Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!
She has been writing ever since.
The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.
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I was going to write about my many Bad Hair Days. But I realized that, by deciding that I could not write another word until my current strange hair color was sorted, this was just another form of Writers’ Avoidance Tactics – albeit colorful! That is a subject for a whole other Blog to come!
But it reminded me how important I felt the color of my character’s hair was. In my current novel series, my protagonist, Lottie Topaz, has copper-colored hair styled in the 1920s fashionable bob with ‘spit-curls’ on her forehead. ‘Spit-curls’ are so called because you spit on your fingers, then make a couple of curls from your bangs, securing them flat against your forehead with spittle. (Charming – I know!)
Lottie’s best friend, Flora, has jet-black hair in a sleek bob with straight bangs – or ‘fringe’ as we Brits call it. Very sophisticated.
This is why I love writing this series that is set back in the early Twentieth Century. It is such fun exploring the styles and fashions of that era. But not just that: recreating the life-style and sharing the whys and wherefores of a by-gone time. So that I and my readers are immersed in another world.
For instance, I find it fascinating to use a mystery setting where telephones were not readily available. Certainly no mobile-phones. How would they communicate, especially in an emergency?
Mysteries set in today’s world have so many solutions to use: computers, emails, Skype, texting. It appears much easier to explain clues and resolutions of the who-dunnits when you can show your characters following an email trail or intercepting a text message on a stolen cell-phone. Researching people’s backgrounds or tracking addresses or locations for present-day books is swiftly done on the computer.
So, why do I give myself this headache of working out how Lottie and her friends can find out about potential suspects or track locations where they may have traveled to? I guess that’s because one of my favorite things is research. I have Lottie and her friends do what I have always done: Of course, today I do use computer research. But I have always spent hours at the libraries, pouring over musty tomes, looking up old newspapers, checking magazines and advertisements. This gives me the color to weave into my stories, words and names that are not used today. I also glean ideas from those pages as to how to provide clues as well as challenges for my characters.
It is imperative that the details are authentic and that everything rings true. Even when I create situations with a little ‘poetic license’ – I always check it out so that it certainly could really have happened. As a reader, I hate it when something jars because it is out of the realms of possibility – or just plain wrong! I find it difficult to continue reading after that. So I go to great lengths to ensure I have my facts right.
Then there is ‘the leg-work.’ Over the years I have been drawn to exploring wherever I go in the world. I stroll through streets, note book and pencil ready, checking out addresses and buildings, noting the conditions and architectural style of doorways, windows, even roofs that I can access. Up and down steps and stairways I wander. As I explore these old streets, buildings and gardens, I can really get a feel for what went before me. I get a sense of how people lived and worked.
Basements are especially fascinating. Because they are rarely cleared out thoroughly, I find old magazines, pages of newspapers, abandoned cases, luggage tags and labels on shelves and doors. They all tell a story.
I am very chatty. So in my wanderings I will always chat to people I come across: those guarding old buildings, neighbors in old houses, cleaners, workmen – just anybody I can. “How long have you been here?” I ask. “What was here before?” “How many generations of your family have been here” I ask lots of questions about the past. I am very nosey! But most people are eager to share whatever they know. They love to repeat stories they have heard or tell me about their grandparents, aunts and uncles. I find that almost everyone has a fascinating tale to tell. So I borrow and steal unashamedly from the past.
As I have previously confessed, I have an abundance of scraps of paper with these many notes on them. Although I do occasionally get overwhelmed by the sheer volume I have accrued, mostly I absolutely love surveying them spread all over my desk and my floor as I piece together my stories. Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, I work out what gem I can place where and string together a necklace of a mystery.
I have written contemporary stories. In many ways they are much easier, as I don’t encounter an ‘oops’ moment when my character switches on a light – at a time before electricity was available.
Writing historical books and novels is considerably more time-consuming. But, for me, it is so much more fun. I love to share what I have discovered about times gone by. I love the intricacies of weaving historical facts and people into my stories. I love using a vocabulary from earlier generations.
Although I am very grateful for modern plumbing, medical advances and internet access, I often feel that the world I write about was a kinder and gentler place – most of the time, anyway.