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USA Today best-selling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.
Who is Mimi Matthews?
A history-loving, research-mad writer with a fondness for all things Victorian.
What can you tell us about your new book The Belle of Belgrave Square?
The Belle of Belgrave Square is the story of Julia Wychwood, a socially anxious society beauty who enters a marriage of convenience with Captain Jasper Blunt, a beastly battle-scarred war hero with a mysterious past. It was inspired by Victorian sensation novels—thrilling, often melodramatic tales with elements of romance, crime, and an emphasis on hidden secrets and identities. Belle was also influenced by several of my favorite myths and fairy tales, including Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Bluebeard’s Wife, and the tale of Hades and Persephone.
The book’s Victorian setting is expertly evoked. While researching this era, what did you discover that surprised you the most?
I spend a lot of time researching the Victorian era, both for my novels and for my nonfiction work. There isn’t much that surprises me anymore. However, some of the alarmist language about novel reading that I found while researching Belle was striking. It’s always unsettling when authority figures try to stop people from reading books.
In the book you cleverly pay homage to Gothic novels like Jane Eyre and Lady Audley’s Secret. What about Gothic fiction do you find most inspiring as an author?
I love the underlying threads of spookiness, mystery, and danger. They add a delicious tension to the stories. It’s a tension I try to evoke in my own work.
Does your heroine’s love of horses and riding come from her creator?
Absolutely! I’ve had horses since I was a little girl. I can’t imagine my life without them.
What three words best describe the literary flavor of your writing?
Atmospheric. Emotionally passionate.
What romance or romances got you hooked on the genre as a reader?
One of the first romances I ever read was Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s brilliant send-up of a gothic novel. I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved gothic elements in the romances I read and write.
You are hosting a dinner party and can invite three characters from other authors’ works. Whom would you invite, why these characters, and what would you serve for dinner?
It would have to be Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, and Becky Sharp—three intelligent, witty, independent-minded women. We’d have great dinner conversation! As for the meal, I’d probably serve a pasta dish since I don’t eat meat.
What is next for you as an author?
I just submitted the manuscript for The Lily of Ludgate Hill (Belles of London, Book Three) to my publisher. Book Four, The Muse of Maiden Lane, is up next. After that, I’ll be starting a new series for Berkley/Penguin Random House called The Crinoline Academy. It’s about a group of resourceful orphan girls who are adopted and educated by an eccentric Victorian spinster. I’ve been describing it as Great Expectations meets the Umbrella Academy with a dash of Charlie’s Angels.
How can readers learn more about your books?
The best way is sign up for my monthly author newsletter, The Penny Not So Dreadful. Readers can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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