Note: Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Long, long ago, little Susanna (me) and her mother visited their favorite place in the mall: Waldenbooks. I was a lucky girl because my mother said she would buy me a book. She drew A Little Princess from the shelf. It was lovely and pristine then, not the ragged Velveteen Rabbit of a book that rests beside me on the table as I type. It still had its pretty pink cover adorned with a lovely Tasha Tudor illustration. I hadn't written “Susanna Loves Tommy” in a heart on the back page yet and the binding hadn't come unglued.
“I think you may like this book, Susanna,” my mom had said.
For the record, my mom is a bookoholic and is rather adamant about the books she recommends. Fortunately, she has excellent taste. She calls, emails, or texts me about books that she thinks I should read. If I am sitting alone in a chair, she will plop a book in my lap and order me to read it. However, that day in the bookshop, the only book I wanted was Heidi. My teacher had read it aloud in school and I was enamored of Heidi and Alm Uncle who were hanging out in the mountains, just eating cheese and herding goats. So I threw a nice little “If I don’t get Heidi, I will just die” tantrum in the store.
A Little Princess was forgotten until that Christmas when I found it under the tree.
“I think you may like this book, Susanna,” my mom said again.
Then she read it to me when I was captive at bedtime. I couldn't escape the story. I was going hear it whether I liked it or not. And my mother was right. (She is always right about book recommendations.) I was entranced by dark-eyed Sara Crewe, who lived in a girl’s school in Victorian London, entertaining her classmates by making up stories, until her father dies, and she is forced to live in the attics as a pauper, making friends with mice. I wanted to be Sara, except for the pauper and rodent part, of course.
So, you ask, this is fine and all, but who was Tommy? Well, that’s rather Victorian as well. He played Oliver Twist in my very first play Oliver! I was cast as unnamed orphan and member of Fagin’s gang. I drew the heart and names while waiting backstage, watching Tommy and the Artful Dodger sing.
So, fast forward maybe nine years. I’m twenty-one, and I've published my first novel Wicked Little Secrets which I wrote in two weeks. Okay, that’s a total lie. Fast forward thirty something years. I've published my second novel Wicked Little Secrets which took a year and a half to write and revise. It’s about a young lady, Vivienne Taylor, whose father is just a few pounds from the dreaded Victorian debtor’s prison, and she’s caught in a blackmail scandal. The only person who can help is her childhood idol Lord Dashiell.
Of course, my prose is a little “wickeder” than Frances Hodgson Burnett and Charles Dickens, but the influence is there.