As this is International Women’s Month, I thought I’d share more about the treasure trove of women writers I found while researching The Factory Girl and the Fey (historical fantasy, October 2021). I’ve already written about Ellen Johnston and other Scottish poets whose work I uncovered, but this time I thought I’d share about Fanny Trollope.
I found Fanny’s books when looking for work that accurately depicted life in the mills in the 19th century. Fanny wrote Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy, a searing account that may have resulted in child labor reforms that came after its release.
Fanny was a popular writer in her day, though her sons’ fame eclipsed hers over time. She didn’t start writing seriously until age 50, when family debts required she produce as many books as possible in a short time.
Despite her late start, she wrote 40 books along with countless articles and poems, some of them controversial. Fanny didn’t shy away from social commentary. In addition to Michael Armstrong, it has been suggested that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was influenced by Trollope’s Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, an anti-slavery novel released in 1836. She also took on the Church of England and the corruption she saw.
The knock on Fanny’s writing was that it was often rushed, but this was largely due to her need for money. Also, though gregarious and welcomed into salons to discuss her work and ideas, those around her feared showing up in one of her books–and this happened rather often!
A friend and colleague of Dickens, Browning, Barrett, and more, Fanny Trollope is one of the forgotten writers of the era. Her courage, work ethic, strength, and skill deserve to be admired and remembered.
More on Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-life-and-adventures-of-michael-armstrong-the-factory-boy#
Jane the Factory Girl is back with the editor! I’ve worked on this story for five years now, and I can finally see the finish line! No doubt I’ll need to make more changes, but the story is finally where I want it to be. I’m thrilled to have gotten this far.
I’m not sitting around eating bon bons while I wait, though. I have another manuscript that has waited quietly in the corner for me for a couple of years, and I just finished reading through it. The working title is On Her Own Terms, but that will likely change.
OHOT tells the story of Elaine, age 60, who wants to take her hobby of sketching and painting to the next level — to try to sell her work. At the same time, her husband has decided to jump into politics and wants her at his side. Add to that a daughter who’s used to dropping her son off unannounced. Elaine’s going to have to assert herself to those who are used to her being at their beck and call. She’s going to have to learn to take her own work seriously so others will, too.
It’s time for Elaine to take a chance.
Reading through the draft, I was struck by how far along it is. While it needs work, there are no major plot holes. The pacing is pretty good, too. Mostly it needs a more well-developed setting, and a bit more details on the appearance and mannerisms of the characters.
I’m not sure why I stayed away from it for so long when it’s so close to being done! But what matters, I suppose, is that I’m working on it now.
I’ve resisted the idea of seeking a publisher. After all, it’s pretty easy to get a book out there. It’s also harder to find an audience this way, though.
Some wonderful writer friends have encouraged me to try to get a traditional publisher. They have publishing deals, so they understand the ins and outs. I’m thinking…maybe…possibly…not sure…I might give it a go with OHOT. I mean, why not? Maybe, like Elaine, I’m ready to take a chance.
It’s a crazy idea for an author to leave social media. Or is it?
A few weeks ago I shut off my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’ve tried this before and chickened out at the end (they give you 30 days to change your mind). So I’m not making any guarantees here.
But this last year has taught me how very important it is to stop the bombardment of messages we get, whether it’s from the news or social media. With an autoimmune disease out of control, an essential part of healing is stress reduction.
To that end, I’ve added two meditation sessions every day, plus a mindfulness practice. And I’ve shut off most of social media.
Authors often depend on social media to get the word out about their books, and I’m no exception. However, I have also found social media to be less effective at that than we might believe. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of posts. I’ve done a little Facebook advertising, but I frankly get annoyed at the number of ads that show up in my own feed. Why would I do something I find annoying when I’m on the receiving end?
I’ll probably hang out more at Goodreads. That seems to make more sense anyway, since I would be connecting more with book lovers. It’s a much more specific audience. As with all social media, the goal there is not to scream “BUY MY BOOK!!!” but to make friends. It’s a bit daunting to feel like I am starting all over again…but it makes sense to me.
I’m also going to trust the adage that the best way to sell books is to write more of them. Without the time drain of social media, I seem to have a lot more time to, well, write.
That’s another reason why I’m hanging out more on the blog again. Here, I can say what I want. People can read it or not, and comment or not. If I get ugly comments, I can delete them. It feels a lot more empowering this way.
Finally, of course, there’s the old-fashioned getting in front of people. That scares the hell out of me. I’m a big-time introvert…but I also think we as a society are losing our social connections, and that scares me more.
Have I cut off my audience? Time will tell. But I have always said that my mental and emotional well-being comes first. I write to express myself, and I hope at some point to find people who to take the journeys within my stories. It’s more fun that way. But making this decision, difficult as it was, feels good.
Hello to anyone who might be reading! It’s been so long since I blogged that I don’t know if anyone is still out there…but here I go anyway.
I don’t normally get too excited about a new year. I am not one for a list of resolutions. But this year I sprang out of bed with hope and joy. I’m not alone. As I cruise social media, I see a lot of posts where people are willing to entertain the thought that this can be a good year.
Last year I stumbled a bit. Though I kept on working on two different novels, I lost motivation to reach out consistently to readers. Part of it is my own life: we are moving cross-country yet again, and finally sold a house that’s been on the market for a long time. We are scheduled to close January 31, so the end is in sight.
Though I won’t get into politics in this blog, I also found myself depressed and deeply concerned about the state of our country. Regardless of what side of the political aisle we are on, we are ever more aware of the flaws in our system that must be addressed if we have the courage to do so. And that’s all I’m going to say, I promise. But in this past year we have also seen an energized electorate as people recognize that we must stay engaged…and that gives me hope.
Despite all of this, I continued to write, to do my work. I will write more about my projects in future posts. What I have learned is, whether or not there is a market for my books, I have to write. It’s how I do life. It’s how I stay reasonably sane.
If you haven’t “liked” my Facebook author page, I invite you to do so. I do minimal promotions, and mostly write about books I am reading or other odds and ends. Visit me at https://facebook.com/NadineFeldmanAuthor. I’m also on Twitter at @Nadine_Feldman.
Thanks for reading, and happy new year!
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee is a tale of an opera singer, told in an operatic style. A work of fiction that includes real historical figures, The Queen of the Night features Lilliet Berne, an opera singer with a powerful but delicate voice. She is given an opportunity to perform an original role, but realizes it is written by someone who knew her, complete with her difficult past. Only four people could have betrayed her, and she sets out to find out who that is.
While Lilliet seeks out her betrayer, we learn what a survivor she was. A lesser woman would have broken down at many points along Lilliet’s journey, but she prevails, over and over and over again. She finds her way through constant reinvention, including her name, which she took to erase her humble roots. Chee expresses with great tenderness the difficulties of being a woman in Lilliet’s time. In fact, I was astounded at how well Chee seems to understand a female’s plight.