Madam, want to talk about author Mary Stewart? discussion

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What makes a Mary Stewart book?

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message 1: by Sewingdervish (last edited Jul 15, 2016 11:13AM) (new)

Sewingdervish | 18 comments I am attempting to write a book (positive peer pressure) and they say write what you would like to read; I like reading Mary Stewart style books! I am trying to get to the root of what it is that I really enjoy about her books. For me it is that the heroine is always smart and independent, while there is a romantic interest HE rarely swoops in and saves her, she saves herself or they work together as a team. I enjoy the suspense and the exotic (for me) locations.

I am wondering what other fans enjoy most about Mary Stewart's books. I am mostly thinking of her suspense books, not so much the cottage books or the Arthurian books, though I love them as well. What is it that brings you back to these great books?

Thanks!


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 212 comments Just like you've said!
Heroines who are bright, quirky, independent, clever, funny and not dependant on a man but who are ready to enjoy a partnership with a man who can equal her in wit, language and ideas.
Heroes who actually like women and absolutely adore the heroine and who leave you feeling that whatever happens - he will always watch out for her!
Locations which at the time, and even now, are exotic, beautiful and inspirational and inroduce the reader to a different culture.
Plots which have been well thought out and whilst being unusual are realistic and totally believable.
Descriptive prose which just jumps off the page; dialogue which sounds authentic and romance which touches the heart.
I love everything about Mary Stewart's books and perhaps most of all, I love the fact you can read them again and again without ever being bored!


message 3: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Zapata I agree with Susan. But also remember that 'they' say to write what you know, too. Mary Stewart knew her locations, knew people well enough to create realistic characters, knew how to write to make a reader believe in her world, and she knew how to use her own voice to create those books that we all love so much. Best of luck to you with your project, Sewingdervish.....I hope you keep us all posted on your progress!


Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂  | 271 comments Maybe a retro loving Mary Stewart styled heroine?


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 212 comments Debbie wrote: "I agree with Susan. But also remember that 'they' say to write what you know, too. Mary Stewart knew her locations, knew people well enough to create realistic characters, knew how to write to make..."

Absolutely spot-on Debbie!


message 6: by Hannah (new)

Hannah (hannahr) | 405 comments I agree with everything you all noted, and in addition I'd add that I love:

- the subtle humor Stewart brings into her stories

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I really don't enjoy. Although sex and sexual tension is present in all Stewart's books, she always keeps it clean and tasteful for her readers

- Last but not least, I love the way Stewart portrays animals and children. Children are often difficult to portray realistically, but Stewart does it beautifully IMO. And who doesn't love a dog or a cat???? (...or a dolphin) :^)


message 7: by Sewingdervish (new)

Sewingdervish | 18 comments Hannah wrote:

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I really don't enjoy. Although ..."


I agree! Sometimes I feel that people have forgotten that tasteful is even a thing, let alone what it means!


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 212 comments Sewingdervish wrote: "Hannah wrote:

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I really don't enjoy. Although ..."

I agree! Sometimes I feel that people have forgotten that tasteful is even a thing, let alone what it means!"


I so agree! I also think folk these days don't seem to realise how amazingly erotic the unspoken can be! Less - can definitely be more!


message 9: by Sarah (new)

Sarah W. | 5 comments Hi Sewingdervish,

I agree with so much of the above. My three picks of what Stewart does brilliantly are:
- descriptions of foreign places that are so vivid you want to travel there
- romantic tension (tastefully, as has been said)
- a light touch of Gothic ie our heroine is largely alone, houses are strange/spooky or landscape is wild, hints of myths and legends.

Also, as a fellow wannabe-Mary Stewart author, I can add one thing that came from an M.S. fan who kindly reviewed my book (and pointed out several improvements I needed to make.. no surprise, Mary Stewart set the bar very, very high :)).
The reviewer said "Mary Stewart wrote almost all her romantic suspense from the heroine's subjective POV and that made for a more intimate story, with the reader in on the heroine's thought and feelings, almost as if she were speaking to and confiding in us."
Alas, 1st person PoV is not for me...

Good luck with your writing!


message 10: by Sewingdervish (new)

Sewingdervish | 18 comments I noticed that Sarahws, and it is a bit of a problem since I have 2 main characters, still working that out.

Did you finish your manuscript?


debbicat *made of stardust* (cr8zycat) | 428 comments I second Hannah


debbicat *made of stardust* (cr8zycat) | 428 comments Especially about the animals. :)


message 13: by Sarah (new)

Sarah W. | 5 comments Sewingdervish wrote: "I noticed that Sarahws, and it is a bit of a problem since I have 2 main characters, still working that out.

Did you finish your manuscript?"


Yes! "The House on Rue Obscure." Nearing the end of my second one now.
Another thing about Mary Stewart: her heroines are everyday women, who cope when caught up in unusual situations with their brains and persistence and courage.


message 14: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 8 comments I've only read three Mary Stewart's and two of them had a heroine who needed saving by a man: The Gabriel Hounds and Wildfire by Midnight.

What I loved about Nine Coaches was how the chateau was a character. Du Maurier's Rebecca was awesome about that too. With both books, like a proper Hitchcock movie, it's the subtleties that make your hair stand up, rather that spelling out why you should be creeped out. And I like how the antagonists were not necessarily unpleasant in the beginning.


message 15: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 8 comments Hannah wrote: "I agree with everything you all noted, and in addition I'd add that I love:

- the subtle humor Stewart brings into her stories

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I really don't enjoy. Although ..."


Yes, write a book that can stand on it's own feet without sinking to such levels of immortality.


message 16: by Jay (new)

Jay | 42 comments I can't think of a single instance (except Thunder on the Right) where the heroine's appearance is discussed. You don't even get to know if she's blonde or brunette. I wonder whether that combined with the first person narrative is supposed to make each (female) reader feel like she is the heroine


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 212 comments Ashley wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I agree with everything you all noted, and in addition I'd add that I love:

- the subtle humor Stewart brings into her stories

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I really don't e..."



or even immorality!!!


message 18: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1084 comments Jayanarula wrote: "I can't think of a single instance (except Thunder on the Right) where the heroine's appearance is discussed. You don't even get to know if she's blonde or brunette. I wonder whether that combined ..."

I've noticed that too! And I think you're right in your conjecture about making each reader feel like she's the heroine. TotR is also the only book not written from the first person POV, so it's probably not a coincidence that it's the only one that discusses the heroine's appearance--except The Gabriel Hounds? Without going back to check, I'm pretty sure her dark hair and looks are mentioned a couple of times. Possibly Touch Not the Cat as well.

I think I read somewhere that Mary Stewart disliked the third person POV in TotR and never went back to it again, at least for her romantic suspense novels.


message 19: by Jill (new)

Jill Collen | 7 comments In The Ivy Tree, the heroine’s appearance is a key plot point. I remember the bit about having fair eyelashes - and the discovery of mascara!


message 20: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1084 comments Good point, Jill! I forgot about that one. So Mary only mentioned the heroine's appearance when it was pertinent to the plot? ;)


message 21: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 8 comments Susan in Perthshire wrote: "Ashley wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I agree with everything you all noted, and in addition I'd add that I love:

- the subtle humor Stewart brings into her stories

- the lack of graphic sexuality that I..."


I say levels of immortality because these are murder mystery books, and surely murder is not morally right. But the murders are usually not super descriptive, whereas we were talking about graphic sexuality.


message 22: by Jill (last edited Dec 08, 2016 10:33AM) (new)

Jill Collen | 7 comments Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Good point, Jill! I forgot about that one. So Mary only mentioned the heroine's appearance when it was pertinent to the plot? ;)


reply | flag *

Yes! Also I have just remembered that in Wildfire at Midnight the heroine is a redhead - and was a model. The redheadedness and fierry temperament is linked to the to the story...


message 23: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1084 comments Jill wrote: "Yes! Also I have just remembered that in Wildfire at Midnight the heroine is a redhead - and was a model. The redheadedness and fierry temperament is linked to the to the story..."

Gah, you're right! There are way more exceptions to the rule than I remembered. :)


Susan in Perthshire (susanageofaquarius) | 212 comments Ashley wrote: "Susan in Perthshire wrote: "Ashley wrote: "Hannah wrote: "I agree with everything you all noted, and in addition I'd add that I love:

- the subtle humor Stewart brings into her stories

- the lack..."

Sorry, I was mentally smiling (hence my comment), because you used 'immortality' when I had assumed from your comments that you meant to use 'immorality'. They are not the same thing!


message 25: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (new)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1084 comments I've been assuming that Ashley meant "immorality" too. Correct us if we're wrong, Ashley!


message 26: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 8 comments Oops! Yes, that's indeed what I meant to type! Thank you! No wonder for the confusion!!


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