I had to go to Nacogdoches, Texas, to meet Laurel Davis Huber, but I’m so glad I did! The occasion was the wild and wonderful Pulpwood Queens Girlfriends Weekend, one of the warmest and, well, weirdest book events I’ve ever attended and one that brings readers and writers together like no other. While there, I also was introduced to Laurel’s amazing book, The Velveteen Daughterh, historical fiction about the real-life daughter of the woman who created the childhood classic, The Velveteen Rabbit. The Velveteen Daughter was awarded the 2017 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, and it’s my honor and pleasure, now, to introduce her to you!
How does a book start for you?
Well, so far I’ve only written one book and finished the first draft of a second, and I can tell you they were very different “starts.” The first, The Velveteen Daughter, was historical fiction and that journey began when I just stumbled over the first piece of the story, a child prodigy artist named Pamela Bianco, and began to research her. When I discovered that her mother was Margery Williams who wrote the classic children’s book, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT, I knew I had to put all the pieces together. On the other hand, my second novel is contemporary fiction and all I can say is that, honestly, it just seemed to float into my consciousness.
What surprised you most?
The more I did research on a minor character, Gabriele d’Annunzio, the more he surprised me. I didn’t know a thing about him, but in the early 1900’s he was the most revered man in Italy – a poet, novelist, and war hero. His love affairs were numerous and very public. Countesses and duchesses threw themselves at him (quite literally). He lived in a villa that was beyond strange. I could write a whole book about him. However, he only appears for a few paragraphs in my book!
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER is set in London, Paris, Turin, Wales and New York City. Fairly early on, the Bianco family—Margery is English and her husband is Italian—moves to Greenwich Village, so most of the action takes place in New York. I had no choice in the various settings (not complaining!) as they were dictated by the Biancos’ real life adventures.
What are you working on now?
My new book is called Dune. It is about a woman who gives away Dune, the dog she loves. Six years later she find herself the center of two gut-wrenching dramas in very different worlds—as the defendant in a wild and surreal courtroom populated by a cast of exceedingly strange characters, and a sister returning to a home where a long-ago family tragedy resurfaces, revealing secrets and shattering misconceptions.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
Does THE VELVETEEN RABBIT have much to do with your novel?
Yes! While technically speaking, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT appears only briefly, themes from that poignant story resonate throughout the novel. Like the rabbit in the children’s story, Pamela, the child artist, spends much of her life struggling to be Real.
Thanks you, Laurel!
Thank you SO much Clea, for inviting me to your blog. It’s been a lot of fun!
Laurel Davis Huber grew up in Rhode Island and Oklahoma. She is a graduate of Smith College. She has worked as a corporate newsletter editor, communications director for a botanical garden, high school English teacher, and senior development officer for both New Canaan Country School and Amherst College. She has studied with the novelist and short-story writer Leslie Pietrzyk (the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner for This Angel on My Chest) and has participated in several writing residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. She and her husband split their time between New Jersey and Maine.