Monday, August 1, 2011

An Introduction: Laura Andersen

The Bio I Wrote for the Editors Involved in my recent auction (I promise the rest of this post will not involve me referring to myself in the third person. Though I write historical fiction, I have no delusions of royalty.): Laura Andersen lives with one husband, four children, and a continual sense of having forgotten something important. She has a B.A. in English (with an emphasis in British history) which she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Mysteries, epic fantasy, and historical fiction are favorites, as her own life does not offer many opportunities to solve a murder, defeat a dark lord, or wear a corset. Laura’s favorite places to travel are England and Ireland, where she drives her family crazy by providing a constant stream of historical background. She became a writer because creating stories is even more satisfying than reading them.
If I Had a Cabinet of Curiosities it Would Contain: the leopard-spotted seashell my dad gave me when I was little (why, yes, I believe that is the scientific name for it); the purple stone hippo I bought in Nairobi, Kenya; the mortar-and-pestle I brought home from my year living in Haiti; the carved cross of St. Brigid from my visit to Ireland; my tiny black Egyptian cat statue; photos of my children

Last Five Books Read: Clash of Kings (George R.R. Martin); Hell is Empty (Craig Johnson); The Red Queen (Philippa Gregory); Now You See Me (S.J. Bolton); Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (Brock Clarke)

My Indispensable Historical Fiction: Here Be Dragons (Sharon Kay Penman); The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet (Ellis Peters); The Lymond Chronicles (Dorothy Dunnett); My Enemy, the Queen (Victoria Holt); The King's General (Daphne du Maurier)

Indispensable Biographies: Anything by Alison Weir

Why Corsets: If the question is ‘why’ in the grand scheme of social and cultural history, that’s a long, bitter, and complicated answer. If it’s ‘why do I make them’, the answer is simpler—a) I wanted to see if I could and b) I have a weakness for looking pretty. Whatever else one can say about corsets, they contribute to an idealized form of feminine beauty that is enticing. I knew that I would not be able to breathe well in them (although let’s be honest—mine were never laced up with someone’s foot in the small of my back, I doubt my waist got even an inch smaller. Just rather less jiggly.) but I didn’t realize how much they changed one’s posture while sitting. There is no slumping in corsets.

Still, my looking pretty applies only for Halloween. I believe I can safely say I have never worn them in any month of the year except October, and I’ve certainly never worn one for longer than four or five hours at a time. I am but a novice playing at dress-up.

Upper-class women of the western past—I salute you.

How Did I Come Up with the White Garden in the Novel that Landed Me an Agent: I consider this question a true compliment, considering that it’s about setting and it’s asked by a writer who is a true master at using setting to evoke atmosphere and tone. That has never been my strong point, and indeed the original inclusion of the white garden was limited to the phrase itself and perhaps three lines of what sort of plants were in it. But as I revised, I found several inspirations to draw on. I have to have visual cues for setting, and the white garden was originally born after seeing photos of Sissinghurst’s famous white garden created by Vita Sackville-West (a close friend of Virginia Woolf.) Click here to view the National Trust property.

The circular pool in my fictional garden’s center, which came to play a crucial role in the story, was born after a weekend trip to Kilkenny, Ireland and the pool outside the restored Dowager House where we stayed.

And my favorite piece of all—the jewel-colored orbs that hang throughout to repel evil spirits and/or attract fairies—I discovered while browsing through a gardening magazine. Witch balls, they’re called. How could I resist that name? And as I read about them, and realized how far back in time they went, I knew that my white garden must have them. Here's a link to photos and legends.

If I Could Experience Only One Moment in 18th or 19th century history, it Would Be: Jane Austen holding her first published book for the first time.


  1. Sissinghurst's white garden is simply amazing. I think you need one just like it at your new home--with a few witch balls as well :)

    Thanks for the links. There were great.