Thursday, March 22, 2018

Interview with historical fiction author Rebecca Rosenberg

Historical fiction author Rebecca Rosenberg joins me today to chat about her book, The Secret Life of Mrs. London: The love triangle between Houdini, Jack London, and his wife, Charmian.

Rebecca will give away a signed copy of the book to a lucky commenter. So if you’re interested, make sure to leave a note below (along with a way for her to get in touch with you!) Comments open until end of day March, 29, 2018.

A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel, following her non-fiction, Lavender Fields of America.

Welcome, Rebecca. Please tell us about your current release.
San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

What inspired you to write this book?
Jack London and Harry Houdini were two of the most famous men of their era. I wondered: How did they fall in love with the same woman, that we’ve never heard of?

Charmian London, at the turn of the century, was a dynamic modern woman. A suffragette, an educated, working woman, a champion horse woman and concert pianist. She worked as a writer and reviewer of books at Overland Journal, where she met Jack London and was impressed with his writing. But she knew she could help him with grammar, descriptions, settings, and they began a 15-year partnership, producing fifty books.

But when I heard she had an affair with Houdini, I knew there was more to the story that I had to share!

Excerpt from The Secret Life of Mrs. London:
From Chapter 3

Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, California
November 1915

Love cannot in its very nature be peaceful or content. It is a restlessness, an unsatisfaction. I can grant a lasting love just as I can grant a lasting satisfaction; but the lasting love cannot be coupled with possession, for love is pain and desire, and possession is easement and fulfilment.
—Jack London, The Kempton-Wace Letters

I know how magic works—all smoke and mirrors, suffocating doves, and defecating rabbits. Of course, Jack knows these things, too. He rails against the cruelty of using trained animals in vaudeville. But his adoring Crowd from Carmel (that whole arty, hashish-smoking Bohemian clan) insists Jack join them for the Great Houdini show. Front-row seats, they say. The most famous magician in the world, they say.
“We need a little magic in our lives,” Jack says, and I can’t argue with that.
The Orpheum is morbidly gaudy with flocked velvet walls, tooled woodwork, and gilt, lots of gilt. Jack sports his rumpled khakis du jour, while he asked me to dress like a heroine from Martin Eden: chartreuse taffeta suit shimmering with purple undertones in the theater lights.
But this confounded waistline cuts into my expanding middle like a butcher pinching off sausage casing. I don’t know why I haven’t told Jack my good news when I’ve known for a while. That’s a lie. I hold back because he’ll count the months and wonder, like I do.
The Crowd blow kisses to each other in a cloud of pheromones and cigar smoke. They pass the silver flask of gin under my nose, and the odor stretches my brain like the taffy puller in the lobby.
George Sterling slides his lanky frame into the seat next to mine, reeking of patchouli and cannabis. “Looks like this is just what Jack needed to forget about Wolf House burning down.”
“Nothing will make him forget that night.” My head reels around to see Jack deep in conversation with Anna Strunsky. They only talk deep. That young actress Blanche hangs on his arm, pretending she understands. She doesn’t.
“Wolf says Lawrence burned it down and ran off.”
“You’re such a liar,” I say, but maybe it’s true. I haven’t seen or heard from Lawrence since I left him by Wolf House.
“You and Wolf should pick your friends more wisely.” Sterling grins like Satan.
“Funny, I was thinking the very same thing. But unfortunately, Jack likes you.” I make a face.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next novel is Champagne Widows, about the widows in France who made Champagne the world-wide phenomenon it is today. I love doing the research in the Champagne region!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started writing my first novel ten years ago, and I still plan to get it published!

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 live on a lavender farm in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon where Jack London wrote fifty books! I like to write by candlelight early in the morning and break mid-day to hike, swim, and work on our 5-acre lavender farm.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Writing by candlelight beginning at 4 am, when the house is so quiet, my characters can think and speak!


Thanks for being here today, Rebecca. Readers, remember to leave a comment if you’d like a chance to win an autographed copy of this book! Comments will be open until March 29, 2018.

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