Ask the Author: Paulette Kennedy
What would you like readers to know about you?
For me, being a writer is being a student. I came to writing as an avid reader of historical fiction. Beginning in my teenage years, I found myself getting swept up in the worlds and characters my favorite authors created, which would lead to me doing a ton of research and writing stories of my own based on historical eras. I’m a bit of an autodidact when it comes to history and writing. While I started college with a mind to pursue a future in academia, life took me on some unexpected twists and turns, and I did not complete my degree. I think a lot of times, writers believe they have to have an English degree in order to become a published writer, and that simply isn’t true. Learning can take many forms, and you learn to write by writing and reading widely. As a writer who arrived to publishing relatively late in life, I feel I bring a wealth of experience and an understanding of human nature to my work that I perhaps lacked in my younger years, although I have a great admiration for young writers who already know their path and are focused and passionate about what they do. It’s never too late or too early!
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Parting The Veil, debuting this November from Lake Union Publishing, is a suspenseful Gilded Age gothic romance featuring a headstrong American heiress, Eliza Sullivan, who arrives in rural England to collect an inheritance from a recently-deceased aunt and start a new life apart from her grievous past. At a summer solstice ball, she meets an eccentric viscount who lives on the neighboring estate, Malcolm Winfield. Despite the dark rumors surrounding Malcolm, Eliza is taken in by his melancholy charm. Drawn together by their similar, tragic pasts, they fall in love–lust, actually–and elope. Shortly after Eliza arrives at Havenwood Manor, her new husband’s estate, mysterious things begin happening. Strange whispers in the shadows. Forbidden rooms. And Malcolm’s mercurial moods, as changeable as night and day. As Eliza delves deeper into Malcolm’s troubling history, the disturbing secrets gain a frightening power, and Eliza begins to wonder if she’s married man or monster. Discovering the truth may cost her everything.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
This is my favorite question! Initially, the idea for the novel came to me after a dream I had of a half-ruined Beaux-Arts mansion. The house, Havenwood Manor, was the catalyst and symbolizes so much about my characters’ psyches. I love when books use houses and settings as characters–the work of Shirley Jackson, Henry James, and Nathaniel Hawthorne are huge influences on Parting The Veil. The inspiration for Eliza came from my curiosity about the wealthy, young American women who journeyed to the United Kingdom and Continental Europe during the Gilded Age to seek for husbands within the aristocracy. These daughters of robber barons and captains of industry were called “dollar princesses” and often found themselves subjected to unhappy marriages brokered with finances rather than romance. I loosely based Eliza on the most famous dollar princess of all, Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill. The plot shares several themes with Beauty and the Beast (the core trope of many romances in gothic literature, if we’re being honest), as well as Jane Eyre, The Portrait of a Lady, and Guillermo del Toro’s gloriously undersung Crimson Peak.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
The climax. It’s the part of the book where Eliza has to confront the lies she’s told herself, head-on. She’s a survivor. Resilient. A feminist for her time. I really loved writing Eliza–she’s willful, relatable, and imperfect. While the scars from her past run deep, she has a hopeful spirit and wants to believe the best about people. My editor tells me she is “irresistible” and I certainly hope readers feel the same way!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Apart from the authors and books I mentioned above, I have always loved the work of Alice Hoffman and Toni Morrison. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is a masterpiece of historical fiction and one of my favorite books. I also admire the work of Kate Morton, Laura McHugh, Susanna Kearsley, and Elizabeth Blackwell. And if I had to choose an idol, it would be Daphne du Maurier. I’d give anything to be able to sit down with her over tea. If there’s an afterlife, I certainly hope I’ll get the chance. Is there tea in the afterlife? Coffee? No one knows. Eliza would just tell me to have a seance.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
I think the biggest bit of advice I have is to not take yourself too seriously. Publishing can be a hard road, with lots of bumps. It helps to have a sense of humor about things, because we all get rejected, over and over. I got rejected just the other day! Even after you attain the things you feel like you want most, impostor syndrome and self-doubt still creep in. Know that you are more than your work. Stay grounded and gracious. Make friends who can relate to what being a writer is like, and keep them. Also…read. You have to read to be a good writer. This is the proverbial hill I will die on!
Social media and links:
Pre-order link for Parting the Veil – https://amzn.to/3eUYknU
Twitter – @pkennedywrites https://twitter.com/pkennedywrites
Instagram – @pkennedywrites https://www.instagram.com/pkennedywrites/
Website – https://paulettekennedy.com