Today we have an extra special visitor to JDP NEWS! An interview with British author, Jenna Dawlish. In addition to the interview, Jenna has graciously agreed to donate a copy of her Victorian romance, Love Engineered as a giveaway to one lucky reader. I’ll tell you how you can enter to win a copy at the end of our interview!
JDP: Thank you for joining us today, Jenna. On your website, I see you refer to yourself as an author of "Vic-Lit". What is "Vic-Lit"?
JENNA: Hi Joyce, thank you for having me on your JDP NEWS blog, it's great to be here. "Vic-Lit" stands for "Victorian Literature". It's a play on the "Chick-Lit" term which I thought might be fun to use - it's very tongue-in-cheek.
JDP: Please tell us a little about your Victorian romance, Love Engineered.
JENNA: Love Engineered is a book about a single woman who happens to be a wealthy land and estate owner in Devon. She is very interested in the engineering world and falls for the civil engineer Charles Lucas, who is tipped to be the next Brunel. (For those who don't know, Brunel is the most famous Engineer in Britain). This should be simple, because surely, a wealthy woman is what every man wants? But Charles is only interested in his work and because he has encountered a lot of problems with landowners like Louise, he naturally (or stupidly) thinks she is like the rest. Of course, there is a happy ending, but a lot happens along the way; slowly Charles realises there is more to Louise than he realised and for the first time he stops thinking about work and listens to his heart. Louise learns she can't always get what she wants (well, not at first anyway). She is very much a woman in a man's world, which is similar to my own situation at work and at home.
JDP: The Victorian Era lasted over 60 years (1837-1901). Why did you choose 1855 for the setting of your novel?
JENNA: There are specifics in the novel which meant that was the perfect year. I mention the Great Exhibition happening a few years before, so 1855 is about the right time in that respect.
I love the early to mid Victorian period because whilst there are changes going on, the railways etc, there isn't the technology you get in the later period. So, by the time Queen Victoria died, there is electricity, telephones, telegrams etc. Communication is much more advanced. But in the 1850's the railways were still expanding and the postal service was still the only method of long distance communication. That makes things interesting if people have to wait days for a letter to arrive.
JDP: We’ve certainly been spoiled with e-mail in the internet age, haven’t we! What do you find most fascinating about the Victorian Era?
JENNA: It's a long time ago, yet it's not. Here in England where I live, the Victorians had a massive impact on us even now. It was a time of huge change - leaps in engineering, science and technology. Factories and industry meant poor people had a good chance of bettering their situation. When the Victorians built things they built them to last, which sadly isn't true these days. I also love the way that life was slower compared to now. Modern life is so hectic, and I think it very appealing to be able to escape back into the Victorian period when you need to slow down a bit. But I like to come back to now where there are votes for women and modern medicine!
JDP: As a medieval author, I’m definitely with you on that! I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels. Could you tell us a little about how you researched the historical background for Love Engineered?
JENNA: I've done research in a number of ways. General research is part and parcel of reading Victorian novels (like the Brontes, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Gaskell). You can pick up a massive amount of research this way. In a similar vein, TV or film adaptations of Victorian novels also help. If there is something specific I want to know about, then I'll look on the internet or visit my local library for a book.
Here in the UK there are a number of museums which have recreated Victorian streets or towns. I love visiting these, as you can really get a feel for the era. I've dragged my family to many places in the name of research!
Specifically for Love Engineered, I visited a number of Brunel's works (more about this later) to get a feel for the life of a Victorian Engineer and had a book on Victorian civil engineering. I also read a number of biographies on Brunel.
I also have a huge pile of book on the Victorian Era. If I pass a second hand bookshop I always pop in to see if they have anything that might be useful. I've picked up some pretty strange ones. For example, I have one that is about Victorian inventions. It's fascinating to look at (and quite amusing). For example there are a number of bizarre flying machines all of which with our modern hindsight would never get off the ground. But there are also some examples of Engineers being ahead of their time. There is a picture for a Printing Press from 1881 being driven using the sun to drive the steam engine. Not quite solar panels as we know it, but still the inventor was on the right track.
My next novel, Sprig of Thyme, is about a governess. So I bought a non-fiction book called The Victorian Governess by Kathryn Hughes which has helped a great deal. However, I've also read Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey both of whom are governesses, and they taught me a great deal.
JDP: Can you share with us your top three favorite research books or other resources for the Victorian Era?
Jenna: 1. A TV series called: "The Seven Wonders of the Industrial World", a brilliant set of seven hour long episodes which explain great engineering feats: The London Sewerage System, The Panama Canal, The Bell Rock Lighthouse, The Great Eastern Ship, The Transcontinental Railway, The Brooklyn Bridge and The Hoover Dam. It really brings history to life and gives the personal struggles behind those who built them.
2. A great book called What the Victorians Did For Us by Adam Hart-Davies. This gives a great general overview of what went on in the Victorian period.
3. A Website: Victorian London (http://www.victorianlondon.org/) Even if your book or story is not set in London, this website gives you a great deal of general information about the Victorian period and what everyday life was like.
JDP: Are there any historical figures from the Victorian Era who particularly intrigue you?
JENNA: Definitly Prince Albert. If anyone saw the film last year "The Young Victoria" [JDP: Oooo, I wanted to see that, but the movie theater playing it was too far away! L ] then you'll know what an amazing man he was. He was ahead of his time. A philanthropist, and because of his experience with his parents broken marriage, he was a faithful husband and very moralistic. He even assisted Queen Victoria each time she gave birth, which was unheard of at the time. He has all the characteristics of a great hero for a novel. No wonder Queen Victoria mourned him for 30 years.
I'm also a BIG fan of Brunel (if you couldn't tell already!). He was such an amazing man. Most of his work is still standing and I love visiting them when possible. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Royal Albert Bridge, the railway in Dawlish, SS Great Britain and tunnels in London which are now part of the London Underground. He was totally driven to become the worlds best engineer and I think he achieved his dream. He was a family man too, and whilst he was away from home a lot, he looked after his wife and children well.
JDP: What inspired you to write Love Engineered?
JENNA: It was the 2004 TV adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South that kicked if off. I'd read the book before, but was intrigued how the heroine of the novel (Margaret) became the hero's landlord (John Thornton). This happens at the end of the book. So I began to imagine what it would be like to have a lonely and wealthy female landowner who falls for a mill owner tenant of hers. Eventually the mill owner became an engineer and I changed other circumstances too, but you'll have to read my book to find out!
For those of you haven't seen the TV show or read the book North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, I heartily recommend it.
JDP: Are you working on any new projects?
JENNA: Yes, I have my second novel out in May called Sprig of Thyme. As I mentioned before, this is about a governess who becomes engaged to the tutor who works at the same country house. He has a BIG secret and ends up breaking the engagement. Then, five years later the story is picked up when they meet again in Bath. It's a classic, "love lost, but regained" story which is the type of novel I love to read myself. The reader gets to find out the secret and how they rebuild their relationship.
I'm always writing and have just started a new novel about a Victorian writer and her publisher, but it's very much in the early stages.
JDP: Your books all sound so fascinating! Where can readers obtain copies of Love Engineered?
JENNA: From Amazon.com, (also available in Kindle version), Amazon.co.uk, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery) or direct from my publisher as an ebook or paperback:www.escapewithabook.com
Later in the year my books will be available as an iPhone application.
JDP: Wow! iPhone! Very cool! (I’ve always wanted an iPhone, but so far…oh well, maybe someday!)
Thank you so much for joining us today, Jenna!
Okay, now for the giveaway portion of our program. If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of Love Engineered, by Jenna Dawlish, please do one, two, or all three of the following:
(1) Visit Jenna's website to find out where in England Jenna lives. Send me the answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Love Engineered #1" in the subject line, AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.
(2) Visit Jenna's blog and tell me the name of the wharf clerk who's diary Jenna will be following all year. Email me the answer to email@example.com with "Love Engineered #2" in the subject line, AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.
(3) Quick! Without looking back to the beginning of this interview, tell me what Vic-Lit stands for! Email me your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Love Engineered #3" in the subject line, AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILNG ADDRESS.
There you go, easy as Pi. (Or is that Pie?)
Please don't combine your entries, or you may only be counted once. Deadline for entries is February 21, midnight PST. The winner will be announced here on JDP NEWS on Monday, February 22.
Good luck to one and all!