Wednesday, 30 September 2020

August Articles Featuring Bronte’s Mistress

It’s the last day of September and the last few months have been so busy that I’m still recapping August!

In previous August-related posts, I shared the articles by me that were published last month to highlight the release of my debut novel, Bronte’s Mistress, and the written Q&As and interviews I participated in. Today though, I’m sharing the best of the best of the articles written about the book by others. Let’s get into it.

Yorkshire Post

Christian Science Monitor was a great champion of Bronte’s Mistress, telling readers that the novel “speculates delightfully” about what might have occurred between Branwell Bronte and Lydia Robinson.  The publication also included in the book at #4 in their list of the best books published in August

Larne Times

Bookreporter named my book a Bets On pick and published a wonderful review, calling the novel “seductive in its tone even when the more amorous scenes are pages behind you.” 

Shelf Awareness gave Bronte’s Mistress a starred review, writing that “this intriguing early Victorian drama unveils the enigmatic temptress who allegedly seduced the infamous Branwell Bronte and caused much grievance to his exceedingly protective sisters.” 

Woman & Home

I was delighted that my novel received coverage in Yorkshire, home of the Brontes, with this piece in the Yorkshire Post. Bronte’s Mistress, they write, is a “great story, extremely adeptly told.”

The Historical Novel Society Review

And I was also very happy to see Bronte’s Mistress show up in a few lists last month, including in Surrey Life and Silver Petticoat Review

Finally, in addition to the major review sites (see Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon UK), here are ten of my favourite reviews of Bronte’s Mistress from Bronte/book bloggers. Thank you all for making August a great launch month!

Austenprose

Best Historical Fiction 

A Bookish Way of Life

Bronte Blog

The Eyre Review

Laura’s Reviews

The Lit Bitch

Nurse Bookie

Reading the Past

Sprained Brain

Haven’t ordered your physical, digital or audio copy of Bronte’s Mistress yet? Find a list of suggested places to buy here, or get in touch with your local independent bookstore. Want to get my most important updates delivered straight to your email inbox? Sign up for my monthly newsletter below.

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Saturday, 26 September 2020

August Interviews with Finola Austin

August was a crazy launch month for my debut historical novel, Bronte’s Mistress, and September hasn’t been much quieter!

So, rather than my usual roundup of relevant articles (see June/July as an example), I’m sharing THREE update posts. Last week, I shared the articles I wrote, which were published in release month. And, in an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing the best articles about Bronte’s Mistress penned by others. This time round though, I’m sharing a recap of all the written interviews and Q&As with me that were published in August. I hope you enjoy them!


One of my favourite interviews was discussing scandalous women with fellow writer, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, for Frolic. We talked about inspiration and research, historical fiction vs. modern values, my most loved historical places and more.

The interview with Elizabeth was part of the Bronte’s Mistress Blog Tour, which also included two other great Q&As. Standout questions included being quizzed by the Reading Frenzy on Victorian motherhood, and telling Historical Fiction Reader whom I would cast in a Bronte’s Mistress movie or miniseries!

I’m always on the lookout for great new historical fiction reads, so I was delighted to be interviewed for the Historical Novel Society Review’s New Voices column, along with three other debut historical novelists. I’ve now added Molly Aitken’s The Island Child, Katie Hutton’s The Gypsy Bride, and Gretchen Berg’s The Operator to my to-be-read list.

In addition to being a member of the Historical Novel Society, I’m also part of the Authors Guild. It was an honour to be featured in their Member Spotlight interview to talk about why writing matters and my tips for overcoming writer’s block.

One of my favourite literary email newsletters, Bidwell Hollow, also interviewed me. We talked about writers I love and how I first developed a passion for Victorian literature. And I also did interviews for fellow writers’ blogs, including an interview with Rebecca Taylor, where I shared my path to publication, and a nerdy chat with fellow Bronte-fanatic Writer Gurl NY.

Believe it or not, I still have more to say (!!), so if you’d like to talk to me about Bronte’s Mistress for your blog or website, please do get in touch! And remember, if your book club wants to read my book, I’d love to join your meeting via Zoom. Download the Bronte’s Mistress reading group guide here. In either case, contact me via my website, or get in touch on Facebook or Instagram or by tweeting @SVictorianist

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

August Articles by Finola Austin, Author of Bronte’s Mistress

Wow. August was such a month that we’re now midway through September and I still haven’t recovered! Thank you so much to those of you who made the release of Bronte’s Mistress so special. Haven’t ordered your copy yet? There’s a list of places you can buy the book here (please note, for those of you in the UK, Waterstones is your best bet for speedy delivery…thanks, Covid). 

I’ve previously run roundups of the February/March, April/May, June/July articles featuring Bronte’s Mistress. But in August so much happened that I’m divvying up the content into three posts. In this first, I’ll list the articles I wrote that were published during release month. In the second, I’ll share the Q&As and interviews I did, which included some great questions! And, in a third blog post, I’ll detail some of the wonderful articles and reviews penned by others.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it.

The article I was most proud of getting published last month was a piece for Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books on “How Writing My First Novel Prepared Me To Write My Debut Novel.” While the release of my first book was a huge moment of celebration, I’ve been rejected many times along my writing journey. I was so pleased with the positive response I received when I shared this story with others. If you’re a writer who’s aiming for publication, know that it does happen. You don’t need connections. You can get an agent from cold querying. You can pick yourself up and write another book.

I was also pleased to have two of my articles land in MAJOR publications. I wrote an essay, “Was The Graduate Inspired by a Bronte Family Scandal?” for LitHub (one of my favourite websites), following the death of Charles Webb, author of The Graduate. And I wrote about the inspiration for my book for Oprah Magazine (!) in “This New Novel Explores the Secret Lives of the Other Two Bronte Siblings.”

I also courted controversy in a piece for Frolic on “What I Learned Writing About One Of History’s ‘Bad Feminists’.” I talked Bronte scandal with Historia Mag in “The Bronte Affair: researching the scandal that enveloped literature’s most famous family.” And I shared “6 Tender Stories of Forbidden Love” with Off the Shelf, showcasing some of my favourite reads when it comes to taboo romance.

I was also a guest blogger for three of my favourite blogs as part of the Bronte’s Mistress Blog Tour. I shared “10 fascinating facts I learned about the Brontes while researching Bronte's Mistress” with Bronte Blog (home of all things Brontes online). And, while we can’t travel right now, I gave readers a glimpse into my research trip to Yorkshire in “The Villages of Great and Little Ouseburn—the Forgotten Stops on the Bronte Trail,” for English Historical Fiction Writers. Finally, I was a guest for a day on the Silver Petticoat Review, writing a piece on “The Brontes and the Victorian Mrs Robinson.”

Writing and publishing these personal essays has been hard work, but it’s also been very rewarding. With each one, I’ve considered something new about Bronte’s Mistress and what my novel means to me. I dreamed of writing pieces like this when my novel existed only in my head. Thank you all for reading them!

Do you have a book club that would love to read Bronte’s Mistress? If so, I’d love to join your meeting via Zoom! Download the Bronte’s Mistress reading group guide and contact me via my website. Alternatively, get in touch via Facebook or Instagram or by tweeting @SVictorianist

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Neo-Victorian Voices: Mr Rochester, Sarah Shoemaker (2017)

When it comes to Jane Austen vs. the Brontes, Austen definitely has a winning number of twenty-first century novels that take her life and works as their inspiration. However, one of the best parts about releasing my own Bronte-inspired novel, Bronte’s Mistress, this summer has been connecting with other writers who have taken the Brontes, not Austen, as their subject.

I recently reviewed Bella Ellis’s The Vanished Bride and Syrie James’s The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. This week it’s the turn of Sarah Shoemaker’s 2017 novel, Mr Rochester.

Among modern Bronte readers, Edward Rochester, the hero of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, has a mixed reputation. To some, he’s a swoon-worthy male lead. To others, he’s deeply problematic, due to his time in the colonies, not to mention his mentally ill wife in the attic. Most, I think, find Rochester flawed, but not irredeemable, although this interpretation lends credence to the idea that all a troubled man needs is the love of a good woman to save him.

Sarah Shoemaker makes no apologies for being a devoted Rochester fan and the focus of her novel is on fleshing out his life prior to his meeting with Jane Eyre. The book is made up of three parts, uneven in length—1. Edward’s childhood. 2. His time in Jamaica (including his marriage to Bertha Mason), and 3. The story we’re familiar with from Charlotte Bronte’s most famous novel.

Shoemaker’s prose is beautiful and demonstrates her familiarity with nineteenth-century fiction and Charlotte Bronte’s style in particular. This is the sort of historical novel that could at times pass for a novel written in the period it’s set in. I found this especially true in the early chapters, which chart Rochester’s education and apprenticeship as the neglected second son. Shoemaker paints a believable picture of how a boy in Edward’s position might have been raised, and his experiences provide an interesting, gendered counterpart to the childhood we know Jane Eyre will later live through.

In Jamaica, a young Rochester never fully confronts the horrors of slavery, expressing some discomfort at the idea, and queasiness at the brutal punishments delivered on behalf of him and other White landowners, without having a profound moment self revelation. While this response is believable, I was longing for a little more reflection, as Rochester matures into the man whom Jane can fall in love with.

The section covering the same material as Jane Eyre is close to the source material. While Shoemaker does enhance the plot, adding a few more complications, purists will be pleased to see the reverence with which she handles Bronte’s work. The novel made me went to read Jane Eyre again, or even have the books open side by side to double check what was twenty-first century invention.

In her dedication, Shoemaker mentions her ‘fascination’ with Rochester, and her passion for the character and for Bronte’s book really comes through in the text. But I couldn’t help but wonder if part of a Gothic hero’s fascinating charm is in his unknowabilty. Now that we have access to Rochester’s thoughts, can he be as fascinating as he was before? And at those times when Jane Eyre is inscrutable to him? Well, thanks to Charlotte, we know exactly how she feels.

Do you have recommendations of books I should read next, as part of my Neo-Victorian Voices series? Let me know—here, on Facebook, on Instagram, or by tweeting @SVictorianist

And have you ordered your copy of Bronte’s Mistress yet? Oprah Magazine named my book one of this Fall’s top reads, while Christian Science Monitor calls it ‘a stirring defence of the maligned Mrs Robinson.’

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