March 28th, MB14 was thrilled to welcome Katherine Longshore, author of the historical fiction novels Gilt, Tarnish, and most recently, Manor of Secrets. Set in the early 1900s, Manor of Secrets tells the story of Charlotte Edmonds and Janie Seward, two girls who, despite living under the same roof, dwell in entirely different worlds. Charlotte is wealthy but powerless, longing for a life of freedom while Janie is lowborn and practical, dreaming of a better life. The story follows Charlotte and Janie as their two lives are pulled closer together, carrying all complications and rules in tow, threatening an inevitable collision between their upstairs and downstairs lives (for more information, check out MB14’s review of Manor of Secrets). In honor of Manor‘s release we enjoyed an evening of tea and scones, completed by a discussion with Katherine Longshore.
First, we asked Katherine to talk a little bit about her experience writing historical fiction. She described writing historical fiction as a combination of world-building and time traveling — that historical time periods are the ultimate secondary worlds. Manor of Secrets was brought about thanks to a demand for a Downtown Abbey-esque young adult novel, requiring extensive research to build Janie and Charlotte’s intricate world. The inspiration for the manor came from an old house near where Katherine used to live in England. Currently in ruins and completely overgrown, at one point it would have been nothing short of pristine, with perfectly manicured and cultivated grounds and an absolute order and hierarchy that governed every aspect of manor life.
We then asked Katherine to discuss her path to publishing — how she went from writer to published author. Her story began when she was working at a preschool and had an idea for a picture book about Henry VIII. That picture book idea turned into a children’s novel, then middle grade, and eventually became Gilt, a book she was expecting to be a stand-alone but turned into a series of three (don’t miss Brazen, coming soon). She also mentioned that Manor of Secrets, while currently a stand-alone, allows for the possibility of a sequel, and she may later return to Janie and Charlotte’s stories. And here’s a fun fact — if you check out the front and back of Manor of Secrets, you’ll see that it’s the same model for both Charlotte and Janie!
The evening wound to a close with some casual conversation and signed copies and final bites of scones. All in all, we are so grateful to Katherine Longshore for taking the time to stop by and sit down with us, to answer all of our questions (if she could choose one book to become a movie, it would be Brazen) and sharing her insights and for the wonderful conversation. Hopefully we’ll see Katherine again soon, and in the meantime, don’t miss out on reading Manor of Secrets.