Virginia Pye wanted to create a fast-paced, historically accurate novel that delves into contemporary issues that many people can relate to, so she wrote "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann".
What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?
Not long ago, I moved back to the Boston area after many years away and noticed that people here read more than in any other place I’ve lived. When walking around this highly literary city, it’s hard not to bump into historical markers of famous writers. As I sat down at my desk in Cambridge, I started to feel the shadow of those famous male authors who make up part of the American canon — Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, and others. It made me wonder what it might have felt like to be a female Boston writer in an earlier time. Not a Margaret Fuller, who was taken seriously by the male writing establishment, but a woman writer of what they would have called “frivolous” tales, the dime novels that women readers loved. If I sensed a literary weight on my shoulders in this bookish town now, how must a woman author have felt back then? My protagonist, Victoria Swann, and her troubles began to take shape in my mind.
What does Reading Rainbow mean to you?
Reading Rainbow is such a great idea and movement! And I’d like to add to it the goal of Writing with Pride as well. I’m a straight writer whose novel, "The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann," plays with the tropes of romance novels. But instead of my main female protagonist ending her quest by walking down the aisle or throwing off her bodice to finally be with the man she loves, Victoria’s love story is to books, both reading and writing. But my novel does still tell a passionate romance — just not an expected one. I don’t want to give too much away, but my intention is to subvert expectations. Let’s just say, the right person gets their man in the end.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?
Reading Rainbow and Writing with Pride makes for great, true-to-life stories that reflect the real world, past and present. There’s always been queer love so why not show it and celebrate it in the stories we read and write? Great characters are multidimensional and deep. Their struggles and their love, if well written, can speak to everyone — no matter gender orientation, race, or class. That’s what I love about fiction. It gets to the common heart we all share.
Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.
I wanted to write a book about a woman striving to tell her own story. When the novel begins, Victoria’s a highly successful author of romance and adventure tales. Her publisher and her husband rely on her for the income she brings in from her books, but she isn’t happy. She feels she’s become a sausage factory for words, losing all originality. She wants to write her own, true story about the painful times she faced as a younger woman when she first moved off the farm and into the city. To use her own voice is her biggest challenge, and fighting for it costs her everything — her home, her husband, and her publisher. Abortion, immigrant rights, and LGBTQ rights all play important roles in Victoria’s journey as she breaks free of her comfortable, so-called successful life and goes in search of her own true voice, both on and off the page.
What can fans expect from your book?
A fast-paced, historically accurate, big-hearted novel that delves into contemporary issues of women’s, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights with a light and entertaining touch.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I’m excited to share Victoria Swann with readers at in-person events. And, by the way, I’m also available for Zoom book club gatherings, so I hope your readers will reach out to me. I’d love to share my novel with them! And meanwhile, I’m hard at work on my next novel, a contemporary story, but one in which the characters fight for similar inalienable rights to find their own voices and tell their own stories.