Diana Forbes is a ninth generation American, with ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Diana Forbes lives and writes in Manhattan. and loves to explore the buildings where her nineteenth Century American ancestors lived, loved, survived and thrived. Diana Forbes is the author of New York Gilded Age historical fiction.
Her debut novel Mistress Suffragette is set in the Gilded Age of late nineteenth-century New England, when women were bound by strict rules of conduct and conformity. In this book, modern readers gain insight into the early fight for women’s rights. Mistress Suffragette is a bestselling book and has won first prize in Women’s Fiction at the Missouri Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gateway to the Best” contest in Women’s Fiction. Mistress Suffragette has also won first place in the Chanticleer Chatelaine award for Historical Romance and was shortlisted for the Somerset award for Literary Fiction. The book was recently awarded the “2017 Silver North American History Book Awards”.
We recently interviewed Diana Forbes to know more about her bestselling work.
What is it about the plight of woman’s suffering and abuse at the hands of society and wealthy men that interested you?
This type of horrific behavior happened all the time during the nineteenth century—partly because married women were viewed as second-class citizens during the time period. Women couldn’t vote, and many job opportunities were closed to women. My heroine was in the Movement that fought for women by giving women a voice and empowering them. The early Women’s Suffrage Movement sought to change the unfair laws. But, as a woman during the time period, Penelope was still personally exposed to some bad behavior. We see today that, even with all of the progress — the new laws and the empowerment of women, there are still examples of this behavior as revealed by the #MeToo Movement.
Do you want the reader to feel that Penelope triumphed in the end?
Penelope becomes empowered throughout the course of the story. At the start of the novel, she anticipates that she will lead a traditional life. But that does not end up happening for her, and her failure to hew to what’s expected of her is the very thing that pushes her to explore a different career other than marriage. That said, what’s bred in the bone runs deep, and she is very much looking for love. Without giving any spoilers, I do feel that she triumphs. She triumphs over adversity, over her parents, and over several other characters in the novel.
Is the suffrage movement in New York a theme that will continue for you in future books?
Thank you for asking me this wonderful question! Yes. I am very passionate about the suffrage movement and see this as a trilogy. I am working hard on the sequel, and have mapped out future books beyond the sequel, as well. The Movement lasted for seventy years, and I learn more about it every single day!
Where do you get your inspiration on the marvelous descriptions of era- appropriate places and clothing used in Mistress Suffragette?
If the place still exists, I personally visited it. I wanted to be swept away by the grandeur of the era, and then impart that to my readers. Sometimes I would want to set a scene in a particular house or room, and then through my research, realize that I couldn’t, for some reason. I wanted to be authentic to the time period and just believe that there is no substitute for first-hand research. For clothing, there are costume exhibits I visited and photographs I had from my own family. Beyond that, I searched for ephemera – posters, postcards, ads, newspaper clippings, and the like, so that –- without the novel turning into a history project—I could help readers feel, see, and be a part of the setting.
Do your Civil War ancestors play into the passion you have about this particular era?
I was fortunate to inherit a box of letters and photographs, handed down to me from my ancestors who lived during the time period. Beyond that, I have heard and read their stories. This type of living history is often not passed down, but as a writer, I feel the desire to pass it on. I also challenged myself to make it relevant. One needs no familiarity with the time period to simply pick up my novel and get swept away.
Talk to us about your Audio Book, who is the narrator and was the experience thrilling to get your book not only in words but also in sound for all to hear?
Brittany Presley does an absolutely amazing job of narrating my novel, Mistress Suffragette. It’s such a fun listen! I am so grateful that Brittany really embraced the project – you can hear her enthusiasm in her narration. She has the perfect voice for it!
What’s next on the writing front for you?
I am both writing the sequel and collecting stories and inspiration for the book after the sequel. The characters are all so much a part of my life now that I really just want to spend time with them and write about them. Thank you so very much for interviewing me, and please stay tuned!