I’m happy to welcome author Maria McKenzie back to MBB today, with MASQUERADE, Part II of her historical fiction trilogy, THE UNCHAINED TRILOGY. This is a romantic family saga spanning several generations and it deals with the interesting and potentially controversial matter of inter-racial romance. As someone who read Part I of the trilogy and was fascinated by the love story of Lori, a former slave and Daniel, the free man she fell in love with, I was eagerly waiting for this book release. So I had questions aplenty for Maria.
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You’re very welcome to the blog today, Maria. As MASQUERADE, the second part of your trilogy, is published, I’d love to ask you did you find it tough to put a sequel to the first book together?
Maria, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog today! And in answer to your question, it wasn’t really difficult to put a sequel together because Unchained, the name of the trilogy, actually started out as one book. I began writing it in 1998 while still employed as a librarian. I became a stay-at-home mom when I had children, and the manuscript was forgotten until my oldest went to preschool. I worked on the story off and on until finally completing it in 2008. It ended up being 814 pages! A few years ago I decided to turn it into a trilogy. I did do a lot of rewriting since I’ve honed my writing skills, but the main framework was there.
Ah. I see. Very interesting indeed. The main character of your second book is rather negatative. Did that feel strange?
I can’t say writing her felt strange, but it was different. Lavinia is an emotionally charged character, extremely flawed and has no redeeming qualities. Anyone in real life similar to Lavinia would probably be suffering from some form of mental imbalance. A neurologist friend told me that if Lavinia had lived today, she would have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder! People afflicted by this, according to Wikipedia “have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy for others. These qualities are usually defenses against a deep feeling of inferiority and of being unloved.”Readers won’t like Lavinia, but I hope she’ll keep them turning pages. Even though Lavinia is beyond mean, she was very fun to write! My mother-in-law said she reminded her of Scarlett O’Hara, and a writing friend told me to read Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, because Lavinia reminded her of Undine Spragg, the negative protagonist.
Can you briefly tell us about your main characters?
Lavinia is the extraordinarily beautiful daughter of wealthy white landowner Daniel Taylor, and Lori, a former slave. The story of Daniel and Lori is told in book one of the trilogy, Escape, but they are also in Masquerade, along with Lavinia’s older sister Olivia, the nice daughter! Lavinia, ashamed of her “Negro” blood, longs to be an actress. To achieve this, she elopes with Vernon Hargraves, who is several years her senior. He is also the owner of New York’s premier theater company, The Hargraves Players. Vernon is deeply in love with Lavinia and makes her dreams come true. He’s 54 and she’s 17, so as you can imagine, Lavinia’s feelings for her husband aren’t quite the same.
Carrie Hargraves is Vernon’s daughter from a previous relationship. She’s a plain looking, introverted playwright. At twenty-two, Carrie is older than her new step-mother, and not particularly fond of her.Andrew Standish is a young, handsome millionaire contractor, smitten with Lavinia from afar, and determined to marry her one day. Let’s just say regarding Andrew, be careful what you wish for!
Can you sum up the plot of your novel in a tweet sized sentence?
Lavinia Taylor, desperate to become an actress, shuns her family and lives a lie.
Now what comes next? Part III?
Lavinia has a daughter named Selina. Her story will be told in book three, Revelation. For nine decades, Selina carries the secret of her racial ancestry like a painful chain bound around her heart. Will she reveal the truth of her ancestry before she dies?
Maria, thanks again for hosting me!
My pleasure to host you, Maria. And I just want to tell readers that Maria has kindly agreed to give a free copy of MASQUERADE to one visitor who comments. To be in the draw for this, please comment before you leave.
Celebrated actress Lavinia Hargraves performs her most challenging role offstage.Although born in 1872 to Daniel Taylor, a white man and wealthy landowner in southern California, Lavinia’s mother, Lori, is a Negro and former slave.Lavinia, who appears white, is desperate to hide her Negro ancestry, as well as pursue her dream of becoming the world’s greatest actress.
After eloping with the much older Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York’s premier theater troupe, Lavinia is provided with all she could ever want: a new life as white, stardom on the stage, and an abundant supply of money. Soon Lavinia’s seduction by a young and handsome actor sets in motion a devastating turn of events. Dashing millionaire contractor Andrew Standish comes into Lavinia’s life at a time when she needs him most. However, Lori’s existence could demolish her daughter’s carefully constructed facade. To what lengths will Andrew go to uncover Lavinia’s past?