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Jo Beverley, the multi-award-winning historical romance writer, has died. She has been a friend for decades, and in fact was the person who first got me online in 1992, telling me it was where all the romance writers were getting acquainted.
She recently gave me a guest post for this blog: http://aliciarasleybooks.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=274&action=edit
Jo has always been known for her lovely writing, her serene composure, and her willingness to help other writers and readers. I can’t say how much we’ll miss her. And it’s so sad to think of how much her husband Ken and her children and new granddaughter will miss her too.
Here’s a picture of her as I will always remember her– with a book in her hand and a smile on her face!
Judith and I share a love of the Shakespeare plays, so I was excited to hear about her graphic novel based around Romeo and Juliet. Here’s her account of her book:
I was not a big Shakespeare fan in high school. The Elizabethan language was difficult to wade through, and besides, I was young and living life in the fast lane…sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll. Okay, just kidding about the sex and drugs, but there was lots of rock ‘n roll. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I gained an appreciation for Shakespeare’s amazing abilities as a storyteller.
I was working in London at that time. A friend invited me to dinner and the theater to see The Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Merry Wives of Windsor. I knew dinner would be nice, and then I could sleep at the theater. Well, to my utter amazement I was enthralled with the production. First, there were no Renaissance costumes or sets. This show was set in the1950’s with fabulous set decoration and costumes from that era. Second, even though I may not have understood every single line of dialogue, I understood enough to fully appreciate the intricacies of the plot and the humor. I was hooked, and I did everything I could to get my children interested in Shakespeare.
Fast forward twenty years…I was still lamenting the fact my kids thought Shakespeare was boring when inspiration struck. What if the stories were told in modern language that kids could understand! I had a mission!
The Process of Writing a Graphic Novel
Taking Romeo and Juliet from a full-length play to a graphic novel required distilling the dialogue and narration into as few words as possible without losing any of the storyline. This was the most difficult part of the project and required the expert skills of my husband who had been an editor. We went scene by scene, creating new dialogue and reading it aloud to see how it sounded. It took about four months to come up with a first draft of the dialogue.
I have been in a writing group for years with excellent writers and editors, so each week I took the scene we were working on to my writing group for their critique. I also asked my niece and nephew who were in high school to read the manuscript. Who better than teenagers to help with modernizing the language? The next step was combining lines of dialogue into conversations which could be represented by one drawing.
At this point we needed an illustrator. I contacted my friend Mark Bennett, who had recently retired from the art department at CBS, and asked if he would be interested in doing the illustration for this project. He is immensely talented so my husband and I were thrilled when he agreed. Mark created drawings for each dialogue group. With a computer program, he inserted our dialogue into the drawings. Once again I took the whole manuscript to my writing group for critique. The computer program made it easy to edit the dialogue as necessary.
The cover art for Romeo and Juliet is a combination of original artwork from Mark Bennet combined with the work of a graphic artist from Flying Pig Media. Kristin Lindstrom, who owns and operates Flying Pig Media, prepared the Romeo and Juliet manuscript to be uploaded at CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle. Technical issues arose when uploading the drawings to Amazon, so I was relieved to have Kristin handling those details.
We are thrilled to be able to bring Shakespeare’s most famous tale to a new generation of readers.
You can find Judith’s graphic novel at Amazon:
Judith Whitmore is the best-selling author of the romantic-adventure
Come Fly with Me, a cookbook All Time Favorite Recipes, and Romeo and Juliet
Reimagined, an illustrated account of Shakespeare’s story co-authored with
her husband Wes Whitmore.
During Judith’s seven-year term as President of American Theater
Company in Aspen, ATC presented shows starring Julie Harris, Hal Holbrook,
Vincent Price, Shawn Cassidy, John Travolta and Charles Durning. Judith
later produced the musical Taking a Chance on Love in Los Angeles, followed
by the London production of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town which she
Judith has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, is a licensed
Marriage and Family Therapist, and is also a licensed Commercial Pilot with
a Learjet type-rating. Since 2003, she has been a regular volunteer makeup
artist at the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters.
During college, Judith sang background vocals for Capitol Records
and performed with a band in San Francisco. She never forgot the thrill of
performing, and several years ago she and two friends formed the trio, ACT
THREE. ACT THREE has performed concerts in California, Arizona, and last
year at UC Irvine and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Their first album will be
released this summer. All proceeds from ACT THREE performances are donated
Visit Judith at:
Paving the Way for Women Writers: Aphra Behn, 1640 – 1689
“All woman together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is most scandalously but rather appropriately in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she – shady and amorous as she was – who makes it not quite fantastic to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.” –Virginia Woolf
It sounds like the kind of adventure fiction most people would dismiss as being much too unlikely, doesn’t it? But much of this biography is documented through letters, not to mention Aphra Behn’s own work. Not only that, Aphra Behn achieved all this without being a member of the nobility. She may or may not have come from a “gently born” family that fell upon hard times, but either way, she was not born privileged. Most of the women writers of the 17th Century were from the nobility, and they wrote for their amusement and that of their friends and family, their oeuvre remaining small and genteel. By contrast, Aphra wrote for a living. Since it was her main, and perhaps only, source of income, she adapted to the tastes and the times. She wrote racy comedies in the style of her male contemporaries. When times grew hard for the playhouses in London, she reacted and began to write and publish prose fiction — a genre that was so new, in the 18th century it started being referred to as the “novel” (from the Italian “novella” for new or news).
She achieved all of this in an era when women had few rights. They were subject to their fathers, and then their husbands. But Aphra Behn was a widow, and as such, in control of her own property, free to make her own decisions.
The status of women was changing in the 17th Century, but it was a slow process. One of the most important changes for the emergence of Aphra Behn as a writer was that the theaters were opened up to actresses. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II decreed that women would be able to take the stage. Before that, female roles were played by men. Many of the new actresses were women who intentionally used their position to find “protectors” among members of the nobility, such as Nell Gwyn, who became the mistress of Charles II. But others became involved in the business of the theater. Mrs. Betterton helped manage the highly successful Duke’s Company with her husband, Thomas Betterton, training younger actresses like Anne Bracegirdle.
Aphra Behn, never an actress, may have possibly made her way into the world of Restoration theater through family connections. Even working within the constraints of the Restoration’s male dominated society, Behn managed to create strong, independent female characters who made their own choices. Over the course of her nineteen year career, Behn wrote over twenty plays, as well as several novels and volumes of poetry.
While she wrote to please, since she had to in order to make a living, at the same time she staunchly defended her art in one of her more more memorable forewords to her play “The Lucky Chance”:
“…I am not content to write for a Third Day only. I value Fame as much as if I had been born a Hero; and if you rob me of that, I can retire from the ungrateful World, and scorn its fickle Favours.”
Aphra Behn died in 1689 at the age of only 48. She was famous and celebrated at the time; Daniel Defoe, a pioneer in the novel and author of Robinson Crusoe, even called her “one of the giants of wit and sense.” But her fame was not to last. By the middle of the 18th Century, her reputation had dwindled to that of a lewd writer of pornographic works little better than Fanny Hill.
I first came across mention of Aphra Behn when I was a graduate research assistant working on my MA in English Literature — and was immediately fascinated. In my dissertation on the use of the female perspective in the novel, I included a chapter on Behn’s novel Oroonoko. If I had remained in academia, I’m sure I would have ended up writing many more articles on Aphra Behn. But I didn’t, so instead I wrote a novel.
In Chameleon in a Mirror, the main character is sent back in time to the 17th Century, where she gets to meet her (and my) idol, Aphra Behn. This gives her a chance to rehabilitate Aphra’s literary reputation. Even though we are not supposed to have causes in our fiction, I have to admit I hope that with Chameleon in a Mirror, I just might be able to do that a little bit myself.
To find out more about Aphra, you can visit my site on her, the Aphra Behn Page.
I love road stories, especially when told by the great comic writer Georgette Heyer. I’m reading Sprig Muslin today, where the hero is stuck with a teenaged runaway and has to chase her around Cambridgeshire. All we get are names of towns and villages– Brampton, Huntington, Thrapston, St. Ives– some of which (esp. St. Ives, which is the name of an important Cornwall town, and on the other side of the country!) lead to confusion. Thank goodness for Google. I put in some of the names mentioned by Heyer as destinations or waystations in the hero’s chase of Amanda, and zing, up came a map, and now I know where they are!
What are some other books where we can track the characters’ movements? I want to try that with some Christie novels. Maybe I can find St. Mary’s Mead!
January sees publication of The Guardian Stones, a mystery set in rural
Shropshire in 1941. Although it concerns events in a village, it is not a cosy but
rather a darker story examining the nature of evil in a small community.
Our plot called for a village dominated by an ancient stone circle and
located in a forested mountainous area near the Welsh border. Shropshire has a
fair number of standing stones but not too many stone circles — the best
known are probably Mitchell’s Fold and the nearby Hoarstones circle —
nor does it have any circle located where we needed it.
So Noddweir came into being.
A fictional settlement like Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead, its name is a
corruption of the Welsh word noddwyr (alternatively spelt noddwer), one meaning of
which is protector. Then, furiously tapping on our keyboards rather than
hauling chunks of stone up hill and down dale, we perched the Guardian
Stones at the top of a steep hill giving a fine view of the village and vice versa.
A new arrival to Noddweir describes the village as “nestled in a narrow
fold between wooded mountains rising gradually north, west and south.
Cottages clung to the incongruously named High Street as if cowering
away from the forest…The majority of the houses were small, built of
brick or stone with slate roofs. The largest building, a sturdy church
with its squat Norman tower, recalled a time when Noddweir had been
more populous. The Guardians pub, the second largest structure, sat
beside the church. Beyond the village…the knob-shaped hill of the
Where there’s a stone circle, there’s usually a legend or two connected
with it. Based on common threads in a couple of such stories we created one
for the Guardian Stones involving a long ago wise woman who helped
villagers in various ways until eventually, as so often happens, they turned on her, and
what took place after that. Those events led to generations of villagers
regarding the brooding stone circle with unease, and in time a children’s
rhyme grew up:
Time stands still
On Guardians Hill
The Guardians dwell
In deepest hell
Don’t go alone
Inside the stones
That surmount still
Thus, with creation of its residents and details of everyday events
appropriate to an isolated rural settlement during the period, did
Noddweir appear on the map.
A village, an ancient stone circle, civilian life while Shropshire is at
war. We hope we’ve done them justice.
Mitchell’s Fold Stones in Shropshire
The Guardian Stones is published by Poisoned Pen Press.
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, authors of the Lord Chamberlain historical
mystery series, lurk in plain sight as Eric Reed. They are currently
writing the sequel to The Guardian Stones.
Candice Hern (wonderful Regency writer!) has an article I loved about the Regency magazines available at the time. London even now has a thriving print journalism forum, but back then! Wow. There were journals for every aspect of life. I can’t even imagine how much it must have cost, or how difficult it would have been (before Photoshop) to put out a fashion magazine.
Anyway, I’ll let Candice give you the details!
One of the primary roles of a magazine editor was to sort through reader submissions and determine what was suitable and what was not. Most magazines maintained only a small staff of writers, generally those who penned monthly columns, like The Old Woman (later changed to the Busy Body) in The Lady’s Monthly Museum, who was one of the earliest agony aunts, answering readers’ questions about life and love. Other staff members would gather up information for sections on marriages, births, and deaths, or political and parliamentary news, or dispatches from the wars. Staff writers might also pen reviews of books and plays. Almost all other content was from reader submissions.