Thursday, December 13, 2012

Slippers, lilies and mince pies

The other day I wrapped up in several extra layers of clothing and braved the arctic blast to attend a talk by local author Deborah Swift at Windermere library.

Ms Swift writes historical novels set in the seventeenth century, and has had two published to date - The Lady's Slipper and The Gilded Lily.  Unlike many other historical novelists, she writes about ordinary people rather than royalty/aristocracy, and her books have been partly or wholly set in the Lake District, which is why I wanted to go along and hear more.

The talk, which concentrated on research and the processes of writing the books rather than the books themselves, lived up to my expectations and more.  It was fascinating to hear about the differences between researching daily life in London and Cumbria in the seventeenth century, for instance.  Apparently, although there are far more records for London, that in itself is limiting because everything is already known, so there's less scope to shoe-horn new characters, events or places in.  In Cumbria, which was very rural and had far fewer records, there's more space for artistic licence.

It was also fun to learn the differences between British and American readers' perceptions of book covers.  Britain prefers warm, vibrant colours, lots of gilt, and large script that stands out on the shelf, but all of those things spell 'trashy' to American readers who expect small fonts and dull colourson the covers of any books percieved to be 'literary'.

The whole event lasted for nearly two hours, and although the group was quite small, that made it all the more chatty and interesting, as the audience were able to participate - asking questions and comparing Ms Swift's experiences to our own - far more than if the room had been full.  And considering we got all that, plus tea/coffee and a mince pie, and an opportunity to buy books and have them autographed, all for the princely sum of £1, it was an afternoon of exception value and enjoyment.


Liz/moth said...

That sounds really interesting and I was fascinated by the information about American cover pictures! I wish I'd been with you!

Fiona Glass said...

Thanks Liz! Yes, it was quite an eye-opener that the two countries are so different in terms of what they like.