Monday, May 12, 2014

Dueling Writers in 1840s France, A Guest Post with Kit Brennan

Please welcome Kit Brennan, the author of the Whip Smart series. I asked her to discuss an interesting piece of research she discovered whilst researching her latest book, something she was perhaps unable to include in the story but stayed in her mind nevertheless. She joins us today with her answer.

For the second book in the series, Whip Smart: Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume, I researched the newspaper and journalism world of Paris in the 1840s. I found it fascinating that the many newspapers throughout the city were essentially warring with each other to attract and retain the most exciting writers—especially of novels that were gripping and that could be successfully presented to the public in serialization form. This meant that at the end of each chapter, the writer needed to pen a cliff-hanger, to keep readers wanting more. Alexandre Dumas wrote both The Three Musketeers and the incredibly long The Count of Monte Cristo during the same year (1844-45). They ran in serialization concurrently and made Dumas extremely rich. He was at the forefront of writers who understood and took advantage of the public’s hunger for thrilling narratives. I found that appealing: the incredible novels that came out of that place and time were important to society. They were devoured in private, as well as read out loud in streets and salons. The storylines and characters were discussed and debated. These writers became influential and accomplished literary figures: Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Eugène Sue, to name just a few. George Sand, a woman using a male pen name, forced her way into this world through her talent and was accepted and lauded by her male writer friends. I found that the newspapermen, too, were remarkable, and aggressive with their business acumen. In fierce competition with the other papers, they experimented with formats, costs of subscriptions and advertising, and many a duel were fought over the ensuing quarrels.

George Sand
from Wiki Commons
Some of the novelists of the day managed to write about real people and events without being sued for libel by penning romans à clef, or novels with a key: the character names and places may be disguised, but if you know the actual persons and events about whom the novelist is writing, you are essentially in on the secret. But even better: as writer, you can also then manipulate the storyline, to make it end differently, say, from the way the real story might have ended. The Parisian's avid enthusiasm for all this in the mid-nineteenth century struck me as very akin to our modern fascination with gossip and celebrities, and with trading that sensational information as quickly as possible.

I am not overly surprised! Writers are a competitive lot nowadays too, though I don't think they're fighting duels... LOL Thank you, Kit, for sharing this fascinating information with us. Good luck with your series.

Readers, here's a blurb:
Kit Brennan’s frothy, sexy second in the Whip Smart series opens with the gorgeous, ever-headstrong Lola Montez careening around Europe, on the run from the haunting memories of Spain and the wild adventure that nearly cost her life. It is 1844. Lola encounters celebrated pianist and composer Franz Liszt, who encourages her to set her sights on Paris to establish her dancing career. The night that Lola performs her racy Spider Dance at the Paris Opéra, she meets quite possibly the man of her dreams: Henri Dujarier, co-owner of La Presse newspaper. Lola seems on the verge of breaking Victorian tradition and actually having it all, but forces are at work to keep Lola and Henri apart. Deadly threats and rumors turn into reality, as shadowy figures stop at nothing to sabotage Lola’s new endeavor (unheard of for a woman): to pen an adventure novel, using a nom de plume, about a feisty female character.

You can buy it on Astor + Blue or other leading bookseller sites.

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