Today we’re thrilled to be celebrating the release of Katherine Longshore’s newest novel, Manor of Secrets, a novel containing all the sweep and grandeur of Edwardian England.
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .
Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.
Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions.
Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.
**Swoon.** And now for the questions!
From: Elizabeth May
While researching for Manor of Secrets, were there any interesting factoids you encountered about the era that you wished you could have included in the book, but weren’t able to?
There are so many, Elizabeth! Some of the most interesting information I came across was about people actually living at the time. Rupert Brooke diving naked into an icy pond at midnight. Lady Diana Manners, with her “corrupt coterie”, playing parlor games that could never in a million years be called PC (one was called “Breaking the News”, where she and her friends acted out a scene in which a mother is told of the death of a child). Though I do manage to get in an oblique reference to Siegfried Sassoon who spent part of the summer of 1911 playing cricket very near to the fictional Manor.
From: Jessica Spotswood
MANOR OF SECRETS has an upstairs/downstairs element as it follows both Lady Charlotte and kitchen maid Janie. Did you find one setting more fun to explore than the other?
As much as I love the upstairs opulence, I think I enjoyed exploring downstairs more. As a visitor to some of these historic houses, most of what we see is the upstairs. People want to live—even for a moment, and just in their imaginations—the life of the lord of the manor. The upstairs is where the valuables are—the carpets and art and furniture. It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring. It’s where the history happened—that is, the history that was written down. But I’ve always been curious about what happens behind the scenes. What props up that beautiful façade? What makes it possible? And if we’re honest, most of us would have lived downstairs. We would have worked ten hours a day, six days a week (with a half-day off on Sunday to go to church) in conditions that today would be considered intolerable for wages that were laughable. Perhaps the upstairs was where the history was written, but I can’t help but feel that downstairs was where the living happened.
From: J. Anderson Coats
Without being too spoilery, what was your favorite scene to write in MANOR OF SECRETS?
There’s a scene early on where Charlotte—the upstairs girl—ventures downstairs and ends up in the kitchen while Janie is preparing hot chilies for an Indian curry. Charlotte immediately feels out of her depth because she doesn’t know how the kitchen operates, she has no idea what the chili is, and there are boys. The real tension comes when one of the boys challenges the rest to try the chili—it’s a dare, and a test of Charlotte’s ability to fit in. It was inspired in part by events and people in my own life—my dad, who could eat a whole jalapeno without blinking, and my husband, who loves Tabasco sauce, but gets the hiccups when he uses too much.
From: Cat Winters
Although MANOR OF SECRETS is your first Edwardian novel, it is your third published novel, which is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations! How do you plan to celebrate the release of this particular book?
Thank you, Cat! I’m celebrating this book just a little bit differently. I love to have treats and readings at my local indie, but for this book, I also came in a costume, custom built by my friend Kristen Held. As I said above, I would probably have been a servant in 1911, but my fashion preference runs distinctly haute couture. I love the beautiful lines of Edwardian gowns, and the gorgeous tailoring of them. Part of my research led me to look into the costumes designed for Downton Abbey, and I simply gushed over the vintage beaded bodices and gauzy chiffons. I couldn’t quite aspire to the recreations Lady Mary wears, but I enjoyed swathing myself in silk and satin and playing lady of the manor for a day.
From: Jenn McGowan
In your writing career so far, you have traveled from Tudor England to Edwardian England. What has been the biggest challenge or difference in writing the new time period?
For me, the biggest challenge was changing the way I write a story. My Tudor books are all about people who actually existed, living through events that actually happened. It’s a huge challenge to integrate a story within this framework, but at least it was something I’m used to. In MANOR OF SECRETS I had much more freedom—I could invent and delete characters at will, make them fall in and out of love and alter their histories as it suited me. I love that kind of freedom (sometimes, I rant and rave at history because I wish I could change it and can’t), but it was a challenge to settle on a particular story, when there were so many I could possibly write.
From Susan Hill Long:
Katy, can you tell us what inspired your character, Lady Charlotte? Are there ways in which you connect with her?
Charlotte is a daydreamer, just like I am. I pushed that even further to make her more of a Walter Mitty-type character—someone who projects herself into adventurous situations in her imagination, sometimes forgetting that the real world exists. And I can’t think about Edwardian England without thinking of E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, so perhaps there is a bit of Lucy Honeychurch in Charlotte, too.
From: Sharon Biggs Waller
I adore your cover. Can you tell us the story behind it and a little bit about that dress! Also I heard you made the dress for yourself. How did that go?
I honestly thought I was going to be able to make a dress, but in the end had to call upon my friend Kristen, a former costume designer, and a person who really knows her way around a French seam. The dress is gorgeous and really added a sense of festivity to the launch party.
The cover is entirely the creation of Scholastic, and I absolutely love it. I’ll be writing a “Behind the Scenes” post about it during the week of February 17—and divulging all manner of secrets.
From: Laura Golden
Katy, this is your fourth novel, right? Are there any tips you can offer for balancing writing time with social time?
I find I need to set aside time specifically to spend with friends and family. When I write, I get incredibly focused, and I can stay that way even as I’m driving my kids’ carpool. I have to make an effort to take a complete break and be absolutely present in the moment, but it’s always worth it.
As far as social media is concerned, I sometimes I have to unplug my Internet entirely, because I am such an eavesdropper on Twitter and use it as a distraction. So I have to set aside time specifically to spend writing, too.
I wrote MANOR OF SECRETS and BRAZEN (my third Tudor book) at the same time, so I know that having super-tight, sometimes conflicting deadlines can be incredibly stressful. But I also know that taking a little time off to take a twenty minute power walk or have dinner with family or coffee with a friend can be just the refreshment my tired brain needs. What I’ve learned from writing four books is that I can take that time and still meet my deadlines and write a good book. For me, that’s what finding the balance is all about.