In Every Gesture Dignity And Love

Saturday, 25 August 2012

"Grace was in all her steps,
heaven in her eye,
in every gesture dignity and love." 
- Paradise Lost, John Milton

About the beginning of this month, with an inward sigh of relief I accomplished the final edits for A Love that Never Fails. I am finally done with this short story! Oh yes, I might extend it into a novel sometime and I quite look forward to knowing how that will go, but for now... this little short story is completed. So now I am back to working on The Crown of Life again, with lots of excitement, a bit of trepidation but altogether in quite a delighted frame of mind. I feel quite thrilled about "coming back to it" so to speak and my hands are itching to reacquaint myself with my old friends and rediscover the lives and events of the people living in the story. 

One of those characters that I really want to "get into" further and understand more, is Claudia, the daughter of a Roman Legate and the sponsa (betrothed wife) of Tribune Valerius Gallus. She is perhaps the character dearest to my heart. As I've delved more into her part of the story, I see clearly a life of tragic beauty, fear and hope, pain and love all mingled into this one young woman.  It is hard to write such a character. In some earlier scenes of The Crown of Life, some of her actions or dialogue contradict my present understanding of her character. So, naturally, this round of Beautiful People by Sky and Gerogie is about her. To understand her more.

1. Is there someone that she can open up to? 

Claudia's deepest confident has always been her father, Legate Albinus. There is a special bond of understanding and openness between them that allows for them to share their deepest fears and longings to each other. Besides her father, Claudia is a good listener of all of Anthea's "outbursts", though she is usually shy of sharing her own with her. Slowly as they get to know each other better, Claudia starts opening up her thoughts and dreams to Valerius, as he in turn does the same to her.

2. Is there something she is afraid of? 

Claudia is not one to be naturally afraid. She is, in more ways than one, her father's daughter.  Nevertheless, like a violet tinged sky, is her fear of losing those dearest to her through an untimely or tragic death, and having a father, brother and husband-to-be who are soldiers makes it all the harder for her for she never knew when some war or a military commission  might take them away beyond recall from her. Above that too, she most fears becoming a pawn and victim of court and imperial intrigue through the scheming of wicked men. For her, such a fate would make life not worth the living.

3. Favorite writing utensil?

A writing method common during Roman times was the wax tablet and stylus, and that is generally Claudia's favourite. However, her handwriting is mostly always elegant and neat to perfection, so that even if it is a lot more strenuous, she will just as readily write with a quill and ink on parchment and scroll as any other way. 

4. What type of laugh does she have? 

Valerius thought the sound of her laughter was like the joyful bubbling of a singing fountain or like the spontaneous gushing of a spring. - The Crown of Life

5. Who is her best friend?

Definitely Anthea Gallus.

If she was not with Rosa learning the womanly arts, about the habits of good society, or working to fill her carved wooden chest with linens and tapestries for her future home, she was in the company of Anthea. The two were as inseparable as twins, even though they differed as the warm glow of summer differs to the crystal hands of ice in winter. Anthea was interested in gossip, clothes, parties and social events... Claudia loathed all that. But despite how different they both seemed, Claudia loved Anthea for her energy and sense of fun. She always made her feel young and it was with her that she found it easiest to laugh. - The Crown of Life

6. Any enemies?

Claudia is not one to make needless enmity with people if she can help it, but being of fair countenance, she is faced with one or two unwanted admirers and stalkers. Tribune Serigus Apicius, the loathsome half-brother of Flavius, who is dead-set on marrying her, is on the top list.... there are others.

7. What would she do if she discovered she was dying?

At this stage in Claudia's life, she would be saddened. It is not so much the loss of life that would cause her to be heart-broken as much as that she would be leaving behind those dearest to her. If she found she were dying, she would have spent her life without having really found her place or the purpose of her existence. But after the initial shock, Claudia would try to meet it with as much fortitude as was in her and comfort those around her, and try to make as much use of the time left to her as possible. As yet, she does not know the hope of eternal life that is in Christ, or the strength that comes from knowing Him who has conquered sin and death. Not yet.

8. If your character’s house burned down, and they were left with nothing but the clothes on their back, what would they do? Where would they go? 

Right into Valerius' arms! (that is supposing that he is within reach, and is able to battle the fires to rescue her of course). If Claudia were alone, she would compose herself, and flee the place of the fire without lingering unless some great heartache accompanied the fire itself and had robbed her of someone dear. But if her family and loved ones were safe, then she'd not grieve the loss of her belongings. All those things would not really matter in the end. She would try to seek some refuge or make contact with a friend and try to rebuild her life from there. If possible.

9. What is her station in life? 

Claudia is the daughter of a Roman Legate, a Roman patrician and part of the aristocracy of Rome. Her mother was a great-granddaughter of Emperor Tiberius... But to Claudia, her station in life often feels more like a cage, a death trap of all her dreams and longings.

10. Does she play a musical instrument? If so, what?

When Claudia was but a young child of three, her mother, Lady Helena, taught her the skill of playing on the lyre. She learnt quickly and loved fingering the strings of her mother's harp, playing a sweat tune on it. Just before the Lady Helena's death, she gave Claudia her harp as a gift, knowing how her young daughter had a talent for it. The harp becomes one of Claudia's most treasured possessions, a wood-carved instrument of exquisite beauty that brings forth an even fairer and sweater timber between the silver strings and gems studded on its gilded pillar.

11, What colour are her eyes? Hair? 

The colour of her eyes are the brown of hazels, gleaming almost golden in the sunlight or when she's laughing/crying. In the shade, when she is solemn, her eyes can take on a slightly darker shade. Claudia has a long cascade of jet black hair, dark as a ravine, and wavy. 

12. What is her life dream? 

Claudia longs to be happily married to the man she loves, and to bare a son for Valerius and own a happy little family of her own. But beyond that, Claudia longs to find a place, to find "home" and a hope in the midst of the darkness of her life; she has a wistful feeling that it can never be found within the confines of earth or the world she's living in...

13. What is her biggest secret? 

Having always confided in her father, Claudia feels a twinge of guilt when she secretly starts attending the meetings of the Christians at Lady Pomponaea's house once a week and fears that he would be displeased if he found out, thus she tries to keep her visits a secret for as long as possible. Besides this, at this time, Claudia's biggest secret would be her own self... the struggles of her own heart that she allows very few to see or notice.

14. What is one of her strongest childhood memories? 

Some of Claudia's vividest memories as a child are simply the "ordinary" days with her family during her "growing up years" and she carries a tender memory of her mother before her death...

She remembered her mother’s soft sing-song voice, whispering beautiful stories into Claudia’s ear, about when she was little herself. She could still feel her mother’s gentle, smooth hand fondle her cheeks and rock her to sleep when she had been a little child. Claudia could recall her glee as she wriggled into her lap, enjoying everything about her dear mother: her perfumed fragrance, her starlike eyes that always sparkled with youthful joy and enthusiasm. But what she most remembered, was her tender motherly love. "Love is stronger then death," her mother used to tell her. Only now, she understood, for her mother's love lived on. - The Crown of Life

Perhaps, though, her strongest memory was the birth of her young brother, Antony. It was also the day her mother died, so the emotions and memories of that day are strong and mingled between terrible grief and a quiet joy, both as dominant as the other.

15. What are her thoughts on politics? 

Claudia abhors political intrigue and how politics affects people and hurts them without repair, but she is by no means ignorant of what happens at the Palace, the Senate and the Army. In the words of her father, she is "a shrewd politician in her own right, one to be reckoned with!" But if I were to describe the ins-and-outs of her thoughts on politics it would demand an essay to sufficiently do so.

16. What languages does she speak? 

Claudia speaks Latin as her mother-tongue and almost as fluently she can speak Greek as well, which she often does. 

17. How old is she? 

When you first meet Claudia, she is sixteen

18. What does she do with her spare time? 

Claudia loves to create and play music (playing the lyre/harp and singing songs that she's made up) and would write in her journal or letters to her father or Valerius in her free hours, pouring her soul into her writing. Since she was seven years old, she had been tutored by an old priest, Mater Glaucus, who taught her how to write poetry, gave her advanced music lessons (as her nurse Rosa knew only the basics of music) and nurtured in her a love for reading the classics. Now that she's older, Claudia helps the old priest in making up melodies and poetry, who in turn gives her a more advanced education in law, arts and politics. However, she does not spend all her time in study and learning! She also likes to do needlework and when Rosa is not looking sneaks up to the kitchen to help the household slaves in preparing the evening meal. Besides these things, she loves to spend time with her father, helping Antony with his studies, enjoying a lesuiraly walk in the gardens or spending some time with her friends.

19. Does she see the big picture or live in the moment? 

Claudia tries to live in the big picture, but most times, she finds herself imprisoned within the narrow confines of the present moment.

20. What is her full name? 

Claudia Helena Albinus

By the way, most of those questions have been taken from the old "Beautiful People" archives :). And as a side thing, I posted on Not An Average Girl today a little post.

A Literary Appointment and A Spot O' Tea!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

If you have been keeping up with this blog for a while, you may have noticed that, ranking among my favourite blogs, is Elizabeth Rose's blog, Living on Literary Lane. Elizabeth shares great book reviews, beautiful poetry, bits and pieces from her books, and inspirational posts on topics such as music, writing, and faith in a refreshing and inspiring way which I have fallen in love with ever since coming across her blog more than a year ago.

A month ago, I asked Elizabeth if she would be willing to drop over to this little literary lounge of mine, as we discuss different literary topics and her debut novel, Violets are Blue which she recently self-published.  It so happened that she had been planning on doing a blog tour during August, celebrating her novel's publication, and so we decided instead that I'd host the interview during her blog tourAnd without asking, such a pleasant afternoon cannot but include a spot o' tea, some luscious fruits (such as strawberries and cherries) and cake too of course! 

So now, my dear friends and bloggers, without any further ado, I would like to introduce you to:

 Miss Elizabeth Rose

1.     Hello, Elizabeth! Thank you so much for being on this interview with me today. To start this off, could you tell us a little about yourself? (Short bio etc...)
            Hello! My pen-name is Elizabeth Rose, but I am also called Elizabeth, Lizzy Rose, or just plain Lizzy.  First and most importantly, I am a follower of the Most High and seek to live every day of my life in accordance with 1 Corinthians 10:31. I am an admitted bookworm, my ideal afternoon being one spent in a cozy nook or tree, with lots and lots of books, the thicker the better. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, whether it be in the form of journaling, dramatic installments in my siblings’ edition of The Pickwick Portfolio (any guesses as to my favorite book as a girl? ;)), poetry, or novel-writing. In May 2012, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to self-publish my first book, Violets Are Blue. In my free time, I take dance classes at a Christian studio, watch period dramas with my sisters and mother, bake all sorts of fattening delicacies, and obsess over Les Misérables and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
2.      At what age did you first discover a love for writing? Was there someone or something that influenced you to start this journey?
            I am unable to pinpoint an exact date, but I have loved words for as long as I can remember. I have been journaling since the age of six, and am currently in my seventh journal. Around age seven or eight, I would often wander around my backyard, writing simple four-verse poems about whatever was before me. My father is a writer and has always encouraged me down this path, planting the seed of a love of writing in my heart from a very young age.
3.      Without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, Violets Are Blue?
          Violets Are Blue is a telling of the friendship between two fourteen-year-old girls, Lillian Prescott and Violet Bradshaw. Living in Eastbourne, East Sussex in the early 1900s, they have been friends for the entirety of their lives. Their tightly-knit bond seems apt to break, though, when Violet’s parents make the pivotal decision to move the Bradshaw family to America. Vi and Lilli determine to keep up their friendship by exchanging letters, Lilli telling of affairs in their hometown, and Vi sharing her trials in a new country. Not many months after the Bradshaws move to America, Lilli sends Vi an elated epistle, informing her best friend that the Prescotts are planning on coming to America on the most splendid ship of that era, the “unsinkable” R.M.S. Titanic. While we may know the tragedy of the Titanic’s end, neither girl can know the peril that awaits them, and what a test it will be for the both of them.
4.      Isaac Newton was known to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who’re the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your own life?
         Oh, such a hard question! ;) My two favorite authors of all time are probably Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis; the former because of her uncanny ability to correctly portray the human heart, and the latter because he explains such deep spiritual truths in a manner easy to understand. Other authors whose literary works I favor include Louisa May Alcott, Baroness Orczy, Charles Dickens, and most recently, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. One can never have too many books!
5.      How does your Christian faith affect your writing in general and is this novel overtly Christian, or is it written more subtly on Christian principles and influence?
            I believe that my Christian faith plays a part in all of my writing, whether it is overt or not. My relationship with Jesus is such a key part of my life — it seems to make itself known no matter what I write. In relation to Violets Are Blue, the Bradshaws and Prescotts are openly Christian, and prayer, daily Scripture reading, and references to Biblical truths are not uncommon in their respective households. Although not all my books will be this way, they will all have Christian principles exemplified.
6.      In the process of writing, there are many different methods which writers use (i.e. outlining vs. writing and letting the plot sort itself out). What way do you most use?
            I’d like to say I outline, but truth be told, it is a rather frustrating process for me. The tedium of it wears on me after a time, and I much prefer to sit down and just write the book itself. I always have at least a margin of an idea as to how the ending will turn out, but the middle can be a mystery. Figuring out all the twists and turns along the way is one of my favorite parts of the writing process.
7.      Aren't those twists fun! Ah, but what part of the writing process do you dread the most? As a dual question, can you tell us what your favourite part is?
            Editing is my least favorite part. The story is all written out, and I am required to focus on the little technical details — there is no scope for the imagination in that. J As to my favorite part, any time throughout draft one, if I am writing well and not experiencing writer’s block, is enjoyable for me. Getting the first hard copy of your book isn’t disagreeable, either. ;)
8.      Being a homeschooler in a large family, how do you fit writing time with schoolwork, chores and family time as well as other activities?
            I must admit that although I love scheduling my day out, it does not always turn out the way I intended. I try to keep disciplined and finish my chores and schoolwork before I get on the computer to write, but when Inspiration calls and I have an incredible scene that is simply itching to be typed out, it can be hard. I also dance over ten hours a week, which lessens my writing time considerably. Late nights and early mornings are when I find the most time, so naturally, they have becoming my writing hours.
9.      Can you tell us a bit about your new writing project(s) you’re working on now?
            I have several snippets of plot dancing through my brain at the moment, but the three most significant ones I will share below:
The Great Unnamed Novel (my NaNoWriMo 2011 project)
Writing stage: Stagnant since December 1, and will remain so until I find the inspiration to continue it.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Time period: The Third Crusade
            A naive young woman who wants nothing more than to marry well and sit in the lap of luxury all the rest of her days. A son who would defy his father to pursue something he believes in with all his heart and soul. A man willing to give everything — even his life — for a cause. Told from three different perspectives, this book shows the many effects of war and how it has the power to uproot the deepest bonds and change dramatically even the most stubborn of hearts.
The Window (summer writing project with my sister)
Writing stage: Mentally outlining, doing research, gathering ideas.
Genre: Fantasy
            Azin can’t remember why she was put in this frigid institution. She can’t explain the nightmares she has each night of her deceased parents begging for mercy in a cold and lonely dungeon. She will never understand why members of her household are required to whisper at certain hours of the day, why she never has seen a ray of sunlight in all her life. Her only solution to these questions is ducking her head and accepting what comes her way with as little complaint as possible. Zelina, a fellow inhabitant, shares Azin’s inquisitive nature. Though opposites in personality, the two girls are drawn together through a strange course of events that catalysts their quest for answers and ultimately, the truth about the world outside.
Rifles in the South Field
Writing stage: First draft
Genre: Historical Fiction
Time period: American Revolution
            Calm, efficient, and organized, Susannah Dixon has had everything in her life under control since the day she learned walk. Even her mother's tragic death by influenza when Susannah was ten years old has not shaken this young woman's foundation. Now the mistress of her family's plantation in colonial Georgia, she takes pride in the fact that her father trusts her completely with all affairs of the household, including planning meals, organizing the house slaves' chores, and the like. But when the Georgia militia is called up and Mr. Dixon is compelled to help in the fight for freedom, Susannah begins to notice cracks in her seemingly perfect world. Can she manage to keep the large plantation running during her papa's absence, or will she be forced to ask for help for the first time in her life?
10.  My! How those stories pique my keenest interest, Elizabeth. I would love to read them one day! Back to discussing your debut novel, I understand you self-published Violets Are Blue. Can you tell us why you went that route instead of the main-stream commercial publishing way?
            I finished my second draft of Violets Are Blue in March of 2011. When I had printed it off in a bewilderingly large stack of 8x11 copy paper, my father took it to a friend of his who happens to play a role in the publishing world. This literary agent read over one hundred pages of my manuscript and made some critical suggestions on how to improve it. He would have loved to help us publish it, but his business mainly involves nonfiction for adults. He suggested that we go with Amazon’s CreateSpace program, since it is relatively inexpensive and simple to use. He also informed us that when it comes to publishing houses, the more the author does on her own to promote the book, the better. Since we hoped to have VAB released in April 2012 (the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic), this seemed like the best route to take. My sister and I hosted a year-long event leading up to the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking called Unsinkable. The book agent told us that if we sell 3,000 copies on our own, it will catch the interest of a large publishing house. So, that’s our goal for now. 
11.  The Titanic’s sinking was a very important and tragic marine event in history. But what made you decide to build a story around that ‘unsinkable’ ship and the circumstances surrounding it? Are there any historical facts, gleaned from your research while writing Violets Are Blue, which you’d like to share with us today?
            Two things drew me to write a book about the Titanic. For one, this tragic marine event has always fascinated me. The fact that the Mayflower made it across the Atlantic Ocean — and the Titanic didn’t — is a great testament to human pride and the truth behind the words “pride cometh before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”. It was a horrible night, but it was also a night on which the principle of “women and children first” was put to the test. Brave men stepped aside, sacrificing their lives for the sake of their wives and children. Tragedy and triumph were mixed together into a story that can only be described as unforgettable — who wouldn’t want to write about that?
            Secondly, I’ve noticed that a lot of stories about the Titanic’s sinking portray characters who were onboard the ship at 11:40 P.M. on April 14th, 1912. While this is no doubt an interesting topic, I wanted to take a different approach. We are used to hearing about the emotions of the passengers as the ship went down; what about the families and friends in New York, all eager as they awaited their loved ones’ arrival . . . only to discover that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and slid beneath the ocean’s surface, leaving little over a third of her passengers alive? It was uncharted land, a new twist on the classic account that everyone seems to know already.
12.  Out of all the characters you’ve created, which one do you connect with and love the most?
            This is going to sound extremely cliché, but Violet Bradshaw is my favorite character. She is very much my twin: one of her favorite pastimes is letter-writing, she refuses to give up those she loves without a fight, and she has a quick and fiery temper. I didn’t intend to model her around myself; it came quite naturally, actually. The only difference is that she possesses lovely blonde curls, while my hair is brunette and wouldn’t curl if my life depended on it.
13.  Could you be persuaded to share three excerpts from some of your works?
            My pleasure! Here are a few of my favorites . . .
            “In some ways, life was very different in America, and in other ways, it was no different than in had been at home in Eastbourne. Our normal schedules were the same, but our surroundings never failed to change things just enough so that I always felt out of place, as if I was teetering on the edge of a tightrope between England and America, belonging to neither and an outsider to both.”

            “Perhaps that is so, but you are quite enough! I canna imagine if the whole world were filled with lasses who had the same capacity wi’ their tongues as you seem to posses.” I pretended to shiver. “Such a thing would be . . . unthinkable.”
            “That is a shame.” Elena shook her head slowly. “For you men are the ones who will have to satisfy yourselves with your own thoughts the majority of the time. We can talk amongst ourselves, but ever so often, a gentleman desires a pretty girl in whom he can confide.” The girl was silent for a moment, and then she added, her tone strangely cold, “I suppose you will marry someone quiet when the time comes.”
            “Hardly. I could very well marry someone wi’ a sharp tongue.”
            “I’m afraid there are only a few,” she replied. “You will have to look for quite some time.”
            “A good wife is worth a long search,” I replied softly.

            “How much longer?” Lilli asked quietly. She didn’t have to say anything more—I knew what she meant.
            “Mum said no more than two weeks. She wants us to leave as soon as possible.”
            “And your father?”
            “He agrees with Mum.”
            Lilli sighed and flopped back on the bed. “That means we have only two more weeks together. Do you think you’ll ever come back to visit?”
            “I don’t know… It’s an expensive journey, and not one that can be made often. I may never—”
            “—see you again,” she interrupted, finishing my sentence sadly.
            “Will you write me?” I asked.
            “Every day!” she replied eagerly.
 “Really?” I asked skeptically, taking the pillowcase off of her pillow. “Every day?”
             “Well, I’ll try, anyway. Will you write me?”
            “Of course I will.” I threw the pillow at Lilli. “You know that.”
            “You mustn’t leave out anything,” she insisted, catching the pillow. “I want to hear just what life is like in New York.”
            “And I want to hear about everything that is going on here in Eastbourne,” I replied, “even if you say the same thing a dozen times.”
14.  What would you most like your readers to take with them from reading Violets Are Blue?
            I have several answers to that question, actually. First, I’d like them to understand that pride can be the ultimate downfall, and that man can never grow to be more powerful than God. Second, it is possible for a family to go through hardship and still remain a loving, perfectly functioning family. Too many stories these days are wrapped around a broken family, and the end always results in the family either changing or accepting that “this is the way our family is”. And what sort of an ending is that? It took the author an entire book to get his characters to the point at which they should have been on page one! I think it makes a book far more interesting when the family members can rely on each other and face the storms of life together from the start. Last but certainly not least, I would like my readers to understand the age-old truth: God always has a plan, whether we realize it or not. It may sound trite because of the many times it has been quoted, but it’s very true, and a valuable lesson everyone needs to learn.
15.  And finally, do you have any helpful tips or advice that you’ve learnt and you’d care to share with fellow young authors like us?
            It has been said multiple times, in many different tongues, but it bears such weight that I will say it again: READ. Read continually and thoroughly. Read the books that are centuries old — they have stood the test of time. Next, WRITE. You must learn to carry over the excellence from the books you read to the books you write. And finally (this one’s the hardest of all), KEEP WRITING. Don’t stop when you get discouraged; persevere, and you will be rewarded.
Thank you so much for featuring me, Joy! It has been a pleasure. 

Thank you, Elizabeth, for taking the time to answer my many questions here on Fullness of Joy! I am looking forward to reading Violets are Blue and enjoying your future works as well :). God bless!

My pen-name is Elizabeth Rose, but I am also called Elizabeth, Lizzy Rose, or just plain Lizzy. First and most importantly, I am a follower of the Most High and seek to live every day of my life in accordance with 1 Corinthians 10:31. I love all sorts of books (the thicker the better), am convinced that Irish Breakfast tea is the closest thing this world will get to heaven, dance until my feet ache (and love every minute of it), stay up until all hours writing, wear pearls at every opportunity, and obsess over Les Misérables and The Scarlet Pimpernel. In May 2012, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to self-publish my first book, Violets Are Blue. 

To get to know Elizabeth more, click on this link that will lead you to her lovely blog: Living on Literary Lane