Saturday, 15 March 2014

In Conversation With Lyndsy Spence

Welcome to this new section of the blog where I get the chance to chat with some fabulous authors about their work.  I'm calling this section in conversation with...

First up is Lyndsy Spence, author of The Mitford Society Annual, and The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life. She is also the creator of The Mitford Society blog.

When did you first hear of the Mitford sisters?
I'd known about Nancy's books for ages before I became interested in the family. I caught Love in a Cold Climate on TV (the original series) and the remake when I was in my early teens, it inspired me to re-read The Pursuit of Love. A while after that, when I was about 17 or 18 Hitler's British Girl was on TV and I was transfixed by Diana's voice. And a while after that I watched The Lady and the Revamp and saw Debo onscreen. I guess you might call it a domino effect! With the Mitfords one thing leads to another, don't you find?
What is your favourite Mitford book, either by or about them, and why?
The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. I'd read a lot of their biographies, including Diana and Decca's memoirs prior to reading the letters. It's amazing to experience everything in their own words and I find it broke down a lot of misconceptions about the girls. I found Diana came off the best in the book, could it be good editing or merely an example of her honesty? It's my go-to book for all things Mitford and I recommend it to everyone!
Which Mitford sister do you think you would get on best with, and which sister do you think you really wouldn't like?
I like them all for different reasons, that's not to say that I always agree with their actions. I find Unity quite tiresome, I just don't see her appeal, though I am sure she was probably quite funny in her youth. I've always been quite drawn to Diana because, to me, she has the most complex backstory. I admire her loyalty but in a similar vein, I always find it frustrating when she refuses to admit someone or something was wrong. She seemed to possess perfect tunnel vision and could look past someone's bad points. In hindsight, that quality hasn't held her in good steed. However, I found she was the only one without malice in the book of letters, so for this reason I think she'd make a good friend. However, I think Nancy would have been riotously funny. She made no secret of her disloyalty, so I think she represents that friend whom you know is quite spiteful but you can't help liking despite their flaws. I'm very fond of Pamela, I love food, so anyone who is keen to feed me will always get my vote!
Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
I've always favoured biographies and fiction written with a lightness of touch. When I was a teen I discovered Joan Wyndham's diaries and I adore her turn of phrase. I like to read prose as though it's being spoken by the author as opposed to a rigid academic style. A book should always entertain, so even if the plot is far fetched and bizarre, if the narrative entertains it'll always get my vote. I am inspired by Nancy, actually a lot more now that I'm writing a little fiction novel (I hope to get away from writing biography) and I love how she used real life events and distorted them to apply to her fictional characters. This new trend of writing historical fiction, especially placing the characters in real life historic situations, is very inspiring to me. I also love to read interviews with ladies from the interwar era, their wording is brilliant and they use such phrases entirely without an ounce of self consciousness. This provokes me to think outside the box when phrasing a sentence or dialogue. So in that respect, I think my inspiration comes from Joan Wyndham and the Mitfords.
What made you decide to set up The Mitford Society?
Well, after I watched The Lady and The Revamp I thought surely I am not the only one who adores that era and the Mitfords. I set up The Mitford Society and for ages it only had a small following and them boom, it instantly took off. It's going from strength to strength and I find it's also evolving from just being about the 6 girls. It has brought a lot of people together for reasons other than the Mitfords. I love that there is a place where we can all indulge in our interests from that era. It has also been a great platform for me to express myself as a writer and I hope it has also been useful to others.
What was the motivation behind writing The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life?
It happened quite by chance, my friend and I were messing about pretending to talk like the Mitfords when I thought wouldn't it be wonderful to write an etiquette book from their perspectives. I sat outside in my garden all summer, about three years ago, scribbling in my note book. But when people started to get involved and send me info I realized I could turn it into a sort of biography written from their points of view. I like to think it's a manual for us fans and that the readers might discover something they wouldn't have known.
What are you working on next?
My book 'Mrs Guinness' will be published next March. That, too, happened quite by chance. I am fascinated by Diana's life, especially prior to meeting Mosley and I discovered she had an entire backstory outside of being Mosley's wife and Hitler's friend. Thankfully I discovered a lot of new info which, I hope, shows her in a new light. It can't excuse her association with fascism, but I think given the era and her restrictions as a young woman in society at that time, it might give the reader a certain understanding to why she left Bryan and plunged head first into that life with Mosley. I've taken her away from the Mitford family. There's definitely a few surprises along the way. I'm also very excited about the photographs which I've found.
What is your favourite non-Mitford book?
I love Joan Wyndham's diary 'Love Lessons.' I've also become a huge fan of The Cazalet Chronicles.
If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
I'd throw my great grandmother's photo album out the window - you can't replace things like that and it's a little tome of history. Then grab my pets, which of course would have already been in the same room as me, and my memory stick which holds my writing and bolt!
What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
I quite enjoy people who can play off one another so I think in this instance I would invite Margaret Campbell (Duchess of Argyll), Nancy Mitford, Joan Wyndham, Mariga Guinness and Doris Delevigne. It would be a night of fantastic wit. I think Doris might pall from too much champagne, so on that note I'd replace her with James Mason because he was so handsome, and as Diana said, one needs something to gaze upon!
Thank you Lyndsy.  Next time I will be in conversation with Paula Daly.
Happy Reading
Miss Chapter x



1 comment:

  1. Love The Mitford Girls Guide to Life. And Lyndsy Spence looks delectable!


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