BB: Where did the inspiration come for this story? What made you think of
writing a book about girls who switch places?
NM: My husband and I both have degrees in architecture so we love to visit
historic mansions like those belonging to the Vanderbilts and Astors. The
homes of the Gilded Age (the late 1800’s) blew us away. The opulence and the over-the-top detail made me imagine what it would have been like living in such a place, trying to sleep in a room with cherubs on the ceiling and a headboard fifteen feet high. How did they ever “hang out” amid the marble and heavy gilding? On the tours we also learned about the servants who kept the places running. What did they feel about their surroundings, their bosses, and the limitations of their lives? So . . . what if a maid had the chance to be the mistress, and the mistress lost her privileged place? Voila. Masquerade. I say Masquerade is a combination of Prince and the Pauper, Titanic, Age of Innocence . . . these stories focus on roles: roles that are flung upon us, roles we flee from, and roles we fight for. The theme of all my novels is that we each have a unique God-given purpose–the trick is to find out what it is. Figuring out what role God has in mind for us is a big part of discovering why we’re here, now, in this place. What are we supposed to do? Or be? Until we understand who we are we can’t properly recognize our unique place in the scheme of the world and in the scheme of all time.
BB: Why did you write historical fiction? Is that the genre you normally
NM: It’s ironic I’m writing historical romance when two-thirds of the novels
I’ve written are contemporary, and if there’s a romance in the story, it’s
not the focus. Actually, it’s bizarre I’m writing historical novels at all.
The event that changed everything happened while I was standing in the
Mozart family home in Salzburg in the summer of 2004. In truth, I was only
half-listening to the guide, being very close to tourist-information
overload. Yet one statement ignited my weary brain: Most people don¹t know this, but Mozart’s sister was just as talented as he was, but because she was a woman, she had little chance to fully develop her talent. That one statement stayed with me all the way home to the States.
Because of the tour guide’s comment, I got the idea to have one of my
characters write a book called Mozart’s Sister. My agent sent the
proposal to publishers.Within days we got a call from Dave Horton, an editor at Bethany House Publishers. “I don’t want the contemporary book, I want the book the character is writing: Mozart’s Sister, an historical book about the sister’s life.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
“I hate research.”
“I want Mozart’s Sister.”
could, but I didn’t. The rest is history, and over the next few years I was blessed to delve into the lives of Nannerl Mozart, Jane Austen, Martha Washington, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Also, as often happens when God offers us an opportunity and we say “yes,” it turned out to be the best experience of my writing life. And, irony of ironies, as I sat in my office with four reference books opened before me, I even found that I enjoyed the research.Imagine that. And now I begin a new chapter in my career: writing historical romance. On purpose!
the Civil War era are favorites. I grew up devouring the Kent Family
Chronicles by John Jakes, and am a Gone With the Wind fanatic.
BB: What books are you currently reading?
NM: Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson, and King Lehr and the Gilded Age by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr and Lady Decies. Both are excellent reads!
BB: What’s the process for you when you write a novel? How long does the
research take for a historical novel like Masquerade?
NM: I cast a novel with interesting characters and only know a small bit about what’s going to happen when I begin. The plot evolves as I go along. My favorite part is when the characters take over. That usually happens about a third of the way through. Until then we both are tentative, trying to get to know each other.
biographical-novels where I had to get the facts right every step of the
way. With the fictional characters I had a little leeway. It¹s the setting
that kept me on my toes. I’d be writing away and decide that Dora would have a headache and retire to her room. Suddenly, I’d have to research what they gave people for headaches, whether they’d called a doctor, whether a man could come to her room . . . That’s the way it is with writing historicals; there are a lot of stops and starts. And frustrations. For instance, the steamship Etruria that the girls took over to America. It was a real ship.
But I wanted to see the interior of a cabin. Was the furniture bolted to the
floor? Did they have windows or portholes? Were there balls on board? I came up blank on some issues and had to write around my partial knowledge. But the discovery of the facts is exciting whether it’s used in my book or not. In fact, Stephanie Grace Whitson and I have started a new blog that provides a place for us to share some of these neat historical tidbits we discovered during our research. Check out: Footnotes from History Blog
BB: What’s a little-known fact about you?
NM: My favorite candy is Reese’s peanut-butter cups. I can eat way too many in a sitting. 🙂