This week on the blog, we’re inviting two guest authors to give us two very different views of the 1920s. Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Teri Brown, author of Born of Illusion.
by Teri Brown
I’m currently writing Born of Corruption, the companion novella to Born of Illusion (Balzer+Bray, 6/13) and Born of Deception, (B+B 6/14). Born of Corruption takes place in New York City and is a murder mystery that spans the course of a Scavenger Hunt Party. While Born of Illusion and Born of Deception are both told from the viewpoint of Houdini’s daughter, Anna, Born of Corruption is told from the POV of Anna’s best friend, Cynthia Gaylord, who is the ultimate flapper.
Let me just say that I love me some flappers. They were the first truly modern women, shocking their Victorian mommas and papas with their independent, outlandish behavior. One of my favorite sources is a book called Flapper by Joshua Zeitz. It’s one of those history books where the writing is as engaging as the topic. (I love it when that happens!) Zeitz is giving me a whole new appreciation for the flapper, the young woman who dared to have her own job, date whom she liked, drink, dance, and roll down her stockings. Here are a few notable flappers.
Zelda Sayre (aka Zelda Fitzgerald): Long credited for being Scott Fitgerald’s muse and the inspiration for Daisy of The Great Gatsby, Zelda Sayre made her parents crazy with her insistence on bucking the rules and challenging society’s status quo. She often snuck out of her Montgomery home to dance until dawn, and when she finally married Scott, they took New York by storm. A savvy marketer, she used their over-the-top, lavish lifestyle to further her husband’s career. Even having two children couldn’t stop her from taking her place as queen of the flappers.
Lois Long (Aka Lipstick) was the daughter of a minister, a journalist and a 1920’s party girl. She was only three years out of Vassar when she got an interview for The New Yorker. She lived the life of a modern Jazz Age girl, but had a sharp eye for detail, a sly sense of humor, and a wicked writing style. The New Yorker hired her on the spot do to a lifestyle column for the magazine. Much like the fictional Carrie Bradshaw did decades later, Lois Long drank, danced, dated, partied at all the right clubs, and then wrote about her life for the public’s avid reading pleasure. Her marriage to a fellow New Yorker colleague destroyed her anonymity, but even though Lipstick was dead, Lois wrote at the New Yorker for decades, long after the roaring twenties had been silenced.
Coco Chanel: The woman who would change the way women around the world dressed was raised in an orphanage. During school holidays she was sent to stay with distant relatives who taught her to sew. She worked as a hat girl until she became the mistress of a Frenchman who was as unorthodox as he was rich. For two years she frolicked, partied, and raced horses. From him, Coco learned how the very rich lived, and she began to develop her own personal style. At the time, women were becoming ever more involved in sports, and Coco disdained the bustles and corsets that hemmed them in, instead dressing like a man in riding boots, jodhpurs, and ties. The clever and well-made hats she was making were soon in great demand from the rich women attending her boyfriend’s parties, and before long she had her own little hat shop in Paris. It was the beginning of the House of Chanel.
These are just three of the many flappers who helped usher in a new era for women. They worked as hard as they played, but women today owe a great deal to their tenacity and their insistence on person individuality and the freedom to make their own choices.
A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage shows and seances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians and mentalists in 1920s New York. For Anna, the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—handcuffs and sleight-of-hand illusions have never been much of a challenge. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her mother: because while Marguerite’s power may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.
But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than keeping secrets.
As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?
From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, with the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.