Tag Archives: influences

The Presence Unseen

Thea Devine today ruminating on fiction and life. I’ve been watching Under the Dome, which has become of particular interest because in some of the promo Stephen King has done for the series, he’s been pictured in the small Maine he says was the model for the small town in under the Dome.

Bridgton, Maine. It’s a really pretty town, with antique homes, antique shops, a book store, a find-everything-here department store. There’s a lake and a movie theater, and what more do you need in summer?

It’s about ten miles down the road from where we’ve summered for an untold number of years.

John just came back from opening up the house. He said it was good to be back in Maine, to see and catch up with our neighbors and friends. And yet — and yet … there is a presence — of friends who’ve left, friends who have died.

And, as John said , the presence not there is still a presence.

I feel it myself. I’m sure I’ve written before that Maine, for me now, is full of ghosts. I love being there, but I resist going because I know I’ll feel the presence of those I love and miss.

I am, as it were, under the dome. There are monsters in the lake, ghosts hovering in the branches. I shudder to go out at night in the deep darkness where there are no lights, where nothing can be seen, only felt and heard.

I imagine a lurking presence — familiar and unknown.

I’m in Stephen King territory now — in real time, in real life — and thus influenced, I dream up mysteries that haunt the woods behind our house, secrets buried for generations in the attics and cellars of abandoned farms that dot the hills, heroines returning to their roots, running from their bad decisions, heroes who are local, hard-bitten and wise.

The question is, do I write those stories in Maine– or as far away as I can get from the presence of the ghosts?

Or will I still be haunted by the presence unseen?

What would you do? How would you feel?

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance. She will be attending RWA and speaking at the NJRWA Put Your Heart in a Book Conference in October.

Who Influenced You?

Thea Devine posting today.  So tell me if this isn’t a bookaholic’s dream.  You’re buying a house and strewn all over the living room floor are books, a hundred or more of them.  You’re buying the house from the estate of a recently deceased widow, and you know it had been broken into, but the important things were not taken: the fireplace surrounds, the sliding doors, the books.

Among them was a uniformly bound set of novels by Augusta Evans Wilson —

— who, I came to find out, was a best selling author of her time with her novel, St. ElmoSt. Elmo has to have been the original bad boy hero who had to redeem himself to win his orphaned heroine love.  The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies just after the Civil War and allegedly was so popular that people named children, homes, streets and towns after it. and it was also said that Rhett Butler was supposedly modeled on the character.

There were a half dozen of Wilson’s novels, of which I’ve read 3 — St. Elmo, At the Mercy of Tiberius , and Inez, a Tale of the Alamo.

Which led me to think about the other best selling romance authors of their day, some of whom are long-time favorites of mine:  Faith Baldwin — who wrote career girl (usually nurses or secretaries) romance;  Kathleen Norris (rags to riches, usually set in the Mission section of San Francisco, vividly portrayed);  Emilie Loring (hometown girls in New England, richly evoked in a very distinctive voice).

I know there are some I’m forgetting, but I’m so glad I read those long ago authors long before  the idea of becoming an author myself was ever remotely possible.

Because of them, I found what I liked to read, and what I wanted to write.  From Wilson, and latterly, Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress,I discovered the pre-civil war south through the women’s eyes, so I’ve been collecting women’s civil war diaries for some time now, just out of my fascination with the time period.

Because of them, I came to love stories of heroines returning to their small town roots.  If they’re going down south, I’m there.  If there’s a plantation, I’m up all night reading it.  I love married-to-the-wrong-guy-but-maybe-not stories;  stories especially of wounded heroes and heroines overcoming their pasts and finding each other;  heroines caught in circumstances manipulated by someone else for nefarious purposes;  ghost stories; stories with conspiracies simmering under the surface that are just hinted at as the solution to the overt problems of the heroine (read gothics).

I just love old books. Love reading the “commercial fiction” from before the turn of the century, even having to plow through the dense Victorian prose and quotations from obscure poets and philosophers.  Love finding old books, as I’ve posted elsewhere.  Love it all, as witness my bookshelves and desk room floor.

But who’s on my current TBR pile then, you might ask.  Well, Gone Girl, Tatiana de Rosnay, Kate Morton, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Karen Rose,  A Victorian Household, Carla Neggers, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and  Macaria (another of Wilson’s novels written during the Civil War), among a dozen other books.   What about you?

So who were your influences, who’s on your To Be Read pile?  Do you like old books?  Have you read Norris, Baldwin or Loring?   Do you have other favorites, old or new?

Thea Devine is working on a new erotic contemporary romance and will be putting five backlist titles on-line soon.

Did you do Nancy Drew?

Thea Devine here, wondering:   DID YOU DO NANCY DREW?

The Secret of Nancy Drew

When did you discover Nancy Drew? I think I was eight, and an aunt had given me The Quest of the Missing Map. The original edition, with the orange Nancy and her magnifying glass on the cover. And it just rocked my world. Almost immediately, I wanted to write one.

But in my day, Nancy Drew was locked out of the school library. Nancy wasn’t something you read for a book report. Nancy wasn’t literature; Nancy was — what? — trash reading.. A waste of time.

I recently reread the first six or seven books in the series: I’d bought the Applewood reprints of the so-called orange/blue Nancys, the Nancy of the frocks and roadsters and mysterious coincidences, and found them great fun and very much of their time. But did you know that there were earlier editions of Nancy Drew that did not have the orange Nancy and her magnifying glass on the cover?

The Clue of the Missing Nancy

I happened on one in a flea market in Maine — and bought it for ten dollars. I subsequently discovered that the first seven books were originally published with no orange Nancy, blank endpapers and four glossy illustrations inside. I decided to start collecting the orange/blue editions because I’d given my growing-up collection to a cousin, who, of course, passed them on. That was what you did. We weren’t thinking seminal influence back then.

Rereading Nancy Drew as an adult was a blast back to the innocence of childhood, and to the wonder of her adventures and the urgent desire to write a mystery just like Nancy’s. So every week the eight year me bought a pristine tablet with thin blue lines and a brand new pen, and huddled in my dad’s car which was always parked in front of our apartment building in Brooklyn, and started yet another story.

How many of you were influenced to be writers by reading Nancy Drew? Raise your hands. Did the Hidden Staircase scare you half to death? Did you look for clues in your mother’s jewelry box? Did you pretend to be Nancy when you played with your friends?

The Message of Nancy Drew

The impact of a free-spirited self-assured independent mystery-solving teenager with no mother, no constraints, a car of her own, a proud father who gives her free rein, and important mystery solving work to do cannot be underestimated culturally either. My generation saw that any girl — me — could be Nancy Drew, one way or another. Because of her, we became confident. knowledgeable, trustworthy, free to do what we needed to do, and adept at finding solutions. We wanted to be like her. As writers, we became her.

The Whispered Secret

I actually had a mystery in my family — an uncle who disappeared when he was very young, ran away, and never came back. And then, one day when my mom said, your father had an older brother who ran away. They never talk about him, my writer’s ears pricked up.

Talk about ominous and mysterious. Was that not a statement to send Nancy Drew off on a hunt for clues? Those words simmered until, many years later, Dad was reminiscing during a phone conversation, and I heard Mom in the background saying, tell her about your brother.

So Dad told me: This time, the Nancy in me reared up her head; how, I wondered (Nancy would wonder) did you obliterate a family member from its history? I devised a gothic scenario. A brother no one talks about. A jealous homicidal maniac of a brother. An overprotective mother. A conspiracy of secrets. A new bride who’s just a little too curious. Nancy would have been so proud.

The Quest of the Missing Uncle

It took many more years to get that story down. My aunts and uncles were very young when that brother left. The uncle I thought was my dad’s oldest brother was really his stepbrother: my grandfather had been a widower with two children when he married my grandmother..The family never talked about the runaway son. Secrets. Nancy would have reveled in them. Would she have dug deeper and found more truths even after there was no one left who remembered?

The gothic idea is still in play — but as with most ideas, things changed, I eventually reconfigured the whole thing into a wholly different story, and my long-missing unknown uncle morphed into a vampire in “The Darkest Heart” , which I wrote at my desk across from my bookcase which is stuffed once again with old beloved inspiring Nancy Drews.

Did you know people have written about the cultural impact of Nancy Drew? Did you read Nancy Drew? Did the mysteries make you to want to write? Or solve mysteries? Or uncover family secrets?

Thea Devine’s latest release is “The Darkest Heart.”  She’s currently working on the sequel.