Thea Devine explores “The Darkest Heart”

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.

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24 Responses to Thea Devine explores “The Darkest Heart”

  1. Barbara Elness says:

    The only mystery in my family is why my dad wasn’t smart enough to hold on to my mother after 20 years of marriage. But he wised up 20 years later and they remarried. I did love Nancy Drew when I was young, I devoured every book I could get my hands on at the library.

  2. Heather says:

    My paternal grandmother is a mystery. She died when I was three and, according to my dad, never talked about her family. all we know is that they came to the US from Wales via Canada and oxen cart.

    As for Nancy Drew…I was more into Trixie Belden and friends than Nancy, and still have all my books — the entire series minus four I missed near the end.

  3. Kathleen says:

    I like to say, that in our family you have to be careful when you open a closet…you never know what skeleton is going to tumble out…

  4. TrishJ says:

    I loved Nancy Drew. I wanted to be her so bad. She would walk into danger and come out victorious. But unlike Nancy, nothing mysterious came my way. I’m sure there were skeletons in our closets, but my grandmother held the keys and we never opened the doors!

  5. bkrahn007 says:

    Isn’t it interesting that so many grandparents are tight-lipped about family secrets! Mine was– including the fact that she had eloped with my grandfather because her brothers disapproved of him. My granddad even brought a GUN to the elopement. I guess he meant to have her one way or the other. But it took years and years for my grandmother to open up about that. . . we granddaughters were fascinated. And astonished. Mamaw? Eloping?

  6. Thea Devine says:

    I think the thing I most regret is not pushing harder and asking more questions. But there was just something in the air that you didn’t ask questions. My maternal grandparents emigrated here in th 30’s and boy, do I want to know more about that. But — everyone’s gone, and there’s just one turn of the century photo of young grandma and grandpa taken in Russia — from which I can infer any romantic story I want.

    I also loved Dana Girls, Kay Tracey and Judy Bolton. And recently I came across the Red Cross Girls at the Russian Front, a must-buy to my husband’s losing-patience-fast dismay.

  7. Leanne Banks says:

    I loved both Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. My oldest sister and I devoured those books. My family has a lot of secrets — illegitimate children, moonshine runners, a great grandfather who went to prison, etc…. Makes for a colorful background.:)

  8. lois greiman says:

    Welcome Thea, so good to have you with us.

    My family history seems to be fraught with unwed pregnancies. Young women running off with the blacksmith and sought of thing. So fascinating.

  9. ellie says:

    excellent and thought provoking post today. Family secrets and intrigue is what makes life interesting. A cousin who had a child many years ago and never told a soul. A brother who married a shrew and paid dearly. I loved all the Nancy Drew books and consider them mandatory reading for enjoyment.

  10. Michele says:

    Welcome, Thea! So cool to see another vamp release out there. Is Pocket Gallery a new imprint? Is it electronic? Love hearing the origin of this story!

  11. catslady says:

    I too started out with Trixie Belden and then progressed to Nancy Drew. Enjoyed both very much. I think some of the Trixie books were the first books that weren’t fairy tales that I had for my very own so they have a special place in my heart. I do wonder what they would seem like today!

  12. Helen Brenna says:

    Hi Thea and welcome! For some reason your comments looked to be ending up in spam. I’ll fix that asap. Sorry, sweetie!

    I loved Nancy Drew mysteries, but never dreamed of writing back then. That didn’t come until I was an adult and was reading LaVyrle Spencer!

  13. cindy gerard says:

    Hi Thea! Great to see you here in the ‘vert. It’s been so long since I’ve read Nancy Drew that I can’t even remember the story lines. horrible, huh? i think I’ll have to read them as a ‘big girl’ :o)
    As for family secrets – too many to count and not at all interesting I’m afraid :o)

    See you in NYC?

  14. kylie brant says:

    Oh yes, Thea I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. Also the Hardy Boys and Trixie Beldon. Used to watch cop/detective shows with my dad. That’s probably what shaped my suspense gene, LOL!

  15. Debra Dixon says:

    Thea!

    Hello! I love your post. And, yes, we had a family secret! We didn’t know until my sister was 16 and tried to get a social security card that my dad was adopted by my grandmother’s second husband. We didn’t know our biological grandfather! And so began her quest to find him. She found him about 6 or 7 years before he died. Daddy was his only child and he’d tried to find him for years. But my grandmother had left him in the dead of night when my father was two years old and there was no way to really track people back then.

    The completely spooky thing about finding your unknown biological grandfather? You learn how impossible genetics are to change! Even to personality issues, the genes are strong in our family. LOL!

  16. I loved Nancy! Hardy Boys too. Don’t know Trixie Beldon, but loved the Bobbsey Twins. We have a few family secrets and then family myths too. My aunt has debunked a couple as she investigates our genealogy. We were always told we were related to poet James Whitcomb Riley (no) and that our ancestor who was legally named “Punkin” was Native American. Also no.

  17. Thea Devine says:

    Well, now I’m curious, with all these secrets percolating beneath the skin, how many of you have used them as jumping off points for a story? (Hint: I have, and my older son is appalled and may never tell me anything ever again.)

  18. My favorite uncle was gay. He was Mama’s older brother. I didn’t know until she told me when I was in my mid-twenties, and she didn’t know until Daddy blurted it out to her early in their marriage during an argument. He assumed she knew, and she said his outburst ever after that. Sign of the times, which are, thank God, a-changin’. No one knows whether my grandmother knew. It was never discussed. It makes me sad to realize how difficult it must have been for him to live with that secret. When Mama told me, she immediately asked whether it made a difference to me. It certainly didn’t make a difference in the way I felt about him, but it did make a difference in my understanding of humanity and inhumanity and love and God and so much more.

  19. Oh, and Thea–Hi, Thea!–yes I have used the family secret as a jumping off point for one or two stories.

  20. MaryC says:

    I read the first 56 Nancy Drew books again a couple of years ago when my niece started reading them – a trip down memory lane!
    One mystery in the family is the fate of family left behind when my mother came to the USA from China in 1949.

  21. Thea Devine says:

    Just one addendum to the Nancy story — a few years ago I came across a Nancy that didn’t have the famous orange figure on the cover, nor the orange endpapers, and it had 4 glossy illustrations inside. Came to find out that those were the original first printings of the first six or seven books. I have the Hidden Staircase. Those books cost ten times what I paid for Hidden Staircase which I found in a flea market in Maine.

    I haven’t used family secrets so much as family sensibilities in my novels. A hero who thinks his mother is tyrannical; a mother who wants her renegade daughter to know how she feels; an elegant British neighbor transplanted to the frontier; a wildly sexual secondary character based on a family member. That kind of thing. The missing uncle is my first foray into taking a family secret public.

    I told my son everything is fair game when you’re a writer. I may regret that.

  22. Thea Devine says:

    Everyone — I just wanted to say thank you for welcoming me so warmly and allowing me to share some time in the convertible with you all. Hope to see you in NYC.

  23. Stephenia says:

    I loved Nancy, Trixie and the Hardy boys too – great reading when I was growing up.

    The biggest secret in our family is that “mother loves me best” – I threw that out there one year at Christmas when we got our holiday cards from my mom, pretending to read this out loud from my card. My brother/two sisters jumped in quickly to “read” the same thing from their card, mom got a big laugh, now it is the reoccurring sideline – we find out something that the other didn’t know “well I’m sure mom told me because she loves me best” and we get a good laugh out of it.

  24. bkrahn007 says:

    Maybe grandmothers keep the secrets because they don’t want us falling prey to or emulating their misdeeds. I’m sure my eloping gran would have had a conniption fit if one of us had eloped against family wishes. Maybe they just want to protect the kids against the family faux pas and the possibility of history repeating itself. It used to be said that something disastrous or difficult that effected the family would be present “unto the third and fourth generations.” And that may actually be true– if people know about it and have to deal with it. Otherwise– SECRETS!

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