Amateur historian and film buff Georgie Blalock discusses her process of writing her historical fiction novel, The Last Debutantes, in the midst of a global crisis.
Georgie Blalock is an amateur historian and movie buff who loves combining her different passions through historical fiction, and a healthy dose of period-piece films. When not writing, she can be found prowling the nonfiction history section of the library or the British film listings on Netflix. Georgie writes historical romance under the name Georgie Lee.
In this post, Georgie discusses her process of writing her historical fiction novel, The Last Debutante, in the midst of a global crisis, how a documentary led her down a specific moment in history, and more!
Join Donna Russo Morin to learn the definition of historical markers and how and where to unearth them. And uncover the tools to integrate history, research, and the fiction plot arc. Most of all, find out how to honor verisimilitude—the goal of any historical writing—and avoid the dreaded anachronism.
Name: Georgie Blalock
Literary agent: Kevan Lyon
Book title: The Last Debutantes
Publisher: William Morrow
Release date: August 24, 2021
Genre/category: Women’s Historical Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: They danced the night away, knowing their world was about to change forever. They were the debutantes of 1939, laughing on the outside, but knowing tragedy – and a war – was just around the corner.
Previous titles by the author: The Other Windsor Girl
The Last Debutantes by Georgie Blalock
What prompted you to write this book?
The Last Debutantes was inspired by an excellent documentary on the debutantes of 1939 that I saw on YouTube. I read about Valerie de Vere Cole, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s niece, when I began researching the 1939 debutante season. Although there are few details about Valerie and her season, I was fascinated by her place at the center of British social life and politics on the verge of World War II. I was also intrigued by Anne Chamberlain, Valerie’s aunt, and how she helped Valerie after her wastrel brother ruined Valerie’s childhood. Valerie, because of her lineage, should have enjoyed every advantage, but thanks to her father, she hadn’t. After his death, she was thrust into the social whirl while living at No. 10 Downing Street, and saw firsthand the lead up to World War II. The contrast between her past and present combined with the pressure of encroaching war offered a great deal to work with. She was a unique debutante during a very distinctive season.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I pitched the idea for The Last Debutantes in August of 2019 with a June 2020 deadline. The idea didn’t change during the process but the way I structured certain characters, such as the nasty debutante Vivien Moseley and Valerie’s stepmother Mavis, did. Vivien became a darker version of Valerie, and Mavis and Valerie’s past became more threatening to Valerie’s present and future. Since the story takes place between March and September 1939, I also had to play a little fast and loose with the historical timeline so that events and scenes could happen at a pace that was more conducive to the story.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Many of the traditional ways that things were done, from signing contracts to interacting with book clubs, changed while I was writing this novel because of the pandemic. I had to learn and adapt to things like Zoom, and using more online research options because interlibrary loans were no longer available.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
March 2020 was a huge surprise while writing The Last Debutantes. I’d planned my writing schedule for my June 2020 deadline, and the universe had other plans. To say I had to adapt and adjust is an understatement but I did it and I met my deadline. It was a very unique experience to write during such a stressful time, but it allowed me to better relate to the debutantes who were doing their best to carry on with their normal lives while also living under a cloud of uncertainty.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope The Last Debutantes inspires readers to overcome whatever challenges they’re facing and to see that there’s always a chance to begin again, and that good friends can make all the difference. I also hope they are intrigued and want to further explore this brief moment in history and the young women who were a part of it.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
My advice would be to develop good writing habits and routines. I finished writing The Last Debutantes between March 2020 and June 2020, and long established routines and habits helped me stay creative and focused. I sat at my desk at the same time every day because when I’m at my desk, I know it’s time to work. The routines I’ve employed over the years, such as working for 45 minutes and then taking 15 off, helped keep me on track despite the craziness around me. I also heard from many writers that they went back to old routines, such as getting up before the kids, in order to make their word count and meet deadlines. Having established habits and routines, even old ones that you can fall back on, can make all the difference when life interferes with your writing plans.