To coincide with the publication this week of the first novel in The Strattons series of YA historical fiction, allonymbooks author Flora Chase tells us a bit about the novel, and what led her to write it.
Flora, why did you choose to write a historical YA novel rather than something in the currently popular YA genres of fantasy or dystopia?
I was told once by a literary agent that it’s difficult to pitch historical novels successfully to teenagers and young adults, but I’ve always wondered if that was really true. The 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has recently been celebrated and lots of writers have been talking about why they love it so much. For me, reading it for the first time as a teenager (a long time ago!), I felt a great sympathy with how long the process of courtship seemed to take, how much time there was to sit around and wait and think and pine for the person you were falling in love with. Falling in love is an agonising experience as it is, but if you impose a lot of waiting around on it, every tiny change is ripe for interpretation and dissection.
But in these days of instant messaging, texting, facebook and Twitter, young people wear their hearts on their sleeves and the pace of romance has accelerated, hasn’t it?
That’s right, and that’s why I picked the Edwardian era. The novel is set in 1913, just before the start of the First World War, and was just at the start of the period of mass communication. In fact, one of my characters, Julia, is terrified of the new-fangled telephone, so it is a period which combines that traditional slow pace of older historical periods with a new degree of urgency. It’s also quite a racy time – there was a lot of gossip and intrigue, particularly among young people who were going to debutante balls or doing the social rounds of their peers, there was lots of flirtation, fashions were beginning to become more daring, and I think that makes a great backdrop for the writer and the reader.
Tell us something about the characters.
Freddie, Julia and Blanche Matchingham are the three teenage children of a travelling diplomat, the 4th Marquess of Stratton, and they have grown up pretty much alone on their family estate in the English countryside. Blanche, the youngest, is perhaps the most modern of the three, an adventurous social butterfly who is eager to escape the boredom of the country house to enjoy parties and enter the exciting adult world. Her older sister Julia is extremely shy, more interested in books than people, particularly since she was dumped by a Continue reading