Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Interview with Renée Rosen - What The Lady Wants

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.

  • ISBN-13: 9780451466716
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/4/2014
  • Pages: 448


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 looked back.

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 enjoy reading?
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 theconservativeschool board is laying groundwork to review the curriculum of it’s sophomore US History courses. 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?
Thankfully 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 World!

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: 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!  

Connect with Renée - Website - Facebook - Twitter- Goodreads

Renée's other works

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  1. Gosh I didn't realize how many horrific things happened in Chicago! I love the cover on this, it is gorgeous!
    Great interview!

  2. Oh yay road trips! This one sounds pretty fascinating!

  3. The cover is lovely and the synopsis has me intrigued, thanks for sharing.