Friday, April 1, 2011
History Saturday - Victoria Holt, Part 1
Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.
By: Stephanie Burkhart
One of the first authors I read as a teenager that left a resonating impression with me was Victoria Holt. And while I sheepishly admit that I can't remember my first Victoria Holt novel, I recall that I loved the ambience of her novels, the gothic settings, the spooky mansions, and the clever heroine. These elements of storytelling echo in my own paranormal romances.
So who was Victoria Holt? Enjoy this first part of a three part series.
Victoria Holt was a pen name for Eleanor Alice Burford. She was born on 1 September 1906 near London. Young Eleanor claimed to have inherited her love of reading from her father, Joseph Burford.
Eleanor loved London and considered herself lucky to have lived there. As a young woman, she went to business college and studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. She also worked for a jeweler.
In her early 20's, Eleanor married George Hibbert. Married life gave her the freedom to follow her writing.
In 1961, Eleanor created the Victoria Holt pen name. Her first novel as Holt was "Mistress of Mellyn." Her intention was to revive the once popular genre of gothic romance. Very deliberately, she set her stories in gloomy old manors and usually in the 19th century. Most of Holt's gothic romances are told in the first person by the heroine who is usually a governess or a ladies companion.
What made Eleanor stand out is that she carefully researched these novels to capture a certain degree of authenticity. The Victoria Holt pen name was her biggest money earner.
Despite her wealth, Eleanor lived a simple life. Her only hobby was generally to take a 2-3 month cruise in the winter. Typically, she wrote 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, beginning at 7:30 am. She usually had finished 5,00 words by noon. In the afternoon, she personally replied to fan letters. It's amazing to believe that Eleanor never had a chance to use a word processing computer program and that she typed her novels on typewriters!
Eleanor loved her writing, even taking her typewriter on her cruises. She died 18 JAN 1993 while on a cruise ship during her winter vacation.
Next: Eleanor's early novels and Jean Plaidy.
Question: Do you remember the first Victoria Holt novel you read? Do you have a favorite?