Saturday, September 21, 2013

That Really Long and Very Overdue Post About the Rochesters

“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.)

"We don’t actually have a television, in case you didn’t notice-- Daddy says it sucks brain cells.  But sometimes we watch it at other people’s houses.  Daddy doesn’t mind a little once in a while.  He says growing children can afford to lose a few brain cells but adults have to make do with what they’ve got, because a lot of them haven’t got very many to begin with."
~Celia, chapter nine

Arnold Gregory is forty-something.  :P  His prototype is Gregory Peck, and yes, the character is partially named for the actor. I just couldn't help it.

Sylvia tried not to look shocked. “Okay… uh, does something happen to the laundry around here?”
“No, no, it’s just Alice these days.”  
“Alice?” Sylvia sat down on the edge of her bed. 
“Oh, believe me, she’s gone batty.  More than she usually is, you know.”  Celia wormed under her bed and reappeared with a hairbrush in her hand.  “It’s because of George, of course.  She acts so cool and calm most of the time, but you should see her on the phone with him.  It’s disgusting, really it is.  And she gets so distracted after she’s talked with him.  Awful.  Absolutely awful.  But funny.  The reason I mentioned the clothes is that last week—you’re not going to believe this—she folded a whole basket of wet laundry.”
~chapter two

Alice Cassandra is twenty-two.  She's "played" by Claire Foy and she's engaged to George Rawlins (Richard Beymer's face, FYI).

“Don’t be ridiculous.”  Francie tipped Celia’s chin back and looked into her eyes. “Your pupils are perfectly normal.  There’s no concussion.  And it’s only a little bump.  If you’d ever seen the kind of injuries that come in the emergency room at Walden Memorial you wouldn’t make such a fuss over a bruise.  Come on, we’ll take another block and if we don’t recognize any of our surroundings we’ll ask for directions.”
“That’s the trouble with a sister who’s training to be a nurse.”  Celia linked her arm through Sylvia’s.  “No sympathy, not a bit.  I’d have to be spouting blood into the middle of the street in order for her to find me a Band-Aid.  And now she won’t even trust me to tell her which way to go.”
~chapter eight

Frances (Francie) Katharine is nineteen.  That's Elinor Donahue in the picture and though the smile is just exactly right, Francie never looks that glamorous.  Her siblings will tell you that without hesitation.

Francie giggled as the screen door banged shut.  “She’s always making promises about being responsible when she’s left at home to be the oldest, and then we come home to find the laundry not done and the dishes sprouting vegetation in the sink.”
~chapter seven

Celia Jane is fourteen-almost-fifteen.  She kinda-sorta shares a face with Emma Watson-- that is, Emma Watson comes closest to my mental image of Celia, but she's not absolutely perfect.  Celia has a more mischievous look about her.

It was Mark’s job to fetch the mail every day and he did it without being reminded, which was what made the mail fetching such a unique kind of task, or at least that was what Celia had said.  Bills, RSVP’s for Alice about the wedding, correspondence from Uncle Arnold’s editor at the publishing house, letters for Celia from her pen pal in California, catalogs from various companies that nobody had asked for and only Patsy found interesting—all were treated with the same mix of reverence and important responsibility.  Mark made a ritual each day of spreading the mail out just so on the kitchen counter (sometimes prompting indignant remarks from whichever sister was currently preparing some sort of edible thereupon) and painstakingly sorting through it all, with loud announcements of what was for whom. 
~chapter seven

Mark Elijah is twelve.  I have searched in vain for an actor whose face fits my mental image of Mark, and this random boy in medieval clothes (you can't see the clothes because I cropped them out) is the best I can do.  If anyone knows who he is or whence he came or what his name might be, do enlighten me, because I'd like to find more pictures if I can.

Celia sighed.  “There will be silence in the courtroom.”
Francie opened her mouth with a warning look, but Timmy cut her off gleefully with, “The judge wants to spit!”
“Timmy.”  Francie looked pained.  “What’s Sylvia going to think of you?”
“Aw, Sylvia knows me by now,” said Timmy, unconcerned.  
~chapter five

Timothy (Timmy) William is seven.  Ron Howard serves as his prototype, and yes, the character is shamelessly based off of Opie Taylor. Also my own brother, who used to be seven.

She had barely time to widen her crinkled eyelids before a small, moppety head popped up from the adjoining bed and shrieked, “Good MORNING, Sylvia!”
“Hi, Patsy,” Sylvia mumbled, trying to twist her head around and get a look at the clock without having to move more than was strictly necessary.  The clock, however, was not in the spot on the dresser where it had been the night before.
“Celia took the clock and hid it under her bed.”  Patsy wormed the covers back, hopped out of bed and padded over to put her face very close to Sylvia’s.  “She didn’t want me to set the alarm, but I know how.  Francie taught me.”
~chapter three

Patricia (Patsy) Marie is four-almost-five.  (She's closer to five than Celia is to fifteen.)  She is not half as annoyingly cute as Shirley Temple, nor does she pout as frequently as the picture might suggest, but she isn't always a Merry Sunshine and the picture made me giggle.

“And the overenthusiastic canine you see before you is Pumblechook.  DOWN, SIR,” said Uncle Arnold, the latter remark not being directed at Sylvia.
~chapter two

The Honorable Pumblechook is eight.  Yes, he's intentionally named after the pompous uncle in Great Expectations.  Yes, that was the Rochesters' idea and not just the narrator's.

(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)

Alicia asked...
~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.

Alice rapped Francie’s knuckles with her own toast.  “Stop it.  I have excellent taste.  First-class.  The best in the world.  Ask George.  Yes, Timmy, you may be excused.  Put your plate in the sink, Patsy.”

“He’s biased.”  Francie ostentatiously wiped the butter from Alice’s toast off her hand as the younger children dumped their dishes in the sink and galloped off to the living room  “Love may be blind, but the sisters ain’t.  You can’t tell a really truly good dress from a second-rate one.”

“They’re teasing,” said Celia, for Sylvia’s benefit.  (Sylvia appreciated this, though she thought she could have figured this out for herself.)  “And since Francie doesn’t seem inclined to actually answer your question, I take it upon myself to inform you that what she believes to be her correct size and what Macy’s believes to be her size are two very different things, and the long and the short of it is, the dress she bought is kind of a little bit too snug and she won’t give in and just let the seams out.  Ergo, diet.”
~chapter eight

~Who is the most mischievous character in the family?

That would definitely be Mark.

“Too bad,” Mark chirped, smiling brightly at Frank.  “What a pity.  Hope you have fun anyway.  Bye.”
Celia reached around and surreptitiously pinched the back of Mark’s arm.  “However, I’d love to go swimming some other time, maybe a little later in the summer.”
“Sure.”  Frank nodded.  “There’ll be lots of other times.  Say, we could go on a bike ride out to China Hills next week.  Some of the fellows were talking about that this morning, too.”
“A bike ride sounds lovely,” said Celia, expertly ducking away from Mark’s returning pinch.  “Just let me know when it’s going to happen and I’ll be happy to come along.”
“And we’d be delighted to accompany her,” said Mark, casually dipping his bucket into the garbage can.  “Can’t have our dear sister traipsing about unchaperoned with a--”
“Isn’t he cute,” said Celia, forcing a laugh.  “I’ll be there next week, Frank.”
~chapter seven

~This book reminds me of something like Elizabeth Enright and Jeanne Birdsall -- is it, do you think?

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.

“Timmy?  Gingersnap or chocolate chip?”
“I can’t deciiiiiiide.”  Timmy’s brow furrowed.  “I need some time.”
“Time is exactly what we don’t have.”  Alice rattled the cookie box.  “Come on, Patsy, what would you like?”
Patsy took the last chocolate chip cookie, which provoked a howl from Timmy.  “That was the one I wanted!”
Alice looked at him.  “I thought you said you couldn’t decide.”  
“Well, I couldn’t, but then I saw what she had and I knew.”
~chapter eleven

Eowyn asked...
~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.

Celia paused a moment for dramatic emphasis.  “What… would you call a book about a gypsy fortune-teller who didn’t believe in rushing into romance?”
Francie looked at her.
Sylvia crinkled her nose.  “Say that again?”
“What would you call a book about a gypsy fortune-teller who didn’t believe in rushed romance?”
“That was the whole book right there in the riddle,” said George, tossing Mark a napkin.  “Did no one ever tell you that short and sweet go together?”
“Come on, somebody, answer it,” said Celia.
“I have no idea,” said Timmy, with an exaggerated sigh.
“Does everyone give up?”
“Yes,” said Alice.  “We gave up around the fifth paragraph of the question.”
~chapter nineteen

Aaaaand that's all for today, folks.  Regarding questions, that is.  I have to get back to my scribbling, because I've vowed a vow to finish the first draft of The Rochesters by October first, come hell or high water.  I know I promised a month ago that I'd get it done by the end of August, and that didn't happen and I feel rather guilty, but life goes on and things will be okay.  Though thirty-one days of August are gone, tomorrow is a bright new day.  And I have approximately 25,000 words to write in nine days (while simultaneously hosting a blog party over here, because I'm insane), so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to type.

"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.”
“We don’t have that much stuff, Daddy,” Francie protested.
“All I know,” said Uncle Arnold, finishing his baked potato, “is that if we ever have a Useless Junk sale I intend to become a millionaire.”
“How can it be useless junk if it’s worth a million dollars?” Timmy inquired.
“Eat your supper,” said Uncle Arnold.
~chapter two


Melody said...

Well I, for one, love dialogue. Especially the stuff you write. ;D

Can't wait for more of this... ;) (Like, if you sent it today or something I wouldn't be offended. Hahahaha.)

Molly said...

I LOVED the snippets!!! I can't wait to read more! Everyone sounds so funny, I don't know who is my favorite! :) And the pictures are all so perfect!

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Thanks for answering my questions and others! I really enjoyed this post and learning more about the Rochesters- I can't wait for more! :)

Kiri Liz said...

I absobloominglutely LOVE this, Amy!! And there's nothing wrong with dialogue, in my opinion. Sometimes it's more enjoyable to read a book that's full of humorous dialogue than monotonous description.

This definitely sounds like a book that all Birdsall and Brink fans will enjoy (I apologize, I don't recognize the name of the third), but a lot of your snippets remind me greatly, not of the small summer breakfast room at Rosings, but rather E. Nesbit's Treasure Seeker books with the Bastable family. Excellent stories, so I am very muchly excited to see more of your Rochesters!

I'd have to say I don't know if I could pick a favorite Rochester, but I am eager to read more about Celia. She sounds an awful lot like me, though *cough* I don't leave the dishes to sprout vegetation in the sink. No, in my case, the laundry sprouts vegetation. Thank goodness I have sisters to help with that! ;)

Alicia Showalter said...

I LOVED this post so much!!! :D The snippets are absolutely amazing! I cannot wait to read it! Patsy is such an adorable name - I love it! What made you think of it? And Opie Taylor for Timmy sounds like the perfect cute/mischievous little boy. Keep up the amazing work, Amy!!

Jane B said...

Really enjoyed reading these snippets & learning more about the Rochesters. You have a gift for writing! And family talk is the best place for getting realistic chatter. Love the humour!

Emma Jane said...

I really enjoyed this post, Miss Dashwood! You are a very talented writer. It was interesting to see the actors you picked for your characters' faces. And you know who Elinor Donahue is?!? : )
By the way, I love Gregory Peck. He is the best Abe Lincoln ever. : P And Celia Jane is such a pretty name!
You may have mentioned this before (in fact, you probably have, but I don't remember): what era is The Rochesters set in? It sounds to me like it's probably the 1950s or thereabouts.
This was most entertaining! : )