‘Arden’s Act’ with Author Elizabeth Thomas
It was only a matter of time before we switched gears to a Historical Romance! Author Elizabeth Thomas takes us to the year 1661 and the reign of Charles II.
Arden is a young woman who escapes the tyranny of a Puritan stepfather to become an actress on the London stage. Three men, her stepfather, dashing aristocrat Robert Courtney, and even Charles II himself seem to have more power over her trajectory than than Arden herself could have ever imagined. So many plot twists and turns!
Now to what Elizabeth Thomas has to say:
Jenn: How did your journey as a writer begin?
Elizabeth: I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was 9 years old. I finished reading a novel, and wanted to follow it with a similar adventure, but couldn’t find a suitable book to read right away, so I decided to write my own. This desire to write flourished even more when I had a 6th-grade teacher who had us do creative writing every Tuesday, and read our creations to the class if we wished.
J: Where did the inspiration for Arden’s Act come from?
E: When I studied English Literature at the University of Michigan, my favorite professor, and the period of literature that I most gravitated towards, all related to Arden’s time period. So I already had quite a bit of historical knowledge about the Restoration. Then, a few events several years back (because I worked on Arden’s Act off and on) transpired simultaneously. I became frustrated with the fantasy novel I was working on at the time, feeling like I wasn’t a good enough writer yet to do it justice.
The gentleman who was my husband at the time suggested I try writing a romance because it seemed like an easier genre in which to get published. So I took his advice. Meanwhile, my best friend from junior high onward was diagnosed with a brain tumor and began radiation and chemotherapy. During a phone call, she asked me to send her some of my writing, to help distract her from what she was going through. I sent her a few short stories that I thought were “literary,” and the first few chapters of Arden’s Act. And it was Arden she loved and related to, so I continued. I actually talk a lot more about this in the “afterword” I included in the self-published version of Arden’s Act that is available now.
J: It was really interesting how you managed to juxtapose the religious fervor with the (dare I say) debauchery of the time. Did you have any allegorical elements in mind here?
E: It’s funny. From my very first class in Restoration and 18th Century English literature, which I took during the 1980s Reagan era, I felt like that historical period had huge, almost uncanny parallels with the times I was living through myself. I feel this is even more true today. Like many writers who deal with history in their fiction, part of my “message,” if you will, is that there is very little going on that we haven’t already dealt with in some way, shape, or form. People are similar in every historical period. Granted, there are differences, and the differences are significant–everything is a little more serious now that we have nuclear weapons. Yet I wanted to bring a different perspective to the period than that of a lot of other writers. A lot of historians see Cromwell’s Puritans as the heroes, as part of the development of the egalitarian principles that eventually led to the birth of the United States. And while this is true from one perspective, there are many different types of freedom, and from Arden’s perspective, she is much freer to live the life she wants under Charles II’s reign than she was during the Interregnum.
J: Arden really had a tough go of things! What do you predict for her after the “happily ever after?”
E: Without too many spoilers, I will only say she gets to spend the rest of her life furthering the art of drama in a new location, surrounded and aided by people she loves.
J: There are so many great references to William Shakespeare in the book and his influence is apparent. Which of The Bard’s plays is your favorite and why?
E: Shakespeare has such influence on the novel because it just blew my mind when, in college, I learned that his plays were still a staple of the early Restoration theater, except that his original iambic pentameter had fallen out of fashion, so it had to be reworked into hexameter rhymed couplets. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I’d have to go with Much Ado About Nothing. I find it quite thrilling when Benedick asks Beatrice what he can do to prove his love and she replies, “Kill Claudio.” I’m sure it’s somewhat immature on my part, but I love the idea of a lover who makes your enemies his own.
J: Tomorrow you get the coveted call from a film studio that wants to put your book on the silver screen. Who would you love to play Arden? Courtenay?
E: Even though this is my most cherished dream (or maybe a Netflix series?), it’s still a difficult question. I’m really not as knowledgeable about the younger actresses currently as I should be. I am strongly attached to the idea of casting for Arden that stays true to her physical appearance, tall and dark-haired. If it were completely up to me, I’d probably try to do a talent search like they did for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Fortunately, Courtenay is a lot easier. I’d like to see someone like Henry Cavill of Witcher, or even Hamish Linklater, who did an amazing job in Midnight Mass.
J: What advice do you have for other Historical Romance authors?
E: I’m not sure I have any. I just have a lot of commiseration over the difficulties of balancing between creativity and historical accuracy. I might consider myself more qualified after I get that coveted call you mentioned.
J: What project(s) are you working on now?
E: A contemporary romantic suspense novel that I like to call “a love quadrangle with two serial killers in it”; a possible Kindle Vella project based on the strange nocturnal thoughts of a menopausal woman; a series of novels that is more straight historical than historical romance, set during the Victorian era.
J: What are you reading now?
Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters. I also have a biography that is part of the research for that Victorian project.
Okay, that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day, everyone, and be sure to check out Arden’s Act!