Tag Archives: women writers

Women in History: The Great Russian Ballerina Bronia Nijinska

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #8 today. If this is the first article you’ve read so far, March was Women in History month and so I’ve been featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it’s now extending way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the articles as I schedule or post them. And if you still want to participate, send an article in!

Introducing Eva Stachniak and Her Russian Ballerina

I’m very excited to start this week off with my sweet friend (a truly wonderful person!) and fabulous historical fiction writer Eva Stachniak. Eva lives in Canada and is the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of four novels, several of which are my favorites, and her newest, is soon to add to this list!

This newest novel, The Chosen Maiden, is her fifth novel and features the life of Bronia Nijinska, a Russian ballerina – in fact one of the greatest to ever live…but not without fighting for that title. Read on and find out why.

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Caption: Bronia Nijinska as a student at the Imperial Ballet School

Living in the shadow of giants: the story of Bronia Nijinska

By Eva Stachniak, author of The Chosen Maiden

The history of Russian ballet is full of extraordinary women, but for me Bronislava Nijinska or Bronia as she was known among friends, is particularly appealing. What drew me to her? First, the tantalizing connection to her beloved elder brother, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950). Known as the God of the Dance, he was one of the best dancers of all times, especially known for his leap and his groundbreaking choreography of Rite of Spring—the one that caused now famous riots in Paris when it premiered on May 29 of 1913. I was also drawn by the powerful strength of her dancing roles in Ballets Russes of Sergey Diaghilev, the legendary impresario who transformed the face of modern ballet: Ballerina Doll in Petrouchkaor the Chosen Maiden in Rite of Spring, a dance Vaslav created especially for her. And last, but not least, I admire her fortitude in the face of obstacles and misfortunes which could’ve crushed anyone less strong and resilient than she was.

Growing up alongside her famous older brother meant that Bronia Nijinska had to stand her ground. Like Vaslav she was educated at the world-renowned Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg. Like Vaslav, she danced at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and then, in 1909, joined the Ballets Russes which revolutionized modern dance and dazzled Paris with their Russian seasons. But whereas he was almost instantly declared a genius, she had to fight for recognition all her life.

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Caption: Bronia NIjinska in Petrouchka

How did she manage to free herself from Vaslav’s shadow? It helped that Vaslav recognized her talent. He was not only her mentor and teacher, but also readily acknowledged that Bronia was the best interpreter of his choreography. Then the vicissitudes of European history intervened, for the siblings were separated by war and revolution. Vaslav never returned to Russia, and by the time they met again in 1921 her brilliant brother’s career (and life) was destroyed by mental illness. In the meantime, during the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War, in Kiev, Bronia created avant-garde experimental ballets which inscribed her name in the history of modern dance. And after her escape from the Soviet Union she became one of the very first female choreographers employed by a ballet company—for Sergey Diaghilev hired her as a choreographer in 1921. This is where she created her masterpieces: The Wedding, Les Biches or Le Train Bleu (for which Coco Chanel designed costumes). All of them achievements that are truly extraordinary.

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Caption: A painting by Vadim Meller inspired by Bronia NIjinska’s modern ballet, Mephisto, that she created during her time in Kiev.

However, it was not only Vaslav’s shadow Bronia Nijinskahad to free herself from. She had to stand up to the misogyny of the ballet world, all her life. When she was a young ballerina at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg she was faulted for her too strong and muscular body, her “un-ballerinalike” looks, her “too high” jumps. Then, in the Ballets Russes, she saw how male dancers and choreographers ruled supreme while women were mostly given supportive or transient roles. When, after her escape from Soviet Russia, she re-joined Ballets Russes, the same Sergey Diaghilev who hired her could not stop himself from telling her: “Oh, Bronia, what a great choreographer you would’ve been if only you were a man.” Yet, despite these obstacles, she had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, both in Western Europe and the US where she emigrated in 1939.

Les NOces pic

Caption: An arrangement from Les Noces (The Wedding) Nijinska choreographed in 1923. Music by Igor Stravinsky.

Where does it come from, such strength, such resilience? From early childhood Bronia Nijinska knew dancing was her vocation. She placed the art of ballet in the center of her life and never veered from it. But love of art would not have been enough to sustain her, not without the fierce support first of her mother, Eleanora, and then her daughter, Irina. The evidence of their loving, nurturing relationship is beautifully documented in the archival materials of the Bronislava Nijinska Collection, at the Library of Congress. Dairies, letters, and snapshots of family life show how the three generations of the Nijinsky women, grandmother, mother and daughter, stood by each other through thick and thin all their lives. This female solidarity gave Bronia the inner strength to be an artist, rooted her, and, in the end, shaped her who she was.

Links of Interest

Recreated ballets in which Bronia and Vaslav danced or choreographed 1913—35

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1909-1913/

http://www.evastachniak.com/2016/11/05/the-chosen-maiden-ballets-1914-1935/

Eva Stachniak, Biography

evastachniakEva Stachniak is a writer of historical fiction. Her latest novel, The Chosen Maiden, was inspired by the art and voice of Bronia Nijinska.  She lives in Toronto.

Find more out about her and her fabulous books on her website.

 

The Chosen Maiden, Synopsis –

the chosen maiden.jpg

Publisher: Doubleday Canada and US
Date: Jan 17, 2017

The passionate, sweeping story of Bronia, an extraordinary ballerina forever in the shadow of the legendary Nijinsky–Russia’s greatest dancer and her older brother.

Born on the road to dancer parents, the Nijinsky children seem destined for the stage. Vaslav is an early prodigy, and through single-minded pursuit will grow into arguably the greatest–and most infamous–Russian ballet dancer of the 20th century. His talented younger sister Bronia, however, also longs to dance. Overshadowed by Vaslav, plagued by a body deemed less than ideal and struggling against the constraints of her gender, Bronia will have to work triply hard to prove herself worthy.

Bronia’s stunning discipline and mesmerizing talent will eventually elevate her to the highest stage in Russia: the prestigious, old-world Mariinsky Ballet. But as the First World War rages, revolution sparks in Russia. In her politics, love life and career, Bronia will be forced to confront the choice between old and new; traditional and groundbreaking; safe and passionate.

Through gorgeous and graceful prose, readers will be swept from St. Petersburg and Kiev to London and Paris and plunged into the tumultuous world of modern art. Against the fascinating and tragic backdrop of early 20th century Europe, and surrounded by legends like Anna Pavlova, Coco Chanel, Serge Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso, Bronia must come into her own–as a dancer, mother and revolutionary–in a world that only wishes to see her fall.

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Purchase on Amazon and other major online retailers and stores nationwide in Canada and the United States.

National Bestseller

“A tale of intrigue, love, betrayal and redemption set in the realm of art and artists, exploring the line between dedication and obsession, creation and madness. . . . Stachniak weaves together beautifully the myriad moments that bring this fascinating family and period to life.” —Toronto Star 

“Carefully researched and capaciously imagined. . . . More than just an absorbing historical account of an avant-garde artist, The Chosen Maiden is a fully-realized tale of family, love, loss and enduring resilience.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls

“Many works of fiction take as their inspiration true events and persons of historical significance, but few do so as lovingly and imaginatively. . . . The Chosen Maiden delves into the workings of an artist’s mind and reveals the resiliency of art in a time of worldwide political upheaval and war. . . . A remarkable work of historical fiction.” —Quill & Quire

“Exquisite. . . . Dance fans will welcome this graceful and entrancing foray into the recent past.” —Library Journal

“Reading The Chosen Maiden is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, where a vivid, strange and enchanting world awaits. It is the thrilling world of the Great Nijinsky and his passionate and unforgettable sister Bronia, whose discipline and talent rival her famous brother’s, but whose greatest genius may be her will to survive. Spanning two world wars and the Russian Revolution, Eva Stachniak’s sumptuous and evocative dance of the Chosen Maiden is the dance of 20th century history.” —Shaena Lambert, author of Oh, My Darling and Radiance

Thank you for following the series!

Women in History

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Article by M.J. Neary About Her Quest to Write Irish History, While Not Being Irish…

The author M.J. Neary offers a book called Never Be at Peace, which surrounds the Irish uprising against the British on Easter 1916.  Today, she is featured here with an interesting article about how people viewed a non-Irish person writing about a major Irish historical happening. Take a look and then view her book and author bio below. I’ll be back around with a review later this month!

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“Who Gave You Permission to Write about Ireland?”
by M.J. Neary, author

As every other young author, I kept hearing the same advice: “Write what you know.” But what you know is not necessarily what you grew up with. Five novels later, if I could have a penny for every time someone asked me why a Russian-Polish continental Euro mutt like me would write about Irish history, I wouldn’t need a day job.  Over the course of my Celtic adventures I have discovered that the Irish as well as Irish-Americans split into two categories: those who are very welcoming and eager to share their culture with the world, and those who are rather defensive and hostile towards outsiders. I guess same can be said for all people who have a strong sense of ethnic identity.

When I signed up for an Irish language course in college, my professor, a Dubliner no less, said to me, “I think are n the wrong place.  Eastern European women’s studies are down the hall. This class is for Irish-Americans who want to learn about their heritage.”  It’s a miracle he didn’t call me a bloody communist.  Thank God I did not have a cup of coffee in my hand, because it would have ended up all over his shirt. I continued with his class and had the best Gaelic pronunciation.  By the end of the semester, I was his favorite student, though he was reluctant to admit it.

Now that I have an Irish married name, people don’t second-guess my devotion to Irish culture so much and my decision to write about Irish history.  Then I open my mouth at book signings, and people ask me, “You have a bit of a brogue. County Galway?”  I smirk.  County Chernobyl more like it.  I don’t really have an accent.  After 22 years in the US, I sound like a typical corporate New England bitch that I am during the day.  If we’re selling medical equipment, people wouldn’t think to ask me where I was from.  But when you do explore the question of ethnic identity in your books, your readers try to place you as an author and as a person in an ethnic context.  They start scrutinizing your every opinion through the prism of your ethnicity.  “Oh, look, she parts her hair in the middle.  Never seen that before. That’s how they must do it … over there … in County Galway.”

One common misconception that has been a source of great frustration for me is that you need to be ethnically Irish in order to write about something as sensitive as the Anglo-Irish conflict.  My college professor held that belief.  He gave me an A, but he discouraged me from writing fiction set in Ireland, because “it just wouldn’t come out authentic.” According to him, you have to be born there, or at least have parents who were born there, in order to fully understand the melancholic long-suffering collective Irish soul.  What a bunch of elitist boloney! It’s like saying that white people should not attempt to play jazz, or non-Jews should not attempt to write about the Holocaust.

I believe that being a genetic outsider gives me a certain advantage, that of healthy detachment and objectivity.  There are benefits to embracing a cultural tradition as an adult on your own accord as opposed to being born into it. One benefit is that you cannot be accused of taking sides and spreading propaganda.  As a historical novelist, I do not engage in propaganda or apologetics. That would make me a politician, and that’s the last thing the world needs. I can always throw my hands up and say, “Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just a dumb communist Polack. This is my impartial view of another country’s past.”  With the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin just around the corner, there is a great deal of revising and reevaluating happening.

Truth be told, I am no stranger to the idea of nationalism.  Growing up, I was exposed to a fair amount of it at home.  My biological father was a Polish nationalist, who had perceived Russia as Poland’s cultural and political oppressor. Like his Irish counterpart Patrick Pearse, whose speech inspired the title for “Never Be at Peace”, my father believed in the power of a good spectacle, the bloodier and messier the better.  He believed that if you cause enough commotion on the streets in the name of your Cause, that’s half the battle already.  Winning is not required. Victory in a military sense would be the cherry on top.  Attracting attention is good enough.  You cause a skirmish, and that will automatically put you on the map.  It will give you credibility, and your enemies will know that you mean business.

While I retain considerable amount of admiration for my biological father, I harbor no illusions about his motives.  Was he really fighting for the interests of an oppressed nation, or was he merely fighting for limelight?  I’ve grown to realize that nationalism in various countries unfolds according to the same formula. You just need a bunch of eager barricade-climbers.  Many of them don’t understand what they are fighting for.  They love the idea of being martyrs for a noble cause.

I can write about Irish rebels, because I’ve seen that euphoric fanatical light in my own father’s eyes.  Unlike Patrick Pearse, my father survived his flirtation with martyrdom. still alive. He was not shot on the barricades or executed by the authorities.  Now he looks back on his escapades with a mixture of nostalgia and embarrassment. Had he been born in Ireland at the turn of the century, his fate might have been different.  So yes, I feel qualified to write about the Easter Rising of 1916, because I believe that I have enough insight into the psyche of a revolutionary.

Here’s the author, red hair and all….I mean she has red hair, doesn’t that qualify?

Neary photo

Never Be at Peace, Book Blurb~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom.

Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”. For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

Here is a picture of Helena sent by M.J. Neary:

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Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin.

Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history. She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand.

Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

Praise for Never Be at Peace~

“M. J. Neary’s Never Be at Peace is a gripping and intense tale of Ireland in the thick of revolution. Told from the perspectives of the brave and uncompromising men and women involved in the fight for independence, it will delight fans of women’s history and Irish history. Meticulously researched and boldly-written, Never Be at Peace is a masterful story that breathes life Edwardian Ireland and illuminates the hearts and minds of these unforgettable Irish patriots.” –Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade

“Neary’s Helena Molony is a storm of a character who comes to life along with a cast of the giants of early 20th century Ireland. Helena’s story will stick with you long after you turn the last page.” –Meghan Walsh, The Recorder, The Journal of the American Irish Historical Society

Links~

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Guest Article from Suzie Tullett: Living Outside Your Box as a Woman Writer

Taking on Individual Roles in Life: Living Outside the Box
by Suzie Tullett, author of Little White Lies and Butterflies

In my experience, when it comes to certain relationships we’re very often put in boxes. We’re expected to behave and think in a certain way according to our role.

Of course over time expectations change, alongside the societies we live in.

Take us women, for example. Once of a day we were simply expected to manage the home, support our men and raise our children. Not that any of these tasks were, indeed are, ever all that simple! However, thanks to changing times being the perfect homemaker is no longer our sole responsibility. We’re now expected to bring home at least some of the bacon on top of everything else; apparently multi-tasking is something we’re good at.

Naturally, I don’t think this is a bad thing. The contributions we women make are just as valid outside of the home as they are inside. And women have fought hard for us to gain the rights we enjoy today.

But wouldn’t it be fun to be able to fly in the face of what’s expected of us just once in a while? I mean, imagine our colleagues’ faces if we turned up at the office wearing a onesie; Or if we decided to give up the day job completely as well as the household chores, in favour of setting up a new world religion.

That’s why it’s fun to be a fiction writer. If we so choose, we can write characters who for whatever reason feel able to do and say many of the things we, in reality, probably wouldn’t. Our characters can disregard all things conventional – albeit, in a way that’s completely understandable considering their histories and personalities.

But when it comes to penning our stories, we as writers can blur the lines of who our relationships dictate we be too.

Take me as a mother of two sons. One of them waits until my novels are a bone fide book before he opens the first page; the other gets a little more involved in the writing process. He tells me what’s working, what’s not quite on the page in the way I might think it is and I have to say he’s an excellent spell checker. But whatever role my children do or don’t take, in reading my work at whatever stage they have the opportunity to see me outside of the box that our relationship puts me in. It enables them to learn a bit more about the way I tick not just as their mother, but as an individual in my own right.

 Little White Lies and Butterflies, Synopsis~                  

9781908208194_covA child of the nineties, Lydia Livingston is different. The last thing she’s ever wanted is to be superwoman; she knows first-hand that ‘having it all’ isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. As far as she’s concerned, when it comes to job versus family, it’s a definite case of one or the other. And whilst most women her age have spent years climbing the corporate ladder, she’s made a career out of bagging her perfect man. At almost thirty and still single, Lydia wonders if she’d made the right choice all those years ago. And realising the time has come to take stock, she goes against her family’s wishes and banishes herself off to a distant land- all in the hope of finding a new direction.

 
At least that’s the plan.
 
But Lydia Livingston isn’t just different, she’s misunderstood. A fact she knows all too well. So when the totally unsuitable Sam comes along, she decides to tell a little white lie, re-inventing herself as a professional chef- not exactly the best new identity to come up with for a woman who can’t even cook. Of course, the last thing she expects is for him to find out the truth and start blackmailing her. Let alone find herself roped into catering for a local wedding. But with things going from bad to worse, her madder than mad family also turn up in something of a surprise visit, intent on celebrating a birthday she’s no intentions of celebrating!
 
 

Suzie Tullett, Biography~

Born and raised in Lancashire, Suzie Tullett has worn many hats in life: from office work to teaching, from managing an advice center to being an outreach worker for Women’s Aid. She’s achieved a Bachelor’s and a Master’s and works with the BBC as a scriptwriter—all while raising her family. Ultimately, she wants to leave scriptwriting behind and write full-time. She says “it’s fair to say my working life has given me the chance to get to know all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds; a definite asset for anyone looking to write for a living.”

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City of Lights by Melika Lux Sets the Stage for Intrigue, Drama, Love and Triumphs in Historical France

COL CoverMelika Dannese Lux brings a tale in City of Lights that is like opening night on the stage. The velvet curtains draw and a dramatic story of romance, heartbreak, and murderous intentions ensue. Her writing moves along like we are watching a play or an opera.  It’s full of enough vigor you might think you are taking part in a fast-moving stage production such as  Phantom of the Opera. I felt that full onstage theater effect can be visualized with this novel, including scene changes, giving us entertainment straight from 1894 France.

As one major turmoil after the other is quickly unfolded we are drawn immediately into the story and begin to understand Lux’s French protagonist Illyse Charpentier, otherwise known as Diva of the Paris stage.  Life is hard behind the curtains, with countless hours of hard work for little prestige or money.  Along with this lonely existence, she carries a strong resentment toward her rich suitor, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, but when she is thrown by fate into a love for an Englishman with a funny bone, Ian McCarthy, she knows that her world is about to change.

As Illyse’s terrible childhood and reason for becoming a chanteuse comes to light, we can feel her intense pain and her mourning for her family, including her brother, who has since left her life due to the Count’s demands on Illyse. As was common in turn of the century France, these suitors many times kept unhealthy, scandalous, illicit, and controlling ties on performers in exchange for paying for their rent and fame.

As Illyse tries to break that bind, the Count is enraged and the story’s pace leaps even more as we see the twists and turns each person takes in order to get what they want. Will the deep love at first sight between Illyse and Ian win out in the end? You’ll have to read and see for yourself, but you most certainly will find yourself pulling for them.

As I could visualize the Count in a black cape sweeping the back alleys in secret, his minions eavesdropping, I could hear the orchestra’s dark music surrounding me.  But I could also feel the bright sections where Illyse’s trials are overcome by the light of true love and simple life of family and respect for herself. Lux descriptive settings and emotional reflection of her characters is magnificent.

With details dripping in scandal, a musical score you’ll be playing in your head, and a woman fighting for her love, life, dreams, and family, you’ll not want to miss out on reading this concise dramatic tale. 

I recommend that you pick up City of Lights, choose one night that you have a chance to settle in with some wine, then picture yourself reading at a quaint table under the decadent lights of the Eiffel Tower……just be sure to look over your shoulder to see if the Count is peering at you of course.

PLEASE COME BY AGAIN ON FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2013!! We discuss life in the Parisian entertainment industry in the late 1800s, women in history, and why she chose writing over sharks!

City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Illyse Charpentier, Synopsis~

COL CoverPublication Date: October 23, 2012
Books in My Belfry, LLC
Paperback; 166p
ISBN-10: 0615708269

What would you risk for the love of a stranger?

Ilyse Charpentier, a beautiful young chanteuse, is the diva of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene by night and the unwilling obsession of her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, at every other waking moment.

Though it has always been her secret desire, Ilyse’s life as “La Petite Coquette” of the Paris stage has turned out to be anything but the glamorous existence she had dreamt of as a girl. As a young woman, Ilyse has already suffered tragedy and become estranged from her beloved brother, Maurice, who blames her for allowing the Count to drive them apart.

Unhappy and alone, Ilyse forces herself to banish all thoughts of independence until the night Ian McCarthy waltzes into her life. Immediately taken with the bold, young, British expatriate, Ilyse knows it is time to choose: will she break free and follow her heart or will she remain a slave to her patron’s jealous wrath for the rest of her life?

Praise for City of Lights

“This debut novel about the extraordinary chanteuse Ilyse Charpentier is as irresistible as a glass of champagne by the Seine. Combining romance, adventure, and the crystalline lights of a bygone era, this sparkling tale sweeps the reader into the foibles and glamour of 19th century Paris, and the bold heart of a woman who must risk everything for love. Ms. Lux enchants with her talent; I’m looking forward to reading more from this lovely young writer.”

– C. W. Gortner, bestselling author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Tudor Secret, and The Queen’s Vow

“City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier is a triumph for its young author. You are immediately pulled into this debut novel and held there by the breathtaking pace set by Miss Lux. It is the story of chanteuse, Ilyse Charpentier, who has had more heartache than a 21-year old should have to bear: the death of her parents in a ship accident; abuse at the hand of her guardian; and estrangement from her beloved brother because of a misunderstanding. Lifted out of poverty by her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, she becomes the darling of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene, but the count’s patronage comes with a price: his desire to possess her, mind, body and soul.

This is a remarkable debut, especially when you consider that the novelist is very near to the age of her heroine. Her broad knowledge of history and the arts is evident, and her enthusiasm for her subject leaps off of every page. A spectacular first effort.”

– Mary L. Simonsen, author of Searching for Pemberley, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, and numerous other bestsellers

Melika Dannese Lux, Biography~

Melika LuxI write historical fiction, suspense, supernatural thrillers, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories—you name it, I write it! I love to read just about anything and everything and am particularly fond of historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, epic fantasy, history, and non-fiction. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

I am a HUGE fan of Psych, most British drama, comedy, and mystery shows, and am always up for a movie quote challenge. Jaws is my favorite movie of all time, with The Lord of the Rings being a very close second. Tell me something about yourself, and I’ll most probably be able to “Six Degrees of Separation” it back to Gandalf.

Lastly, I love to spend time with my family and friends, and I absolutely adore traveling. Not only is it great to experience other cultures, but travelling expands my horizons as a writer and sets my imagination reeling with a million different ideas for stories. If I hadn’t decided to become a writer (And there’s a Gandalf story for that, too.), I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I’m very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

I am currently working on the sequel to my supernatural thriller/historical novel Corcitura, a collection of comedy/horror/fantasy stories set in Eastern Europe in the 1800s, and the first book of a planned fantasy duology. To learn more, please visit www.booksinmybelfry.com.

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/cityoflightsvirtualtour/
Twitter Hashtag: #CityOfLightsVirtualTour

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Insightful Interview with Delancey Stewart, Author of NYC Historical Short Story Collection

Hi, Delancey! So happy to meet you and have you come by the site today for an interview. I am looking forward to getting to know you. How are you?

Wonderful! Thanks so much for having me! I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too!

Let’s get started then, have a seat in my virtual café….

Q:  Your book, Through a Dusty Window, is a collection of short stories sectioned from each decade of mostly the 20th Century.  Such a unique idea – where did your inspiration come from?

A:  When I lived in New York – first on the Upper West Side and then later down in Chelsea – I spent a lot of time wondering who had lived in my apartments before I did. The buildings were both pre-war buildings (in this case meaning pre-WWI), so both had seen plenty of history before I lived there. The building in Chelsea was especially interesting to me. I had a studio apartment, and the front door had been created on an angle, the same as the one across the hall. Between my apartment and that one, we split the first half of the second floor, and it felt quite obvious at some point those doors had been added, and the wall between us inserted. Since it was a brownstone building, I imagined that at one point it’d been a single-family home like the one that I wrote about in the book. I have never been able to find a history of that particular building, though.

The concept of the buildings standing as quiet sentinels above and around us while we lead our lives beneath and inside them was what got me started on the concept for Through a Dusty Window.

Q:  I like the idea of glimpsing out an upper city window and imagining how life was at different eras of time in a same locale. Why do you feel showing the phases of history is so important?

A:  Each story in the book tries to capture a mood that indicates a bit of what was going on at that time in history. For someone to really understand a city like New York, you have to learn about its history. How did it come to be the way it is today? I think every generation discovers things anew, but it’s important to look backwards and see what lessons we might learn from those who’ve come before.

Q:  Do you catch yourself daydreaming? If so, what do you imagine?

A:  Always. Usually about a quiet house. (I have two very noisy little boys!)

Erin Comments: haha! I have 3 children too and can relate!

Q:  What do you feel was the most creative and/or inspiring time in history?

A:  My grasp of history in its entirety is not great…I only really study the times that are interesting to me. That said, I read anything I can find about the 20s. I feel like in some ways it might have been a little like the 90s – a mad rage before a devastating fall. I love stories about flappers and Prohibition, anything about the scads of writers and artists working in Paris at that time.

Erin comments: Me too, I love 1900s in NYC and Paris and how that Paris culture crossed over to our culture, within the arts. Now people don’t realize how much French influence we have in American life.

Q:  What do you feel has been the most instrumental “window” in history for women?

A:  That is not an easy question to answer, but I think that for the US, WWII was an important period for women specifically. While the bulk of men went to fight, women found themselves in positions they’d never dreamed of. They replaced the men who left in all facets of professional life, and many learned that they were not only interested in professional achievement, but that they had talent and intelligence that allowed them to excel at it. I think that era changed what women went on to expect from life and started the movement we are still experiencing, where women believe that they might be able to have both a fulfilling professional life and a satisfying family life.

Q:  Which story, if any, is your personal favorite in the collection, and why?

A:  I’ve loved “The Harbinger” best since I wrote it. I think there’s a very relatable tragedy there – something that people might be able to identify with on several levels. That story hinges around the concept of feeling understood and being truly understood, and attempts to illustrate what a difficult thing it is, to really understand someone else. I think many of us take those around us for granted, believing that we know them well, and in the process of that belief we build boxes to put people inside that make it impossible for them to ever change – at least in our minds.

Erin comments: I said that in my review, that I liked “The Harbinger” the best. I agree, trying to categorize people, especially women, is a common trait and the world would be better if we didn’t do so.

Q:  On to writing, do you feel that women writers should “schedule” time for themselves to write?  Why do women feel so guilty sometimes about pursuing dreams?

A:  Writing, like any other profession or serious hobby, takes commitment and that certainly means time. I definitely never got any traction until I found a schedule that I was willing to commit to and held myself to it. With two boys under the age of six, and a “day job,” that means getting up at five so that I can get one full, uninterrupted hour to write. I do that at least five days a week, and it’s the only guaranteed time I get.

I think women are taught to be caregivers, and in our efforts to pursue our dreams we are only taking care of ourselves. It’s easy to decide to feel guilty about that, but I really believe that guilt is a choice. The only person who can make you feel guilty is yourself. If your dreams are not important enough to you to stand up for them and declare that you will pursue them without feeling that you are hurting someone else in the process, then that is a choice as well. My mother always taught me to take care of myself first. She loves to quote the adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and at my house, it’s absolutely true. (P.S. My mother doesn’t use the word “ain’t” except when saying this. She was an English teacher!)

Q:  What advice do you have for other writers?

A:  If you want to be a writer, then write! Put aside everything that you believe is stopping you, including your own critical voices. I cannot guarantee you success – because that is determined by your individual definition of the word and also by any number of outside factors depending on that definition. But I can guarantee that you will fail if you never try.

Q:  Lately I’ve interviewed several journalists and/or PR people who’ve transitioned to fiction writing. How do you feel your transition has been – does it make it easier or harder to write fiction with a non-fiction writing background?

A:  I think it helps in some ways. If nothing else, you have the experience of having sat down regularly to write. The blank page becomes less intimidating. It also helps to have had to think in a linear fashion about telling a story – whether truth or fiction. And having a PR and marketing background can only be a help in this day when authors are also the biggest promoters of their own work!

Erin comments: I always say, the more you write, then the more you write!! And having all that background myself, I certainly agree.

Q:  What other interests do you have in addition to writing?

A:  I am a ballet dancer and love spending time in the gym or going for a run. I have to move regularly or life doesn’t work for me. I’m kind of a wine snob, and I’m definitely an ice cream snob, if there is any such thing! I also love gardening, and I tend to read a lot, but that probably goes without saying!

Erin comments: Yes, I am also an ice cream snob. We can start a club. Except I don’t run mine off. lol

Q: What authors have inspired you?

A:  It depends on what day you ask. Lately I’ve been blown away by Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I have a growing fondness for Hemingway, who I used to say I despised. I love Fitzgerald, admire George Saunders, and enjoy Philippa Gregory.

Q:  Favorite television shows or movies at the moment?

A: I am in love with Game of Thrones, and am enjoying Revenge as well. I watch The Vampire Diaries, though feel like it’s losing steam, and think I’ve finally given up on Grey’s Anatomy, which was a constant for the past few years. I watch Gossip Girl as a study in plot twists! I was hooked on Breaking Pointe when it was on, and if we subscribed to cable, I’d be glued in front of HGTV at all hours.

Q:  Where can readers connect with you?

A:  I have a blog at: delanceystewart.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/delancey.stewart

Twitter: @DelanceyStewart

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6581742.Delancey_Stewart

Thank you so very much for coming by and talking with me today. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and sharing writing stories and wish you continued success!

I had a great time – thanks for such thoughtful questions! This was lots of fun!

Through a Dusty Window, Synopsis~

Brownstone townhousePublication Date: November 15, 2012
CreateSpace
Paperback; 108p
ISBN-10: 0615731023

It’s impossible to live in a city like New York without feeling the presence of those who have preceded you – on those streets, in those subway cars, in that apartment. The city thrums with vibrations of lives and eras passed, and traces of that history are left imprinted in tangible ways everywhere we look.

Through a Dusty Window is a collection of ten short stories spanning a century of lives inhabiting one New York City brownstone on the Upper West Side. They are the culmination of the author’s experience in that city, during which she wondered constantly who had occupied her apartment before her, and what stories they might have lived.

Ten vignettes offer historical perspective on real events from Prohibition to World War II; the Vietnam-era Summer of Sam killings to John Lennon’s murder.

Through a Dusty Window allows us to be voyeurs, seeing the fascinating lives of others as they experience the history that New Yorkers today hear whispers of around every corner.

Delancey Stewart, Biography~

Delancey StewartDelancey Stewart is a fiction writer living in Southern Maryland. She’s a military spouse and the mother of two small boys. When not writing, she can be found ballet dancing, eating ice cream, playing video games or building with Legos.

For more information, please visit Delancey Stewart’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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Twitter Hashtag: #DustyWindowVirtualTour
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