Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio: Q&A & Giveaway (US/Canada)

February 2nd, 2013

parlor

I hope this weekend finds everyone well and doing something they love.  I’m planning on curling up with a good book today and maybe tackling some laundry.  Speaking of a good book today I have a Q&A with Maryka Biaggio (pre-prepared) featuring her newly released novel Parlor Games.  This sounds like a wonderful historical novel and I hope to be able to read it soon.  For now enjoy the Q&A and don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy at the end of the post.

1. When did you first stumble upon the story of May Dugas?

In the summer of 2010 my parents and I were traveling through Menominee, Michigan, and decided to stop at their Information Center. Prominently displayed on a shelf was a pamphlet by Lloyd Wendt entitled Life of May Dugas of Menominee. It started with this line: “She was down in our files as the most dangerous woman in the world.” That got my attention! We straightaway drove to the Menominee Historical Society to purchase the pamphlet. When I expressed interest in May Dugas, the attendant showed me the only memento they had of her—a gorgeous bejeweled black gown. May was not only dangerous—she possessed a sense of style as well as the money to afford the best of attire.

2. What about May intrigued you?

Once I read Wendt’s write-up of May’s life (as told by his Pinkerton detective informant), I knew I had to write about her. The story posed so many questions: How much of a challenge was it for her to break out of societal expectations of the time? What motivated her? How did she feel about the men she extracted money from? Was she a victim of powerful men or did she lure them in with blackmail in mind?

3. Did writing this novel require special research or travel? Have you been to many of the places May visits in the book?

I did a great deal of research online about the period, customs, and events. But I also traveled. For instance, I visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, to search for May’s passport and travel records. While I was in San Francisco, I checked out her stomping grounds at the historic Palace Hotel. In Chicago I studied buildings that were in existence when she frequented the city. I had traveled in China in 1985, not too long after it opened up to outside visitors, and I drew on that experience in portraying May’s sojourns in the bustling cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai. A professional meeting had taken me to Mexico City in the 1990s, so I was familiar with its sights and the surrounding geography. I also arranged a trip to the south of France while I was working on the novel. I paid the requisite fee to enter the exclusive gambling lounge at the Monte Carlo Casino, where I was able to soak up the ambience of the scene—the beautiful, inviting decor, the serious expressions of the gamblers, and the shuffling of chips—just as May did during her visits there.

4. Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to see?

The Chateau de Pallandt, the country estate of the Dutch Baron who May wed, is still in existence. May and the Baron were married on the grounds and lived there for many years before moving to London. This gorgeous property is now a luxury bed and breakfast owned by Baron and Baroness d’ Hooghvorsis. I would love to go for a stay and gift a copy of my novel to the current proprietors.

5. How much of the novel is based on historical record?

All the key events in the novel are based on actual occurrences as reported in either Lloyd Wendt’s pamphlet or newspaper reports of the time. I wanted to be true to this woman’s fascinating life, which I hope heightens the reader’s interest in her. Of course, the daily events and conversations are my constructions, albeit designed to paint a picture of the larger events.

6. Without giving anything away, what were your favorite scenes to write?

Writing about May was such a delight! Once I found May’s voice, the story flowed rather easily. I especially enjoyed writing about her first big adventure in Chicago. It wasn’t easy going, and she really did need to call on her wits and wiles to avoid the pitfalls that many young women succumbed to in America’s big cities at that time.

7. May is a captivating character and many readers end up rooting for her. Did you want the readers to feel conflicted about May?

Absolutely. In order for May to have successfully traveled the world and entered the circles of so many interesting and wealthy men, she had to have charm and charisma. I wanted the reader to experience that firsthand and contemplate May’s motives for telling her story. Was she trying to dupe the reader or simply confide in and earn the trust and approval of her listeners?

8. May is quite a unique character. Do you see yourself in her at all?

I’d like to think I have a bit of clever resourcefulness about me. My family moved around a great deal during my childhood and adolescent years, so I had to learn to adapt to strange places, meet new people, and foster fresh friendships. Perhaps I gained some measure of adaptability and resourcefulness from that experience. I did have great fun trying to figure out how May pulled off her many exploits, but I myself am too encumbered with a diligent superego to ever attempt such intrigues.

9. How has your background as a professor of psychology helped you in your writing?

I hope that after eight years of study and thirty years of teaching clinical psychology I have translated some of what I know into my writing. Since I am knowledgeable about human development, personality functioning, and diagnostic categories, I tried to bring that understanding to bear in imagining May’s formative years, motives, and some of the self-delusions she may have operated under.

10. Was this your first writing effort outside of academia?

No, from an early age I was fascinated by fiction and have always wanted to write a novel. During my academic career I took some university courses in creative writing and dabbled in short stories. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that I decided to take the leap into novel writing. I toiled over and submitted three novels for publication before I wrote Parlor Games. I view those novels as my proving ground. With each one, I felt my mastery improve, and I want to keep pushing myself to ever-greater writing challenges.

11. What’s your writing routine like?

I rise early, take a brisk walk, breakfast over articles about writing, and read the daily newspaper. Then I steal away to my study and write all morning, blocking out, as much as possible, the distractions of e-mail, phone, and doorbell, as well as the neighborhood children squealing at the school bus stop. I don’t schedule appointments during this time if at all possible. I like to immerse myself in writing for a good three hours every weekday. That time flies by, and my usually astute stomach sometimes forgets when lunchtime has arrived. I often use afternoons and weekends for research and other writing-related tasks.

12. Are there any authors, writing in either historical fiction or other categories, whom you’ve looked to for inspiration?

Barry Unsworth is one of my favorite authors. I had occasion to meet him at a writer’s conference a few years before his passing. We talked about two of my favorite books by him—Sacred Hunger and Sugar and Rum. He was charming and personable, and I will forever remember the wonderful conversation we shared. Barbara Kingsolver’s novel of a missionary family in the Congo, Poisonwood Bible, influenced me a great deal, particularly the skill with which she captured the voices of her varied characters. One of my favorite books about a real person is Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, a fine literary work that brilliantly evokes Marilyn Monroe’s complex personality. It’s my favorite book by Oates and she, in fact, has divulged that it’s one of her favorites as well.

 

About Parlor Games

The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.

In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters. Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancé—until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement.

Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.

The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the “Most Dangerous Woman,” branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress. To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?

As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom—hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century—we’re left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress.

Read an excerpt
Pick up your own copy at Amazon or Amazon Canada

 

About Maryka Biaggio

Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor turned novelist with a passion for history. Twenty-eight years after launching her academic career she took the leap from full-time academic to scrambling writer and now splits her time between fiction writing and higher education consulting work. More information about Maryka and Parlor Games can be found on MarykaBiaggio.com, including a discussion guide, historical information, recommended reading and a fun “Parlor Talk” feature. You can also find out more about Parlor Games on Facebook.

 

GIVEAWAY DETAILS (US/Canada)

I have 2 copies of Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio to share with my readers.  To enter…

  • For 1 entry leave a comment entering the giveaway.
  • For 2 entries follow my blog.  If you already do let me know so I can be sure to pass the extra entry on to you as well.
  • For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents (no PO boxes) and I will draw for the winners on Saturday, February 16/13.  Good luck!

44 Comments to “Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio: Q&A & Giveaway (US/Canada)”

  1. Linda B says:

    This was a fascinating Q&A; sounds like a great novel. Thanks for the giveaway.

    GFC follower

  2. Nise' says:

    I saw this book at the library! After reading this post I am so intrigued by the book. I’ve been to Menominee, MI.

    I am a follower.

  3. Jenna Evans says:

    This sounds like a really intriguing read.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I do follow your blog.

  4. ellie says:

    I am captivated with this novel and your interview. thanks. I subscribe via e-mail.

  5. bookworm says:

    Great interview, the premise of Parlor Games sounds interesting.
    Enjoy your weekend Dar :)

  6. Anne says:

    A fascinating feature which peaked my interest. I am an e-mail subscriber.

  7. rhonda says:

    This book sounds so interesting.thanks for interview.email follower Lomazowr@gmail.com.will tweet at rhondareads.

  8. I had never heard of May Dugas until today. She certainly sounds interesting!

    GFC follower

  9. Connie Fischer says:

    I’ve been intrigued by this novel from the first time I read about it. May sounds like a woman not to be messed with. Three cheers for May! Looking forward to reading this book.

    Follow via email: conniecape@aol.com

  10. Rebecca Boardman says:

    Sounds like a great book…want to read it.
    RJB

  11. Colleen Turner says:

    This sounds really good! Thanks for the Q & A and the chance to win a copy!

  12. Colleen Turner says:

    I am a GFC follower (Colleen Turner) and email subscriber (candc320@gmail.com)

  13. Carol Wong says:

    I really want to read about the most dangerous woman, May Dugas!!! She must have been very crafty.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  14. Carol Wong says:

    I follow your blog with GFC as Carol N Wong and also by an e-mail subscription.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  15. Carol Wong says:

    I tweeted:
    http://t.co/h5OS8jJt
    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  16. Liz says:

    Thanks for the giveaway of what sounds to be a most interesting book. I associate Pinkertons with Lincoln, not engagements etc.

  17. Carl says:

    Thanks for the great Q and A, I’m kind of surprised that May is not a more well-known figure. Her story is fascinating, I’d love to win a copy of the book.

    I follow your blog by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

    I also tweeted about the giveaway: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/297835346861887488

    Thanks again, fingers crossed.

  18. Ally says:

    I think that I would like the perspective that a former psych prof could bring (:

  19. Suko says:

    I’d love to read this book! Great interview, Darlene! A background in psychology would provide a lot of understanding for characterizations.

    I’ll post this in my blog’s sidebar.
    I’m a follower.

    suko95(at)gmail(dot)com

  20. susan says:

    Interesting interview. Sounds like a good book.

  21. Margaret says:

    Looks like a great book, thanks for the giveaway.

    i am also a follower.

  22. Terry Martini says:

    Sounds like a really good book that I would like to read. I follow by email and GFC.

  23. Lisa Garrett says:

    I love historical novels and May sounds like quite the character.

  24. Lisa Garrett says:

    I follow via gfc and email.

  25. Meghan Stith says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    I follow the blog via email: mestith@gmail.com

  26. Renee G says:

    I would love to read Parlor Games
    rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com

  27. Renee G says:

    I follow as Renee G on GFC
    rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com

  28. I would love to win this for my daughter, she likes to read about this time period.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

  29. I follow you by GFC (wfnren), Networked Blogs (Wendy Newcomb) and by email:

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

  30. Amy says:

    This is a wonderful interview which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m so impressed that a bit of ibformation on May Dugas became Parlor Games. Mayka Biaggio seemed to grasp immediatelthat May was a fascinating women. I recently read “Lucky Bunny” and May puts me in mind of the main character, Queenie. I loved Lucky Bunny and I have a good feeling that I’d enjoy Parlor Games even more.

    Thank you for this great giveaway, Darlene.

    I’m a follower of you on GFC.

  31. Katie J. says:

    I would love to win this one. Thanks for the chance.

  32. Leslie says:

    This sounds fantastic. And I’ve been seeing some very nice reviews of it.

    I posted the giveaway on my blog sidebar and I’m a follower.

  33. pamela james says:

    I like reading about people in the time period.
    pjames330 at aol dot com

  34. pamela james says:

    subscriber
    pjames330 at aol dot com

  35. Kate F. says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  36. Wonderful Interview!

    I especially liked learning about the traveling involved in the research for the book- fascinating as both a reader and an aspiring writer.

    Thank you for the giveaway! I am already a follower of your blog via RSS.

  37. bn100 says:

    Nice interview.

  38. Amy says:

    I love the fact that just a tidbit of Dugas’ life piqued Maryka Biaggio’s curiosity and rsulted in this book that sounds enchanting.
    I’m very much looking forward to reading it, thank you so much for this giveaway!

    I’m a GFC follower of your blog!

  39. Beth says:

    This sounds so good! A bejeweled black dress would peak my interest too! Thanks for the chance to win.

    I’m a GFC follower & I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/bbulow12/status/301793611169796098

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