Tuesday, January 30, 2024

M. A. McLaughlin

M.A. McLaughlin is the award-winning author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire's Last Secret, A Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century Italy. Her novels have been published by Severn House (U.K. and U.S.) and Thomas Schluck (Germany), earning starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, as well as a gold medal for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association's Literary Palm Award. Her work has been featured internationally in blogs, journals, and websites. Her new novel, The Lost Dresses of Italy, will be published by Alcove Press in February, 2024.

Recently I asked McLaughlin about what she was reading. The author's reply:
Smile Please, by Jean Rhys

I have been drawn to Rhys’ work for years, from her early novels in the 1920s to her last, brilliant novella, Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1966. She is a writer’s writer. In every novel, she achieves the perfect balance of lush descriptive imagery with sharp, precise prose—a very difficult thing to achieve. Of all the novelists who have influenced my writing, none have been as significant as Rhys, and I go back to her work time and time again for inspiration. Right now, I’m re-reading her autobiography, Smile Please, begun when she was eighty-five and left unfinished at her death three years later. I always pick it up in January when I’m looking back at the previous year and anticipating what is to come. Similarly, Rhys’ self-revealing narrative is told from the perspective of an older woman reflecting back in a series of vignettes on her childhood in Dominica and her later years in Paris and London—but always through the magic lens of her imagination. Phrases and images seem to float through the personal recollections with her typical delicate touch. One of my favorite passages is when she describes her home as a teenager in Roseau, Switzerland: “The steps down to the lawn. The iron railings covered with jasmine and stephanotis. In the sunniest part of the garden grew the roses ... But in the shadow the Sensitive Plant which shut its leaves and pretended to die when you touched it, only opening again when you were well away.” In this short metaphorical excerpt, Rhys says more than a dozen pages of biographical facts ever could: she loves beauty, she is tentative around other people, and she accepts the ebb and flow of life. Her autobiography is just a gem of a work, worthy of many, many readings.
Visit M. A. McLaughlin / Marty Ambrose's website.

My Book, The Movie: Forever Past.

The Page 69 Test: Forever Past.

Q&A with Marty Ambrose.

--Marshal Zeringue