Romancing The Unknown

Thirty odd years ago, during my Greenwich Village salad days, I was about to forget my dream of being published when I got a surprising call. “You’re Southern and you know history,” my agent said. “So how about writing some historical romances?” I initially bristled since I knew nothing about the genre, but it’s remarkable how poverty influences priorities.  Once contracts were signed, I began plotting. Since New Orleans was my favorite city, the setting was a no-brainer. As for my star-crossed lovers, Marie would have the raven hair and violet eyes of my favorite movie star and Morgan would be Welsh, based on my heritage and not Mr. Burton btw. The year was 1840 as the Old South entered its Golden Age of wealth, elegance and indulgence, at least for those lucky elitist few.

When it came to Southern romance, Margaret Mitchell literally wrote the book!

When it came to Southern romance, Margaret Mitchell literally wrote the book!

What I didn’t know from Gone with the Wind and Raintree County I culled from long-ago authors Lyle Saxon and Clarence John Laughlin who penned Fabulous New Orleans (1928) and Ghosts along the Mississippi (1948) respectively. Their heavily romanticized tales were rooted in truth and what better inspiration than that? I based Morgan’s plantation, Moss Alley on Pine Alley in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Built by wildly rich sugar planter, Charles Durande, it hosted a double night wedding that would’ve made Disney proud. In 1850, Durande imported spiders from China, put them in the twin rows of pines leading to the Big House and left them to spin a web three-miles-long. The webs were covered with gold dust and illuminated by torch light, and it was beneath that
fantastical canopy that the sister brides (and Marie and Morgan of course) rode to their wedding. I mean, you just can’t make this stuff up!

The fabulous 3-mile-long pine alley is long gone, victim of numerous hurricanes and time itself.

The fabulous 3-mile-long pine alley is long gone, victim of numerous hurricanes and time itself.

What I did have to make up though was a pen name since romances were supposed to be written by women. I paid homage to Tennessee Williams by choosing Maggie Lyons, i.e., Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Lyons View, the asylum in Suddenly, Last Summer. It also contained my initials, but while that passed muster my title, Moss Alley, soon bit the dust.

My beguiling belle is busting out all over in this classic romance cover.

My beguiling belle is busting out all over in this classic romance cover.

The publisher promptly renamed the book Bayou Passions and printed the title in raised gold lettering on a magenta background with Marie in Morgan’s clutches and showing beaucoup cleavage. Whatever objections I had evaporated when the book sold over 75,000 copies! I had such fun that I wrote seven more romances which became my Rebellious Belles series, and  they’re all coming to Kindle soon.

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This entry was posted in antebellum, Creole, French Quarter, Gone with the Wind, historical romance, Maggie Lyons, Margaret Mitchell, New Orleans, romance and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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