Category Fanny Osbourne

Nancy Horan was featured in the Book Expo America Daily edition of Publishers Weekly and luckily we had an insider in New York ready to bring back evidence (thanks Lisa!). Read the interview below and head over to our Facebook page to see pics of Nancy signing advance readers copies of Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

NANCY HORAN

Follows Her Heart

by Genevieve Valentine

 

In 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson was on a train to California in pursuit of Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, 10 years his senior and married, with whom he’d fallen in love. For Nancy Horan, the journey sparked her curiosity; her curiosity sparked a new novel.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Two Roads, January 2014) uses letters, diaries, and essays to chart a complicated love story.

He was from an upper-class Scottish family, she was almost like a Henry James character, a very independent woman – self-made, pre-feminist, she explains.

Horan began ‘an exploration of an amazing pair of people.’ The relationship spanned two decades and three continents, and left plenty of material. ‘ Stevenson alone, eight volumes of letters!’ she says, laughing. But Horan’s careful process (the book was five years in the making) relies on the historical context the documents provide.

That’s what really draws me to a story. I like it if there’s an engaging series of events and a change in the characters. I begin by doing research, but it continues all the way through, and it’s absolutely the case with this story. I know where it’s going, I have a general idea of what they’re doing in a given year and what their lives were like, but during that process there’s so much to read and so much to learn.

It doesn’t all find a place (‘Chapters will bite the dust,’ she explains pragmatically), but the background ‘enriches the whole process.’

Horan is no stranger to reconstructing historical figures: her 2007 blockbuster debut, Loving Frank, took Fran Lloyd Wright’s mistress, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, from historical footnote to heroine of a novel about identity and the

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public eye. That approac brought Osbourne’s voice to the fore in Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Though their stories differ, Horan sees both women in conversation within the genre of historical fiction.

You find they were up against challenges that we don’t necessarily face any more. In particular, the issue of divorce was alive for both of those women, and a very hard obstacle to overcome.

Despite being well-regarded among his contemporaries, Stevenson’s writing fell out of favor in the 20th century. However he’s enjoying a critical renaissance, and Horan hopes that readers might come back to Stevenson’s work with a new eye.

But historical and literary significance aside, she considers the novel a personal journey.

I hope that people are as engaged and captivated by these people as I was.

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