Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Guest Author, Margo Sorenson

With her latest middle grade/tween ebook TIME OF HONOR (MuseItUp Publishing) featuring a prep school debater catapulted into the middle ages to prevent a murder, Margo Sorenson has written twenty-eight books for young readers. A Minnesota Book Award Finalist in YA Fiction and Milken National Educator Award recipient, Margo and her books can be found at www.margosorenson.com and www.amazon.com, and of course, our beloved Vroman's. Please welcome today's guest author, Margo Sorenson.

You couldn’t imagine that growing up in Altadena and Pasadena could have a medieval influence on my writing, could you?  Seriously, my most recent tween/middle grade mystery, TIME OF HONOR, involves Connor, a smart-mouth debater heroine who is catapulted back to 1272, and the medieval aspects of Pasadena helped me put her right back in the middle ages.

There’s more that’s medieval about Pasadena than just the history books in the Pasadena Library. Stop at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and just imagine it transported to a medieval city. Its gothic architecture would fit right in. Sitting there on Sundays as a kid and staring at the vaulted ceilings, I used to daydream (apologies to the ministers!) about living in the middle ages, so it wasn’t a big leap to write about Connor having to swap her jeans for a velvet gown (after a flea-check!).

My family, being the geeks we were, would often drive to the Huntington Library to look at the exhibits. There, too, the medieval influence of Pasadena worked on my brain. Looking at china and silver goblets on display fired my imagination about the people who used them and the conversations they must have had at the table. Granted, Connor had to learn to make do without a fork, since only knives and spoons were used in 1272, and – gross – she had to share a wine goblet with her dinner companion, but to see ancient utensils and plates really helped create the ambiance of medieval meals.

Even the white-glove Pasadena image of years ago was important for this book. Decorum was key; I dreaded attending the young people’s cotillion at the Hotel Green every month, in white gloves (absolutely!), hoping that I could shrink against the wall and not have to dance! There was a genteel rhythm to Pasadena life back then, and, although I didn’t appreciate having to behave, the adherence to etiquette translated well back to courtly life in medieval times. Connor also finds she has to squelch her impulses to fit into 1272, so she doesn’t get found out by the murderers!

Pasadena isn’t a medieval city, but living there helped me write about living in the middle ages. Do you think the castle in the cover’s background looks a bit like the Hotel Green?

30 comments:

Margo said...

Petrea, thank you so much for hosting me on your wonderful blog. It was great fun remembering the Pasadena angle!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Margo. I found the part about the cotillion at the Hotel Green especially interesting--that it is something so recent.

altadenahiker said...

So in the dreaded cotillion days, it was still an hotel and pre-condo? Wow, how thrilling.

Margo said...

Yes -- white gloves and all! Thanks for reading this post!

John Sandel said...

Great post. Class pretensions wil never die, will they? The elite bloodlines which fed Pasadena's growth have almost all bled dry, but their monuments remain (looking at you, Gamble House & competition). Puts the achievements of the great Medieval families in perspective.

Susan Campisi said...

Margo, I can see how Pasadena brought you back to the middle ages, now that you've explained it so vividly. "Time of Honor" sounds really fun. It's great to see a strong, female character for young readers. They must love Connor!

Bellis said...

You could almost win the Camelot prize for the week, for painting a word picture rather than a photo.

I spent most of my teenage years imagining I was in the past, so I'd have loved your books. And I'm glad you pay attention to the small details, like cutlery. Male authors never tell us how people got their clothes. The cloth and style choosing and fitting must have been tedious. Ordinary people likely made do with repurposed hand-me-downs, which I remember well even from my own childhood.

Margo said...

John, thanks for the compliment and the smile

Margo said...

Bellis, what fun to read your comment! Thank you

Margo said...

Susan, thanks for your enthusiasm! Aloha!

Petrea Burchard said...

I don't like to think of my childhood as medieval, but Bellis, maybe so.

Strong female heroines are good for girls and boys to read about. I hope this one is read by both.

Margo said...

Thank you again, Petrea! I know my childhood was medieval -- and my former students totally believed it! Aloha!

Paula L. Johnson said...

Not seeing the Hotel Green in the the photo, but I so love the architecture of the Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Petrea Burchard said...

I wonder if I could get a tour inside that church. It's so striking from the outside.

Katie said...

Margo this looks like a wonderful book! Very interesting that "medieval" Pasadena was such an inspiration. You have a great website and a very impressive list of cool books. I have a 9-year old nephew who will most certainly be getting some of your books for Christmas!

Ms M said...

Margo, looks like an intriguing story! I also enjoyed learning how various places in Pasadena inspired your imagination.

Petrea Burchard said...

Katie, I'm glad you've got a youngster in the family. Margo's got a whole library all ready for you.

Ms. M, I liked that part, too.

Bob Crowe said...

This would never have occurred to me. Greater Los Angeles is a now place, somewhere with only a modern history.

Have you ever read Barbara Tuchman's book A Distant Mirror?

Margo said...

Paula, the "Hotel Green" is in the background at the left -- I hope! Well, it's a stretch, but, maybe!

Margo said...

Katie, how wonderful that you have a nephew lucky enough to have an aunt like you who will give him books! Those are the kinds of gifts that will keep a special relationship growing! Aloha!

Margo said...

Mrs. M, it was lots of fun for me to revisit Pasadena and see how it had influenced my writing!

Margo said...

Bob, no, but I loved The Guns of August! Tuchman is a classic!

Margo said...

Mrs M, thank you for your kind words. It was a revelation to me to write this post! We never know exactly where our ideas come from (I know; don't end a sentence with a preposition!) :)

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks for your post today, Margo. I always appreciate hearing from guest authors! Time of Honor looks like a delightful book and I hope it's a great success for you.

LONDONLULU said...

I would never have thought of it, but goes to show what a creative mind can conjure! I love it. (Now I want to go back to my old *film* photos of Huntington Library, see if I can find some medieval magic:)

Linda said...

Surrounded by medieval here in Scotland the main thing that strikes me is how bloomin' perishing cold it must have been. I wonder if that aspect comes out in the book?!

John Sandel said...

Ditto on Tuchman, BTW. Underrated, probably because of her gender.

Paul B said...

I like the cover, I think in the background is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria a Victorian fantasy.

Margo said...

Petrea, thanks again for sharing your blog space! You always make it fun to revisit my Pasadena past. LONDONLULU, thanks for reading the post and chiming in with the Huntington Library. Linda, ummm, not exactly, because it takes place in early fall~ Paul B, I think you're right about Mad Ludwig's castle, but....!Aloha to all!

Petrea Burchard said...

Linda, I do think of that, though. What hardship the winters must have been. No wonder whole cities full of people gathered inside castle walls. They would have had to forage daily for food and firewood, but could huddle together at night.