AMERICAN HISTORICAL NOVELS discussion

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Interview about writing The Necklace

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message 1: by Claire (last edited Aug 13, 2018 07:14AM) (new)

Claire McMillan | 8 comments What was the spark that started you on the journey to write The Necklace?

In 2006 my husband and I moved in to his family’s farm that had been built by his great grandfather in 1921. Because it was a family house, there was a lot to sort and go through. One of the things that had always been in the house was a scrapbook his great grandmother kept of her first years in the house. It was filled with photos of house parties during the 1920’s. People swimming wearing those black wool bathing suits, costume parties, cigarettes and cocktails. It’s a country house so there was a lot of “make fun” hijinks and games. It was from her scrapbook that the idea of a book set in the 1920s came to me. I marinated on it for a while before I ever tried to write it.

The Necklace goes back and forth between present day and the 1920s. Did you find any similarities between the two periods?

I was interested in exploring the 1920’s time frame because it was a time of liberation for women. They were bobbing their hair and raising their skirts, drinking cocktails, smoking cigarettes and gaining a freedom to navigate society in ways they hadn’t before. However, women didn’t have the right to vote nationwide in this country until 1920. Women were very much still defined in terms of their relationship to men, both their marital status and their reproductive status as wife and mother. This tension drew me in as it’s a tension I think still exists today for women.

As an attorney, did you draw on your own experience when developing your protagonist Nell Quincy (also an attorney)?

The book as a whole reflects of my time as a lawyer, a few of the plot points turn on questions of antiquities law and on estate law. Wills and trusts is a class most people take in law school, so I had hazy knowledge about that aspect of the law when I was writing. I’m lucky to have a few friends who practice in that area who let me run some of the more nitty-gritty issues past them. In my third years of law school I took a seminar on art and the law that briefly touched on repatriation issues for lost and looted art and antiquities. As with the questions of estate law, I knew just enough to know how much I didn’t know. I was fortunate to be able to consult an expert in the area of provenance law. And of course my modern day hero, Nell Quincy, was very much influenced by my time as a litigator as I gave her the same profession.

How long did it take you to research and write The Necklace?

It depends on how you count. I didn’t do much direct research before I started writing. After I had an initial draft, I could see where the holes were and where I needed to research. The staff here in Cleveland at the Western Reserve Historical Society were wonderfully helpful in providing me materials that brought the twenties to life. Notably, Cleveland had two society magazines at the time The Bystander and Town Topics. They were like the Us Weekly and People magazine of 1920’s Cleveland and looking at the back issues from the years I was dealing with helped a lot. As mentioned above, the legal questions needed research as well. All in, it took about two years to write and revise the book.

If your novel were a song, what would that song be?

I posted a play list for the Necklace over on my blog (www.clairemcmillan.com) and on Spotify. But if I had to choose two songs I’d choose Go by Grimes for the 1920s and Slowly, Slowly by the Mowglis for the modern day story.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on another historical fiction book set in Paris among the surrealists during the lead up to World War II. It’s early stages of drafting, and I’m enjoying the research very much.


message 2: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Along with other similarities (we both have characters named May!), my grandfather also built a "farm" for his children in the 1920s (not a working farm, but there were horses and sometimes chickens). This was in Peninsula, Ohio, near Blossom. (Not a peninsula!!) I spent many weekends there growing up, and a week every summer. I love that you took a real place and created a story around it. Setting has always been very important to me.

One of the things I really enjoyed about your novel is the glittering description of the house parties in the 1920s and the new freedoms of a growing industrial/urban age, coupled with the constraints on women at that time. It's such an interesting juxtaposition, as you say above.

For some reason I feel like I can imagine The Bystander magazine. Was it still around in the 1970s or 80s? I grew up in the Cleveland suburbs.

Martha


message 3: by Claire (new)

Claire McMillan | 8 comments Thanks so much Martha! we do have so many things in common. Some day I hope we'll discuss them all over a glass of wine. And yes, I believe the Bystander was still around all the way into the 70's. A great source of inspo!


message 4: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Artson (barbara_artson) | 21 comments I, too, would love to read your novel. I join other authors who have shown great interest in your book.


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