I have a special treat here today for Thursday Give Away: the wonderful Deanna Raybourn was generous enough to take the time to pop over here to chat about her books– and donate a copy of her upcoming release, A Spear of Summer Grass!
Like another book you might have heard a bit about recently, A Spear of Summer Grass is set in Kenya in the 1920s….
Without further ado, Deanna!
–What drew you to 1920s Kenya?
It’s a time and place I’ve always been enthralled by. In between writing books, I have certain pet subjects—about thirty of them!—that I go back to time and time again, and colonial Kenya is one of those subjects. When my editor told me I had carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted, I immediately zeroed in on that time and that place because it was the perfect excuse to geek out over one of my favorite subjects because I had to do it for work. What better justification is there than that? I pulled all the books about Africa in the 1920s from my TBR pile, grabbed an armful of old favorites off my shelves, and ordered a few dozen more that I hadn’t gotten my hands on yet. By the time I was finished, I had amassed a collection of about sixty books and I devoured them. I love the juxtaposition of the different types of people who gathered there. Establishing a colony is a difficult thing; it calls for people who are daring and courageous and perhaps a little reckless. If you aren’t resourceful and clever and dauntless, you won’t survive, so colonials tend to be extremely colorful people with tremendous stories and larger-than-life personalities. And in British East Africa, there was this magical mixture of aristocrats and farmers and fallen women and bureaucrats and daredevils that was just too delicious not to write about.
— After all those years of Lady Julia, was it odd writing about someone else?
Not entirely—I have written another stand alone, The Dead Travel Fast. But that stand alone was also Victorian, so the real difference came in changing a Victorian heroine for a twentieth century flapper with some serious baggage! Delilah has a lot of attitude, all of it bad, but with good reason. She’s been through some devastating experiences, and like a lot of people emerging from the Great War, she’s got scars. In one scene she confides to a friend, “’I’m dancing on broken glass. I’m Miss Havisham’s wedding cake, Kit. A frothy, expensive, mice-eaten confection. I’m the Sphinx’s nose, the fallen Colossus. I’m a beautiful ruin, and it’s time that’s done the deed.” But in spite of her wounds, Delilah puts on her red lipstick and her dancing shoes and walks with her head up. She’s determined to show her best face, and there’s something courageous about her that makes me feel protective. She’s not easy to like, but when you dig below the surface, there’s something fine underneath.
— Will we see Delilah Drummond again in City of Jasmine?
No, Delilah’s story is finished with A Spear of Summer Grass. In City of Jasmine, I have a new heroine—an English aviatrix named Evangeline Stark who heads to Damascus in 1923 to find the husband she buried five years before—a husband who has somehow turned up very much alive.
— What time period do you most want to set a book in?
I would dearly love to write a French Revolution book—I have the plot completely outlined and I know the main characters, but it’s going to take a long time to assemble all the research and it isn’t time to write that book yet. It’s roughed out to cover about fifteen years, so it will be my magnum opus! It may well be something I work on between contracted novels since I don’t have the faintest idea how long it will take to write. I’ve always liked the idea of having a project to putter with between other books, and this would be perfect for that.
— What’s next for you?
I’m writing the next Julia Grey holiday novella—this one is set at Midsummer and will be published this fall. And I’m also developing the proposal for my next novel which I’m hugely excited about. It’s in the very early stages yet, and I can’t talk until the proposal is done, but it’s the novel I’ll be writing through the autumn of this year, and I expect it will be something quite new for me.
If you’re in the New York area, you can see us do our song and dance routine together on June 4 at the Mysterious Bookshop (6:00, 58 Warren Street) where Deanna will be talking about A Spear of Summer Grass and I’ll be talking about The Ashford Affair— and whatever else pops into our heads on the spur of the moment, which is the way it usually goes.
And now on to the important bit…. To win a copy of A Spear of Summer Grass, just leave a comment in the Comments section below. The winner will be announced on Sunday.
Thanks so much, Deanna, for coming to visit! A Spear of Summer Grass makes its appearance in bookstores on Tuesday, April 30th.