Pondering the Muse by Jeanne Mackin – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Jeanne will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Pondering the Muse
by Jeanne Mackin, author of A Lady of Good Family

“You couldn’t ridicule me into going into the box,” Joni Mitchell said in a recent interview. She is Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane’s new muse and I say amen! Mitchell has been my musical hero for a while, both for the unwavering femaleness of her fabulous voice, and the powerful poetry and honesty of her lyrics. I don’t think the muse could wear a better face than Joni Mitchell’s, at any age.

In fact, I thought of Joni Mitchell quite often when I was developing the character of my protagonist in my latest novel, A Lady of Good Family. Beatrix Jones Farrand, a privileged woman of the Gilded Age, could have married well, supported her husband’s ambitions, and raised a family. That was what her society expected her to do. But she outwitted them and made her own plans, fulfilled her own ambitions. She wouldn’t be boxed in, either.

For a woman artist, invoking the muse has special meaning because the muse, traditionally, is a woman, the semi-divine being who inspires men to do their most creative work, or to simply keep working. Muses, like boats and until quite recently storm systems, were female. When you think about it, those three have a lot in common – they float, they disturb, they keep you off balance. But for a woman to invoke another woman? That can be difficult because whether anthropologists admit it or not, women can be pretty competitive and uncooperative sometimes. When I call upon my muse, I am always aware that I am calling upon a part of myself, to work better, to work harder…sometimes to work at all. The muse isn’t something to tame or train or rely upon but to become. As did Joni Mitchell. As did Beatrix Farrand, the muse of American garden design. As should we all, whatever our chosen endeavor.

Raised among wealth and privilege during America’s fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and to marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe, she already knows that gardens are her true passion. How she becomes a woman for whom work and love, the earthly and the mysterious, are held in delicate balance is the story of her unique determination to create beauty while remaining true to herself.

Enjoy an excerpt:


Lenox, Massachusetts

My grandparents had a farm outside of Schenectady, and every Sunday my father, who worked in town, would hitch the swayback mare to the buggy and take us out there. I would be left in play in the field as my father and grandfather sat on the porch and drank tea and Grandma cooked. My mother, always dressed a little too extravagantly, shelled the peas.

A yellow barn stood tall and broad against a cornflower blue sky. A row of red hollyhocks in front of the barn stretched to the sky, each flower on the stem as silky and round as the skirt on Thumbelina’s ball gown. In the field next to the barn, daisies danced in the breeze. My namesake flower.

I saw it still, the yellows and red and blues glowing against my closed eyelids. The field was my first garden and I was absolutely happy in it. We usually are, in the gardens of our childhood.

When I opened my eyes I was on a porch in Lenox, a little tired from weeks of travel, a little restless. My companions were restless, too, weary of trying to make polite conversation as strangers do.

It was a late-summer evening, too warm, with a disquieting breeze stirring the treetops as if a giant ghostly hand ruffled them. Through the open window a piano player was tinkling his way through Irving Berlin as young people danced and flirted. In the road that silvered past the inn, young men, those who had made it home from the war, drove up and down in their shiny black Model T’s.

It was a night for thinking of love and loss, first gardens, first kisses.

Mrs. Avery suggested we try the Ouija board. Since the war it had become a national obsession.

“Let’s,” I agreed eagerly.

About the Author:

Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, A Lady of Good Family, explores the secret life of gilded age Beatrix Jones Farrand, niece of Edith Wharton and the first woman professional landscape design in America. Her previous novel, The Beautiful American, based on the life of model turned war correspondent and photographer, Lee Miller won the CNY 2015 prize for fiction. She has published in American Letters and Commentary and SNReview and other publications and is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie, in Ithaca.

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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

  3. thanks for hosting! I’d enjoy hearing how other creative women think of the muse, how they invoke their own source of inspiration.

    When did I first consider myself a writer? Interesting question because it suggests that writing and being a writer aren’t always the same thing, at least they weren’t in my mind. In my very early twenties, before I had written for publication, I never never would have introduced myself as a writer. But as a wise friend said, “If you write, you are a writer.” Absolutely. So, since I have always written, I should have always considred myself a writer. My kindergarten teachers would have loved that!

  4. Rita Wray says:

    Sounds like a great read.

  5. Victoria says:

    Great post! Sounds like it’s going to be a great historical romance 🙂

  6. Patrick Siu says:

    I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Eva Millien says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt and the post,sounds like a really good book, thanks for sharing!

  8. Betty W says:

    Love the cover! Sounds like a great book~thank you for sharing!

  9. I enjoyed reading the excerpt. This book sounds like an interesting read.

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