Eating Elephants and Writing Grace Unmasked

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”

– U.S. Army General Creighton W. Abrams, Jr.

sgrmannequin6x9How do you write a sequel to a popular book that’s sure to please everyone? You can’t, of course. When I planned the sequel to my bestselling book The Mannequin, however, I re-read the reviews to get an idea what readers enjoyed most. Ultimately, I concluded that lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. I didn’t want to tell the same story a slightly different way, so I vowed to begin fresh. Easier said than done!

1920px-Château_de_Versailles,_salon_des_nobles,_Pygmalion_priant_Vénus_d'animer_sa_statue,_Jean-Baptiste_Regnault
Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786

You see, when I wrote The Mannequin, I didn’t start out to write a novel based on Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. As the story unfolded, however, I wove in some familiar elements, hoping to strike an emotional chord. In the development of Grace Unmasked, however, I wanted to draw on other inspiration. I chose the mythological figure of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his creation. Many 20th Century plays, musicals, and movies have been written about Pygmalion, most notably George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the musical My Fair Lady, and even Gigi.

800px-Mary_Anderson_as_Galatea_by_Napoleon_Sarony_1883
Actress Mary Anderson as Galatea (1883)

Since Grace Unmasked is set in 1883, I had to find a version of Pygmalion written early enough to warrant a mention in the narrative. I chose Pygmalion and Galatea, a play written by W.S. Gilbert. (Download a .pdf copy from Boise State University website HERE). The three-act blank verse production opened at the Haymarket Theatre in December, 1871, was quite popular, and sparked many imitations. Although Grace Unmasked is not a retelling of the myth, I touch upon a similar theme.

One other interesting aspect of Grace Unmasked is its length. I’d wanted it to be longer than The Mannequin (over 64,000 words), but I hadn’t planned for it to exceed 96,000 words!  As Abe Lincoln said, when asked how long a man’s legs should be, “Long enough to reach the ground.” I wrote until the story was done…for the most part. That is to say, there are a few characters who might warrant a third book in the series. 😀

~ Suzanne

MANNEQUINTWOFINALCOVER

Blurb: On the heels of an unjust accusation, Grace flees from her country village to the anonymity of London. Although she intends to seek sanctuary with her cousin Joe Fiddick, she discovers he’s also suffered a setback and needs more help than she can offer. Desperate, she solicits assistance from Joe’s friend–the notorious rake, Lord Henley. Will the price of the handsome baron’s help be more than she’s willing to pay?

Grace Unmasked is available for pre-order at a special price HERE. Release date Tuesday, May 31, 2016.

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