‘The Secret Life of Mrs. London’: Five Questions for Rebecca Rosenberg [INTERVIEW]

Rebecca Rosenberg

Novelist Rebecca Rosenberg loves digging into history.

A few days ago, we introduced you to Rebecca Rosenberg’s novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, a brilliant tale that chronicles Jack London’s marriage to his enigmatic wife, Charmian. As engrossing as this story is, we were dying for the chance to dig a little deeper. So we hope you find our insightful interview with the writer as fascinating as we did. Enjoy! —J&H

J&H: Harry Houdini admits to the Londons that he doesn’t fly anymore after a crash in Australia (pg. 52). Were there other facts you found out about the world’s greatest escape artist that surprised you?

RR: The great Houdini is full of surprises and secrets! Every October I do a daily blog to celebrate him, called HOUDINI HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN! on my Facebook page.

Some Houdini secrets you discover in The Secret Life of Mrs. London:

1. Houdini was the FIRST MAN to fly and airplane in Australia!

2. Houdini worked as a spy for the U.S. government in many capacities. When he performed for the Tsar of Russia and the Chancellor of Germany he reported back his findings. The novel is set in 1915-16 just before America joined World War I and Houdini was involved with keeping our country safe. I never realized the Germans had ships along the North and South American coasts and we were trying to defend them. Panama Canal and Hawaii were involved in defending us, even though it was not common knowledge.

Harry Houdini in chains

Harry Houdini was a masterful escape artist.

3. Houdini trained our military in escape techniques and concealing weapons and tools if caught as a POW.

4. Houdini never told the secret to his tricks to anyone, lest they steal them. His best friends thought he had supernatural powers to walk through brick walls, catch bullets with his teeth, change his body shape to escape anything. The famous actress Sara Bernhardt thought Houdini could give her back her amputated leg!

Harry Houdini with elephant

Harry Houdini could make anything vanish, even an elephant! (Photo by White Studio)

5. In The Secret Life of Mrs. London, I bring six or seven of Houdini’s greatest illusions to life. How in the world did he make a 5-ton elephant disappear in front of a vast audiences’ eyes at the Hippodrome theater in NYC?

J&H: Jack London like his liquor. So why was he in favor of Prohibition, as he tells Von Schram? (pg. 132-133)

RR: Jack London hated and loved his alcohol, and wrote about its hold on him in John Barlycorn, a memoir about his alcoholism. He describes that he drank until he saw pink elephants! Even though he would “go on the wagon” he never really wanted to quit, as it was a relief from his wheering wheels of genius which never stopped. He was pro-prohibition because he knew alcohol was detrimental and he didn’t want new generations to have to grapple with it.

Jack and Charmian London

Jack London’s favorite sparring partner was his wife, Charmian.

J&H: Did Jack London argue with others out of sport, to be contrary, because he was a philosopher trying to make sense of the world, or because he was simply too smart for his own good? (pg. 189-191) And what lasting impression did Jack leave on you by the novel’s end?

RR: I believe Jack London was a genius philosopher who pushed himself, and Charmian to the brink with his insatiable desire to find meaning out of life. Charmian was his favorite sparring partner, but it exhausted her. (Have you ever been in a conversation with an intellectual bully? That happens often in politics!) But for Jack, he was searching for life’s meaning, and he really wanted to know if people had the key. If you read his 50 books, they explore a dizzying array of subjects, from animal adventure stories, to tragic romance, to political tirades, to esoteric philosophy, to science fiction! He pushes the boundaries of what it is to be human!

What do I think of Jack London? We need these geniuses in the world to explore the unexplored and push our boundaries. He would have exhausted me, but I feel many geniuses are exhausting! I think Charmian was honored to be his muse and manage life for him, but it was a wild ride.

J&H: In New York, Charmian shops for a new wardrobe at Bergdorf Goodman (pg. 258-260). Why does she need this new “armor?” And what relationship did she have with fashion over the years?

RR: Charmian London wanted to be a published writer in her own right, and her first book, Log of the Snark, which was published by Jack’s publisher, McMillan, did not sell that well. When she wanted to write Jack London’s biography, she wanted to present herself in the best possible light to MacMillan, not as Jack London’s wife, but a writer to be reckoned with. MacMillan did not publish it. I infer that they did not think Charmian was a good enough writer.

Charmian London

Charmian London loved fashion.

Charmian loved fashion—but didn’t just follow trends, she created her own styles for what she wanted to do: horseback riding, at the helm of her sailing ship around the world, going native in the Fijis. She was bohemian and loved to dress colorfully and with flair.

Charmian London

Charmian London was a trendsetter.

J&H: Now that you’ve tackled the story of the Londons, what other historical figures would you like to write about and why?

Rebecca Rosenberg's GOLD DIGGER

Lion Heart Publishing

RR: My last novel is Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor. A true story of a twenty-two year old girl who comes west for a gold mine with her husband, and finds herself abandoned and pregnant and working the mine alone. She meets an old prospector, twice her age and married, who strikes the biggest silver mine in history. The two of them fall deeply in love, and on the even of his election to the US Senate, his wife divorces him. The scandal, intrigue, passion and tragedy that follows drove me to write Baby Doe Tabor’s story, and the sequel Sliver Dollar, which comes out late next year.

I am currently writing a series called Champagne Widows, about the five French widows who made champagne a world-wide phenomenon (1800-1950) through Napoleon wars, WWI, WWII, and the fact women weren’t allowed to own or run a business without a man.

If you want notice of these upcoming novels, join my IN-CROWD list at: https://www.rebecca-rosenberg.com/email-signup.

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Rebecca Rosenberg's THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON

Lake Union

ABOUT THE BOOK

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband own and operate the largest lavender-product company in America.

A longtime student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Standford Writing Certificate Program. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her debut novel, following her non-fiction, Lavender Fields of America.

To find out more, visit Rebecca at her home on the Web, Rebecca-Rosenberg.com. You may also like her on Facebook and follow her on TwitterInstagramBookBubAmazon, and Goodreads.

THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON
By Rebecca Rosenberg
348 pp. Lake Union. $14.95

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours bannerPurchase The Secret Life of Mrs. London at one of these fine online retailers: AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionIndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Secret Life of Mrs. London is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

4 Responses to ‘The Secret Life of Mrs. London’: Five Questions for Rebecca Rosenberg [INTERVIEW]

  1. Amy Bruno says:

    What a great interview! Thank you so much for hosting Rebecca & her blog tour!

    Amy
    HF Virtual Book Tours

  2. rebecca4447 says:

    Dear Jathan, It was really fun to do this interview, and you asked great questions! Anytime I can delve into the history of the Houdinis and Londons makes me appreciate the talented, mysterious people who came before us. Thanks for that! Rebecca Rosenberg

  3. fashoonia says:

    Nice post.  Will follow my blog please?

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