From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Monday Dear Readers!
Fall is on its way to the Pacific Northwest. It’s time for pumpkin spice lattes, colorful fall leaves, and autumn-inspired reading.
I am pleased to have a special guest with us today. Author Annette Lyon has contributed a novella to the newly released anthology, An Autumn Kiss, published by Mirror Press. Annette is a USA Today bestselling author, a Whitney Award winner for Band of Sisters, and a founding editor of The Timeless Romance Anthologies.
I was curious to know more about her new novella entitled, “Mr. Dowling’s Remedy,” and Annette generously agreed to be interviewed. Join us for some interesting insights.
What was your inspiration for “Mr. Dowling’s Remedy”?
Several months before I started writing the story—but when knew I would be—I stumbled across a fascinating series of videos about Victorian-era asylums. I’ve long had an interest in mental illness as well as history, so I was sucked right in and soon knew I would definitely be setting the story in a Victorian asylum. I had no idea what the story would be, who the characters were, or anything else, which can be scary, but I also knew that a lot of my work has begun with the setting and that as I research that setting, the characters and conflicts show themselves.
I chose the specific mental illness of Tourette’s Syndrome for a couple of reasons: first, it was first identified, described, and named during this period, and second, I have an adolescent relative named Viivi who is struggling with a serious case of Tourette’s. I wanted to honor her and give her and others someone like themselves to see on the page, if but for a short while. The story is dedicated to her.
Tell us a bit about your hero Crandall Dowling and heroine Beverly Stanton.
Beverly had parents who were kind and wonderful, but when her father died and her mother remarried, she ended up with a horrible stepfather who squandered the family fortune. When Beverly stepped in to prevent him from doing more damage, he paid off some doctors to certify her as insane with what was then a dubious, but unfortunately not unheard of, diagnosis of hysteria. That so-called illness seems to have been used by some people during the era to get someone out of the way for whatever reason. In one case, a husband insisted his wife was hysterical because he kept accusing him of having affairs. Thanks to his accusations, she was committed to an asylum more than once. Turns out he was, indeed, having affairs!
Then there’s Crandall, who has a good heart and has always wanted to help people. That’s why he went to medical school and hoped to become a surgeon. He’s in the middle of his studies when he develops symptoms of what we today would call Tourette’s, but what then was often believed to be possession, the sign of an evil soul, or other awful things. His condition got him sent to an asylum. Here’s been there for six months and likely will be fore life when Beverly arrives. That’s where the story begins.
It was important to me to show a well-rounded view of the asylum situation: the negative conditions and what we’d consider barbaric treatments today, along with kind workers who were doing their best, real mental illness as well as false diagnoses of mental illness that existed at the time.
And it definitely took some research into the laws of the time to figure out what specific challenges Beverly and Crandall would face as well as how they might overcome them!
If your Victorian romance tale became a costume movie or TV series, who would you see as your Crandall and Beverly?
Since this is all fantasy, I won’t bother taking current ages into account. 😊
Kate Beckinsale (Much Ado about Nothing and Serendipity), Rosamund Pike (Jane in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice), and Emma Watson (Hermione, of course) would all make a great Beverly.
For Crandall, I could see Aidan Turner (Poldark), Greg Wise (Willoughby from the 1995 Sense and Sensibility), or Dougray Scott (Prince Henry in Ever After).
What is it about the Victorian era that you find intriguing or perplexing?
It was a fascinating period on so many levels! Here’s my history nerdiness showing: In the late 1700s, science and reason were valued above almost all else. That was the literary period of Neoclassicism. The Romantic era (think Regency Romance) was a direct response to that, showing that emotion is valuable and possibly preferable to science and logic. So the Victorian era was a reaction to the Romantics (Byron, Keats, and pretty much anyone else Dr. Keating quotes in Dead Poets Society), which themselves were a reaction to the Neoclassicists. It was a bit of the pendulum swinging back and forth between reason and emotion. The Victorian era went back to science and reason, but kept some of the emotions and passion of the Romantics.
The major advancements in science in medicine (surgery, germ theory, and so much more) plus transportation, and the entire Industrial Revolution going gangbusters, provide a ton of fodder for stories. Arguably, the world changed more during the Victorian era than it probably ever had in a similar length of time up to that point. Noticing those changes and both the good and bad they brought with them, seeing how people reacted in different ways to the same issues, and more is absolutely fascinating to me. It’s an era like no other!
What are the challenges or delights in writing a novella?
The biggest delight is that they are shorter and have shorter turnarounds, so you can get to that finish line faster and get it into readers’ hands much more quickly than a novel. I have a suspense novel coming out in a few months, and I’ve literally been working on it off and on for somewhere around six years. From first research to final product, this collection was less than one year.
The biggest challenge is also the length: there’s so much you can’t fit in! It’s hard to uncover things about the characters, back story, and more, and then be unable to work them in because you’re working with a word count that’s about a quarter of what a regular novel would be!
What is up next in your writing career?
Just One More, my suspense novel, will be out with Scarlet Books in New York early 2023. I’m thrilled about forging a parallel path as a suspense writer in addition to romance and women’s fiction. I have plenty of plans for romance in the future, so no worries to readers there. It’s super fun to branch out and try new things.
Annette Lyon is a USA Today bestselling author, a 9-time recipient of Utah’s Best in State medal for fiction (three times for novel-length works and five times for short fiction), and a Whitney Award winner for Band of Sisters. She’s the author of over a dozen novels, at least that many novellas, a cookbook, a popular grammar guide, and over a hundred magazine articles.
She’s a founder and regular contributor of the Timeless Romance Anthologies line of sweet romance stories, which she served as editor for its first three years. She’s also one of the four co-authors of The Newport Ladies Book Club series. She graduated cum laude from BYU with a degree in English.
An Autumn Kiss is the seventh book in the Timeless Victorian Collection, a bestselling anthology series from Mirror Press, featuring stories by Laura Rollins, Annette Lyon, & Lisa H. Catmull, who each reveal if one kiss will change the lives of the three heroines.
- An Autumn Kiss: Timeless Victorian Collection (Book 7), by Laura Rollins, Annette Lyon, & Lisa H. Catmull
- Mirror Press (September 20, 2022)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (275) pages
- ISBN: 978-1952611308
- Genre: Historical Romance, Victorian Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Cover image courtesy of Mirror Press © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress & Annette Lyon © 2022, austenprose.com.