Posts Categorized: the vespertine

Calling Card Giveaway

10 Jan, 2011 by in etsy, saundra mitchell, the vespertine 19 comments

Today’s Etsy giveaway correlates with the book The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. Now you can have your own personalized calling cards just like the Amelia and Zora’s back in 1889. Donated by shop owner KatieDydDesigns

“Hello, I am Katie Schwarz, the owner and designer behind KatieDyd Designs. I currently live in Fort Worth, TX with my wonderful husband, Steven. My design style is characterized by a modern aesthetic- fresh interpretations of classic elements.

KatieDyd Designs offers a full line of personalized stationery and other paper goods. In an age of e-everything, a personalized note makes a real statement- KatieDyd products help you make a stylish one. Enjoy browsing the shop & thank you for stopping by.

• Customizable two sided SLIM calling cards/mommy cards. Pictured in Leaf and Espresso.

• Each card measures approx 3.5 inches by 1.25 inches. The hand-cut cards are printed on luxurious 100 lb smooth, matte cardstock with archival ink.

• Your calling cards arrive beautifully enclosed a handmade slide box.

To Enter To Win one set of 30 calling cards personalized just for you: simply leave a comment below
additional optional entries
+1 for hearting her etsy shop
+1 for picking your favorite item from their shop
+1 for our blog followers
+1 for our Facebook fans
+1 for our twitter followers
+3 for each retweet of this giveaway @fireicephotos
+5 for posting it on your blog or FB profile

Add up your entries and leave the total with the links in your comment. Contest ends February 10, 2011 and is open internationally

Book Review-The Vespertine

10 Jan, 2011 by in saundra mitchell, the vespertine, YA historical fiction, ya paranormal 18 comments

The Vespertine
by Saundra Mitchell
304 pages
Expected publication: March 7, 2011
by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s
5 stars

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

The Vespertine was a full sensory experience for me. I wanted to savor every page and soak in every detail. The first pull came from the fact that the majority of the novel is set in Baltimore, Maryland close to my childhood home. Main character Amelia van Broek describes places I know by heart and the sunsets she describes are ones I’ve seen. What most struck me about this book is that I truly felt the plot as if through Amelia’s eyes, I saw things as if I were there. I sympathized with her chosen fate and her motivation.

Written in first person poetic prose The Vespertine has an ethereal feel peppered with historical and paranormal elements. The back history is well researched and author Saundra Mitchell adds finishing touches that make it authentic to the Victorian age.. The tone is pulled between dark and tragic overlapped with frivolity during Amelia’s first summer season with her cousin Zora. The girls enjoy lighthearted outings with friends, picnics and archery. Their friendship as cousins is endearing and deep. All seems well enough, until Amelia begins to see glimmers of the future, premonitions that come at sunset. Soon the home is flooded with calling cards and visits from others seeking their fortune. When future telling turns to prophecies fulfilled all begin to question if Amelia possesses the power to make her foretold events come true.

1889 in Baltimore is also a summer of looking for the perfect husband, a coming of age. Formal dances with dresses made of lace and organza as well as courting and interested callers. Zora, Amelia’s cousin has her heart set on Thomas Rae, son of the local doctor. He is genuine and of impeccable manners, my favorite character in The Vespertine. Amelia, on the other hand, is dangerously and mysteriously drawn to Nathaniel Witherspoon, a fourteenth by profession– one hired to round out the odd 13 number at dinner parties. He’s an artist who smells of turpentine and oil paints, one below Amelia’s society. I personally found him a little creepy, but captivating none the less. Nathaniel holds a secret and Amelia wants to know more.

Words can’t describe how much I enjoyed this book. Everything from the beautiful poetic writing to the minor details of dress making and courtship. The Vespertine is more than just a book, it an emotional journey that will whisper to you long after you’ve shut the pages. Everything about it is haunting and lush. Saundra Mitchell masterfully writes in the actual voice of a young girl in the Victorian age; it’s is authentic, moving, and magical. I can not wait for the companion novel Spring Sweet to be released in 2012.

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin and Netgalley for allowing me to step into the world that is The Vespertine. Learn more by visiting

Saundra Mitchell has generously offered a tiny taste of The Vespertine for you, the readers of Fire and Ice. Delight in dance cards, sandalwood fans and more by filling out this form. Three winners will be drawn February 11, 2012.

Author Interview with Saundra Mitchell

08 Jan, 2011 by in author interview, saundra mitchell, the vespertine 7 comments

Bio: A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director’s Chair short film series. Now an executive producer and head writer for the programs, she mentors young screenwriters from first page to production.

Her short story “Ready to Wear” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. Her debut novel, SHADOWED SUMMER, won The Society of Midland Authors Book Award for Children’s Fiction, was a 2010 Edgar® Award Nominee, a VOYA Summer Reading selection, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick in 2009. You can find out more about that novel here.

In her free time, she enjoys studying history, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children. She lives in Indianapolis and welcomes you to visit her on the Web at

Saundra has been kind enough to answer some exclusive questions for Fire and Ice about her new book The Vespertine Coming March 2011 from Harcourt Children’s Books

Give us a quick blurb about The Vespertine.
The Vespertine is about a girl who sees the future in the fires of sunset, a boy with a mysterious ability of his own, and the moment their worlds collide.

What drove you to Baltimore as the main setting? I love Baltimore! It’s an amazing city, with an amazing history. Enoch Pratt founded the first free library there; it was the working heart of the eastern seaboard for several centuries. The B in the B&O railroad stands for Baltimore!

And I wanted to write about a city where readers wouldn’t know what to expect from this time period. New York City, New Orleans, London- we have in built-in expectations for these places. But I wanted to write a book about middle-class girls, who had options: family, college, careers. I wanted them to live in a city where classes and races and genders mixed more freely. Baltimore has had a robust, integrated middle class for three hundred years- it was exactly the right place for this book!

Tell us a little bit about the world of 1889 and Victorian courtship…For middle-class girls, it was a lot like it is for teens today: going to school, and hanging out with groups of friends. Most went to school up to 8th grade at least, and they were starting to add high school to the mix by 1889. And because they were middle-class girls, they could escort each other. Which meant if they wanted to ride the cable car or a hansom cab into town to catch a show, or go to the library, or practice archery in the park, they could.

But teens then were more likely to host dinner parties, which didn’t usually get started until 8 or later. Then after dinner, everyone would stay a few hours to play games. Blind Man’s Bluff was a popular one, and there were kissing games, of course. Dances for the middle class were public affairs: pay your quarter, and anyone properly dressed could attend.

The real difference is in communication. Today it’s easy to text someone to see if they want to go to the movies. In 1889, you walked from friend’s house to friend’s house during morning calling hours, leaving cards, receiving cards, and making plans in person. If someone left their card inviting you to visit, you could drop by during visiting hours- usually tea time, before dinner. If you left your card, you’d better be home at tea-time, in case anyone comes to see you!
Because they weren’t building empires, middle-class teens in the 1880s had the luxury of hanging out together, getting to know each other, and falling in love. They had the option of going to work or to college, which means they got to date. They went to concerts and shows, for walks in the park, to fairs and carnivals- just like today! The main difference between courtship then and courtship now is that marriages came a bit earlier. But not crazily so– the median age for girls marrying in 1889 was 22 years old; the median age now is 26!

How long did it take you to complete The Vespertine and where did the inspiration come from? I had a lot of false starts on this book. I tried writing a version set in contemporary southern Indiana, didn’t work. Another set in a New England boarding school, also didn’t work. I was beginning to think that the idea- a girl who could see the future at sunset- was neat, but never going to happen!

Then my best friend and I sat down to watch a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights on PBS, the one starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff. But I was fascinated by Burn Gorman as Hindley. When he was angry, he completely lost it. It was incredible, and terrifying! And during one scene when his character was raging away, I thought to myself, “Man, that’s a guy who would totally lock his sister in an attic.”

It was a stray thought, had nothing to do with what was happening! But it stuck with me, and eventually that became the opening scene for The Vespertine: a furious August van den Broek locking his crazy sister in the attic. Once I had that down, the book poured out of me. The first draft took me six weeks to write. It was delirious, and exhausting and amazing. I had so much fun.

Then it took a year and then some to properly edit, which was slightly less exciting, but had to be done! 🙂

What research went into the book and can you give us any little known facts or extras about it? That’s a very straightforward question, but my answer is oddly complicated. I used to write fan fiction for a show set in Baltimore. During those years, I did a ton of research about Baltimore, because I was writing about police, and neighborhoods, and I had t0 know my way around. It’s funny– when I got to Baltimore for the first time, I really did know my way around. I could give directions.

Then later, I wrote several stories set in Gilded-Age America. One was set in New York, and because I knew it so well, Baltimore! I ended up doing quite a bit of research then- reading newspapers from the period, looking at photographs at the Maryland Historical Society and the Library of Congress, stuff like that. So I had Baltimore, and 1880s Baltimore, already in my head when I sat down to write The Vespertine.

The research I did specifically for this book was really focused on the household, and women in society in this time period. I read Mrs. Beeton’s Household Book, and studied vintage Harper’s Bazar collections for the clothes. I researched the food, the public dances, the schooling system– everything I needed to know, to round out Amelia and Zora’s world.

As for extras– it’s a bit silly, but it amused me so: the dinner party that Zora has in the beginning of the book? All of the table settings are local and seasonal to Baltimore. All of the food is local and seasonal to Baltimore. And all of the dishes come straight out of Mrs. Beeton’s period guide to dinner parties. So if you were invited to dinner in April, 1889 in Baltimore, there’s a good chance you could have had exactly the meal these characters do!

Melese Jow-Amelia
Who do you picture playing Ameila, Zora, Nathanial and Thomas? I’d really love it if everyone could picture their own cast, because who I see is not necessarily who readers will see. But in my head, Amelia is played by Malese Jow, Nathaniel is played by Ed Westwick, Zora is played by Kristen Stewart, and Thomas is played by Zac Efron. Sarah is Katerina Graham, August is Burn Gorman; an actor never appeared for Mattie- I wonder why…?

Do you have any writing munchies or rituals? I like to clean my desk off completely before I start a book. And I do like to have something to drink. Other than that, it’s me and the word processor. Sometimes I make a playlist, but that’s more for the last 2/3 of a book. I have to think to get the exposition down in the first 1/3, and everything from music to the carbonation bubbling in my Coke can distracts me.

What works would you recommend to our readers? Favorite books/ authors? Oh man, I could write a novel about books and authors I love! I love Malinda Lo’s ASH and I am so looking forward to HUNTRESS coming out this year. Sarah MacLean’s THE SEASON is wonderful YA regency, Carrie Ryan is finishing her trilogy with THE DARK AND HOLLOW PLACES this year, which is awesome. Actually, so is Sarah Rees Brennan with THE DEMON’S SURRENDER, and Aprilynne Pike’s series is getting a new installment in ILLUSIONS.

But if you’re looking for my fave historicals, I have a whole page dedicated to them on The Vespertine website! A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray, WILDTHORN by Jane Eagland, THE REVENANT by Sonia Gensler, oh, I could go on and on. Which is why I have a whole page of them. And now I’m going to stop because like I said– I will seriously be here all day, otherwise! (SISTERS RED! TANTALIZE! HOURGLASS!)

Which scene was your favorite to write and which was the most challenging? This book was the smoothest writing experience I’ve ever had, probably a once in a lifetime experience. It went by in a blur of glee, it really did. I honestly enjoyed writing every bit of it. I just love, love, love this book! I want to hug it and pet it and squeeze it and call it George!

But most challenging was probably writing the visions. I wanted them to be dreamy and otherworldly, but I didn’t want people to be confused. I had to make sure that readers could tell the difference between vision and real life, but I also wanted them to experience how jolting and odd it was for Amelia. So those sections, I had to edit quite a bit to strike that balance.

What element do you think you best represent and why? Probably fire. I have a temper, I totally freak out over stuff, but it’s pretty easy to put me out with a bucket of water. Thank you so much for having me!!

Thank you Saundra for visiting our site! Watch for our review of The Vespertine plus a swag giveaway coming on Monday.