One of the great pleasures of my reading life has been to collect (or glom) books by favorite authors. Sometimes it can take a LONG time to acquire all an author’s books. If the books are out of print, they can be quite expensive, or just plain not available, though having online access opened up book collecting in a big way for me. One author it has been my great delight to research and collect, is Elizabeth Cadell.
When I first stumbled onto her books in my home town library, I was working my way through the fiction shelves, going from A to Z. I was always most interested in authors that took up more than one shelf. While it is wonderful to find a book that delights you, they always end, and then you’re looking for the next great read. But there is the hope that you will love the first book by an author and then you know there are others to devour, others to hope you will like as much. And I did devour books like a hobbit goes after mushrooms.
Elizabeth Cadell was a delightfully prolific author. From 1946 to 1987, she wrote fifty-two novels. Back then they were labeled “women’s fiction.” But they ran the gamut from the semi-autobiographical to romance to romantic mystery to hard to define. The Fledgling, for instance, is told from the point of view of young Tory Brooke who outwits a thief and smoothes the path of true love for her father.
The books are filled with quirky characters, dry British wit, and settings that included England, France, Spain, Portugal, India and the Canary Islands. I never closed one of her books without feeling like I’d been there for the duration of the story. And reading her, I became addicted to having romance woven into my fictional adventures.
Though I never met her, I feel like I know her, that she was someone I would have loved to sit and visit with. Mostly I would have loved to listen to her talk about her life. It sounds most interesting, and partially explains how she could write so vividly about such a variety of locations.
According to Cadell (taken from the back of Last Straw for Harriet), she was born and raised in India, educated in Calcutta, London and Darjeeling. She was orphaned and then widowed, left to raise two children without much money. She “tried various secretarial posts and enjoyed them all but disagreed with the system of coming to work at this time and going home at that time.” She decided to do work that allowed her to set her own hours and that’s how she became an author. She recommends it to “all thoroughly lazy women.” (I also like to set my own hours. LOL)
Oh yeah, I would have liked her (and I hope she would have liked me.) If you’d like to know more, her heirs released a limited edition biography and the never-before-published in the UK or US novel, Death and Miss Dane, that can be purchased from her fan site.
As a young reader, I did not realize that I was also learning to be a writer by reading Cadell’s novels. From her I learned the importance of having a believable supporting cast for your main characters. One of my favorite supporting characters is Cousin Clarry from The Greenwood Shady (released in the US as Brimstone in the Garden).
Consider this first sighting of Cousin Clarry: “Cousin Clarry arrived looking larger than ever. She was of average height, but her great bulk made her appear almost as broad as she was long. She wore a voluminous tweed cloak, which Elinor remembered having seen on Aunt Winifred twenty years ago. Her hat was of the kind known as a straw boater, and was affixed by a piece of black elastic to the back of her collar. Her sparse grey hair grew in a wild and uneven fringe in front and bunchy tufts behind, and looked as though she cut it herself without the aid of a glass–which afterwards proved to be the case.”
Initially Elinor is not sure what to think about Cousin Clarry and neither does the reader, but she and I fell in love as the story proceded and at the end, I was sorry to finish the book and Elinor, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out how this unlikely friendship turns out. Spoilers, sweetie! (Sorry, just had to let loose with a Dr. Who/River Song moment.)
From her I learned to embrace my own sense of humor in my stories, to pay attention to detail, and to embrace the quiet moments with as much enthusiasm as I do my explosions. I also learned to follow my muse into whatever genre it fancied.
Early in my writing career I was told that I needed “to focus,” to figure out what it was I wanted to write and do it. When I’d point out authors who didn’t do that, I was told they could do it because _______ (fill in the blank). I have not come close to Cadell’s fifty-two books, but every one of my thirteen-going-on-more novels was something I wanted to write. That’s what I focused on and its made me very happy.
So, what about you? Are there authors you go back and visit like an old friend? Comfort reads you pull out when you’re feeling under the weather? Or books that you can’t forget, even if you don’t have time for a visit?
Because I also love comments, leave one on any blog post in July and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card of awesomeness from AnaBanana’s Bath & Body Treats. (Check out her zombie zoaps!) Winner will be announced in my August 6, 2012 blog post.