Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Question & Answer with Caroline Preston

A few months ago, I posted a raving review of THE SCRAPBOOK OF FRANKIE PRATT: A NOVEL IN PICTURES by Caroline Preston. I truly was blown away by this unique novel which is told in the format of a scrapbook. I was fascinated by not only Frankie's story, but also the process the author used to write the book. So when Ms. Preston sent me a Q&A of some of the most asked questions that she received during her book tour, I just knew I had to share it with all of you.

When I was on my book tour for The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, I was often asked similar questions about how I created a scrapbook novel. Here is a list of the top Frankie Pratt FAQ’s.

1. What gave you the idea for doing a novel as a scrapbook?

I like to say the idea of making a scrapbook novel was 40 years in the making. As a little girl, I used to pore over my grandmother’s flapper scrapbook filled with dance cards, letters from old boyfriends, ocean liner tickets, and even long curls snipped when she got her hair bobbed.

My first three novels were what I guess you’d call “conventional” format—i.e. just words. My third novel Gatsby’s Girl was inspired by the meticulous scrapbook F. Scott Fitzgerald kept about his first love, Ginevra King—her first note to him, her handkerchief, and a newspaper clipping about her marriage to another man. Later he would turn the story of his unrequited crush into The Great Gatsby.

When I was casting around for the idea for my fourth novel, I wanted to create something that was as visual and powerful as a scrapbook. And then I had a crazy idea—why not make a novel that WAS a scrapbook. Not a digital scrapbook, but an actual one made of real stuff that I cut up with scissors and pasted together with glue.

2. What came first—the story or the memorabilia?

I started with my character, Frankie Pratt, and the outlines of her story, which was set in the 1920’s. I imagined an 18-year-old girl who wanted to become a writer and her journey which would take her to Vassar, Greenwich Village, and Paris.

Then I hunted down and bought all the things that a girl like Frankie would glue in her scrapbook—postcards, movie tickets, Vassar report cards, menus, sheet music, fashion spreads, popular magazines, a New York subway map, a Paris guidebook, and of course love letters. In all, I collected over 600 pieces of vintage 1920’s ephemera

3. How did the memorabilia dictate the story?

Frankie’s story changed and evolved as I found surprising things—for example an original book cover for The Sun Also Rises. The book caused a huge fuss in Paris when it came out in 1926 because everyone recognized the characters, and she would have been right there to bear witness.

4. Why did you choose to set Frankie’s story in the 1920s?

Like a lot of people, I have a romantic obsession with the 1920’s when very aspect of life (especially for women) was turned upside down and reinvented. Women cut off their hair and hemlines, got the vote, went to work, and felt freed from Victorian behavior codes. Writing Frankie Pratt was a chance for me to indulge in some lovely time travel.

5. Where did you get a lot of the things featured in the scrapbook?

I had a surprising number of 1920’s items in my own collection of vintage paper. I stopped at every roadside antique store and junk shop I passed- in Mississippi, Virginia, New York and Illinois. (My favorite store is Whiting’s Old Paper in Mecanicsville, Va.) And also I bought over 300 items from eBay—so many that my mailman complained.

6. Do you think this was easier or harder than writing a novel in a more traditional manner?

Creating a scrapbook novel may not have been easier than writing a traditional novel, but it sure was a lot more fun! Writing a 300 page novel requires thousands of hours of sitting in a chair and staring at a blank computer screen. With Frankie Pratt, I could spend countless hours and dollars on eBay every day and tell my husband with a straight face that I was “working on my novel.”

7. What are you working on next?

I have started in on my next scrapbook novel, this one kept by a bride during her first year of marriage 1959-1960. I like to think of it as a prequel to Mad Men. My favorite finds so far: a 1959 Brides magazine, the Betty Crocker Bride’s Cookbook, a 1960 sex manual, View-Master slides, a set of bride and groom paper dolls…

A huge thanks to Ms. Preston for taking time from her busy touring schedule to send me some of her most-asked questions. Please do yourself a favor and check out this fantastic book!


Carol said...

I do love the sound of this novel.

I love books set in the 20's. I agree it seemed such a romantic time.


Serena said...

Oh, I cannot wait to read the new scrapbook novel. I loved Frankie Pratt's scrapbook.

Anna said...

I think it's fascinating how she created Frankie Pratt. What a fun way to write a novel. Can't wait for her next scrapbook novel!

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book and passed it on to my mother. When I spoke to her yesterday she told me she was reading it and loving it. It was taking her back to a time period she lived through.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I thought her next book was Frankie's next stage in life! Bummer, because I did like Frankie. I was completely in love with this book and its creativity. Can't wait for her next one.

Beth F said...

I loved this book and it's great learning more about it.