Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Finola Austin.
Finola Austin, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist and lover of the 19th century. Her first novel, Bronte’s Mistress, was published in 2020. When she’s not writing novels or her blog, she works in digital advertising.
In this episode Finola and I discuss:
- How household and gender roles have and have not changed since the 19th century.
- The difference between being “accomplished” and being “clever” and why it’s problematic.
- Why she created a timeline to help fill in gaps in knowledge as she drafted her novel.
Plus, her #1 tip for writers.
About Finola Austin
Finola Austin, also known as the Secret Victorianist on her award-winning blog, is an England-born, Northern Ireland-raised, Brooklyn-based historical novelist and lover of the 19th century. Her first novel, Bronte’s Mistress, was published by Atria Books in 2020. By day, she works in digital advertising.
You can find Finola on her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
For more from Finola Austin, check out her article on LitHub or her introduction in The Tenant in Wildfell Hall.
Click here to read the article Finola refers to on AI analysis of Jane Austen’s work.
This dazzling debut novel for fans of Mrs. Poe and Longbourn explores the scandalous historical love affair between Branwell Brontë and Lydia Robinson, giving voice to the woman who allegedly corrupted her son’s innocent tutor and brought down the entire Brontë family.
Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.
All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.
But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.
Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact.
If you decide to check out the book, we hope you’ll do so via this Amazon affiliate link, where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!
Link to Episode 374
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