Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Friday, January 6, 2017

Faces from the Past

I've been thinking a lot lately about what inspires me and I realize that much of my story inspiration comes from art. I love to find my characters in portraits. There is something about a face staring solemnly out of the canvas that always gives me a bit of a shiver down the spine. I don't even need to know who the person is -- in fact it's probably better that I don't, as that takes away some of the lovely mystery.

I've always enjoyed art. I think my interest probably began when, as a child, I watched my eldest sister sketch faces with pencil on a large sheet of paper and I thought it was magic. How could somebody create something like that, just with their fingers and a bit of lead pencil? How did she make it look so real? I was thrilled and awestruck by her talent. And I still am.

Although I like landscapes too, I definitely gravitate the most toward portraits. Primarily, it's faces that draw me in. I could stand for hours looking at the paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Indeed, two friends and I missed our train home once on a school trip because we spent so long wandering around the gallery, absorbed in all the faces. (Yes, we got home safely eventually, despite getting on the wrong tube train too at one point! - ah, the adventures of a misspent youth.) I tend to find photographic portraits less interesting than sketches or paintings - not sure why, but somehow a painting comes alive for me in ways that a photograph never does. An oil painting of a face - anonymous or famous  - seems to hold secrets, whisper ideas, and suggest a deeper emotion, a story begging to be told.

It's hard to choose a favourite artist, but two that come to mind immediately are Johannes Vermeer and Tamara De Lempicka - two very different styles, but both I find very calming and intriguing at the same time. (I loved the movie "Girl with a Pearl Earring", despite Colin Firth in that hideous, long, curly wig. In my humble opinion it's Scarlett Johansson's best film to date, apart from Lost in Translation -- but I digress)
I suppose it must be this fascination with portraits (and faces) that inspired, in part, my Victorian trilogy "A Private Collection"-- the story of an eccentric amateur painter and the three muses who pose for him. There are three romances (Engraved, Entangled and Enraptured) woven together through the story, with three heroes and three heroines, so at its heart it is a romance, of course.

But there is also a hint of mystery and a touch a magical mischief, which is, to me, what I see every time I look at a portrait.  Especially those that portray somebody working quietly, absorbed in the job at hand, as if they don't even know the artist is there -- sort of like a character in a novel, who is completely unaware that some unseen hand is the author of her fate.

By the way, if you haven't read "A Private Collection" yet, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the usual sites, as well as here, on Twisted E-Publishing's own site. Over the next three days, I'll be posting excerpts from this book, which is one of the very first I had published and still one of my favourites. Below is the blurb to whet your interest.

When the estranged sons of wealthy eccentric Randolph Blackwood return home for his funeral and discover he has left them a private collection of three amateur oil paintings, they have no idea how this simple bequest will change their lives. The notorious Blackwood brothers are not known for their appreciation of fine art, but they are familiar with their father's love of elaborate pranks. Yes, the old man is still laughing at them from beyond the grave. For in order to collect their share of Randolph's fortune, they must return— in person— the three scandalous, nude portraits to the women who once posed for him. And that turns out to be a little more complicated than a simple delivery.

Once they were Randolph Blackwood's muses; now they've moved on with their lives. Lina is widowed and trying to lead a quiet, harmless life, while hiding a dark secret about her true desires; Daisy struggles to manage a respectable hotel against family opposition and overwhelming debt, and Claudine runs the 'Whitechapel Improvement Committee', a mysteriously busy charity home for handsome young men, funded by some of the most elegant and unhappily married ladies of Victorian London.

As the three Blackwood brothers set out to complete their task, they only have business on their minds and no intention of being distracted. But their father knew them better than anybody and he chose these three ladies for a very special reason. The true inheritance this mischief-maker leaves to his sons is neither the paintings nor his fortune. It is something far more valuable.

As always, I'd love to hear from you. Contact me via my FACEBOOK Author page.


(Paintings here are by Tamara De Lempicka and Johannes Vermeer, of course)

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