When city girl Liz is banished to a rural goat farm on the outskirts of Portland, the 15-year-old feels her life spiraling out of control. She can’t connect to her father or his young girlfriend, and past trauma adds to her sense of upheaval. The only person who seems to keep her sane is a troubled boy who is fighting his own demons. But all of this changes in one historical instant.
When Liz finds a time-worn diary, and within it a locket, she discovers the secrets and desires of the young Bavarian princess who will one day grow up to be the legendary Empress of Austria.
One-hundred fifty years earlier, Elisabeth of Bavaria has troubles of her own. Her childhood is coming to a crashing end, and her destiny is written in the form of a soothsaying locket that has the ability to predict true love. But evil is afoot in the form of a wicked enchantress who connives to wield the power of the locket for her own destructive ends.
It is in the pages of the diary that these two heroines will meet, and it is through their interwoven story that Liz will discover she has the power to rewrite history—including her own...
As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland's "hottest writing group" (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy's name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. Her own award-winning writing has appeared in a bunch of journals and anthologies. She holds an MFA from Antioch Los Angeles, and when she's not writing novels, does freelance copywriting and editing. RAISING CHEER is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.
The Guest Post
Maddy and Audrey, thanks so much for inviting me to chat. I am all over your “trend analysis” idea. Color me a (big time) fan. Sadly, I am such an outlier to “trends.” Do you suppose we’ll see a trend in historical, contemporary, fantasy, issue, romance genre-mashes? Please say yes!
While we’re on the subject of the genre mash (not to be confused with the Monster Mash), I thought I might speak to the challenges and opportunities of writing a dual first-person narrative.
As you can see from the cover, THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES follows two stories, and there is an object (a diary) that connects them. The voices are separated by 150ish years, class, country, and culture. Among other things.
The common experience though, is that both girls have lost a grasp on the control of their lives. My contemporary heroine, Liz, suffers from food anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her mother has left the country, and Liz is thrust into an environment that feels very chaotic to her. My historical teenager, Sisi, is being pushed into a role and a level of maturity that doesn’t mesh with her spirited upbringing.
I found it hard, initially, to balance the narratives. To have the arcs come together for a climax. It took several drafts to get the timing working, and to sand down the transitions so they weren’t jarring. Maybe they still are jarring? I hope not. Because part of the leap of the book is to thoroughly immerse in one girl’s story and then be plucked from that story – language – time – situation, and into the other, and get thoroughly immersed again.
Love them or hate them, the characters in GONE GIRL cause the reader to shift perspectives and allegiances each time the voice of either Nick or Amy takes over. As a reader, I love the ride.
I chose Bavaria and Portland as my settings because I wanted the country/city contrasts in both narratives. Liz prefers the sleek new “Pearl” district to the broken down farmhouse she finds herself banished to. Sisi is a country girl, and hates the confines of the family’s winter quarters in Munich.
The farmhouse in the book is one I myself lived in for three years when my two older kids were little. It’s just outside the Portland city limits and has a very romantic quality. But three winters with only a woodstove for heat, no insulation, one tiny bathroom (family of four) and I couldn’t wait to get back to town. So.
As far as the benefits of telling a story from inside of two distinct voices, it adds a texture not available to a single-narrative tale. The shifting perspective creates an opportunity for the reader to slip in as analyst. As a writer, you are introducing a comparison, and humans can’t help but organize this into some sort of aligning mechanism. Remember the “Team Amy” and “Team Nick” t-shirts? Of course, Liz and Sisi aren’t “against” each other like the Gone Girl characters. They are more mirrors for each other. Sisi’s story sort of “saves” Liz, and Liz ends up *spoiler* embracing an inner power she couldn’t access previously once she truly empathizes with the empress-to-be.
In writing a novel with two distinct voices, I loved when I stumbled across situations that blurred the edges of the girls’ experiences.
Thanks for being part of my “cover reveal” day, Audrey and Maddy. I will continue to check in with this blog. It’s a good one!
Thanks for stopping by the blog Suzy! You can check out more about Suzy on Goodreads, her website, Facebook or Twitter. Pre-order The Empress Chronicles here!