Interview with historical fiction novelist Jeanette Watts

I’m helping
Jeanette Watts kick off a virtual book tour today. She’s here to chat with me
about her historical fiction work, Brains
and Beauty.

During her
tour, Jeanette will be giving away a Victorian cameo necklace to a lucky
randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below.
To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit
her other tour stops
and enter there, too.


Jeanette Watts only lived in
Pittsburgh for four years, but in her heart, she will always be a
Pittsburgher.  She missed the city so
much after her move to Ohio, she had to write a love story about it.

She has written television
commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three
novels, and a textbook on waltzing.
she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts
of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan

Welcome, Jeanette. Please share a little
bit about your current release.
Brains and Beauty is a book I had no intention of
writing! When people growled at me about my ambiguous ending at the end of
Wealth and Privilege, I’d say, “Margaret Mitchell never wrote another book
after Gone with the Wind…” And
I had people give me this LOOK, and say “Margaret Mitchell got hit by a
bus…” So, after my life had been threatened a few times, I started
thinking what I might write next. And then I realized how I wanted to approach
the subject. I got the idea from the Twilight book that was never finished, but
now everyone’s doing what I did – I covered exactly the same time period, but
from my heroine’s point of view, instead of the hero’s point of view.

Excerpt from Brains and Beauty:

Regina loved her husband, she really
did. But more and more often, she didn’t like him very much.

Her relationship with him was
everything Tom Carnegie was describing in his relationship with his brother.
Henry married her because he admired her unfailing instincts about people. He
listened, he even applauded, but his actions spoke louder than words. When she
negotiated the deal for the acquisition of Monongahela Glass into their growing
glassworks, he took the credit for it. When she investigated a new rolling
process for his father’s flour mill, he ignored her until they were nearly
driven out of business by more modernized competitors. She said repeatedly that
they needed to steer completely clear of any sort of financial involvement with
the railroad industry. He insisted that Jay Cooke was a fine fellow,
practically a war hero for selling government bonds during the Rebellion. Henry
put a significant amount of their money into Jay Cooke and Company. In
September, 1873, the company was overextended with bonds in the Northern
Pacific Railway, and collapsed.
They were nearly ruined.

Fortunately, Henry’s mother had not
followed his advice, and a succession of family loans were keeping the doors
open on both the flour mills and the glassworks. The copper mill near Johnstown
was Regina’s pet project, and Henry didn’t even know which bank Regina used,
and so at least that part of their empire had not been compromised by his poor

Regina pounded the pavement from
bank to bank, begging, taking out loans, laying awake night after night trying
to figure out how she was going to keep everything afloat. As Tom had said,
times were hard, businesses were failing daily.

Regina’s businesses would not have
been among the ones in danger – if only Henry had seen fit to give her the
benefit of the doubt. But eight years of marriage and one successful business
arrangement after another meant less to him than the chemistry of male bonding.
As with every crisis she had faced
thus far in her life, Regina gritted her teeth, and looked for the lesson to be
learned. This time, she concluded that no one really listens to what you have
to say. Telling people not to do something is pointless. They will do what they
want. The people you trust most will let you down. Her parents had. Her husband

She wished she could talk more to
Tom Carnegie about her problems. She was sure he’d understand. She wondered if
he’d be able to help, but he had plenty of his own problems.
When Lucy returned from the ladies’
cloakroom, Regina excused herself and went in. After she deposited her cloak
and retrieved her fan, she stared blankly at her reflection in the long mirror.

Her youngest sister Abigail was the
cleverest seamstress in the States. Regina wanted to set her up with her own
design house in New York, but so far Abi shyly preferred to sew at home in
Johnstown. It did mean that her dresses were ridiculously cheap, and at the
same time the envy of Society. Having a good dressmaker was a special sort of
secret weapon. The more prosperous she looked, the less anyone would suspect how
desperately close to ruin the Waring empire was.

She forced herself to smile and
lifted her chin a little. “Attitude is everything, my girl,” she told herself.
“Go in like a queen, not a pauper. Men will do favors for queens much more
eagerly than they will for beggar girls. Abi can make you look like a queen;
your job is to act the part.”

What exciting story are you working on
I have so
many projects tugging at my brain, I’m having trouble knowing where to start! I
am working with a publisher on my next release, a modern satire called Jane Austen Lied to Me. Meanwhile, I
also want to do a book about a woman named Belle da Costa Greene, a gorgeous,
brilliant woman who worked with J. Pierpont Morgan. I also have two books I
want to write that are set in England, one in 1603, and one in the 1580-1590s.

When did you first consider yourself a

I think I’m
still getting used to the idea. I’ve only just now stopped listing myself as a
dance instructor on my Facebook page. I teach Vintage ballroom dance, and belly
dancing, and I teach people to dance for their weddings. Somewhere along the
line, between book signing events and days spending quality time at the
computer with my characters, I became a writer first, and a dance teacher

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?

I don’t do
anything full time… I teach dance part time, I sew historical costumes part
time, I run several dance companies part time, I am working on producing a
television show about social dancing in America. Oh yes, and I write historic
fiction. And satire. I’ve actually got a children’s book I want to write. My
guardian angel was my landlord when I lived in Pittsburgh, and he passed away
recently. So I want to write a book about him called “The Angel Who Lives

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?

When I get
stuck, I write while sitting at the sewing machine. I will sew, and think, and
when I figure out what I want to say, I stop sewing and write. Then when I get
stuck again, I stop writing and sew.

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

A writer. It
took me a long time to get there, but I did it. I don’t mind being a late
bloomer. So was Edith Wharton.

Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

If you
haven’t seen Star Wars yet, go see it! It will make your inner 10-year-old
squeal with delight.

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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8 thoughts on “Interview with historical fiction novelist Jeanette Watts

  1. Jeanette says:

    1) Thanks again for having me, Lisa!

    2) Mai, every time I get a new idea for a book, I sort of feel that way. I have such a long list of books I need to write. I wish my brain would let me finish writing one before it comes up with three more that it wants to write!

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