In which we have a special guest blogger!

Today I’m delighted to play host to Tracy Grant, a wonderful novelist and superb galpal. She’s celebrating the release of her newest adventure, THE BERKELEY SQUARE AFFAIR, and has graciously agreed to come and play with us today. She will be checking into the comments to answer questions, AND she’s giving away a copy of THE BERKELEY SQUARE affair to one lucky commenter. (Please note, as ever, comments are in moderation. Do not be alarmed if your comment does not appear immediately.) I love that Tracy chose to write about fashion–we all know I love a good fashion post! And don’t miss the photos below of Tracy imparting her fabulous style already to her daughter, the adorable Miss Melanie!

 

It’s such a treat to be back on the blog of one my favorite authors who also happens to be a wonderful friend. When I was turning over different topics to blog about, it occurred to me to expand on a topic I first touched on on History Hoydens. It combines two favorite subjects of mine, fashion and plotting. And it seems particularly appropriate to Deanna’s blog as she is both a brilliant plotter and a very stylish woman.

 

I’ve always loved clothes – I love the creative part of dressing and the fact that every time I put together an outfit I am in sense deciding who I want to be that day. It appeals to both the writer and the former actress in me. When reading any fiction makes me feel hopelessly inadequate about my  own WIP (which always seems to happen at some point with every book). fashion magazines are my escape. Since I became a mother, it’s almost been more important to me to try to look put together. I think it’s a way of defining myself as something other than a mom, I love being Mélanie’s mummy and it’s the most important thing in my life, but it isn’t the sum total of who I am.

 

A few weeks ago, I was hurrying to get ready (if there is a non-hurried way to get ready with a toddler I have yet to discover it) on a Saturday morning. I had hair appointment to cover up the gray, errands to do, writing time to get in, and then Mélanie and I were meeting a friend for dinner. I  wanted to wear a new dress I’d just splurged on from a  post-holiday sale. But I wanted to be sure I didn’t get hair dye on the dress, so i grabbed a black cardigan. I was surprised at how the black made the pattern of the knit dress pop and how the ruffles on the sweater softened the bolder lines of the dress. I was debating wearing heels, but because it was going to be a long day with a lot of walking, I put on a pair of tweed flats. I thought they might be too much, but the play of textures also put the dress into focus. I had liked the dress when I ordered it and tried it on, but I liked it even better with accessory details layered in.


Which, I realized later in the day writing in a café, was not unlike the moment in my WIP when I decided the young duchess who is the wife of the murder victim would also be the sister of the hero’s best friend and the daughter of the hero’s spymaster. Suddenly my plot had added layers of resonance and the complications for my hero packed an added emotional wallop. in both cases I started with a piece I liked–whether clothing or plot material–and then layered in details that made the piece pop and gave it extra dimension.

 

A change of shoes or earrings, the addition of subtraction of a scarf, can turn an outfit from office-appropriate to evening ready. Last week I went from a board meeting to a cocktail reception by taking off the black cardigan and pink scarf I was wearing over my LBD, stashing my tote bag (which also doubles as a computer and diaper bag) and pulling out the clutch I keep in it and usually use a makeup bag. It took about two minutes and felt like a change of outfit. Similarly, one can start with a basic plot premise–for instance a young woman compelled by circumstance to marry an older wealthy man–and depending on which “accessories” one layers into the plot, one can have anything from bedroom farce to family drama, from romance to mystery to coming of age story.My book The Berkeley Square Affair(released today) begins with a playwright friend of Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch bringing them a manuscript that is an alternate version of Hamlet, possibly by Shakespeare. It could have turned into a literary exploration or a comedic caper or a backstage drama. But–perhaps not surprisingly, as both Malcolm and Suzanne are former agents–the manuscript proves to have espionage information more related to the Napoleonic Wars than the Elizabethan era encoded in it and the book becomes a spy story. When I decided that the actress in Simon’s theatre company whose current lover found the manuscript among his father’s possessions would be Manon Caret, a former Bonapartist agent who escaped France one step ahead of Fouché’s agents in my previous book, The Paris Affair, it added new layers to the plot and new complications for Suzanne, who shares secrets with Manon.

 

And yet as I plotted I realized the Hamlet manuscript was too interesting to be a mere MacGuffin. So I wove in secrets that go back to the time the play was written and a–fictional–love affair between actor Francis Woolridge and aristocrat Eleanor Harleton. The story needed that to make the manuscript “pop” just as the right scarf or necklace can bring out the pattern in a dress or blouse. Each choice I made added different layers to the story and hopefully the pieces work together to create a compelling whole. Just as hopefully different accessories and pieces of clothing work together to create a memorable outfit. And both in writing and in fashion, I find half the fun is, to quote Stephen Sondheim, “putting it together.”

 

 
Berkeley Square
Tracy Grant 2
Tracy Grant
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19 Responses to In which we have a special guest blogger!

  1. Paige Guthrie says:

    Hi Tracy!
    Congratulations on the new book! What period/s in history do you like for the fashion? Also, what are your thoughts on how women and girls dress these days?

    Thanks!
    Paige

  2. Pat says:

    I love stories with layers and layers of connections and plots. When the characters share relationships of varying depths it adds so much to the overall story. I really look forward to your latest book Tracy!

  3. Suzanne says:

    Wonderful! I enjoyed reading this.

  4. HJ says:

    I have been looking forward to The Berkley Square Affair for ages, so I’m glad release day is here! I’ve been enjoying your daughter Mélanie’s increasing interest in shoes and clothes, judging from the photos you post of her. She’s lucky to have a stylish mother to learn from! I hope that eventually she also follows in your footsteps and those of your mother, and likes writing, too.

  5. Libby Dodd says:

    That is a striking book cover! It really works.
    Some years back a male friend complimented me for being “the accessory queen.” I like to think I have continued to live up to that title.

  6. Christine says:

    Always look forward to a new Tracy Grant! Also, Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare, so double good news for me.

  7. Elaine Cohoon Miller says:

    Tracy, rushing through my work to get home and start TBSA ASAP.

    I love how you (and Deanna) use the details of clothing and fashion to enlarge our understanding of the characters and action. Suzanne understanding her wife-of-an-English-aristocrat attire to be just as much a disguise as the many more obvious disguises she wears in her “work” with Malcolm, for example. And Malcolm, who sheds that English-aristocrat persona in his disguises. Can you comment on your own feeling about appearance and attire as part of you characterizations?

  8. Ashley says:

    Congratulations on the new release today, Tracy! I always love the clothing details you include in your novels. Can’t wait to read the latest.

  9. Kim says:

    Congratulations on your new book. Would it bother you if the fashion on one of your covers is the wrong time period? I’ve seen some authors complain when a Regency dress shows up on a Victorian cover, but they don’t have cover approval.

  10. Tracy Grant says:

    Paige, I love Regency clothes – it’s one of many reasons I enjoy writing in the era. I also love the late 15th century, the Edwardian era, and the 1930s (which all have a long, elegant silhouette in common). As for clothes today, I love the freedom and variety. There are some trends that just aren’t for me, but there’s usually something each season I love to try out (love the long scarves this spring and longer flowy skirts and big clutches that can fit into a tote). And kids’ clothes also have so much more variety than when i was little. There are so many styles that are cute without being cutesy.

    Pat,. I love stories with layers too! One of the great things about writing a series is being able to explore those layers from book to book.

    Hope you enjoy it, Helena! I love that Mel enjoys fashion. She also loves books – it would be fabulous if she wanted to write someday…

    Glad you like the cover, Libby! Aren’t accessories fun? So many options for creating outfits…

    It was so fun incorporating Hamlet into the book, Christine – it’s one of my favorite plays as well!

    Elaine, I do love thinking about what my characters are wearing. And just as i tailor outfits to different aspects of my life – meetings, events, mommy time – in a much bigger way Malcolm and Suzanne use clothes to play roles. But Suzanne, as you say, is in affect playing a role in her day to day life as a fashionable politician’s wife, so even her every day wardrobe is in a sense a costume. Which I think reflects the challenging nature of Suzanne’s day to day life. While at the same time, she enjoys clothes, just as she enjoys a number of aspects of her life. She doesn’t just wear the costume, it’s become part of who she is.

  11. Tracy Grant says:

    Thanks, Ashley! I love using clothing details to express character and bring the era to life!

    My latest two covers look a bit late Victorian, Kim. but I love the overall feel of them. In a perfect world, I’d like the clothes to be just the right era, but capturing the overall mood and tone of the book is more important to me.

  12. Make Kay says:

    I have to say the whole Tracy versus Tersa has stymied me, but under either name, I LOVE THESE BOOKS!

  13. Make Kay says:

    Oops, spell check foils me again. That should gave said Tracy vs. Teresa

  14. Betty Strohecker says:

    Your book sounds very interesting Tracy – can’t wait to read it. I already have acquired most of your books and was given a chronological order in which to read them. Any suggestions from you?
    Also, the cat in the right side of the picture (looking straight on) reminds me so much of our dearly loved Rascal with the tiger markings and green eyes. He was put to rest under the birdbath in our backyard, and I’m sure is happily running around in kitty heaven.

  15. Tracy Grant says:

    Kay, my new publisher wanted a more “historical” sounding name – I chose Teresa because Tracy can be a nickname for it. So glad you love the books!

    Betty, I’d suggest starting with Vienna Waltz or my enovella His Spanish Bride (about Malcolm and Suzanne’s wedding). Then Imperial Scandal, The Paris Affair, The Paris Plot (another novella), and The Berkeley Square Affair, then the Tracy Grant books. But I think reading them in different orders emphasizes different aspects and I’ve talked to people who enjoy the series with various staring points. What were you advised as to chronological order? Your cat Rascal sounds wonderful! My striped kitty is Suzanne. The gray cat is Lescaut.

    • Betty Strohecker says:

      I was advised just about the same order, with His Spanish Bride first, but Beneath a Silent Moon before Berkeley Square. Someone printed this order when sharing on Lauren Willig’s site. Anyway, I have downloaded the ebooks, purchased the others at B&N or Amazon, and will pick up Berkeley Square tomorrow. I can’t wait to get started!
      Thanks for answering and for the cat picture that brought back so many happy memories!

  16. Pingback: THE BERKELEY SQUARE AFFAIR is out | Tracy Grant - Novelist

  17. Lynne says:

    Well, Tracy, you have spoken to what is near and dear – fashion! I spent all my days in fashion retailing and clothes are still my weakness… next to books, of course. I think I knew you loved clothes when I first read Vienna Waltz – the details about costume were so very vivid. Thanks for a great article.

  18. Patricia Franzino says:

    I can`t wait to read this great mystery. I like being enveloped in a strong plot with great characters.

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