Monday, January 18, 2016

Interview with historical fiction novelist Jeanette Watts

I’m helping Jeanette Watts kick off a virtual book tour today. She’s here to chat with me about her historical fiction work, Brains and Beauty.

During her tour, Jeanette will be giving away a Victorian cameo necklace to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Jeanette Watts only lived in Pittsburgh for four years, but in her heart, she will always be a Pittsburgher.  She missed the city so much after her move to Ohio, she had to write a love story about it.

She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.  When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.

Welcome, Jeanette. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Brains and Beauty is a book I had no intention of writing! When people growled at me about my ambiguous ending at the end of Wealth and Privilege, I'd say, "Margaret Mitchell never wrote another book after Gone with the Wind..." And I had people give me this LOOK, and say "Margaret Mitchell got hit by a bus..." So, after my life had been threatened a few times, I started thinking what I might write next. And then I realized how I wanted to approach the subject. I got the idea from the Twilight book that was never finished, but now everyone's doing what I did - I covered exactly the same time period, but from my heroine's point of view, instead of the hero's point of view.

Excerpt from Brains and Beauty:
Regina loved her husband, she really did. But more and more often, she didn’t like him very much.

Her relationship with him was everything Tom Carnegie was describing in his relationship with his brother. Henry married her because he admired her unfailing instincts about people. He listened, he even applauded, but his actions spoke louder than words. When she negotiated the deal for the acquisition of Monongahela Glass into their growing glassworks, he took the credit for it. When she investigated a new rolling process for his father’s flour mill, he ignored her until they were nearly driven out of business by more modernized competitors. She said repeatedly that they needed to steer completely clear of any sort of financial involvement with the railroad industry. He insisted that Jay Cooke was a fine fellow, practically a war hero for selling government bonds during the Rebellion. Henry put a significant amount of their money into Jay Cooke and Company. In September, 1873, the company was overextended with bonds in the Northern Pacific Railway, and collapsed.
They were nearly ruined.

Fortunately, Henry’s mother had not followed his advice, and a succession of family loans were keeping the doors open on both the flour mills and the glassworks. The copper mill near Johnstown was Regina’s pet project, and Henry didn’t even know which bank Regina used, and so at least that part of their empire had not been compromised by his poor judgment.

Regina pounded the pavement from bank to bank, begging, taking out loans, laying awake night after night trying to figure out how she was going to keep everything afloat. As Tom had said, times were hard, businesses were failing daily.

Regina’s businesses would not have been among the ones in danger – if only Henry had seen fit to give her the benefit of the doubt. But eight years of marriage and one successful business arrangement after another meant less to him than the chemistry of male bonding.
As with every crisis she had faced thus far in her life, Regina gritted her teeth, and looked for the lesson to be learned. This time, she concluded that no one really listens to what you have to say. Telling people not to do something is pointless. They will do what they want. The people you trust most will let you down. Her parents had. Her husband had.

She wished she could talk more to Tom Carnegie about her problems. She was sure he’d understand. She wondered if he’d be able to help, but he had plenty of his own problems.
When Lucy returned from the ladies’ cloakroom, Regina excused herself and went in. After she deposited her cloak and retrieved her fan, she stared blankly at her reflection in the long mirror.

Her youngest sister Abigail was the cleverest seamstress in the States. Regina wanted to set her up with her own design house in New York, but so far Abi shyly preferred to sew at home in Johnstown. It did mean that her dresses were ridiculously cheap, and at the same time the envy of Society. Having a good dressmaker was a special sort of secret weapon. The more prosperous she looked, the less anyone would suspect how desperately close to ruin the Waring empire was.

She forced herself to smile and lifted her chin a little. “Attitude is everything, my girl,” she told herself. “Go in like a queen, not a pauper. Men will do favors for queens much more eagerly than they will for beggar girls. Abi can make you look like a queen; your job is to act the part.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have so many projects tugging at my brain, I'm having trouble knowing where to start! I am working with a publisher on my next release, a modern satire called Jane Austen Lied to Me. Meanwhile, I also want to do a book about a woman named Belle da Costa Greene, a gorgeous, brilliant woman who worked with J. Pierpont Morgan. I also have two books I want to write that are set in England, one in 1603, and one in the 1580-1590s.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I'm still getting used to the idea. I've only just now stopped listing myself as a dance instructor on my Facebook page. I teach Vintage ballroom dance, and belly dancing, and I teach people to dance for their weddings. Somewhere along the line, between book signing events and days spending quality time at the computer with my characters, I became a writer first, and a dance teacher second.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don't do anything full time... I teach dance part time, I sew historical costumes part time, I run several dance companies part time, I am working on producing a television show about social dancing in America. Oh yes, and I write historic fiction. And satire. I've actually got a children's book I want to write. My guardian angel was my landlord when I lived in Pittsburgh, and he passed away recently. So I want to write a book about him called "The Angel Who Lives Downstairs."

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When I get stuck, I write while sitting at the sewing machine. I will sew, and think, and when I figure out what I want to say, I stop sewing and write. Then when I get stuck again, I stop writing and sew.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. It took me a long time to get there, but I did it. I don't mind being a late bloomer. So was Edith Wharton.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

If you haven't seen Star Wars yet, go see it! It will make your inner 10-year-old squeal with delight.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the amazing excerpt and contest!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for the excerpt!

DanieX said...

I can't wait to read ☺

Rita Wray said...

I like the excerpt.

Mai T. said...

What was your recent ‘what the heck did just happen’ moment from a book?

Jeanette said...

1) Thanks again for having me, Lisa!

2) Mai, every time I get a new idea for a book, I sort of feel that way. I have such a long list of books I need to write. I wish my brain would let me finish writing one before it comes up with three more that it wants to write!

bn100 said...

nice interview