We have a rare treat today– one of my dearest friends and favorite writers, Ms. Thea Devine! Thea is a Romantic Times Romance Pioneer honoree and the author whose books defined erotic historical romance. She has written more than 25 historical and contemporary novels, the latest of which, The Darkest Heart, is a June 2011 release from Pocket’s Gallery Books. She writes sorching hot love scenes and heros you’d love to steal right off the page. So here she is– with a suprising confession.
The Message of Nancy Drew
When did you discover Nancy Drew? I think I was eight, and an aunt had given me The Quest of the Missing Map. The original edition, with the orange Nancy and her magnifying glass on the cover. And it just rocked my world. Almost immediately, I wanted to write one.
How many of you were influenced to be writers by reading Nancy Drew? Raise your hands. Did the Hidden Staircase scare you half to death? Did you look for clues in your mother’s jewelry box? Did you pretend to be Nancy when you played with your friends?
I recently reread the first seven books in the series: the Applewood reprints of the so-called orange/blue Nancys, the Nancy of the frocks and roadsters and mysterious coincidences, and found them great fun and very much of their time. I decided to start collecting the orange/blue editions because I’d given my growing-up collection to a cousin, who, of course, when she grew up, passed them on. That was what you did with your old Nancys. We weren’t thinking seminal influence back then.
Rereading Nancy Drew as an adult was a blast back to the innocence of childhood, and to the wonder of her adventures and the urgent desire to write a mystery of my own just like Nancy’s. So every week the eight year old me bought a pristine tablet with thin blue lines and a brand new pen, and huddled in my dad’s car which was always parked in front of our apartment building in Brooklyn, and started yet another story.
The Secret of the Girl Sleuth
In my day, Nancy Drew was locked out of the school library. Nancy wasn’t something you read for a book report. Nancy wasn’t literature; Nancy was — what? — trash reading.. A waste of time.
And now, she’s lauded as a cultural influence on a generation of girls, about whom books and studies are being written. Read Girl Sleuth by Bobbie Ann Mason or The Lady Investigates, among others.
The impact of a free-spirited self-assured independent mystery-solving teenager with no mother, no constraints, a car of her own, a proud father who gives her free rein, and important mystery solving work to do cannot be underestimated. We saw that any girl — me — could be her one way or another. Because of her, we became confident. knowledgeable, trustworthy, free to do what we needed to do, and adept at finding solutions. We wanted to be like her. As writers, we became her.
The Whispered Secret
I have a mystery in my family — an uncle who disappeared when he was very young, ran off, ran away, never came back. My mom whispered one day out of the blue: “Your father had an older brother who ran away. They never talk about him.”
Talk about ominous and mysterious. Was that not a statement to send any girl sleuth off on a hunt for clues? Those words simmered in my mind until, many years later, Dad was reminiscing during a phone conversation, and I heard Mom in the background saying, tell her about your brother.
So Dad told me: I had an older brother. He ran away. He never came back. This time, the author in me reared up her head; how, I wondered (a girl sleuth would wonder) did you obliterate a family member from its history? I devised a gothic scenario. A brother no one talks about. A jealous homicidal maniac brother. An overprotective mother. A conspiracy of secrets. A new bride who’s just a little too curious. Nancy would have been so proud.
The Quest of the Missing Uncle.
It took still longer to get details. My aunts and uncles were very young when that brother left. The family never talked about him –ever. Secrets. Nancy would have reveled in them. Would she have dug deeper and discovered more truths after there was no one left alive who remembered?
The gothic idea is still in play — but as with most ideas, things changed, I eventually reconfigured the whole thing into a wholly different story using the some of the same elements (the homicidal brother, the smothering mother), and my long-missing unknown uncle who morphed into a vampire in my June book, The Darkest Heart (Pocket Gallery), which I wrote seated at my desk across from my bookcase which is stuffed once again with my (new) old beloved inspiring orange/blue Nancy Drews.
Do you have a family mystery? Did you discover any family secrets? Did you love Nancy when you were young?
Betina here: Thea is going to give away a copy of her fabulous upcoming release The Darkest Heart to one lucky commenter! You can see a video and read an excerpt at www.theadevine.com.