Today in the BelleView Fishbowl, the incomparable Tamera Alexander has stopped by for a bit of Civil War tea. I’m glad you’ve joined us for the party, too! I know you’ll enjoy sitting in on the visit with this sweet and talented writer!
Lisa: As a kid, my favorite place to dream up stories was on the back of a pony (who, no doubt, would’ve preferred to be lolling around the pasture minus one knobby-legged little girl). That pony probably never realized all the places our travels took us in my mind. Most of our stories were westerns, which is probably why I loved working on the Civil War Texas thread in Wildwood Creek. Tamera, did you have a favorite dreaming place as a child? What did it inspire in you? Did you ever “dream” yourself back in time?
Tamera: Since a very young age, I’ve been a big reader, Lisa, and my bedroom was my haven. The desk in my room was right by a window that overlooked a woodsy area behind our house and no telling how many hours I spent sitting and daydreaming, imagining other worlds and far away places.
A favorite childhood memory is when my family went to Germany. Here I am at age 9 boarding a boat that would take us on a tour down the Rhine River in Germany to see the castles along the hillside. Talk about a memory that stayed with me.
I can still remember running my hand along the castle walls, wondering who had lived there and what kind of life they’d had. My love for––and fascination with––history started young.
Lisa: Our porch friends around BelleView know that this is the empty nest year for me. Life is changing, and I feel myself sifting through what was — working to find a new sense of order that doesn’t include sweating and freezing and sports stadiums, washing endless loads of laundry, and running off to prom-mom meetings. I’ll admit, it has definitely taken some getting used to. Tamera, what’s new in your corner of the world? Where is life taking you this year? Anything unexpected?
Tamera: What a great time in your life, Lisa! I’ve been there, done that with the empty nest. And while my husband and I adore our two kids (Kelsey, 26, and Kurt, 24, who live not far from us), we also enjoy the time alone again too. You have a lot to look forward to!
As for this year… Life is in high gear with back-to-back books and lots of travel. I’ll be keeping the roads––and skies––hot with upcoming book signings and speaking engagements through the summer, including a Germany/Switzerland book tour in June along with my daughter, Kelsey (my Marketing Assistant Extraordinaire), and author buddies Lynn Austin and Elizabeth Musser. I’m a major extrovert, so I love it when they let me out of my cage!
Lisa: One of the hardest things for me in writing Wildwood was the research for the historical thread, and in particular sorting out Bonnie Rose’s riverboat travel west. Texas has some riverboat history, but it’s complicated. The research was fun though, because it gave me a chance to awaken my inner steampunk. Tamera: A Beauty So Rare is set in the incredible Belmont mansion. Any secret dreams you had the chance to live out while working on the book? Did you know the ending of the book ahead of time or did it surprise you?
Tamera: Yes, to the secret dream! I had always wanted to go underground at the Belmont Mansion, beneath the spot where the 2,000 square foot glass conservatory (green house) once stood, to the labyrinth of chambers beneath. Here’s a picture of the green house circa 1850s.
And I got the chance to go “spelunking” one day last year with Linda Patrick, a docent at Belmont Mansion.
Here are the original stairs leading down to the chamber beneath where the green house used to stand. One of my favorite scenes from A Beauty So Rare takes place in this underground area.
Notice the arches throughout the construction down here…
The arches served as a support to the brick floors just above in the conservatory itself. There were cast iron stoves in this basement area, and it was the responsibility of the under gardener’s assistants to tend these fires round the clock during cold months. The conservatory had grates in the floor and the hot air would rise and warm the plants. Wish I could travel back in time and view all that first hand!
Regarding the ending of the book, I knew what was going to happen, I simply wasn’t certain how I was going to get there––until I got there! Then everything fell into place.
Lisa: If I had the opportunity to go back in time, I think I would look forward to the quieter nature of past eras (no TVs, no cars, no jet trails overhead, no computers) and the beauty of the clothing, but I have a feeling the novelty of hoops and corsets would wear off in… say… about a day and a half. Tamera, If you could step into your novel, what would you be looking forward to and what would you be dreading?
Tamera: Oh…yes to the quiet! I was thinking about that just recently. How quiet it would be. I’d also love to go back in time and experience the different relational qualities between people. They were much more formal with each other back then (think Downton Abbey and how they talk “around an issue” instead of addressing it head-on like we do today). Yet, like you, girlfriend, I think I’d tire of that pretty quickly because one of the things I prize most in my relationships is straightforwardness.
As far as what I’d be dreading… No air-conditioning or refrigeration! The sheer thought of that, considering the hot, humid Southern summers and how easily food would spoil––not to mention that there were no iPhones in 1868––makes me grateful to live in this day and age.
One thing I do love are some of the recipes from this era. A Beauty So Rare has over 30 recipe references in the story, and I’ve got several on my website (click HERE to see them). And enjoy! To learn more about Tamer, visit her website here:www.TameraAlexander.com
To celebrate Tamera’s visit, we’re having a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive autographed copies of Wildwood Creek and A Beauty So Rare (book and autographed bookplate to arrive separately for A Beauty So Rare). To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post, answering the question of the day. The contest ends Friday, and we’ll announce the winner on Saturday. If you’d like us to contact you (if you win) leave an email address in your comment.
Question of the day: Where were your favorite childhood “dreaming places?” What dreams did you dream there?
**Tamera’s publisher is running a special giveaway, too! You can find that by clicking here
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