Friday, October 12, 2012

The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony (Guest Post/Giveaway)

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.

Like most of my stories, inspiration for this one came when I wasn’t really looking for it, while I was writing a different book altogether, in fact. I ran across a mention of lace smuggling between France and Flanders and it snagged my interest -- the idea was so unexpected. I did a bit more reading and found that dogs and coffins were both used in the process and by then I couldn’t help but write about it! That was back in 2002. It took a few more years for the story to germinate and a few more years after that to gain the skills to write it.

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!

*Image courtesy of and healingdream

The Ruins of Lace
Lace is a thing like hope.It is beauty; it is grace.It was never meant to destroy so many lives .
The mad passion for forbidden lace has infiltrated France,pulling soldier and courtier alike into its web. For those who want the best, Flemish lace is the only choice, an exquisite perfection of thread and air. For those who want something they don’t have, Flemish lace can buy almost anything––or anyone.
For Lisette, lace begins her downfall, and the only way to atone for her sins is to outwit the noble who now demands the impossible. To fail means certain destruction. But for Katharina, lace is her salvation. It is who she is; it is what she does. If she cannot make this stunning tempest of threads, a dreaded fate awaits.
The most lucrative contraband in Europe, with its intricate patterns and ephemeral hope, threatens to cost them everything. Lace may be the deliverance for which they all pray...or it may bring the ruin and imprisonment they all fear.

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! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The 'story' of your development of the story is amazing. And the blurb has me so intrigued! I've just recently developed an interest in historical fiction - The Ruins of Lace sounds like a book I need to read. Thanks for the chance.

  2. I was wondering, was there a character that was harder to write than the others?

  3. Thanks for the giveway! Can't wait to check this out.

  4. This story sounds so intriguing! I like the use of lace in the storyline. It's such a beautiful fabric.

  5. Hi Alyn -- Yes! Some of the characters were more difficult to write. The count had three major character revisions and so did Lisette. The characters from Flanders, however, didn't really change much at all over the years and through the various revisions. Although the dog's character didn't change very much either, it was difficult emotionally to write.

  6. Sounds like a lot of work, but I agree that it is a perfect way to show how something so simple like lace can impact so many.

  7. thanks for a great post and congrats on the new release! This book sounds fantastic!

  8. That was an interesting post and I do like beautiful lace.

  9. This book sounds fantastic. I love reading historic fiction and the title, cover, and storyline of this book peaked my interest. Awesome giveaway! :)

  10. I have been hearing so many good things about Ruins of Lace and have it on my TRL. Such an intriguing storyline. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for the opportunity.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com


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