Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Moving Bluebeard to Dixieland ~ guest blog from Jane Nickerson, author of STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD

Click here to go back to the Fairy Tale Fortnight Main Page,
where you can access the schedule! Or go here to get involved!
Credit to these awesome Deviants for our button [ 12 & 3]!
In the beginning, STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD was going to take place in a generic western European setting. However, at the time I had recently moved to Ontario, Canada from Mississippi, and I was missing the South. One morning I woke up and the thought was in my head: You need to set it in antebellum Mississippi. I tried to tell myself to hush because I was halfway through the first draft and felt lazy about practically starting over, but the thought wouldn’t go away. So I made the switch. Some details I had to research, other aspects I already knew because of living in Mississippi, and because I’ve read a good deal about life in the 1800’s. I’ve always been a bit homesick for that time period.

There’s romance in the old South. Yes, that society was built upon the oppression of a people, so there was evil in it too, and actually, that evil lent itself to the “Bluebeard” plot. What I hadn’t thought of as I began writing was how much being in such a powerful position over so many unfortunate people would contribute to the distortion of Monsieur Bernard’s personality. He could do anything (until Sophie came along) and get away with it. Also, Sophie’s growing awareness of the servants caused her to mature as a character. There has been some criticism of the fact that the servants were foils for Sophie, but I believe that STRANDS is a realistic depiction of what actually would have happened in that time and that place with those people. And Sophie is the heroine of the tale. All the secondary characters, including her family, serve as a background for her.

Of course there have been slaves, serfs, peons—whatever they were called in their particular times and places—throughout the history of the world, but the ones modern Americans are most familiar with are the African people brought to America. So, although STRANDS is primarily Sophie’s story, I wanted to address the plight of the slaves as well, and tried to do it in a sensitive manner. I was—and am—well aware of the slippery slopes in depicting this setting. It’s so very easy for even the most well-intentioned writer to offend with this issue that, since GONE WITH THE WIND, few authors have tried to write about that society, unless it’s from the point of view of the African Americans. I didn’t want to shy away from it and I wanted to get the true picture from the people who actually experienced it, without modern attitudes and opinions coloring it, so I read dozens of slave narratives. (Look them up—they’re fascinating!) These were interviews with former slaves written during the 1930’s. They helped me get some of the details right, as well as the cadence and wording for Anarchy’s and Talitha’s speech, although most of Anarchy’s dialect came straight from an eighty-year-old woman who was my friend in Mississippi. She ended every visit with “Have a blessed day.”

Because I’m familiar with Mississippi there were things I didn’t need to research. For instance, the Southern forests or weather. I know only too well the ice storms and clammy heat and insects (although I was amazed to discover that Ontario has even more mosquitoes than Mississippi).

You can’t live in small town Mississippi without having a keen awareness of the past. Elderly people still speak of “The War,” and they mean the Civil War. Antebellum houses line the streets, lots of communities hold “pilgrimages,” which are tours of the old buildings, and many of the South’s current problems have their seeds in its history. However, in every chapter of STRANDS there would be something I had to look up. And then my editor, Allison Wortche, along with the copyeditors at Knopf, also went over every bit of the manuscript with a fine tooth comb to make sure I didn’t use words that weren’t in use in 1855. I hate anachronism in historical fiction, so I was glad to have a lot of help with this.

You can probably tell from reading STRANDS that I have an interest in historical fashion, and the 1850’s through the 1870’s is one of my favorite time periods for clothing. That was fun research. Some of Sophie’s dresses were actual gowns, but others I designed to be correct for that period. I loved dreaming up Sophie’s dresses and describing them. In fact, my editor had to gently remind me that we didn’t need a description of every last thing Sophie wore in every last scene.

As I wrote, the abbey and the plantation setting became another character in the book—at turns lush, romantic, beautiful, threatening, and evil. I absolutely think I made the right choice in the setting for STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD.

Jane Nickerson is the author of the recently released Strands of Bronze and Gold and the upcoming The Mirk and the Midnight Hour. Make sure to stop back by and check out my review of Strands tomorrow, and see what I thought of her setting for Bluebeard. (Spoiler: loved it.)  And make sure to stop by A Backwards Story, where you can read my interview with Jane!


  1. Say what? She worked slavery into a Bluebeard retelling? I need to get my hands on this book!

  2. I really enjoyed the Souther setting. I like the Southern Gothic style and I think it gave an already creepy story and even more eerie feel.

  3. Yeah they still talk about "The War". My mom's friend who has now passed on still called it "The War of Northern Aggression." (She was pretty old) I haven't read Strands but I don't think you could set a book in that time period and ignore slavery. It was a fact in the South. It would be the elephant in the book sort of if you didn't address it.

    I love that you described the dresses. I always think about how hot those dresses and corsets must have been in the humidity. I don't know how the women did it. I'd lay in my bed all day in my slip. LOL

    Love the guest post!


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...