My historical family saga, the Waxwood Series is about more than just an affluent Nob Hill family coming to grips with the startling changes happening in the last decade of the 19th century. It’s also a story about a Gilded Age family whose lies, half-truths, and myths force every one of its members to change. And it begins not with the current generation but with the previous generation.
It begins with Penelope Alderdice, protagonist Vivian’s grandmother. Penelope, in spite of her old-fashioned name, is one of the most evolutionary characters in the series. When I wrote the novel on which this series was based back in 2014, she wasn’t even a character. When I turned the novel into a family saga, I added the grandparents because, by definition, family sagas tell the story of several generations. I wanted to write a series about generational trauma: The trauma past generations pass down to present and future generations. As this is something I’ve experienced first-hand, the topic is very close to me. I knew Vivian’s story of breaking the cycle would only be meaningful if readers knew where that cycle began.
Since this post is about grandmothers, I thought I’d show a few photos of my own. The first is my grandmother and grandfather with me in 2011, the year they both passed away. The second is of my great-grandmother (whom many in my family say I resemble in looks and personality). I don’t know when this photo was taken but she died in 1966 so probably sometime in the late 50s or early 60s.
In 2017, I started my newsletter and wanted to give subscribers a free gift for signing up. So I took a scene from the old novel and expanded it into a short story called “After the Funeral”. The plot took place at Penelope Alderdice’s funeral where an uninvited guest claimed to have known “Grace” in her youth, revealing an entirely different person than the Penelope that Vivian knew. As I was developing the books in the series, I realized Penelope’s story had to be expanded into a book. That story became The Specter, the first book of the Waxwood Series.
I realized my earlier mistake in dismissing Penelope as just another Angel in the House. She was, in fact, a much more complex character, emotionally and socially. Her secrets follow Vivian like the ghost in the book’s title. Penelope’s story, which begins about halfway through The Specter, tells of the sort of woman you would expect to see in Gertrude Atherton’s The Californians, a book about San Francisco’s high society in its infancy in the 1850s and 1860s. Penelope’s upbringing prepares her for her role as the wife of a successful San Francisco businessman, but there is more to her than that. Her one moment of rebellion in 1852 has ramifications for the entire family, past, present, and future.
What those ramifications are, you’ll have to read about in the series. But you can start with The Specter, which has been updated with a new prologue and a better pace (at the request of readers). You can get your hands on it for free here https://tammayauthor.com/books-2/waxwood-series/the-specter-waxwood-series-book-1.
If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy my novella The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to my newsletter subscribers and you can get it here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!