Inkpop Blog

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Writing Bestselling Historical Fiction: Inside the Mind of Anna Godbersen

Posted by inkpopbecki on January 5, 2011

What does it take to write historical fiction? Research? Strict adherence to the traditions of the place and time? What about writing a bestselling historical fiction series. We caught up with Anna Godbersen, bestselling author of The Luxe and Bright Young Things to talk about this and other issues facing authors today. Want to hear more? Join us for a live chat with Anna Gobersen in the inkpop forum events tonight at 8 p.m. EST.

Your first series,  Luxe, was set at the turn of the century and your new series Bright Young Things is set in the roaring 20s. What made you decide to write historical fiction?
I love writing for Young Adults, because my readership has their whole lives ahead of them, and that’s so exciting, to be writing for and about people for whom the world is wide open, who can still become anything. But I grew up in a slightly different generation… I didn’t text or facebook or email when I was in high school. So it’s somewhat more comfortable to be writing about teens who lived before all that. Also, because I’m a nerd, and I enjoy the research. Plus, I love the idea of introducing my readers to characters who, because of the era they live in, face really different problems, which creates a nice perspective. Of course, not totally different problems– love is a great unifier, always, everywhere!

What drew you to the turn of the twentieth century? What drew you to the 1920s?
They are sort of opposites actually, and I am really fascinated by both extremes– the decadent clutter of the Victorian Era, the sense that the characters are being watched by everyone lest they fail to conform perfectly, vs. the breezy, modern, fun-loving 1920s, where no one will watch you unless you do something very brilliant and idiosyncratic. In both cases I think I was drawn to these iconic moments of American history, where the fashion and the society become really distinctly our own, and where young women in particular got a chance to break out of the old ways. The little steps that Diana Holland took at the end of the Luxe series allow for the world where an Astrid Donal is possible.

Aside from the time period what is different about writing characters in the early 20th century and those in the 20s?
The everyday life of society people in the Gilded Age was ruled by really stringent etiquette–there was hardly room to breathe, much less be a full, messy human being! So when I was writing the Luxe books I was writing about these ardent, flawed characters buckingup against a very narrow morality. In Bright Young Things all that is turned on its head; I am writing about characters in a world where everything goes. The surface of that world, just like the surface of the opulent and tightly controlled Gilded Age, is glamorous, but deep

down it is treacherous, too–they have that in common. But for Cordelia and Letty, the danger lies in having too few rules– unlike Diana and Elizabeth Holland, they really can do anything, but after a while being able to do anything becomes a crutch. If they don’t determine their own morality, they will be lost in wild, footloose, 1920s New York.

Was it difficult to make the transition into a new time decade?
As a writer, it is always difficult to start something new–but once you get going it is thrilling. So yes and no! It was a challenge, with all the good and bad things that word always implies.

Want more? Join us for a live chat with Anna Gobersen in the inkpop forum events tonight at 8 p.m. EST.

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