Friday, January 21, 2011

Wonderful, Horrible, Difficult, and Complicated

The Pens are thrilled to welcome Avon author Lavinia Kent today!

Family is complicated.

I almost feel that I could stop writing after that one sentence and I'd be done, that everyone who reads this would nod and feel satisfied.

It's so complicated that I've written three completely different versions of this piece, each one focused on something different. I began the first one by describing this last Christmas at my parent's house in Wisconsin. I was there with my husband and three children. Also present were my two brothers and their wives, another four grandchildren and my uncle. My parent's house is not small, but it is far from large. Most of the adults escaped to a nearby motel for the nights (ahh, hot tub and pool first thing in the morning), but we were all together during the day.

As was expected it was both a wonderful and difficult time. For every hour spent listening to seven children arguing over the Wii there was an hour spent watching a massive snowball fight through the window, bright red cheeks and endless smiles (hopefully I will have managed to download my pictures). For every time I watched my brother and husband carefully avoid talking about politics I spent time talking with my mother, learning bits and pieces of family history.

It was wonderful and difficult.

It was complicated.

It was family.

The second time I tried to write I worked on a piece tying in family history and shamelessly pushing my latest book, Taken by Desire. It was not a far stretch because many parts of my heroine's background were rooted in my own family's New England history. My heroine is an English woman, but her immense fortune has American roots - and problems.

I grew up visiting some of my family's grand homes in Bristol, Rhode Island and hearing the stories of their fascinating lives. I felt I was living a real piece of history as I imagined myself dressed in a late Victorian gown, playing croquet on the lawns. I loved to imagine them in their carriages driving about the small town on the same streets that I walked as a child. I climbed the narrow ladders to the widow's walk and dreamed of looking out over the bay waiting for my true love to return.

It was only as an adult that I truly came to understand what it meant that my distant relatives had been shippers in the triangle trade and how one-sided my dreams had been.

Family is complicated - a single generation can separate a great man from a slave trader.

To switch to a much happier subject, the topic of my last blog attempt was weddings. My mother gave me a wonderful selection of family wedding photographs as a Christmas gift. And last weekend I attended a wedding where the bride glowed so brightly, it made everybody smile. I always need to be reminded that brides truly glow. It is such a trite expression; yet when I look at some couples on their wedding days, I can barely breathe because the love is so plain to see.

I write about such love all the time, and sometimes begin to think I am exaggerating - but then I see in palpable form that most basic bond, the foundation of most families, and find I lack the words to do it justice.

I've seen the same glow on new parents, and when a loved one survives an accident or a health scare. It isn't often that love shines out of someone, but when it does, it's unmistakable, and almost always a mark of family feeling.

What ties all these different attempts at a blog together is, of course, family - wonderful, horrible, difficult, and complicated. Families haves their stories and history, their annoyances and their companionable moments. But to be a true family, what ties us all together is love. Sometimes what's trite is still true.

Lavinia Kent is the author of three regency historicals from Avon, and lives with her family in Washington D.C.


Rachael Herron said...

I love your definition of "that glow." It really is something beautiful and amazing to behold, and it's so nice to be reminded.

Sophie Littlefield said...

lavinia, (i covet your name....) thank you for being here! you captured not just the complex nature of families but why that complexity makes such suitable fodder for fiction: because our feelings are always tinged with ambivalence whether we go deep (within the current generation, with its thousand joys and snubs and hurts) or broad (the history you touch on that must be as ugly as it is proud).

Plus, i just adore that snowball picture :)

Gigi Pandian said...

"I write about such love all the time, and sometimes begin to think I am exaggerating - but then..."

Love this, as it's so true :). Ah, the complexities of love and family. Thanks for stopping by today!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hello Lavinia, and welcome to the Pens!
(I covet your name as well -- in fact, it's a name that was passed down in my family from Louisiana -- but it skipped me!)
I was recently accused of "glowing" when my son came home from college and I got to spend the day with him. He seemed so manly and beautiful that I couldn't stop staring at him! I love that we can manifest our feelings that way, at the most amazing times. And I love that the very best romance writers can make a reader feel that glow jump off the pages ;-)

Lavinia Kent said...

Thank you all so much for having me. I had such great fun writing this. It's great to stop and think about the reality of love and family and how much truth there is in what we write.

I love the name Lavinia now, but hated it growing up. Nobody had ever heard it and everybody mispronounced it. It's a family name for me, too. My great grandmother who's wedding picture is above was also a Lavinia as was her grandmother.


Unknown said...

Beautifully said. :)

I love the name Lavinia! Lavinia is a family name for me too. My mother was born on her aunt Lavinia's birthday, sadly named Charlotte instead of Lavinia, but her cousin is a Lavinia (although her nickname was Beanie--I didn't know she was Lavinia until I was an adult :) :) ) Thank you so much for stopping by and enriching our Friday!!

Martha Flynn said...

Careful, Lavinia, Sophie is NOTORIOUS for co-opting names that she likes!!

I love what you said about a single generation separating two very different kinds of people within the same family.

And I love that each of us glommed on to something different about your piece!

Adrienne Bell said...

Martha is right, Lavinia. Sophie is a master name thief. You'll have to keep an eye out for a Lavinia in her next one. And I'm pretty sure all of us Pens go through about half a dozen ideas for each topic that goes up.

Vanetta said...

Lavinia, again beautiful written! I loved this blog! I agree with everything you have written. The picture of your great grandmother is so beautiful! I have never heard of "your" name before, but I love it. I too carry on my grandmother's name. I recently found out how the name came to be and love the history behind it. (My great grandfather was a teacher and had a student name Vanetta, so he named his daughter Vanetta and my father named me Vanetta. :) Family "hand-me" downs can be a great present!

Talk to you soon!

Your #1 Fan Always!

Lavinia Kent said...

Thanks again for having me. It's been a lot of fun. Feel free to use the name. I figure I can't actually use it in a book so others are free to -- just don't treat me like Shakespeare.

And I must admit to being glad I wasn't a Beanie. I've never had a nickname that worked (I was just the wrong age when Welcome Back Kotter came out to ever be willing to be a Vinnie.)

And thanks for stopping by Vanetta!


cindy said...

Lavinia I too love that name sure beats mine ....My given name was Cynthia alice Wright. Never cared for the Cynthia or the Alice . When I got married I changed my name to Cynthia W Rushford (but go by the nick name Cindy) it suits me better.
Families are wonderful as you say and difficult and sometimes even sad.........but that being said . I loved the way you wrote this blog . I enjoy all of your writing. A Hi to our mutual pal Vanetta :)