Do you have a Notorious Aunt?
It about and unusual heroine. Fiona Hawthorn grew up running free. Without a mother to restrain her, she spent her days riding her horse neck or nothing across her father’s fields and swimming like a sea nymph. But in a sitting room she’s bound to overturn the teapot or accidentally trip the footman. Her notorious Aunt Honore decides to takes the hoyden in hand, but amidst the strictures of society, Fiona is a fish out of water.
When she was younger, Lord Wesmont was her hero. But he came home from fighting Napoleon a hardened man. Nothing can breathe life back into his cold heart, nothing except, perhaps, the love of an unusual young woman who regularly turns his life upside-down. Can a lady with a reputation for disaster, stumble into love?
I’ve gotten many letters from readers remarking on the unexpectedness of the plot, and asking where I got the idea for the story. As with all ideas, it was a fusion of elements.
First, I must confess, the book is based on a dream. The closing scene was a poignant tender image that I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, I wrote a book to support that one delightful scene. Prior to LADY FIASCO I’d only published in short story and non-fiction. So I began writing my first full length novel backwards.
Second, I drew from real life. The truth is I had a very eccentric aunt. She was as wildly unpredictable and outrageous as Lady Alameda. Probably worse. One never knew what to expect when she blew into town. It is only natural that my aunt’s bigger than life personality seeped into my creative id and played havoc there, too.
My aunt passed away many years ago - not a surprise given her flamboyant lifestyle. They say not to speak ill of the dead, so I will tread lightly here. Let us just say my aunt was not a model citizen. No, scratch that, I’ll be completely honest, she was dreadful. For instance, she tried to murder one of her husbands, and on several occasions she abandoned her young children and they had to come live with us. Not really the motherly sort. BUT Aunt Zelda was exciting! (Name changed to protect the survivors.) She gave me my first glass of champagne (age nine) and my first taste fresh caught lobster. My mother was careful, fastidious, and uber-responsible. Aunt Zelda lived life on the sharp edge of disaster. She encouraged messes. For instance, she had no problem with her five children powdering her steep wooden stairs with baby powder, and then we kids sat on rugs and took turns sliding down. Great fun until it ended in one of us taken an inevitable bad tumble.
Once, when I was away at college, Zelda called and asked if I would like to go to dinner. She picked me up at my apartment in a gigantic Peterbuilt semi. She’d decided to become a trucker. Instead of her normal skinny self she’d blown up to three times her weight – I hardly recognized her. Dinner turned out to be fifty miles away and by the time the evening ended, she was roaring drunk and fell asleep in the cab of the semi. The next time I saw my aunt she was skinny again. This time Zelda was raising Appaloosa horses and running around with a bull-riding rodeo cowboy. (It didn’t last long. Even he couldn’t manage my aunt.)
There… I’ve told you way too much personal stuff. (There are more Zelda stories, but I dare not tell them.) The point is: inspiration comes from unlikely sources. I feel sad for my aunt’s children. They deserved a better mother. My mom deserved a better sister. But I couldn’t help but find Zelda fascinating, dreadful but fascinating. The whacky weird people in my life provide rich fodder for stories. Would I be able to write my stories if she hadn’t been part of my life? What about you? Do you have a notorious aunt? How have the abnormal characters changed your life? It isn’t always the good things that make us better people, or better writers.
I’ll be giving away a free book to someone who is brave enough to comment.
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