San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape. As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear. Amazon Link – https://amzn.to/2QkMRAi
Interview with Rebecca Rosenberg
- Which book (or other media) would you say is your largest influence?
My inspiration for THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON comes from Jack London’s books, especially The Valley of the Moon, Star Rover, Little Lady of the Big House, John Barleycorn, his lesser known works that show a vulnerable side to Jack London that intrigued me. Then I read Charmian London’s HAWAII and LOG OF THE SNARK, which told about the London’s incredible sailing trip in 1906, from San Francisco to Australia, through Hawaii, the Fijis and Soloman Islands, meeting lepers, cannibals and head hunters. I could not believe this adventurous couple did that and wrote books at the same time!
What part of the book was the most difficult to write?
Love scenes, because I do not really know the details of the affair between Charmian London , so, as a writer I had to make assumptions based on what information I could find from their diaries and letters.
What was the seed of the book, or the very first thing that came to you as you started the writing process?
I have a lavender farm across from Jack London’s Beauty Ranch, and have explored it for 30 years. You can feel Charmian and Jack London living there at their cottage, and minding their 1000 acre ranch with it’s pig palace, stone horse barn, winery, and the ghostly ruins of Wolf House which burned down mysteriously before they moved in.
Did the book change a lot through different drafts? How so?
The story stayed the same, but each draft deepens the emotions and desires of the characters. Also the quirky wonderful aspects of their personalities. For example, Bess Houdini was a showgirl when she met Houdini at eighteen. She was not educated, and she had a wicked sense of humor. She always lied to reporters about the Houdinis marriage and children, never telling the same story twice. She collected thousands of dolls and kept a menagerie of pets. It was really fun to develop those facts into a poignant, funny character.
If you had to pick any aspect of the book to change, what would it be?
I may have extended the ending. People want to know more about what happened to Charmian London. An epilogue would have been good!
How much of yourself do you find in the protagonist?
I am kind of amazed that I find the voice in every protagonist I write, yet they are all so different that me! I see them more like best friends rather than part of me. Charmian London put up with so much from Jack London, which I would not do, no matter how handsome and brilliant he was! And I would never have an affair with my friend’s husband!
Did you discover anything new/unexpected while doing research?
That is why this book is called THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON! Each of the four main characters had so many secrets which I uncovered in research. Jack London and Houdini pushed the limits of human existence. Bess had a debilitating medical condition which tragically prevented her from having children. Jack London wrote fifty books in fifteen years—that would be impossible if not for Charmian London’s help. She was his typist, editor, sounding board, manager… she sustained him in every way.
If this is your first experience writing in this genre, what drew you to write the book specifically this way? (If not, what makes this genre one you like to write in?)
I love to write historical fiction about women who lived astounding lives, so they are not lost to history. Charmian London and Bessie Houdini were remarkable women who people do not really know about.
Did you ever find yourself burning out on the book? How did you get through that?
I don’t burn out on the story, but it is sometimes hard to look at things in a fresh way. It helps to get feedback from my Stanford writing group—they are great help to shake me out of my rose-colored glasses!
What do you most hope readers will take away from this book?
The thing I learned is that the driving genius of Jack London and Houdini was difficult and painful for their wives to live with. They were admirable and fascinating in their own right. The book mirrors how complicated our emotions and relationships can be.
Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others you’ve written?
Actually, this book took two years, and my next novel, GOLD DIGGER, the story of Baby Doe Tabor, started ten years ago. I have been tweaking it on and off for all those years, but it will be worth it. The story of Baby Doe Tabor is a touching, exciting, and heartbreaking saga. If you would like to join REBECCA’S REVIEW CREW, and get a free ARC (advanced reader copy) of GOLD DIGGER, email me at [email protected]
Is this a book that could be easily adapted to other media (movie, podcast, etc.)? How much do you think an adaptation might change it?
THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON would be fabulous in a movie, with the excitement of Houdini’s wild escapes from San Quentin, the Chinese Water Torture Chamber, the Strait jacket escape dangling upsidedown off a highrise! Plus gorgeous Beauty Ranch in Sonoma Valley with the horses and vineyards. Who would play Jack London? Houdini?
Has writing this book changed your worldview at all?
I see how blind ambition hurts those around the ambitious one.
- Is there a certain place/time of day that most inspires you to write?
I like to write beginning at 4am with a candle lit and black coffee, so the characters can come alive in the silence.
- Do you have a writing routine? How well do you follow it?
I like to write in the morning, but life happens!
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Develop the concept and premise of your story before you start to write it. Make sure you have a great story to tell and stick to the concept and premise. https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/story-concept/
A California native, Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where Jack London wrote from his Beauty Ranch. Rebecca is a long-time student of Jack London’s works and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian London. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel.
Rebecca and her husband, Gary, own the largest lavender product company in America, selling to 4000 resorts, spas and gift stores. Next novel: GOLD DIGGER, the story of Baby Doe Tabor Jan. 2019
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Email: [email protected]