15 December 2023

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15 December

Included within are a Silver Medal award, the Smashwords 50% off sale, behind the scenes at A Haunting in Venice, biography and authenticity, and a request for ARC readers.

An award!

Thrilled to report that A Heart Purloined was chosen for a Silver Medal by the Coffee Pot Book Club in the UK.

The award was in the Historical Romance category. If you’ve been following my ambivalence about romance, and my concerns about writing one, you’ll know I feel especially appreciated by this award. 

50% off special

Now through the end of the month, Smashwords is having a huge sale on e-books, and mine should be available at half off.

So if you’re missing one of the Tommy Jones Victorian murder mysteries, or haven’t yet read A Heart Purloined (the historical romance mystery that just won the Coffee Pot Book Club Silver Medal), now’s the time.

Behind the Scenes

It will surprise no one to know that I watch a lot of historical films. Friends refuse to watch them with me, because I’m horrible. I say things like “that would so not be in the 18th century” and “he wouldn’t say that in 1910”. I question everything from earrings to window drapes. 

At the same time, I have my own history in the theatre world, behind the scenes. I was a pro lighting designer for a short time, and helped build sets and do costumes. So, with that background, allow me to introduce you to the Set Decorators Society of America. Set decorators work with the production designer to make the scenery work for the mood and setting of the film. So for historicals, they are very busy people.

Check out this Behind the Scenes SDSA interview with set decorator Celia Bobak about A Haunting in Venice. She talks about how they created a haunted centuries-old Venetian palazzo.

Photo by Rob Youngson © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

And yes, A Haunting in Venice is loosely based on an Agatha Christie story, so Hercule Poirot is a main character. He’s played by Kenneth Branagh but these days, you know, there really isn’t anyone else.

Authenticity and biography

When writing a biography, the author cannot help but get tangled in their subject’s life. And although they may seem to be objective, biographies have a thesis like any other history book — the author has a reason for writing it. Perhaps s/he sees previous biographies of this person as deficient in some way. Maybe some new evidence has been discovered. Or maybe the person’s life could be re-examined in the context of the new trends in what’s acceptable behavior.

But it adds another layer to fictionalize the biography into the “biopic”, a movie about someone’s life. Here we take a step away from the biographical work itself to create the person as a movie character (think Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, or Robert Oppenheimer in the recent eponymous film). Then we take a further step as the actor interprets that character written in the screenplay.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Turing

It’s tough to argue about the authenticity of a biographical movie, since we’re already so many steps away from the subject. And yet, the performances may fix the historical figure in our minds. To many, Hal Holbrook will always be Mark Twain, William Windom is James Thurber, William Daniels is John Adams. This is despite the fact that often the clothes, hair, and look of the actor playing the role might say more about when the film was made then the time it represents!

When more than one actor has played someone, there are disputes about the best. Strangely enough, one of the most important arguments is over a character who is completely fictional. If you ever want to start a fight in a pub, say who your favorite Sherlock Holmes is. Or James Bond. While we may have an emotional response to someone’s actual life story, we dream in fiction.

ARC readers, please?

I have three slots available for Advanced Review Copy readers to read Bummer at Luna Beach, to be released in April. It’s set in the fictitious southern California beach town of San Benno. Here’s the draft blurb:

A body has been found at Luna Beach, one hairy arm sticking out of the sand at the bottom of the bluff. While police detective Rory Gallardo and his staff uncover the man’s origins, 72-year-old Rosie McMahon and her cat Hephaestus are also on the case. Pursuing clues with the help of her journalist pal Lou and environmentalist student Tiffany, Rosie discovers a mystery bigger than a dead tourist.

Set against the backdrop of a classic Southern California beach town, Bummer at the Beach is a cozy mystery to win the hearts of those who like their beach towns funky.

What is an ARC reader? It’s someone who reads a book before it’s published (an Advance Review Copy), provides general feedback to the author, then shares their support of the book with friends, on social media, and anywhere else they can think of. For this book, I’ll be sending out an e-copy in January, and asking for sharing by the beginning of March.

If this sounds good to you, email me at lisa@grousablebooks.com.

And more!

  • Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.
  • Want to read my blog posts on historical research and writing? They’re here.

Until next time, keep grousing!