Exclusive interview with author Daisy Goodwin about her novel set in 1890 similar to Downton Abbey *** 3 Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 2012/11/25 – “I got the idea about five years ago, when I was visiting Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of the dukes of Marlborough,” says An American Heiress author Daisy Goodwin. “I saw the great Sargent portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt and her husband the 6th Duke of Marlborough and I thought it was a great starting point for a book. An American princess finding herself at sea in aristocratic England.”
The year is 1890 and Cora Cash, an American heiress, is in London to marry into the British aristocracy. Ivo Duke of Warham sweeps her off her feet. They marry and things change. He becomes distant as the English season heats up so does the potential for betrayals. Did Ivo really just marry her for her money?
he dialog is amusing and the story has the feel of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey. The nouveau riche America’s wanted to show they were as good as the aristocrats so they used their money to marry them. It had it’s pitfalls as the married couples came from different worlds and countries. If you can’t wait until Downton starts in January 2013 read this over the holidays.
“I discovered a quarterly magazine published in the 1890’s called Titled Americans, which was a Gilded Age version of Match.com,” says Goodwin. “In the front half were biogs of all the American women who had married into the aristocracy and at the back were profiles of the eligible bachelors still on the market, with the size of their estate and their credit worthiness. Not very romantic but a fascinating social document.”
“I read lots of books of the period,” says Goodwin. “Trollope, France Hodgson Burnett and of course Henry James. I also read lots of memoirs by American Heiresses, The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt was very useful as was the memoir of Jennie Churchill Winston’s mum. I also spend a whole day wearing an S bend corset in order to understand fully what it was like to be a woman of that era. Not being able to bend at the waist makes life seem very different.”
“I spent a lot of time at the London Library, the oldest private library in England, looking at ancient copies of the Illustrated London News,” says Goodwin. “You can learn a great deal from the small ads.”
“I have edited eight poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems to Save Your Life,” says Goodwin. “I have also written a memoir. Silver River and I have been a regular columnist for the Sunday Times.”
Goodwin’s editor is Hope Dellon at St Martin’s Press. “Hope made me rewrite the last third of my book,” says Goodwin. “I wasn’t happy about it at the time, but I am very glad I listened to her as the book is so much better as a result. My advice to all authors is only listen to good advice. Because I have worked in television I am quite used to the editing process. It can be very helpful to have an outside point of view.”
“Hope made an offer for my book, and told me that she liked it because it was ‘Henry James without the boring bits.’
“With Daisy in London and me in New York, it was quite a long time before I met her in person,” says St. Martin’s editor Hope Dellon. “I had spoken to her on the phone numerous times, and found her brilliant and funny and charming, as she turned out to be when we finally met.”
“I believe we had lunch once when she was in NYC late in 2010, and then, on a very cold day in January 2011, we had a little reception for her in our office in the Flatiron Building, with a cake that had a chandelier drawn in frosting to mimic the one on her book jacket,” says Dellon. “It is always fascinating to talk to Daisy, but I particularly remember two things from that day: She predicted that the then-unknown Downton Abbey (Season 1 of which had already run in the U.K.) would be a huge success in the States as well, and she showed us one of the books she had used in researching The American Heiress: a guide from 1890 called Titled Americans, which offered heiresses (and their mothers) a helpful “list of peers who are supposed to be eager to lay their coronets, and incidentally their hearts, at the feet of the all-conquering American girl.”
Goodwin has been shortlisted for the Galaxy Book of the Year Award.
Goodwin resides in London.
The American Heiress, author Daisy Goodwin Paperback: 496 pages, Publish