I am beyond excited to have the wonderful JEN TURANO on my blog! #fangirling
Her latest release, Behind the Scenes will leave you laughing out loud. Jen knows how to write historical fiction with a funny bone. I love it! I devour her books in one sitting if time allows. You can read my review here, but Jen is here to answer some questions that I was dying to know:
Another wonderful read in Behind The Scenes and I am so intrigued to know where you are going to go with it in the next book.
Q: In my review I mentioned, “There is no wonder that Miss Griswold finds herself unexpectedly in love with Mr. Asher Rutherford, when you get to know him, you will find out why. He is adorable, and dashing, and did I say handsome and, well, adorable.” I think I might have also fallen for this fictional gentleman. Please tell us more about where the inspiration for him came from?
Jen: Mr. Asher Rutherford was inspired by all of the really nice guys I’ve known throughout my life. The ones who would do anything for anyone, but who sometimes don’t garner the appreciation they deserve because society tends to save their appreciation for the rogues of the world, the bad boys so to speak. Mr. Asher Rutherford is what I like to think of as an historical boy scout. He’s the gentleman who always has the oddest of items readily available, which makes him very appealing indeed, especially if one loses a stocking, or has a sneezing attack and needs an extra handkerchief. He’s very astute about the world surrounding him, understands the feminine mind more than the average gentleman, and that is exactly what has allowed him to find such success with his department store since he knows that great service and catering to the needs of his customers is what makes them come back time and time again. He’s also a very kind man at heart, which makes him perfect for Permilia Griswold, who didn’t grow up within society and struggles with all the rules she’s now expected to remember and enact everywhere she goes. Because of that kindness, instead of schooling her on her less than expert decorum, he allows her to be exactly who she’s meant to be, brushing aside the embarrassment some of her more outlandish mistakes bring his way.
Q: If you were to cast Mr Asher in a movie, who would you pick to play the role?
Jen: Hmmm…that’s difficult to know – maybe Tom Mison? Odd as this may seem, I normally don’t have a clear image in mind when I create my characters – and whatever image I may start out with, normally changes by the end of the book. It’s very weird.
Q: One of the underlying themes for this story is highlighting the journey of fashion design in the era. This was fascinating to me, mainly because I WAS going to study fashion design after school, but God had other ideas. You HAVE studied it however and so I wondered if you could talk a bit about Miss Permilia Griswold’s role in the fashion world at the time, given the era in which she lived.
Jen: As many people know, I adore old-fashioned department stores, which is exactly why I finally wrote a book where the hero owns just such a store, and was making some fairly innovative additions to that store – such as the tea room and considering adding a bargain-basement type shopping experience in that store. Those weren’t common to the time – coming into play more toward the end of the century so that was creative license.
The part about Asher Rutherford being fortunate to not suffer society censure because of going into trade came about because of poor Mr. A.T. Stewart. He owned one of the first dry goods emporium, and made a fortune from that emporium as well. However, he was not invited into New York high society, Mrs. Caroline Astor even going so far as to remark to a friend that while she purchased her carpets from Mr. Stewart, there was absolutely no reason to expect her to invite him to one of her gatherings so that he could walk on those carpets again. Can you say…ouch? I wanted to create a character who did go into trade and was still accepted into society, although during the first few years of the 1880’s, it was rare for society to include people of trade, that troubling circumstance changing after Alva Vanderbilt’s costume ball of March, 1883.
As for the inspiration behind Rutherford & Company. It’s based on a variety of department stores that were in existence in the 1880’s – such as B. Altman, Arnold Constable & Company, Macy’s, and A.T. Stewart’s – most of these department stores located in what was known as The Ladies’ Mile. Historical documentation is a little sketchy regarding the names of actual designers, but there were numerous highly skilled seamstresses and tailors in New York at that time, most of them bringing their skills from their home countries. High society ladies, though, still traveled to Paris to have their seasonal wardrobe made by Charles Worth, although Mr. Worth, being an astute businessman, knew many of the department stores in New York were blatantly copying his fashions. With that in mind, he offered to sell stores one original garment along with the right to copy the model in varies material and trims, giving customers who couldn’t travel to Paris the opportunity to purchase a garment with a Worth label. I have to imagine many of those unnamed seamstresses worked their fingers to the bone with no recognition in order to complete what had to have been hundreds of orders. Since I think that was a bit unfair, I had Permilia scour the city for talent for Rutherford & Company, but in all truthfulness, having her tout Betsy Miller’s designs was another case of creative license.
These department stores did change how Americans shopped, though, and at one of the openings for Siegel-Cooper’s in New York City located on the Ladies’ Mile in 1896, over 150,000 guests passed through their door that day in September. It was a grand time for shopping, but sadly, that time has certainly faded away.
Thank you Jen!
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A USA Today Best-Selling Author, Jen Turano has written the critically acclaimed Ladies of Distinction series, and A Class of Their Own series, published through Bethany House Publishers. Her novel, Playing the Part, was nominated as a 2016 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award Finalist, while her novel, After a Fashion, was nominated as a 2015 RT Reviewers’ Choice Award Finalist and named a 2015 top ten romance from Booklist. Her book, A Most Peculiar Circumstance, was chosen as a top ten romance by Booklist in 2013. Her next series, “Apart from the Crowd” releases with a free e-novella, “At Your Request” in January, 2017, followed by the first full-length novel, “Behind the Scenes,” in April, 2017. When she’s not writing, Jen spends her time outside of Denver. She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jenturanoauthor/, or visit her on the web at www.jenturano.com. She is represented by the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.