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Words with a Wordsmith: Lisa M. Lane
By Rebecca D’Harlingue
August 26, 2022

Lisa M. Lane – Grousable Books — Fiction for the history lover. History for the fiction lover.

Do you tend to write about places you’ve been to, or places you wish you could go to?

It’s a strange combination: I write about places I’ve visited, but I wish I could go there in a different timeframe. What enchants me about places is their connection to the past. When I was younger, I visited museums with “Victorian Street” exhibits that immersed you in that time. So I go to today’s London or Durham, and rewrite it into the 19th century by doing research. To me, the past is not just a setting for stories that could be told in any era. The stories emerge from that setting.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Ann Veronica by H. G. Wells. People were shocked when they read it in 1909, because the female protagonist tries to live like she wants to live, alone in a flat and socializing with men she likes. It’s not shocking now, but feels very modern, particularly because Wells is able to show Ann’s thinking so beautifully. I am fascinated with how an author who is currently held in disdain for being a lothario was so sensitive and knowledgeable about how a young woman’s mind would work. The book might be met with disfavor today because the author was a man, and I do so love things that meet with disfavor.

Favorite non-reading activity?

Gardening, which has much in common with writing. You have seeds and an idea of what they’re supposed to be, you plant and tend them, and sometimes they come out as you expect. Other times they get ruined or don’t grow, or you keep working on a losing plant just because you like it, but you’d never show it to anyone. Then you try a different variety, read how-to books, join a group, get some advice, and carry on, knowing that you’ll have another chance next time. If you’re lucky, you can eat off what you produce.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh, far too many. I have two more mysteries almost ready for publication. They have recurring characters from Murder at Old St. Thomas’s (each mystery is solved by a different character), and I have a half-finished prequel to those. I also have an incomplete collection of short stories, and one contemporary mystery I call my Posthumous Mystery because people might recognize themselves in it, take offense and sue me. I’ve got a non-fiction reference book on H.G. Wells in the editing stage as well.

I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, since as a reader I usually have a stack of books with bookmarks in different places, all being read at the same time!

If you could create a museum exhibition, what would be the theme?

Something about real 19th century British women no one knows about but appear in my books, like Ann Little Ingram. She managed publication of The London Illustrated News for nine years after her husband died, and no one knows much about her. Also Lady Emily Peel. She was the wife of Sir Robert Peel, son of the man who created the Metropolitan Police in London, and she’s listed in the society papers. I saw a wonderful photograph of her with her prized Borzoi dogs, and wanted to know more about her, but there’s little available. So I would create a museum exhibition that would let me hire a bevy of researchers to find out about women like these, and teach others about them too.

I am a historian and author who writes literary fiction and semi-cozy Victorian mysteries. As a time traveler, my goal is to be a tour guide to history for my readers, to have them journey back with me to 19th century England.

My work thus embraces the tension between historical fact and historical imagination, with authentic details and real historical figures in “guest star” roles. I pride myself on novels that are deeply researched but never “teachy”. You should feel what it’s like to be there.

When I’m not researching and writing, you can find me in the garden trying new things (this year it’s propagating), or watching classic movies and mystery shows. I was born in England but have lived in California most of my life.

 

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Before the Time Machine

Murder at Old St. Thomas’s

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Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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