' Share. The deadline to enter is tomorrow, Sunday, July 15, at 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
And see my Book Beginnings post for the opening sentences from The Angels' Share.
HOW MY LOVE OF VICTORIAN LITERATURE INSPIRED THE ANGELS’ SHARE
HOW THREE HEROINES SHAPED MY HEROINE
by Rayme Waters
The more reality TV stars publish books, the more I find myself re-reading the classics. Novels where hard work, perseverance, and love triumph are infinitely more rewarding than any analysis of a Kardashian wedding.
When I began working on The Angels’ Share, I hoped to write the kind of book I wanted to read myself. Now that I’m finished, I can say my heroine, Cinnamon Monday, shares traits with my favorite female characters from Dickens, Brontë and Austen. I didn’t set out to create Cinnamon in their image, it happened organically while I was writing—the kind of gift a writer hopes to gain by also being an avid reader.
Cinnamon Monday grows up in the 1970s counterculture with very little parental protection or guidance. I put my heroine into this tough situation because one of the questions I wanted to ask in the novel was “Can you raise yourself though literature?” From the moment she begins reading, Cinnamon discovers that novels, the classics in particular, help her to navigate the morally ambiguous era she lives in.
Heroines, the female protagonists of a story are often known for their achievements and noble qualities. These following three heroines from 19th century British literature have shaped Cinnamon’s story and made her path to redemption possible. I’m hoping you already know this trio of fantastic females. If not, you’ve got some good suggestions for your reading list!
Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre
When I couldn’t sleep, I’d click on my lamp and pick a passage at random. Jane Eyre always had something new to tell me. In the pages of Jane, Charlotte Brontë renders an escape plan from the hedge maze of a forlorn childhood, a narrative blueprint for lost girls, a way to navigate dark dead ends and come blinking into the peopled light.
Jane is Cinnamon’s main moral touchstone. Although you don’t need to be familiar with Jane Eyre to enjoy The Angels’ Share—the story stands strongly on its own— lovers of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous novel will be rewarded another layer of depth and some fun twists and surprises from Jane Eyre references in The Angels’ Share.
Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice
Austen entertained with manicured perfection, everyone getting what they deserved, but I didn’t trust it. What happened to Lizzie Bennett when she was alone with Darcy and his darkness returned?
Cinnamon is quick witted and feisty in ways similar to Elizabeth Bennett, and also shares Elizabeth’s wish for honesty, acceptance and true love despite her meager circumstances. But while Cinnamon enjoys Austen’s flawless dialogue and chessboard plotting, she wonders, if marriage at twenty-two to man with Darcy’s moodiness, can really be the happy ever after Jane Austen promises.
Esther Summerson, Bleak House
(N.B. Of the three heroines I mention, Esther is probably the least known. She’s fantastic, though, and I highly recommend making her acquaintance. Charles Dickens felt the same way—Esther Summerson is the only female narrator he ever created.)
Everyone involved expected justice, but all they got was an expensive, soul consuming trial that eventually reduced the estate’s value to zero. In Dickens, litigation was like a disease, catching and deadly. I wanted nothing of it.
A subplot of The Angels’ Share involves legal wrangling over Cinnamon’s family money. Esther Summerson watched those she loved driving themselves crazy as parties to the endless lawsuit of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. At some point, Cinnamon must decide if she is going to become a party to the fighting or let it go.
With the help of Esther’s wisdom, Cinnamon leaves a heartbreaking family squabble behind and creates a healthier future.
Audre Lorde once said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” Certainly using ideas from Brontë, Dickens and Austen in modern novels is nothing new. But 19th century heroines still have plenty of wisdom for modern readers just as they did for Cinnamon Monday. Their experiences guide her throughout the novel, lighting her path when all seems lost. Jane, Elizabeth and Esther are Cinnamon’s guardian angels, helping her through her story, moving her away from suffering and toward happiness. She listens to them and she is saved.