Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport (Review & Interview)

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

I GIVE THIS BOOK: 1 star  1 star  1 star  1 star 

MY THOUGHTS:

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning is rich in historical detail. While reading I felt as though I was transported to Chicago in 1892. It was obvious to me that the author did a lot of research to write this book.

While Lucy was a likeable character, I liked Charlotte, the Banning's maid, even more and am looking forward to reading her story - The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, which is scheduled to be released January 2013.

I didn't feel the character of Daniel, Lucy's fiancĂ©, was very well developed  - he was very one dimensional. As for the romance between Will and Lucy, I felt that it happened too quickly. They met and almost instantaneously were in love, but neither wanted to admit it. In my opinion, there did not seem to be enough interaction between them to justify their deep love for each other.

Overall, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning was very enjoyable and a wonderful debut novel. I will certainly be reading more by this author. 

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***

“Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

If you found this review helpful, will you please click yes HERE. Thanks!

Product Details:

  • Paperback: 293 pages 
  • Publisher: Revell; Original edition (May 1, 2012) 
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN-10: 0800720385 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800720384 
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Available to purchase at Amazon


INTERVIEW WITH OLIVIA NEWPORT:

Olivia, welcome to Hardcover Feedback! How did The Pursuit of Lucy Banning get started?
I have Chicago suburban roots, but I had not heard of the Prairie Avenue Historical District until a friend of mine became a docent at the Glessner House Museum on Prairie Avenue. This house preserves the flavor of Chicago’s gilded age when the neighborhood was full of wealthy powerhouses of industry. As soon as my friend began his training, he saw the potential for the setting of a story. He is not a fiction writer, but he knew my interests. It did not take us long to cook up story ideas about a daughter of a privileged family who engaged with the changing social climate of her time.

Your book is layered with historical detail. Tell us about your research process.
I have Chicago suburban roots, but I had not heard of the Prairie Avenue Historical District until a friend of mine became a docent at the Glessner House Museum on Prairie Avenue. This house preserves the flavor of Chicago’s gilded age when the neighborhood was full of wealthy powerhouses of industry. As soon as my friend began his training, he saw the potential for the setting of a story. He is not a fiction writer, but he knew my interests. It did not take us long to cook up story ideas about a daughter of a privileged family who engaged with the changing social climate of her time.

What impact did your research have on you personally? 
One of the most fun research pieces I uncovered was a guide to caring for young children published in 1894. The prevailing expert advice was not to play with a baby before he or she was four months old, preferably six! I love giving a copy of this book to new mothers. On the other end of the spectrum was heartbreaking information about the desperate needs of orphans during that time period. We may think we have more sophisticated system for addressing certain social issues, but we have a long way to go.

How do you see yourself in Lucy Banning’s story?
I certainly have never been the daughter of a privileged family! However, Lucy Banning and I do share an infatuation with red velvet cake. More seriously, Lucy is looking for genuine meaning in her life, even if it means taking risks. I’d like to think I would do the same thing.


If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fiction or real, dead or alive), other than family or friends, who would you invite and why?
I would invite five writers who would no doubt generate incredible dinner table conversation for me to soak up. I would start with the apostle Paul, and then surround him with four twentieth century writers. The first would be English writer Susan Howatch, whose Starbridge series I read years ago and I still feel the presence of the place she created as she wrote about characters wrestling with faith. The second would be Madeleine L'Engle, who has deep reflective thoughts on just about any theme! Third would be Chaim Potok, whose books are filled with characters wrestling their way into what they are meant to be. And finally, an author I've started reading recently, Joshilyn Jackson, who describes her books as "redemption-infested." I would love to hear what Paul has to say about the way these writers have handled the theme of redemption in real life. I don't think I would say a word, but I'd sure love to hear these writers in one place.


While you were writing the book, do you think it mattered that you grew up near Chicago?
Even as an adult, I’ve lived in the Chicago area for several stretches, and several siblings and their children live there. (Go Cubs!) When I was a child, visiting the Museum of Science and Industry was a wide-eyed experience for me. As a young mother, I took my kids there. I think of it as the Museum of Wonder and Curiosity. Then I discovered that the building itself was part of the 1893 world’s fair, the backdrop for my series. Little did I know I would grow up to write about events that took place in a building that held so much fascination for me.

Will we know what happens to Lucy Banning after the end of the book?
Charlotte Farrow is a secondary character in The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, and she will have her own full story next. The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow will release in January. After that comes Sarah Cummings, who is introduced during Charlotte’s story. Lucy Banning and her family appear in all three books. Even though the main characters will change, readers can follow the next several years of Lucy’s life.

Is any part of you sorry to be finished writing The Pursuit of Lucy Banning?
Yes! I’ve been living with Lucy for three years now. I feel I know her well. Lucy has a part in the two stories to follow, and these are still in the editorial pipeline so I’ll have opportunities to visit with her again over the next few months. Beyond that, I have a picture of what happened in her life and know that she found happiness and meaning. And that brings me pleasure.

Where do you like to write?
I advocate writing by keeping your bottom in the chair, but I’m flexible about the kind of chair! Research happens at my desk where I can spread things out. Several years ago, in a thrift store, I found a wide, comfy recliner with a built-in massage feature. When I’m in serious get-words-on-the-screen mode rather than researching, I write in cushy comfort. However, I also think that writing is a consuming process, and I may solve a plot dilemma while I’m walking through the neighborhood or hear the perfect line of dialogue in my head while pulling weeds. When I’m immersed in a story, it’s hard to set it aside until I get it out of me. The writing follows me around as I go about my life.

How do you handle distractions?
Classical music—no words—helps keep my brain in a productive gear. I have a big planner where I write notes so I can let go of information or an urge to do something for the moment. Being comfortable helps with distractions, in terms of the chair, lighting, and room temperature. Otherwise my body responds to every little bothersome sensation. And it’s amazing how effective it is to simply close the door on the household noise.

If someone else were sitting at your desk right now, what would they see?
A visitor to my office would see multiple attempts at organization, some of which are actually useful! I have several racks for folders and papers, and only I know what qualifies for which rack. I insist on colorful, fun folders. A couple of binders hold manuscripts in progress or research. I expect a visitor would be curious about the various notes I have taped up around my desk, some of which are information I refer to because I can’t remember otherwise, and some of which are inspiration, both to keep my writing on task and my heart in a settled place.

When you’re working on a project, how do you keep the immensity of it from getting you down?
Writing a book does seen scary! I break things down. I don’t set out to write a novel. Rather, I set out to complete the next task that may become a part of the novel. The task may be working out a knot in the plot, or writing the next scene, or beefing up research. I focus on doing the next thing that needs doing.

How do you choose between ideas you’d like to write about?
That’s a great question, because I always have more ideas than time to write about them. I’ve had fun with the Avenue of Dreams series, which begins with The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, because I discovered a place I did not know about. That surprise factor launched my imagination. I’m sure I’ll be looking for the same experience in the future and be eager to pass it on to readers.

Where can we find you online?
www.olivianewport.com (blog)
@OliviaNewport (Twitter)
facebook.com/Olivia Newport (author page)



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