Today I'm so pleased to welcome author Renée Rosen who is here to talk about her new release, What The Lady Wants. A period novel about Marshall Field the Chicago Retail Tycoon.
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 11/4/2014
In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.
Renee welcome to The
Reading Frenzy. Tell us about What The Lady Wants
Thanks for having me
here. What The Lady Wants is the untold
story of Marshall Field, the retail tycoon, and his scandalous love affair with
the Chicago socialite Delia Spencer Caton. It’s also the story of how Field
helped transform Chicago from a trading post into a booming metropolis. It
starts with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and spans 30 plus years, covering
the World’s Fair, the Haymarket Riots and the very mysterious death of Marshall
Field Junior. During the age of robber barons, Marshall Field and Delia Spencer
Caton were considered Chicago royalty. They lived on Prairie Avenue, which was
also known as Millionaire’s Row and were very Downton Abbey-like in terms of
their massive mansions and devoted servants. It was a fascinating world and I
hope people will enjoy reading about it as much as I enjoyed researching and
writing about it.
Renee your website
tells us you are a seasoned writer who when saw the chance to be an author took
it. What was the chance?
I was working as an
advertising copywriter and desperately wanted to devote more time to writing
novels rather than jingles and direct mail pieces. In 2006, after decades of
trying to get published, I finally sold my first novel, Every Crooked Pot. Even
though I couldn’t support myself on the modest advance I received, I decided it
was now or never. This was my chance to live as a writer. So I left the
security of my nine to five job, declared myself a freelance writer and devoted
the majority of my time to fiction. Thankfully I’ve been lucky and haven’t
It also tells us you
love all things Chicago. Why? Are you a native daughter?
Actually I grew up
in Akron, Ohio but with the exception of a brief stint in New York City, I have
lived in Chicago all of my adult life. And I love it. Chicago is an amazing backdrop
for fiction and nonfiction, too. So many pivotal things happened here in
Chicago, everything from the Great Fire to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to
the 1968 Riots. The city is gritty and glamorous at the same time and there’s
untold stories on every corner, tucked away inside every neighborhood. I love
walking through the Loop and along the lakefront, envisioning the historical
figures, like Marshall Field, who walked there before me.
Renee you have three books
currently in print and you’re working on your 4th. What in particular was the
most challenging for you during your career change from copywriter to novelist?
I think the hardest
adjustment for me to make was not feeling guilty for being able to spend my
days doing something I love. It felt really strange to get up in the morning,
put on the coffee and sit down to write. It didn’t seem fair. Another aspect I
struggled with was reading time. A big part of being a writer is being a reader
and it took a few years for me to be able to read during the day. Usually I put
that off until the evening because it didn’t feel like it was work.
It sounds like you
were a closet novelist long before you published your first book. How old were
you when you knew you wanted to be a writer? Was there a certain catalyst?
Ironically I knew I
wanted to be writer before I was a reader. Usually it’s just the opposite. But
for me, it was just something I knew about myself from a very young age. From as
far back as grade school I was always writing poems and short stories.
The catalyst I
believe was pure escapism. Writing gave me permission to daydream and dwell in
another world where I could discover new things and meet new friends. I
remember I loved playing Barbies and came up with elaborate plots for them and unlike
my friends, I was more concerned with the storyline than the clothes!
Renee what do you
The first thing I
look for in a book is great writing—that could come in the form of memoir,
narrative nonfiction, women’s fiction, a great thriller or a collection of
short stories. I’m partial to historical fiction and fiction that features quirky
characters. A few books lately that I’ve really enjoyed are Run by Andrew
Grant, The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai and A Constellation Of Vital
Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
Renee lately in the
news from Golden Colorado the“conservative”school board is laying groundwork to review the
curriculum of it’s sophomore US History courses.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/04/us/after-uproar-colorado-school-board-retreats-on-curriculum-review-plan.html?_r=0
What does the historian in you say to this?
While I do love
history, I don’t think I would go so far as to call myself a historian. But
that aside, as a history buff I will tell you that I think revising history
would be a tragic mistake. You can’t sanitize history. If you do, it ceases to
be history. Historical events are what they are, good, bad and indifferent. If
you’re going to censor the past and clean it up, then it becomes a work of fiction.
There’s much for us to learn from our collective mistakes and I feel we have a
responsibility to bring that to light. We can’t sweep part of an ugly past
under the rug.
Renee how do you
handle the dreaded “deadline? Are you the procrastinator or are they just
another dot on your calendar?
self-discipline has never been my problem and I respond well to deadlines, even
self-imposed deadlines (which I often give myself). But that said, What The
Lady Wants was the first book I’d ever written under contract and knowing that
my first book took 17 years and my second book took 10 years, I was a little
concerned about the prospect of researching and writing a novel in just one
year. I remember setting a 2,000-a-day-word-count goal. I didn’t always hit it,
but I do remember keeping a log. With the new book I’m working on now, I’m much
more relaxed despite it being an even tighter deadline. I realized with this
book that with any luck, I will always be on deadline and that I need to
incorporate that deadline into my life, and not the other way around.
So you've put your
latest book to bed. What’s the first thing you do? Go to Disney World? :)
Oh, don’t I wish! I’m actually deep into the next book, which
I’ll be handing over to my editor in January. But as I said, I’m learning to
fit my deadlines into my life rather than squeeze my life in between my
deadlines. I have a couple trips planned so those will be my version of Disney
Renee thanks so much
for taking some time to chat with me. Good luck with What The Lady Wants! Are
events/signings listed on your website?
Thank you for having
me and for all the great questions! And yes, please drop by my website:
www.reneerosen.com where you’ll find a complete listing of all my events. And
by all means, if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and say hello!