Friday, August 24, 2012

Tea Time with Keli Gwyn!


Today, I am honored to have a Victorian tea with author, Keli Gwyn! I even broke out my new tea set! If you’re around Keli for about two seconds, you’ll fall in love with her sweet and gentle spirit. Keli is an encourager and romantic! You can read about her real-life romance with Gwynly on her blog! Always insightful and inspiring.

JP: Keli, what kind of tea are you sipping? How do you take it?

KG: My favorite tea is Bigelow’s Mint Medley. I add a healthy dollop of honey.

JP: I like mint tea as well, but I’m having Irish Breakfast tea with a splash of real cream and Splenda! We’re also having an assortment of Keli’s favorite pastries: shortbread and vanilla scones. You know, Elenora—your heroine in your debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, wasn’t much of a cook. How about you?

KG: This is one trait Ellie and I share. I don’t like to cook and am not much good at it, although I’ve managed to keep Gwynly satisfied nearly twenty-five years. Of course, he’s very easy to please. In my defense, I do make yummy enchiladas smothered in green sauce.

JP: Enchiladas sound divine, but I’ll suffice with this delicious vanilla scone! You know, I was telling my mom about your book and I believe my exact words were, “Keli writes all things Victorian.” What do you find most fascinating about the Victorian Era and why did you choose to write about it?

I'm having so much fun
using my new tea set today!
 KG: What a great question, Jess. Even before I began writing, I gravitated to stories set in the Victorian Era. Why? I’m not sure. I find the fact that the Victorians labored under such rigid rules and societal restrictions intriguing. Being a Californian, I enjoy the Westward Expansion aspect of stories set in that period. And I do love the clothing of the time—all but the corset, that is.

JP: I was shocked to learn how dangerous corsets were to women back then! I feel suffocated just thinking about it!  Being a woman has its setbacks for your female lead character, who wants a business partnership with Miles Rutledge, but her tenacity is inspiring. What do you think was the hardest thing for a woman during this time? Why?

KG: Aside from wearing corsets and wilting in the summer beneath the many layers of clothing Victorian women wore, I think the repression they experienced must have been hard on them. Thanks to the suffragists, women were becoming more self-aware and eager to explore new avenues, but they had a tough battle to convince men—and many traditionally minded women—that they deserved the right to vote, own property, etc., rather than being considered property.

This isn’t to say that I’m a feminist, because I’m not. I’m happily married, and I understand and accept the Biblical teaching that Gwynly is the head of our family. But I like being able to voice my opinions. And I do like the fact that I have a book out with my name on it, a privilege that women writers in the past were often denied.

JP:  I agree with you, Keli, and I think you did a wonderful job making Elenora strong minded, yet able to follow Miles’ lead when needed. Well done! Since we’re having tea and chatting about A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, can you share a few fun facts about a Victorian tea? Did women wear gloves? Was there a proper way to “have” tea? Am I doing this all wrong today?

A Victorian love letter!
photocredit: freedigitalphotos
KG: Trust the Victorians to have rules for just about everything. One of my etiquette books from the time devotes eighteen pages to the Tea Party, and yet the chapter begins by saying this about the Afternoon Tea: “Gone are the anxieties, the formality, and the etiquette of the dinner table.”

Afternoon Tea took place between four and six p.m., with a recommended maximum of six guests. The hostess could choose whether or not she wanted her guests to bring their own teacups. A lady would wear a tea dress, which could be worn without a corset. (Ah. Sweet relief.) She must, however, wear gloves, which is why the food had to be prepared in such a way that butter, fillings, etc. were not on the outside of the sandwiches and biscuits. She would also wear her hat during the entire visit.

The Victorians were known for having lists of “do not’s.” With regard to Tea Parties, three I find entertaining are: do not request more than one or two spoonfuls of sugar, because that “is ill-bred and appears greedy;” do not quite drain a cup or glass; and do not extend your ring and small fingers upward, for that “bespeaks arrogance, not refinement.”

JP: I chuckled on the “gone are the anxieties, the formality” part! Wow, that’s so interesting. And pardon me for sticking out my pinky! Really, I’m not arrogant, just uneducated! LOL Okay, tell us one thing you truly hope readers will take away and forever remember about your debut novel?

KG: Oh. This is easy. I hope they remember how much fun they had reading it. There are messages and themes in the story, of course, but to me, those are secondary. As I see it, my job as an author of fiction is to entertain, and that’s what I endeavor to do first and foremost.

JP: Well, you nailed it then! I was thoroughly entertained and engrossed! I loved your book, Keli, and I anticipate reading your sophomore novel. When can we expect to see that one on shelves?

photo credit: freedigitalphotos
KG: I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Jess. Hearing that warms this debut novelist’s heart.
As to when readers can expect my next book… Soon, I hope. My agent and I are working on that now. And you can be assured it will be a historical romance set in the Victorian Era, since I’m smitten with it.

JP: I’d expect nothing less! Well, whatever and whenever, I know I’ll be ready for it! I hope you’ll pick up Keli’s debut novel and read it, if  you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed!

Thanks for sitting a spell and having tea with me today, Keli! It’s been a treasure.

KG: Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Jess. What a pleasure to spend time with you and your blog’s visitors. I have a question for all of you: What is one thing you’ve heard about the Victorians that you find particularly interesting or unusual?

To learn more about Keli, you can visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you'll find her parlor, study, carriage house, and more, along with her blog and her social media links.

Purchase this book! (kindle)
Purchase this book! (nook)
And all book stores! 
Here’s a peek at A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California:

An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can’t help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles’s mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora’s daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?

33 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for inviting me to your Tea, Jess. I'm honored to be here. And what a delightful Tea it is. I love your tea set. It's so pretty and feminine. And your questions were wonderful. I had such a good time answering them. You are a most gracious hostess.

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    1. Thanks, Keli! I've enjoyed having you! It's been a treat! :)

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  2. Love you two, love Irish Breakfast w/ cream and something sweet, and love the irony of the pages upon pages of tea ettiquette preceded by the proclamation of formality being gone! Such a fun post, you two.

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    1. I know! That made me laugh when I read it! Tea time all around (and a Downton Abbey marathon)! Are you game? :)

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    2. Amanda, my heart goes out to the Victorians. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for those who were trying to follow all those rules. . .or how frustrating when they flubbed up and were rebuffed by those in the know as being uncouth. I'll take the free and easy ways of the West any day. I do California casual well. =)

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    3. I'm game for the marathon! And Keli, I agree. I so often romnaticize the time period, but what a difficult society to navigate "properly"!

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  3. I find the rigid rules of the intriguing as well...as we all know I'm not much of a rules follower. I likely would have been banished to the ends of the earth.
    ~ Wendy

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    1. I love that you're a free spirit, Wendy! You inspire me to live life more loosely so I can experience more freedom and have more fun. =)

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    2. I would be there at the ends of the earth with you and we'd have tea...with our pinkies UP! :)

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  4. Awesome interview!!

    I always wonder, if I had lived back in a time when women, especially, were stifled under rules and pretty much expected to fall in line, would I have bucked the system? Would I have marched for women's rights? I'm not a raging feminist today, but I like that I have the freedom to pursue a career, have my own opinions, vote, etc. I even like that I'm not expected to get married immediately and start having kids (not that I don't hope to do that someday)...but I like that I have options. I'm not sure I would have fared well back then.

    On the other hand, I would've liked going to fancy dinners and having tea time. :)

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    1. Melissa, you ask some great questions. I've asked them myself at times as I've performed my research. I'm thankful our foremothers took it upon themselves to challenge the status quo so I can enjoy my life today free of the many restraints they had placed upon them.

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    2. I wonder as well. You can join Wendy and I at the ends of the earth! lol

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  5. Great interview, ladies! How fun to enjoy a spot of tea together. Loved Keli's book and look forward to her next Victorian romance. Have a great weekend, Keli and Jess! :)

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    1. Thanks for joining us for tea, Maria. I'm glad you enjoyed my book. And a good weekend to you, too. Mine will be fun. I get to see my parents and have a book signing at the B&N in the area where I went to high school. Wonder if I'll see (or recognize) anyone from the Anderson High class of 1977. =)

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  6. Good morning, ladies! Always a nice surprise to enter a blog home and see the beautiful Keli Gwyn attending a tea. :) Loved the questions and the answers.

    I've heard, somewhere along the line, that some women had their lower ribs removed to give them that hour glass figure with their corsets. Is that true, or is it an urban legend? I've never done the research and don't want to accept it as fact until I find out. Anyone know the answer?

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    1. Gabrielle, a tea wouldn't be complete without you. I have such fond memories of the day you held one in my honor.

      I don't know the answer to your rib removal question, although it's an intriguing one. My thought is that surgery was a huge risk in those days due to the possibility of infection. Because of that, I'm not sure how many women would have been willing to take it. No doubt there were some so fashion conscious that they would have.

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    2. I've heard that as well, Gabrielle, but I don't know if it's true.

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  7. Oh, we do a Christmas Tea each year with all the ladies from our family and make it quite "fancy"...with our tiaras, jewels, furs...oh so fun:) No more raised pinkies though-ha!

    Loved this book. And fun interview, ladies. Have a wonderful weekend:)

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    1. What a wonderful tradition, Susan. I'm sure you have a great time and make many treasured memories.

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    2. Christmas tea with family and furs sounds wonderful! Have a great weekend!

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  8. Okay, here's one for you: It was impolite for a woman to sit down on a chair or a sofa after a man because the cushion might still be warm -- and that was considered too intimate.
    Ever heard of this, Keli?
    Love your book -- and one of my goals is to get my review posted on Amazon!

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    1. I hadn't heard that interesting bit about heated cushions, Beth, but it sounds so right. The Victorians were so particular about such things.

      I'm glad you enjoyed my book. I certainly enjoyed yours. =)

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  9. Great interview! I remember visiting our local museum as a child, and the Victorian section featured jewelry and artwork made from HAIR! I've always thought that was a bit odd, not to mention a little disgusting!

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    1. Melissa, the Victorians had some interesting ways of doing things. And, yes, they used hair in jewelry and other things. Women would save their loose hairs in containers called hair receivers.

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  10. Love you two ladies! :)

    I find the Victorian mourning rituals interesting, as well as the fact that they put floor-length tablecloths on tables and covered the legs of pianos because furniture legs were considered vulgar to look at.

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    1. Hi ya, Erica! So fun to see you here.

      I have a reference book filled with the Victorian mourning rituals. The poor English had even more rules in this respect than we Americans did. No wonder those in mourning looked so downhearted. They were not only grieving, but they were also busy making sure they followed the many manners of mourning.

      I've heard about the Victorians covering their furniture legs. Who would have thought table legs were so revolting? They wouldn't even call a person's legs (or arms) by name. They used "limbs" instead. =)

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  11. How fun! Two of my favorite writers in one place!! Lovely to join in the fun, ladies. ;)

    Oh my goodness, corsets. I think I'd rather die than wear one (and according to Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty, I could die FROM wearing one, right?). So I think I'd avoid those altogether.

    And I always thought it was intriguing how different flower colors meant different things to the Victorians. :)

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    1. Lovely to see you, Lindsay!

      Corsets! Yup. They had to have been a real pain--quite literally. I'll know soon. I bought a pretty white one that I"m going to wear for one day next week. I'll be blogging about the experience Friday, August 28. It will be interesting, and I might even enjoy it. Corset's more likely I will be commiserating with my poor foremothers who had to endure them.

      The Victorians had a whole Language of Flowers. I have a real copy of an old, old, old etiquette book from the late 1800s, and there's an entire chapter devoted to it. And a rather l-o-n-g chapter, it is, too.

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  12. Happy Friday, Jessica and Kelli!

    Fun tea time today! I love tea but I'd already poured myself a cup of coffee so that's what I had while listening in on your chat.

    My husband loves old furniture and one of the things he told me was that in the Victorian age, the rooms were often so full - or so small in many cases - that everything was scaled down in order to fit more things in a room. In fact, a lot of tea-tables were collapsible - that's where the tilt-top tables came from - so that they could fold them up and get them out of the way between tea-times.

    Blessings, you two!

    Becky

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    1. Interesting info, Becky. I've been in one of the Victorian homes here in town, and I see what you mean about small rooms. I didn't know about the scaled-down furniture, but it makes sense.

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  13. Great interview, Jessica! But I think you might have had more than six people at your tea party! Terrible faux pas, you know, but I won't turn you in!

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    1. Marji, I'm glad you joined us, even if it did add to Jess's over-populated party. =)

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