It’s my pleasure to welcome author Libby Sternberg as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress today as she makes a stop on her virtual blog tour.
Some may know Libby as Libby Malin. But, she's here today as Libby Sternberg and her latest release is SLOANE HALL. Libby’s offering a copy of her new release to one visitors today. Be sure to see the guidelines at the end of her post. She’s here today to tell us.....….hush, a secret about SLOANE HALL.
My fall historical, SLOANE HALL, was inspired by one of my favorite novels, JANE EYRE. But in SLOANE HALL, I wanted to tell a fresh story so that readers would encounter the tale as if they’d never read it before. It was a challenge, one I’ve blogged about on several occasions hither and yon. As I observed on one of those blogs, I didn’t want to write a point-by-point retelling of Bronte’s classic because if readers want to read JANE EYRE….they’ll read JANE EYRE.
So in SLOANE HALL, the setting is shifted to 1929 Hollywood where chauffeur John Doyle falls in love with his employer, Pauline Sloane, a starlet about to make her first talking picture. Before they can claim happiness, he is repulsed by secrets she hides from the camera and the world. Although it’s inspired by JANE EYRE, SLOANE HALL tells a new story of obsession and forgiveness.
Readers who are familiar with JANE EYRE and who pick up SLOANE HALL should be able to recognize what I call “benchmark” moments from the original—the first meeting of Jane and Rochester, Jane’s departure for her aunt’s house, the wedding and its horrible revelations, Jane’s heartbreak and self-exile from Thornfield Hall, and eventually her return after hearing Rochester calling her back from afar.
For me, these moments (along with several other key scenes) represent the emotional high and low points of Bronte’s original. They, I believed, would be the scenes JANE EYRE fans would eagerly await if they were reading a retelling, or a book such as SLOANE HALL, one that was inspired by JANE EYRE.
Each of those moments contains an element of surprise, however. And for readers familiar with the original story, creating that sense of surprise was a tremendous challenge. In some instances, I relied on the change in setting and tone to help me. Other times, I let my fresh characters lead me down slightly different paths.
When John visits his dying grandfather (as Jane visited her ailing aunt), for example, he wrestles with his obsession with Pauline Sloane, his employer, hoping a deathbed will rid him of his desire for her. But he also uses the visit to learn more about her past since she grew up in San Francisco, where his grandfather now resides.
Later, after John has left Sloane Hall following his discovery of Pauline’s secrets, he lands at a distant cousin’s house in Montana. There, he eventually “hears” Pauline calling to him for help, but I hope it is in an unexpected way—even if readers suspect they know how it will happen, I hope it still surprises them.
And, of course, the “lunatic spouse in the attic” scene in JANE EYRE is handled differently in SLOANE HALL as well. There are secrets that sicken John and drive him away, yes, but a lunatic spouse? Well….I can’t give that away here, but I hope this scene packs the emotional punch of the original.
One secret I will reveal here, though, relates to Pauline Sloane’s name. In the novel, her real name, before the studios changed it, is Eleanor Brickman. Astute observers will remember that Rochester’s first wife was Bertha Mason. Mason…Brickman…yes, I wanted Pauline to be an amalgam of both Rochester and Bertha, embodying the fierce independence and gruffness of Rochester and the torment and madness of Bertha.
I hope I succeeded. I’ve been heartened to receive some lovely reviews of SLOANE HALL so far. Romance Reviews Today says it’s “well worth reading,” while Fresh Fiction reports that “Sternberg never loses sight of the story she's re-telling, but this novel is definitely her own. Readers have things to figure out and look forward to. Her prose flows beautifully with vivid descriptions of people and places, bringing to life a Los Angeles of times gone by. Fans of historical fiction and JANE EYRE in particular will relish this novel, and readers who enjoy a love story should definitely pick this one up.”
Those who comment on this blog within the next 24 hours will have their names entered into a random drawing for a free copy of SLOANE HALL.
Libby, thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing some secrets with us. SLOANE HALL sounds most intriguing and a very interesting read. I’m looking forward to it.
Libby is the author of YA mysteries (the first of which was an Edgar nominee) and women’s fiction. As I mentioned earlier, she also writes as Libby Malin (MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA). You can visit her blog at www.LibbysBooks.wordpress.com (where she blogs about SLOANE HALL, old Hollywood, JANE EYRE and more), or her website at www.LibbysBooks.com . You can friend her on Facebook at Libby Sternberg, or contact her to get on her mailing list at Libby488 (at) yahoo (dot) com.