My friend, Maya Rodale, drops by to talk about: Life in London
There’s nothing like living in a place to really know it intimately, and thus to write about it authentically. Since actually visiting Regency London is out of the question, the next best thing is living in London. I was lucky to get to do that.
Thanks to my graduate school program, I was able to spend 8 weeks in London on an independent research project. Topic: romance fiction, of course. As I was reading early 1800’s gothic romances and other novels, along with conduct guides and things like “letters from a duchess to a young lady.” I was, as a writer is wont to do, making up stories that incorporated everything I was learning and experiencing.
The books became my Writing Girl Series, featuring women that write for the Regency London’s most popular and gossipy newspaper, The London Weekly. The heroes are the dukes and earls we know and love. Being a writing girl living in London, I incorporated some of my experiences into the novels. For example…
1. Walking, everywhere! The tube is expensive, so are cabs, and I was a grad student/romance author, two notoriously impoverished categories. Walking was the way to go. It seemed like I nearly got hit by a vehicle every time I tried to cross the street (they drive on the wrong side over there). This also happens to my heroine Miss Sophie Harlow, but then she is saved by The Duke of Hamilton and Brandon.
2. Gold, everywhere. Everywhere! The gold chandeliers, the massive ornately carved, gold leaf picture frames hanging on damask wallpaper, which then has gold detailing on the moldings and then on the ceiling! And then all the silver just to liven things up, and more gold on the furniture and in the fabrics and for lord’s sake I never thought I would be sick of gold but it happened. I think I was too traumatized by this for it to make an appearance in the book.
3. Newspapers. I did live across the street from the offices of The Guardian, but it’s the gossipy, frivolous, decidedly not serious newspapers I’m interested in. Whether I needed to or not, I always went out at the end of the workday and walked down to the subway to pick up my free copy of the totally trashy newspapers handed out free.
I also spent a lot of time at the Colindale Newspaper Library reading actual newspapers from the 1820’s. Some lasted for decades, others for a month. They had titles like Town Talk, The Age, John Bull, Cobbit’s Weekly Register and they were all delightful. The sheets are long, totally flat, yellow with age, the print is tiny and they have that faint musty book smell.
4. British men. I’m marrying one, which I think is all I need to say on that. A Groom Of My Own—funny, that!
Thanks to Maya for sharing! Her new book, A Groom of My Own, comes out June 29th.