Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interview with Alison Atlee, author of The Typewriter Girl

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Alison Atlee to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her debut release, The Typewriter Girl . 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Alison. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about The Typewriter Girl.
Happy to be here--just love the name Flashlight Commentary. Three things readers will enjoy about The Typewriter Girl: 

The setting, a turn-of-the-century seaside resort. It’s posh and gorgeous and there’s a promenade pier with a camera obscura and a new-fangled attraction that today, we’d probably call a roller coaster. It’s the kind of place from the past I always wanted to go to. 

Betsey, the main character who leaves her job as a typewriter girl in London to work at the resort. “Leaves” is a little general--flees to avoid being arrested is closer. In any case, she definitely brings an unexpected element to this elegant setting. 

It’s not all about the romance, but there is a tough but sweet love story, and the fact that it’s between working class characters is unusual in romantic historical fiction. Not a duke in sight! :)

What inspired you to write this story? Where did it start? 
The initial seed of inspiration was an old postcard of the switchback railway ride on the seashore of Folkestone, England. I came across it during research for a different book, but when I saw it, I knew I had a setting for my next story. Eventually, I moved Idensea further south, and the switchback became a more glamorous scenic railway, but that’s how it began.

As a single woman, Betsey, holds a precarious position in Victorian society. Exactly how slippery a slope is she on when we first meet her? 
In some ways, she’s made it off the slippery slope many working-class women faced at that time. She’s scraped her way through a secretarial education and is supporting herself, though just. 

But you’re right, her position is precarious nevertheless. She’s breaking the rules by trying to move out of her social class, and her gender makes her doubly an outsider as she tries to make a career for herself. Possibly worse are the limits she puts on herself. 

Betsey has a very unique personality, both for the period and in the world fiction. What did you want say with her character and how hope she appears to your readers?
Readers may not like everything Betsey does (and wouldn’t it be rather dull if they did!), but I hope she’s fascinating enough to make them stick around. She opens herself to hope and dreams and love, which is what I love about her. 

Something I loved about John is that he’s Welsh. How does his ethnicity play into his character and what prompted your decision to write him as a Welshman? 
I’ve tried to remember that myself! The only thing I can recall is that a published author had given me a great critique on an earlier novel I’d written, but warned me that my setting, Venice, was not very marketable. She made a very off-hand comment to the effect of, “if you want your hero to be an outsider, move the setting to England and make him Welsh or something.”

So maybe that was still rolling around in my brain when I started drafting Typewriter Girl. I don’t remember, but I’m glad it happened because I fell in love with the Welsh culture and heritage. It’s also a bonding point between John and Betsey. She’s not Welsh, but they’re both outsiders figuring out how to both succeed and stay true to themselves.

A large part of the story deals with male and female interactions. Not just sexual encounters, but everyday communication. Why was this such an important topic you and how did the social rules of the Victorian era factor in your handling of it? 
Betsey is trying to make a career where women haven’t been admitted yet. Her mere presence in an office or meeting is an event--as John notes at one point, “in that room of men at their business, Betsey Dobson was a wrapped package, novelty and mystery and possibility.” 

Betsey is a little more prosaic. From her perspective, the men are trying to “make sense of a woman without a tray” when she shows up in the workplace.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
It is hard to choose! Lillian was always fun and easy to write, whereas I fought with Betsey on several scenes, telling her, “I don’t think you’re allowed to do that.” Thank goodness she didn’t listen!   

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
Possibly the scene that takes place the night before the Sultan’s Road opens to the public. I knew something was shifting in the story, but I couldn’t figure out why Betsey was behaving as she was or why it mattered. As I mention in the acknowledgements, author Jennifer Crusie rescued me on that and several other issues by explaining turning points to me. Turning points! Not just an expression!

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Sarah, Betsey’s landlady. Since dreams were such an important theme in the book, I made sure the characters, even minor ones, had dreams for their lives, or were living with the consequences of suppressing a dream. But I never felt I discovered Sarah’s.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing The Typewriter Girl and if so, what did you alter and why? 
John, one of the main characters, is a contractor building a seaside tourist attraction called The Sultan’s Road. It’s a fictional version of the scenic railways Lamarcus Thompson was building in the United States starting in 1887. These precursors to the modern roller-coaster didn’t appear in Britain until the early 1900’s, so The Sultan’s Road is slightly ahead of its time. But its novelty and adventurous qualities were too much for John to resist.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Mr. Seiler, the hotel manager, if I need to figure something out. But for adventure and to feel like somebody special, I’m going with John. 

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the primary roles in a screen adaptation of your work, who would you hire? 
I’m terrible at this. All I can come up  with is a male version of the actress who plays the lead on  Major Crimes for Sir Alton. Or maybe Mr. Seiler. See, I’m terrible! Next question!

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
It’s like an episode of Hoarders, but not as many laughs. 

Who are your favorite authors? 
For classics, Dickens and Shakespeare, etc. I do like “old stuff”! Some contemporary favorites are Geraldine Brooks, Laura Kinsale, and Margaret Atwood.

What are you currently reading? 
Defending Jacob, The Country Child, The Wide and Starry Sky, One Good Turn, and Mary Poppins, She Wrote. I’m a book stasher.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
Traveling whenever possible and community theater. Lots of family stuff!

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
One of my local grocery stores has the coffee and tea on different aisles. I always feel a tug of sadness at this needless segregation. 

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
Yes, a couple of historicals in progress!

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Alison Atlee spent her childhood re-enacting Little Women and trying to fashion nineteenth century wardrobes for her Barbie dolls. Happily, these activities turned out to be good preparation for writing historical novels. She now lives in Kentucky.

Website   Facebook   Twitter   Google+   Goodreads ❧  Pinterest

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Atlee’s splendid cast of supporting characters, her insights into Betsey’s passion for independence and John’s compassion for the downtrodden, and her fine eye for period detail make this an unusually satisfying feast for romance readers.
- Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers will love visiting the glorious setting of Idensea, with beautiful architecture and delightful excursions, like the Sultan’s Road, that could rival Blackpool or Brighton in its charm. The Typewriter Girl takes the reader to visit this small community on the brink of change and places within that idyllic setting the story of a remarkable young woman determined to forge her own destiny.
- Historical Novel Society

This is a marvelous tale, and as a debut novel it exceeded my expectations. I loved the development of all of the characters, the rogues that you want to smite, to the young lovers you can't wait for the blindfolds to be removed so they can realize the precious gift before them.
- KPH, Amazon Reviewer

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Format: Audio
Publication Date: April 4, 2014
Released by: She Writes Press
Listening Length: 12 hours and 39 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Language: English
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check Out All the Stops on Alison Atlee's The Typewriter Girl Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, August 4
Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Mina’s Bookshelf
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, August 5
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews (Print)
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, August 6
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, August 7
Book Blast at Mari Reads
Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, August 8
Book Blast at Book Blast Central
Saturday, August 9
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes
Sunday, August 10
Book Blast at Book Nerd
Monday, August 11
Review at Just One More Chapter (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books
Tuesday, August 12
Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, August 13
Review at Historical Tapestry (Audio Book)
Book Blast at The Lit Bitch
Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, August 14
Review at A Bookish Affair (Print)
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, August 15
Review at Brooke Blogs (Audio Book)
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Saturday, August 16
Book Blast at Broken Teepee
Sunday, August 17
Interview at Closed the Cover
Monday, August 18
Review at The Maiden’s Court (Audio Book)
Tuesday, August 19
Book Blast at Layered Pages
Book Blast at Always with a Book
Wednesday, August 20
Book Blast at Literary, Etc.
Thursday, August 21
Review at Books in the Burbs (Print)
Book Blast at Bibliotica
Friday, August 22
Review at Bibliophilia, Please (Audio Book)
Saturday, August 23
Book Blast at Reading Lark
Book Blast at Ageless Pages Reviews
Sunday, August 24
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 27
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing
Thursday, August 28
Review at Luxury Reading (Print)
Review at The True Book Addict (Audio Book)
Review at Jorie Loves a Story (Print)
Friday, August 29
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
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The Typewriter Girl Swag Giveaway

One copy of The Typewriter Girl (Audio Book or Print)
Set of earbuds in a cute typewriter print pouch
A Typewriter Girl Happily-Ever-After t-shirt (features last lines from famous novels)
A vintage style postcard “from” Idensea, the setting of The Typewriter Girl
A “dream wildly” ribbon bookmark with typewriter key charms

To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. 
Giveaway is open to residents in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 30th and notified via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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