Miss Phillips has been kind enought to answer a few questons about her great book, "The Devlin Diary".
Q & A for Christi Phillips, Author of The Devlin Diary
1. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Was there some specific incident that inspired you?
There wasn’t a specific incident that I can recall. I began reading early, before I started grade school, and had my nose in a book throughout my entire childhood. I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was quite young, at ten or eleven. I simply loved reading so much that I started writing—I suppose I wanted to recreate something that brought me so much pleasure. By the time I was twelve or thirteen, I carried around a notebook in which I wrote poetry, and I kept a journal. In time, I wrote short stories, then screenplays, and finally a novel. The poetry and most of the short stories were terrible, by the way. I was highly motivated, but I didn’t show any early promise. Mine is a story of determination triumphing over lack of talent.
2. Why did you choose the medium of historical fiction? How do you pick what time/place to focus on? Are these periods you have always been interested in?
I chose it in a very round-about fashion, actually. Originally I had planned The Rossetti Letter as a comedy of manners (à la Forster or Austen) about a woman who chaperones a teen-age girl to Venice. I decided that the dramatic set-up would be stronger if the woman had a reason to go to Venice—so she became a historian on her way to an academic conference. Then, of course, I needed to know what her dissertation was about. I began researching Venetian history, and almost at once came across a mention of the 1618 Spanish Conspiracy. As I read further—not just about the conspiracy, the real event upon which The Rossetti Letter is based, but about Venetian history in general—I was inspired to write scenes set in the past and to make the historical portion of the story a major part of the book instead of background.
I set The Rossetti Letter and The Devlin Diary in the Early Modern era because I found that period of history fascinating. The Early Modern era, a 250-300 year time span which is generally agreed to begin around the end of the Renaissance (c. 1500) and end with the advent of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750), was an incredibly vibrant and important period in European history. It’s the time of the Reformation, of the exploration of the New World, and the beginning of scientific inquiry. People began questioning authority and began to observe the world objectively, without the blinders of religious dogma. Although The Devlin Diary takes place fifty-four years later than The Rossetti Letter, both books are set within the Early Modern era, and the characters in both novels reflect their time.
3. Why do you choose to interweave the past and present, rather than writing straight historical fiction?
As I mentioned above, it wasn’t exactly planned that way! It happened organically. Once I started doing research, I realized that I didn’t have to keep the past “in the past,” but could bring it forward and make it part of the story.
4. Is the character of Claire based on your own experiences?
Claire is based on experiences I would like to have. She’s a kind of alter-ego who allows me to do something I love doing—historical research—and to vicariously live out the fantasy of being an academic. Being almost entirely self-taught, academia—especially the ivy-covered, hallowed-hall sort that Claire inhabits—holds a fascination for me. After visiting Trinity College and learning about its history degree program, I was convinced that if I had another life to live I would choose to spend it there, getting a doctorate in Early Modern History and spending the rest of my years cloistered in a cozy set. In spite of the many terrible (fictional) things that happen at Trinity College during the course of The Devlin Diary, I found it (and the people therein) absolutely charming. Cambridge is at least as lovely as I have described it. It’s the ultimate college town (although residents of Oxford might disagree).
The Christi Phillips Web Site
My thanks to Christi for taking the time to give us all some insight as to what inspires her! See the contest to win a FREE copy of "The Devlin Diary" in the previous post.