Welcome to the Violet Season Blog Tour!! (Isn't the banner gorgeous? I may have starred at it for ten or more minutes...) I have a very special guest post today from Kathy Leonard Czepiel, author of A Violet Season. Sit back, relax and go on a journey with Kathy to learn more about her, her life and so much more! Click here for more information about the blog tour.
On Mothers, Daughters, and Historical Fiction
I grew up with brothers, two younger ones who wrestled and punched and yelled, who kept smelly turtles in a box in the bedroom and tinkered on cars in the back yard. I always thought I wanted a sister, and I never got one. But when I was expecting my own babies, it was boys I expected. I just figured I knew boys, and that’s what I would get. Surprise! Today I am the mother of daughters—one 10, one 13—and that archetypal mother-daughter relationship has, not surprisingly, made its way into my fiction.
People often ask where the idea for my novel, A Violet Season, came from. The story of Ida, a loving mother with a dangerous blind spot, and Alice, her headstrong daughter, is fiction, not based on my relationship with my mother or my daughters. But there is no denying that some emotional truths that come from being a mother and a daughter seeped into the cracks of the story as I wrote it. Parenting—whether we have daughters or sons—is a most humbling experience. We make it up as we go along, and we hope we don’t mess it up too badly. In a sense, Ida’s story taps into that reality. My readers, I hope, will see that the mistakes she makes as a mother are made unwittingly, or perhaps “unthinkingly.” They are just the kinds of mistakes we all make, though their consequences are unusually serious.
Ida and Alice are not only fictional characters, they’re living in a historical fiction. Their expectations—about marriage, work, fulfillment—are different from our own. And yet, once again, there are also some core truths to their situation that mirror our own as women today. Ida and Alice and their contemporaries marry because they must, work extremely hard without control of the money they earn, have no thoughts of “personal goals” or “self-improvement.” In order to make characters from another time resonate with contemporary readers, the writer has to tap into those things that unite us with people of the past, like the universal experiences of parenthood. Another way in which I tried to help my readers understand these two women was by making the details of their daily life central to the story. We don’t spend a full day scrubbing laundry in a tub and another full day ironing it, but we all have household chores and work that sometimes wear us down. It’s not a stretch for most of us to imagine ourselves hauling pots of boiling water and stooping and standing to hang load after load of laundry on a line. The more detailed the descriptions of Ida and Alice’s everyday lives—the laundry, sewing, cleaning, and in their case picking violets and wet nursing babies—the better we can imagine ourselves in their position.
In the end, I think this is what is so appealing about historical fiction. Through it, we visit and learn about a time and place very different from our own, yet a place we can imagine being ourselves because some things never change. Women and men still fall in love, babies still nurse at the breast, mothers still worry about daughters, daughters still strain against their mothers’ grasp, and we all still make the same human mistakes and eventually, hope for forgiveness.
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is the author of A Violet Season, a historical novel set on a Hudson Valley violet farm on the eve of the twentieth century. She is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, CALYX, Confrontation, and The Pinch. Czepiel teaches in the First-Year Writing Program at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their two daughters. Learn more about her here, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter at @KLCzepiel, follow her on Goodreads, or follow the blog tour here.
Kathy's novel A Violet Season can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster, and the iBook store. Happy Blog Tour Day!!