Pink I: How Eloise Came To Be

A few days ago, Ashley kicked off the Read Along with the first lines of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, in which Eloise is braving London transportation to visit one Mrs. Selwick-Alderly:

“The Tube had broken down. Again…”

I have a secret to share with you: there was no Eloise in the original draft of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

No Eloise, no Colin, no Tube.

The first draft of the book which became The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was purely historical, and largely as you read it now (minus about fifty pages of additional sheep jokes). A friend gave the book to an agent, the agent sent the book out to a few editors, and, in a surprisingly short space of time, I got a call saying that an editor wanted the book, but she had a question for me.

That question was: “Have you ever considered a modern framing story?”

The short answer to that was no, I hadn’t.

“It doesn’t need to be much,” said my agent. “Just one chapter– like someone finding papers in the attic.”

I might have made a mmm-hmm noise. I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing there on the phone in my old studio apartment in Cambridge, struck by the image of a woman clinging to a Tube rail. She had red hair and tall boots and a skirt turned partly wrong way round and a beige sweater with a coffee splotch on it.

I knew her. I had no idea how I knew her, but I did. I knew who she was and where she was going and why she was there.

“Hello?” said my agent. “Are you still there?”

“Does it have to be only one chapter?” I asked.

I could already see what was going to happen. She was going to get off that Tube to visit an elegant elderly lady. That lady had a nephew, a nephew who didn’t want the family papers in someone else’s hands.

“I don’t think so,” said my agent.

“Good,” I said. “Because I think I want it to be a little bit more….”

And that, in a roundabout, accidental way, was how Eloise was born.

There’s a side note to this story. Several months later, I was doing some reading up on Baroness Orczy. (As the publicity for the book release got under way, people had started asking me questions about The Scarlet Pimpernel, and, like a good little grad student, I thought I had better do my research.) What I hadn’t known? Was that Baroness Orczy always claimed that she had first met Sir Percy Blakeney in the Tube. She had been standing on a Tube platform, and there he was, knee breeches, quizzing glass and all.

I wish I could say that I placed Eloise on the Tube deliberately, as a homage to Baroness Orczy. But I didn’t. Like Sir Percy on that Tube platform, she just popped up there, all by herself, with a complete history and story to her.

One might even think it was meant.


  1. […] these posts, which means she is starting today! So head on over to Lauren’s website and check out the first of her “Read Along Blog Along” posts. Today, she is discussing the creation of […]

  2. Sheila on September 4, 2014 at 10:55 am

    I am so very glad Eloise visited you that day. What about Colin?

  3. Pat D on September 4, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I had no idea Sir Percy traveled on the Tube. Sorry I missed him! How wonderful your agent suggested the framing story and you expanded on it.

  4. mel burns on September 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Serendipity is how some of the best things come to happen. I can’t imagine the Pinks without Eloise.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Betty S. on September 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    What an interesting insight into the creation of a character and the revamping/framing of a book! I had no idea that editors were so influential.

    I have heard it said that authors write about what they know and that people watching can be a valuable tool, but the amazing thing to me is that you felt you knew this character so quickly and completely.

    Thanks for sharing this tidbit. I am so looking forward to this read along and all of the intersting things that will be revealed!

    • Lynne on September 4, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      I’m with you, Betty – isn’t it nice to know Eloise’s roots? I can’t imagine the stories without her and Colin…I’m so glad your agent spoke up, Lauren. They add so much to the stories.

  6. Paige on September 5, 2014 at 2:03 am

    How fascinating! I never dreamed that the the modern framing story wasn’t always part of the plot. I love the Colin and Eloise storyline and how it continues throughout the series. You have such an amazing ability to switch back and forth between the modern and historical storylines that it comes across as being effortless. I definitely think it was meant!

  7. Amanda on September 5, 2014 at 11:35 am

    So fun! I’m so glad Eloise came to you that way.

  8. Angie M on September 6, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I love these tidbits and am so excited about the year-long Pink re-read read along! As others have said, it’s so neat to see inside your “mind” about the books you’ve written. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Alexandra on September 8, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Fascinating story! Thanks so much for sharing. Amazing how your editor’s idea changed and shaped the series in such a significant way.

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