Money. Family. Love. Hate. Obsession. Duty. Politics. Religion - or the lack thereof. Sex -- or, once again, the lack thereof.
Thomas Baldwin finds himself married to a woman he can’t stand, while head-over heels in love with another woman he can’t have. Talk about bad planning. He feels like a kite, buffeted by circumstances which blow him not only through personal crises, but also through some of the most significant events in Pittsburgh during the late 1800s, including the railroad riots of 1877, the creation of the Homestead Steel Works, the assassination of President Garfield, and the Johnstown Flood. Over time, and with the help of his muse, who dances maddeningly just beyond his reach, he takes control of his life, wresting it from the winds attempting to control him.
A carefully-researched historical novel about life among the privileged class of Pittsburgh during the Industrial Revolution.
1) Where did you get the idea for the novel?
I was staying at a friend’s house, reading the back covers of her immense stack of romance novels. It struck me – they were all set in the south, and occasionally out west. I’m a Yankee girl; what’s so unromantic about the north? Or the east? So I set out to write a northern love story. We’d lived in Pittsburgh for four years, and I absolutely loved the city. It seemed like the perfect setting. A lot of north, and a little bit east.
2) Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?
The book is calling Wealth and Privilege – which is what everyone wants. But having wealth and privilege isn’t as much fun as it seems. It doesn’t solve problems, in fact, it just creates more.
3) Why did you pick this genre? What do you like about it?
The genre picked me. I love history, I love doing historical research, I’m a dancer and a costumer and I know my dances and my clothing from this era. (The book is set between 1875-1889.) I grew up loving Gone With the Wind, now it sort of seems inevitable that of course someday I would write my own Great American Love Story. Northern American, that is.
4) Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
That’s hard to say. My life’s pretty exciting. I’m a belly dancer and a cancan dancer and my life is a great big costume party. I just came back from the Bastille Days celebration in Milwaukee, which is four days of huge, loving, fantastic audiences…
I guess as I writer I’m going to go with the fact that I’m getting thank you cards and emails from readers. I don’t know if it counts as my first fan mail, but I was so touched by getting notes to say “I read your book and I loved it. Thank you.” It’s not so much exciting as it is profound, that my characters touched people enough that they cared to find me to thank me. It’s kind of humbling. I love these characters. The fact that other people love them, too, means the world to me.
5) What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
I love reading biographies and history books! I just finished reading a biography on Amelia Bloomer, and I’ve started one on the history of the Habsburgs.
6) At a book signing, do you just sign your name or do you write a note? How do you come up with stuff to say?
I always write a little note! Just signing my name would be way too impersonal. I really don’t know how on earth I find things to say. But when I talk to people, there’s always some spark that we have in common. We’re both history lovers. We’re both dog lovers. If we didn’t have some sort of connection, they wouldn’t be interested in reading my book. I guess the fact that I do a lot of improv acting helps. I’m always in costume, and interacting with people because of the costume. So finding things to talk about isn’t hard for me. Then again, I was born in Chicago. Chicago natives aren’t exactly shy.
7) What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I can’t surprise anyone. My name is its own explanation. No matter what outlandish thing I come up with, all my friends and family and ex-neighbors and high school teachers just shrug and say “That’s Jeanette.” It’s a little discouraging, not being able to surprise anyone. I’d have to do something really shocking, and I’m really not interested in getting arrested for dancing topless on the White House lawn, just to get a rise out of people. Come to think of it, some of my friends wouldn’t be surprised by that…
8) How do you react to a bad review?
I laugh! For the most part, I’ve had stellar reviews. The Kirkus review was very wooden, very corporate. The “professionals” had a ton less insight into the book than all the reviews coming from readers. I’ve also had reviewers who disliked one character or the other, or even my hero. This also delights me. If my hero was a real person, people would react to him differently. Not everyone would respond to him the same way. The fact that so many reviewers see different things tells me that I did it right. My character is full-bodied, nuanced, and flawed.
9) How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
I started writing my next book. I’ve got other characters beating at the inside of my brain, now, also trying to get out.
A soft rumble of thunder sounded in the distance, and they both groaned.
“Just what we need,” Thomas observed. “More water.”
“Well, I suppose thunder doesn’t necessarily mean more rain,” Regina answered hopefully.
It was an odd sort of thunder. It took Thomas a moment to realize why. Then it occurred to him that it was continuous, and getting louder, instead of fading away.
A strange black fog began to drift through the air. They froze, staring at each other, listening. The rumble increased like – what? It was a cross between an oncoming train, and – and – Thomas imagined this must be what an avalanche must sound like.
Then he knew what was going on. The South Fork dam had broken!
Before he could share his insight, Regina’s face changed. She stared up Clinton Street, mouth open, eyes wide with horror. She pointed, incoherent noises issuing from her throat. Thomas turned, and nearly fell off their precarious little raft.
The source of the crashing rumble was a towering wall of debris moving toward them. A misty black cloud hung in the air, occasionally obscuring the horrific sight. A writhing mass of tree roots, rooftops, planks, railroad pieces and other metal parts tumbled over and over upon itself.
The rumble had clarified into a roar of screaming and crashing as the rapidly approaching behemoth rolled toward them. They couldn’t outrun it, either on or off their little craft. Regina pointed to the nearest building. The brick corners were coined, laid unevenly enough to make a decent ladder. Thomas understood without a word. They poled their way across the watery distance, desperation giving them strength and speed.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanette Watts has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.
When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.
Jeanette will be awarding a Victorian cameo to a randomly drawn winner (International) via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn host.
The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:a Rafflecopter giveaway