“Hold up, everyone.” Alice’s hands tensed on the wheel.“How come?” demanded Patsy, injured. “I’m TALKING to SYLVIA.”“I have to back up. Shhhh.”Miraculously, the station wagon fell silent as Alice backed up. But as soon as it was safely rolling forward again, the talking broke out with renewed vigor. “You children really ought to be quiet when someone is trying to do something difficult,” Francie scolded.Celia waved her hands to shush her siblings. “Quiet, everyone, quiet. Francie is trying to think.”
So it took me long enough to get this post moving, but we'll pretend I'm writing it in a timely fashion and just get down to business. Thank you all so very, very much for the questions you asked about The Rochesters! I intend to answer them all here and stick in a bunch of snippets at haphazard intervals (because snippets are fun) so this may end up being a long post. We Shall See.
Miss Jane Bennet asked...
~How many Rochesters are there, and what are their names?
There are six Rochesters of the child sort, and one of the fatherly type, and one mother who is deceased and departed, so there are seven (living) altogether. (I am a brilliant mathematician.) Their names, ages, faces and the actors-who-picture-them are listed below. (I know you didn't ask for ages and faces and celebrity doppelgangers, but I believe in giving bonuses every once in a while. I also believe in multitasking, because Molly asked for their age order, so I'm killing one bird with two stones. And hey, look, I'm also quoting this guy. This is definitely a good day.)
(And then there's the protagonist, Sylvia Lemmins, who isn't technically a Rochester, and you can go here to read more about her.)
~When is The Rochesters set?
Summer of 1956, from June to August.
(Jane had another question regarding the Rochesters as well but I'm saving it for a post of its own. :D)
~How does Sylvia come to be orphaned? Is this discussed?
Sylvia's parents died when she was a baby, but the how and why is never discussed. It's not really important-- she only mentions near the beginning of the story that her parents died when she was tiny, and she doesn't remember them at all.
~Do you have a favorite character?
Ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. You WOULD ask me THAT. Ummm... I'd say maybe Francie or Celia. Possibly Mark. I mean, I like Sylvia quite well, but she's not as hilarious as the other three.
That would definitely be Mark.
This is a flattering question because Elizabeth Enright and Jeanne Birdsall are two of my biggest influences in the writing of this book (Carol Ryrie Brink being a third major inspiration). I'd like to think the book resembles The Melendy Quartet and the Penderwicks series in some ways, though of course I want it to be unique and have a little flavor all its own. Both E.E. and J.B.'s books operate on a strong family theme, and the main characters are all siblings. There are precious few books out there these days that focus on good, humorous brother-sister (and cousin!) relationships, and I want The Rochesters to be one of the few.
~Are there any characters in the story that sort of resemble any members of your family?
Well, each character has a few attributes from various members of my family, but I don't know if any of them could really be compared closely with my siblings. Timmy probably most resembles my eight-year-old brother Robbie, and a lot of his phrases and mannerisms are taken from casual observation of my brother. Though as I said before, a lot of Timmy's inspiration comes from The Andy Griffith Show.
~Where do you get inspired for the Rochesters' quotes?
From my family. I have a really hilarious family. A lot of the dialogue comes verbatim from our dinner table (see the Timmy snippet above) and some of it is just inspired by something a brother or sister says in passing. I like rewriting conversations in my head ("ooh, this would have been so much funnier if he had said THIS instead of THAT, and if she had responded with such-and-such") and writing a story like this is the perfect opportunity to do so. That's probably why The Rochesters is so dialogue-heavy. They're a family that loves to talk, and I'm finding it's easiest to express their personalities through what they do best: talking. Talking at breakfast and lunch and dinner, talking in the car, talking during Sunday School (ahem), talking over each other and contradicting and interrupting and teasing and mimicking.
"This house," [said Uncle Arnold], "is one of the strangest ever constructed. The downstairs floor plan doesn’t match the upstairs, a discrepancy which is compensated by the placement of strategic closets filled with useless things that came from who-knows-where.”