Last Sunday afternoon I spent a delightful hour as the guest of the Maryville Book Club DiVAs. The ladies had read my novel Rosings Park and invited me to meet with them after their discussion to answer questions. I had such fun! Below is a photo from the event. I can be seen wearing my self-made Regency-era gown, a white fichu (tucked into the gown’s bodice in the front), and a white feather on my head. Other photos of the DiVA’s book club meeting can be found on the Facebook page of the event’s organizer and hostess, Kathy Nash.
The event began with my explaining how I constructed my Regency gown. I have posted three blogs on the topic, including: I Never Met a Gusset I Liked (the stays I wore had twelve gussets … grrrr) and A Regency Gown in the Making: Aargh! I did not tell the DiVAs that I used a grommet tool on the stays, which required eight grommets, or that I applied velcro at the back rather than sew buttonholes. The reason for these omissions is that I mentioned the bourdaloue.
Of course, everyone wanted to know what it was! A bourdaloue is a hand-held chamber pot. It looks much like a gravy boat but its purpose is very different. An 18th-century lady used a bourdaloue to relieve herself without getting her gown wet. Check out Jane Austen’s World’s website for a description of the bourdaloue and a painting of a young lady using one.
We also had a discussion about the inheritance of real property during the Regency era. During the time of Jane Austen, women seldom owned property. Rather, they were the conduit through which property passed to their oldest son or another male heir (for example, a nephew). Below is an image of Godmersham Park in Kent, a property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Knight, a couple who had no children. (Thomas Knight was a distant cousin of the Austens.1) They took Edward Austen, one of Jane Austen’s brothers, on their honeymoon tour and later decided to adopt him. After Mr. Knight died, Mrs. Knight offered her estates, including Godmersham, to Edward Austen, who changed his surname to Knight.2 Jane and her sister Cassandra were never in a position to inherit real property.
The DiVAs were also interested in how my story developed. I explained that I first drew up a storyboard that described all of the chapters. I threw it out after some ten or twelve chapters when it became clear that the characters were in charge of the story. (So much for feeling in charge!) After that I became a pantser as opposed to a plotter. The belief that the characters own the story has been previously reported.
Our discussion even addressed the process of publishing as an indie author. Some members were surprised to learn that I begin with a Scrivener file, which I convert to an RTF (Rich Text Format) document that contains no formatting: no italics, no paragraph indents, no spaces between lines … nothing. This RTF file is then loaded into Adobe InDesign, where I massage it, format it, decide on the styles, and get it ready for publishing. I hire a graphic artist to design the cover and pay to have the file converted to MOBI (Kindle’s format). The final step is to upload the InDesign paperback file to CreateSpace and the MOBI version to Amazon Kindle Publishing. I prepare an ePub of the novel myself. That’s all! Whew.
In short, I had a wonderful time at the DiVA’s book club meeting. The DiVAs asked many interesting questions. We had quite a few laughs and I left feeling the joy of connecting with readers. Thanks to all the DiVAs for supporting my writing endeavors and to Kathy Nash for getting it all organized. An afternoon well spent.
1Tomalin, Claire. Jane Austen: A Life. London: Viking (a Penguin Group), 1997, p. 25.
2Halperin, John. The Life of Jane Austen. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984, p. 64.