History Hoydens

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09 November 2007

A Proud Taste for Historical Fiction

Hello, all! I can't begin to express how thrilled I am to be joining this talented band of happy hoydens. First of all, it's lovely to finally get to be a hoyden. Far too few people use that word nowadays. One can occasionally be a shrew (in the right company), but seldom a hoyden, and almost never a minx.

While my experience with hoydenage may be minimal, my love affair with history began many a long year ago. In 1983, to be precise. I was six years old, and my father made the mistake of giving me E.L. Koenigsburg's "A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver." Once the book was opened, there was no going back. Having encountered historical fiction, I wanted more, more, more. My Eleanor of Aquitaine obsession abated, only to be replaced by a full blown Queen Victoria fixation, brought on by Jean Plaidy's "Victoria Victorious." When all the other little girls were dressing up as Madonna for Halloween, I was the one who went as Caroline of Ansbach, Queen Consort of George II, humming Handel's "Water Music" all the way.

Over the years, I've flirted with a number of historical periods. In college, I studied the Renaissance; in grad school, I culled the archives for obscure documents about Charles I; and these days, I write novels about dashing spies wreaking havoc during the Napoleonic Wars. But I'll always have a special place in my heart for Eleanor of Aquitaine and "A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver". I like to think she would have approved. Especially of all the handsome men in tight breeches.

What book got you hooked on historical fiction?

9 Comments:

Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Hi Lauren, fellow chapter member and hoyden! I too have an Eleanor of Aquitaine obsession started by Katherine Hepburn when I saw the Lion in Winter. And I think I read every single Jean Plaidy book from her Plantagenet series through Queen Victoria. But the books that started it for me, besides the Bible, was Little House in the Big Woods which I read in 1st grade. I had to know more about what happened to Laura and her family and I was also curious about the Great Plains and all that post Civil War history. From there it was down that slippery slope to John Jakes, Taylor Caldwell, Lloyd C. Douglas, Thomas B. Costain, Kathleen Windsor, Anya Seton, and of course Margaret Mitchell. I love the Regency but I love the Gilded Age even more. Not to mention the Restoration (all those plays I read in college), and the 1920's. Now it's World War II.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

What started it? Well, I think I can blame the Illiad, Song of the Niblungs, Ivanhoe, War and Peace, Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth and Hans Baumann's Ich zog mit Hannibal.

And my parents who took me to the museum when I was five.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Welcome, Lauren. So great ot have you onboard.

My Dad gave me a book on the lives of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The book had a picture of each signer and a facing page on how signing the Declaration influenced their lives. I was probably about 10.

It was history and its hidden stories from then on. It is with embarrassment that I admit I have NOT read a lot of books you all have, but I guess I have read a lot that you haven't.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Hi Lauren, welcome! It's so great to have you here! I've always liked stories that were "old-fashioned" as I used to say. I was six when I saw the Olivier/Garson "Pride and Prejudice" and then wanted to my mom to read the book to me. At about the same time, I watched "Elizabeth R" with my family and then we went to England and Scotland, and I saw a lot of the actual locations in the series--that definitely celemened my fascination with English history. I too now write about Napoleon Wars spies, and my fascination with the era goes back to reading P&P with my mom, but I've been intrigued by other eras along the way. Late fifteenth century Britain (which I did my undergrad work on), the Tudor/Elizabethan era (I was Lady Jane Grey for Halloween and wrote a play about her), the American Revolution (I loved a book called "Hornet's Nest" by Sallie Watson), the twenties/thirties (when I was thirteen, I wrote my own version of the script for the Cole Porter musical 'Anything Goes").

9:20 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Hi Lauren, it's terrific to have you with us. For me, at age 7 or 8, it was a movie called "Beau Brummell," with Stewart Granger, Peter Ustinov (as Prinny of course) and Elizabeth Taylor in a powdered wig that was as historically inaccurate as it was gorgeous. At 11, it was Annemarie Selinko's novel Desiree. And as an adult, it a non-fiction book, Robert Darnton's The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Lauren, it's so great to have you as a hoyden! I love being a hoyden (though I've been paid more than once to be a shrew [Kate] and I never mind letting my inner minx (and vixen) come out to play.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't hooked on historical fiction. My maternal grandmother had a passion for ancient Greek civilization (she even named my mother Leda!) and it was she who introduced me to Robert Graves and Bullfinch and Edith Hamilton, and it was only a matter of time before I grew up to write THE MEMOIRS OF HELEN OF TROY; it was like visiting an old friend.

Maybe it was the ancient Greek myths I read first. Or the ancient Norse myths I read in 4th grade when we all had to study the Vikings. Or the biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine I read in 5th grade when the year-long curriculum was the Middle Ages.

I devoured the "Little House," "Borrowers" and "All of a Kind Family" series, and was a Masterpiece Theatre geek, loving the adaptations of the great novels like "The Pallisers" and of course there was "Poldark" and "Upstairs Downstairs."

When my grandmother took me to NYCB as a little girl I adored the full-length story ballets, almost all of which were set in the 19th c. And for years I was the producing artistic director of Survivor Productions, a nonprofit professional theatre company here in NYC, whose mission was to produce the neglected classics of the 19th c. English stage. During my professional career as an actress I've performed most often in a corset and wig than in modern dress. (I wore so many different styles and colors of wigs and did so many different accents -- English, French, Scottish, Polish -- that I was dubbed the Meryl Streep of showcases!)

I think the periods that remain closest to my heart are the Stuart era (reign of Charles II, more specifically) and the second half of the 18th century. Maybe it's the clothes. Those who know me know that I look like a dairy cow in a nightgown in those super highwaisted Empire frocks. Corset me to within an inch of my life, give me longer, fuller sleeves and a deep decollete, and I'm there. And if all men wore riding boots and breeches and stocks -- okay, if they all looked like Poldark ...

12:15 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Welcome, Lauren. What started me on historical fiction? I honestly can't pinpoint it to a single point in time or a particular book.

There have been so many, but I do have fond memories of PBS during its heyday in the late 1970's---I Claudius, Poldark etc...

2:44 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Lauren, welcome to the Hoydens, and I look forward to your blogs.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Hmmmm...I don't remember a time when I didn't enjoy historical fiction. I loved the "Little House" series from an early age, so I guess that was the beginning of it.

3:14 PM  

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