When I started writing The Second Season a couple years ago, I had never attempted to write historical fiction. Everything in my first draft came from my Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and BBC historical drama mental files. To be sure, there are a lot in those files. Thanks to Netflix, my sister Melissa’s never ending selection of clean regency romance novels, and Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, I felt somewhat ready to take on regency England.
But then I started writing, and we all know that is a different story. There were things even my BFF Google couldn’t help me imagine. How do you write about places you have only seen in movies?
If only all writers could afford a quick trip to the land they are writing about. It would make things much easier, not to mention more fun. I am sure I could find some inspiration visiting some historic estates and traveling the green countryside. Honestly, hearing the English accent alone would inspire me. But alas, a trip to England was not in my cards this time.
During a particular period of writer’s block, I took a quick trip to Tennessee to visit my parents and siblings while my brother was on leave from Germany. While there, we took a day to visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. This wasn’t my first time seeing the Biltmore, but it was the first time I had visited while writing this novel.
This is the closest I’ve ever been to a historic English estate, and while it certainly was not regency England, I felt transported to that place and time.
My poor siblings. I spent half the day trying to speak in an English accent to my sisters and brother. I’m sure they were embarrassed, and I admit that I enjoyed embarrassing my oldest sister way too much. It probably didn’t help that my accent seemed to change with every sentence.
As I toured the immense house and pretty gardens, I couldn’t help but think of my story. For most of the tour, I silently imagined what it would have been like to live in such a house. I imagined myself enjoying the parties in the music room, exploring the library, and riding a horse on the expansive grounds. Many of my characters came to life while there. It was as if I physically saw Mr. Jasper in all his disgusting glory, alongside the feminine and gentle Lady Lucy. I could picture so vividly Lord Searly parading across the music room, his title and wealth evident in his every stride. I saw my characters’ manners and looks, their personalities and motivations.
Though it sounds so juvenile, it was so much fun to use my imagination again. I could have gotten lost in it, if it wasn’t for my mom’s incessant modern talk. It was as if her one goal was to remind me that I was not in fact a character of one of Jane Austen’s novel, but instead a mother of three, living in the twenty first century. It’s not like it was really her fault. She had no idea I was so involved in my imagination. It went something like this…
Me: Wandering a hallway with old photographs and guest chambers, I imagined that I had just been invited to stay with a wealthy family in 1815.
Mom: “Did you hear that Obama…(insert political action)..?”
Me: Looking clearly annoyed, I just shook my head.
Mom: Confused at my irritation and silence.
I probably should have told her I was busy living out my pretend life as a young lady in my first season, just having been invited to stay with a wealthy family, who happened to have a very handsome, kind, and eligible heir…