Violets Are Blue

It's another stop in Elizabeth Rose's tour de force for her debut novel Violets Are Blue.  I have had the pleasure of being hosted on her own blog Living on Literary Lane, and I was pleased to be able to return the favour.  Her blog tour is running throughout the month of August so be sure to check out the other posts which have been put up and which are scheduled for the future.  But without further ado, here is the author herself!

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Violets Are Blue is about a friendship tested by distance.  Is this something you have experienced yourself or is it just something you were interested in writing about?  What inspired you?

To be honest, it was something of a surprise for me to discover that Violet’s story was going to be about friendship. Though certainly an important theme, it seemed a bit more juvenile than my original aim, and there are certainly enough books about it already. At the start, all I knew was that I wanted the book to take place during the Edwardian era and around the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. But as I began writing, Violets Are Blue somehow morphed with an old plot in the back of my head about an Irish girl who loses her best friend when her family moves to America. This story had never gone very far on its own, but when combined with Violet’s tale, it became a plot. I hoped to portray a more natural, real sort of friendship than the one generally depicted in novels for young people. Though I have not experienced a friendship tested by distance to the extent that Violet does in the book, I have read about it so often, in various forms, that I felt as if I’d lived it.

What time period is Violets Are Blue set in?  Did something inspire you to pick that time, or did the time, as it were, pick itself?

Violets Are Blue is set during the Edwardian era, and the story begins in 1911, a year before the Titanic sinks. I have always been particularly interested in the story of the Titanic, ever since I read the Dear America book, Voyage on the Great Titanic, as a very young girl. In 2010 I was going through a particularly Titanic-obsessed faze, and as I enjoy writing about what inspires and interests me, I decided to take the plunge (pardon the pun).

Is the main character Violet Bradshaw much like you, or is she her own girl?

Vi was not intended to be a representation of myself, but she unconsciously became more like me the further I wrote the book. She loves writing letters, has a quick temper, is very protective of her family, and is neither extremely talkative nor painfully shy. However, her traits are mine intensified and enlarged. In the words of Jane Austen, “She [is] sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, [can] have no moderation.”

Which character would you say you relate to most?

Violet. Always Violet. When you spend so much time writing in another’s head, you cannot help but understand them best.

Which character was hardest to write?  Which character was easiest?

I would say that Ethan, the butcher’s nephew and a friend of Violet’s, was the hardest character to write. I am not regularly in deep conversations with young men, and at age thirteen, was even less so. The best I could do was look to male characters in literature. I had a dreadful worry all the way through that he would sound too much like a girl, since it was a girl who was writing him, but he actually turned out to be one of my favorite characters by the end.

Emma, Vi’s elder sister, was the simplest character for me to write. She is regular as a clock, kindhearted, and cheerful, even when hard-pressed to complain — rather like Elinor Dashwood. In contrast, Violet is something like Marianne, and while she gave me a bit more grief, was more interesting to write.

Amazon says that Violets Are Blue is 342 pages long.  Is that a long book for you to write, a medium-sized one, or pretty small compared to what you typically write?

Rather medium-sized. Being the only book I have published, I suppose you could call it the longest book I’ve ever written, but I have a few unfinished drafts on my hard drive that are already showing signs of being at least 10,000 words longer.

As to that, I understand Violets Are Blue is your debut novel—have you completed any other works before this, even though you haven’t published them?

I have yet to truly finish a work other than Violets Are Blue. Before VAB, I was not quite mature enough as a writer to begin a full-length novel and see it through to the end. I had started several stories, but they all remained 10,000 words or less. Post VAB, I have been working on many separate stories, all in various stages of the writing process.

How long have you been writing as a whole?

Since I was taught to hold a pencil — that is, at age five. At that time, my writing was contained to little four-verse poems and journaling. Around age seven or eight, I was writing plays and overtly dramatic tales that my sisters “published” in our edition of The Pickwick Portfolio. It was not until I was eleven or twelve that I began seriously considering writing a real book.

“The Weald is good, the Downs are best— / I’ll give you the run of ‘em, East to West. / Beachy Head and Winddoor Hill, / They were once and they are still,” said Rudyard Kipling.  It must have been really hard for Violet to leave Eastbourne and the beautiful Sussex coast, but which place stole your heart most as you wrote: Sussex or America?

I was surprised at how easily I fell in love with Eastbourne, a place that was only supposed to fill the beginning pages of my book. But if I had paused to think on the matter for a moment, it would not have been so shocking. In truth, I have but a passing interest in great cities in general and New York City in particular. Touring London, Rome, and Paris would be the surreal fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but I wouldn’t want to call those cities home. They hold charm for me only in theory; once you are physically there, the noise and dirt and traffic rather block out any perceived dream you formerly held. But the ocean . . . oh, to call the seaside home! In Edna St. Vincent Millay’s words, “I have a need of water near.”

Writing a novel, any novel, no matter how long you have been writing novels, is always a new experience.  How has writing Violets Are Blue impacted you, and what elements do you think will impact readers?

I learned to see the small blessings in life. In Violets Are Blue, Vi starts out thinking that no one could possibly understand what she is facing. As the story progresses toward its conclusion, she gradually learns that focusing only on the pain in her life blinds her from seeing the beauty, and also that it was rather selfish of her to be so tied up in her own worries that she ignored her family and other friends, who have all suffered heartache in some way, shape, or form. I hope that my readers will learn that, too.

Gratuitous curiosity: the cover of your book is very pretty, with evocative contrast in colours, but I have to ask: if violets are blue, why is there a rose on the front cover?

Thank you — I’m glad you like it! The rose on the cover signifies a rose that Violet plucks from an old abandoned window box in Chapter 4, and the same image separates various sections in each chapter. It represents the fact that there is still beauty and color in life, though Vi seems to see the world in black and white for a time after she leaves her homeland. In contrast, the title is something of a play-on-words, since the main character’s name is Violet, and her life has grown sad (or “blue”) since she left Eastbourne and Lillian.

One last question: what are you writing now—can you give us a summary?—and do you plan on publishing that too?

I am currently writing a book based during the American Revolution titled Rifles in the South Field. It is not very long as of yet, but I have great plans for it, and hope to publish when the time comes. Here is a short summary:

Calm, efficient, and organized, Susannah Dixon has had everything in her life under control since the day she learned walk. Even her mother's tragic death by influenza when Susannah was ten years old has not shaken this young woman's foundation. Now the mistress of her family's plantation in colonial Georgia, she takes pride in the fact that her father trusts her completely with all affairs of the household, including planning meals, organizing the house slaves' chores, and the like. But when the Continental Army is called up and Mr. Dixon is compelled to help in the fight for freedom, Susannah begins to notice cracks in her seemingly perfect world. Can she manage to keep the large plantation running during her papa's absence, or will she be forced to ask for help for the first time in her life?

Thank you so much for having me, Jenny!

It was great to have you, Elizabeth Rose!  It's great to see young authors engrossed in history and writing about it.   Keep up the good work!

Elizabeth Rose loves all sorts of books (the thicker, the better), is convinced that Irish Breakfast tea is the closest this world will get to heaven, will dance until her feet ache, will stay up all hours writing, wears pearls at every opportunity, and will obsess over Les Miserables and The Scarlet Pimpernel whenever possible.  Her debut novel Violets Are Blue was published in May 2012 and can by purchased on Amazon.  Follow Elizabeth Rose on her blog Living on Literary Lane, or check out her Pinterest page to see inspiring pictures of the stories she is working on!

5 ripostes:

  1. Wow, I never even thought about the cover question!
    I really enjoyed reading this. :) And I learned a bit more about VAB. Which, I didn't think was possible to do, being that I read it in practically every form. ;D


  2. Very interesting review! Your book intrigues me, but I'm especially excited by the mention of a Revolutionary War novel... I have been writing an alternate history novel in that era, so I have a strong interest in that period. I shall be eagerly looking forward to more information on that book!

  3. I see you marked Violets Are Blue as to-read, Aubrey. ;) And thanks for stopping by! I always find it encouraging to get feed-back on my interviews. So thanks for dropping by and having tea and getting to know Elizabeth Rose. ^.^

  4. I loved this interview, Jenny and Elizabeth Rose ^_^.

    The questions were fresh and interesting, and the responses lovely. Ah, I love historical fiction (both to read and write), and as Jenny pointed out, it is wonderful to see other young writer's with a love for that as well. Ah, I truly want to buy a copy of Violets are Blue and read it.

    Blessings in Christ,

  5. By the way...

    I really love your new blog design, Jenny :). Bree did a beautiful job!