Today I would like to give a warm welcome to author, Iris Anthony who is joining us with her debut novel - The Ruins of Lace!
Thank you so much for hosting me today. I have to say it’s difficult to beat the combination of a good book and a glass of wine (a nice red Médoc if you’re asking or offering!)…although I don’t often drink and write at the same time. I’ve never been good at doing two things at once, which doesn’t lend itself well to a profession where multiple books are often in different stages of development. One of my favorite parts of the process is the very beginning – the place where stories are inspired. They’re so bright and shiny and brand new.
Even in the early stages of development, I always imagined the book having multiple points of view since there was no one character who would be present at every location. The question was how many characters there should be and what structure the book would take.
Originally, there were ten points of view (Lisette’s father, the priest in Signy-sur-vaux, and DeGrote the lace dealer were part of the early versions) and each character only had one (very long!) chapter and then the story was passed on to the next character. Fairly early on, the father dropped out due to a suggestion from my agent. I decided to drop the priest and the lace dealer around the same time. And throughout several years of rewrites, Lisette and the count both underwent major character revisions.
The current structure, with seven alternating points of view, was suggested by my editor after the book was acquired. The problem was that most of the characters still had a single chapter. That meant some of the characters at the beginning of the book didn’t have a story line that continued through to the end. I had to cut all those long chapters up into six pieces, fill in the blanks and shuffle them around to figure out chronology so that I would know in which order the characters needed to appear. And even after that, I found I’d gotten it wrong and I had to reshuffle which meant rewriting in order to fill in new gaps which had been created. And then I discovered I actually needed each character to have seven chapters which meant reassembling the narratives and then re-dividing them once again.
Would it have been easier to write the story from fewer perspectives? Most definitely, yes! But the point of the story was to show how something as innocuous as lace could have such a huge impact on the lives of so many disparate people (and animals).
The moral of my writing story is to think through structure before sitting down to write!
But lace smuggling is just a small part of the history of lace. The idea of decorative trim is as old as man himself, but true lace (formed from threads which are worked independently of a background fabric) was first created in the 15th century. Flanders and Italy both claim to be the inventors of bobbin lace. But other laces soon developed as well: needle lace, tape lace, and whitework. Due to the tedious, painstaking work involved in making lace, it was expensive (and in limited supply) from its conception and cities were very proprietary about their patterns. That brought it to the attention of courtiers as the perfect object for conspicuous consumption. In some cases, entire fortunes were spent in an effort to obtain the perfect length of lace.
In an era of almost never-ending war, however, kings wanted to keep their nobles’ money inside the kingdom so that it could be put to use in furthering politic causes. Many sumptuary laws were enacted at the time to try to limit the wearing (and therefore the purchase) of lace. In the 1660s, Louis XIV created laws regulating some of the luxury goods of the day of which lace was one. A moratorium on imported lace as well as the creation of a domestic lacemaking industry in fixed places allowed for the incubation and growth of French-made laces. The product of those laws can be seen in the luxury laces we still love today: Chantilly, Alençon, and Valenciennes, among others. During the industrial revolution, machines took over the making of lace. As lace became cheaper and more widely available, it became less attractive to those at the higher levels of society and thousands of lacemakers had to find other ways to earn a living. Today, if you look hard enough, handmade laces can still be found…as long as you’re willing to pay the price!
Sourcebooks is giving away one copy of The Ruins of Lace to one reader today (US and Canada only, please.) To enter, just leave a question or comment for the author on this post and then fill out the Rafflecopter below. Additional entries are available but not required. Good luck!
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