Jules Verne

Liz and Nellie: New Novel for Teens

Liz and Nellie cover imageWhile conducting research for a novel set in the late 1800s, Shonna Slayton, an author for young adults, came across the story of Nellie Bly’s solo trip around the world in 1889 and was amazed. She dug a little deeper and discovered there was another woman reporter, Elizabeth Bisland, who raced against her. Now she was doubly intrigued. She just had to retell their tale. The result is her new novel out now in both print and ebook, Liz and Nellie.

Shonna kindly agreed to treat us to a guest blog for ‘Nellie Bly in the Sky’. You can read more about Shonna and her other novels below in the author’s bio.

When did you first learn about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland?

Nellie Bly’s name popped up while I was conducting research for another novel. I was fascinated to learn of a young reporter going around the world, unchaperoned, in the Victorian era. I had never heard of her before.

After reading her account, I found out that the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine was reading about Nellie Bly’s trip that morning on his way to work. He thought the New York World newspaper made a mistake sending her east. So he called in one of his writers, Elizabeth Bisland, and asked her to race Nellie, boarding a train headed west that night.

My imagination was lit. I wanted to get their forgotten story out there to more people. Thus my obsession with Liz and Nellie began.

Many people already know who Nellie Bly was, but who was Elizabeth Bisland?

Elizabeth Bisland was also a reporter. She freelanced for a number of newspapers, including the same paper as Nellie Bly, but at the time of their race, Bisland was working for Cosmopolitan magazine, primarily as their book reviewer, though she did write other types of articles.

Shonna Slayton

Shonna Slayton

Which reporter do you relate to the most?

In temperament I most closely relate to Elizabeth Bisland. She did not call attention to herself the way Bly seemed to, rather she diligently went about her work, even when she felt out of her element.

However, I admire Nellie Bly for her courage and her insightfulness. Often she wrote about the marginalized in society, writing about them so others would see them. She was quite an inspiration.

Why did you write this book for teens?

Most books about Nellie Bly are written either for children or adults, but Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland are wonderful examples for teens. They did big things when they were young. They helped open paths for women. They were agents of change. All the buzzwords we toss at teens nowadays for how they should think and act, these ladies were doing back in the 1800s. They were bold. They were daring. They made a difference. And they were real people!

You normally write stories with a fairy-tale twist. Were you tempted to put magic into this story?

The story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland didn’t need any embellishing. I used their actual words as much as possible, as obtained from their newspaper and magazine articles. The text is more literary than how I normally write, reflecting the conventions of the 1800s. I tried to modernize the text somewhat, to draw in today’s audience, and I toned down Elizabeth Bisland’s highfalutin’ vocabulary.

Of all the places they went on their trip, do you have a favorite?

One of my favorite scenes is when Nellie Bly makes a detour to meet Jules Verne at his house in France. She is curious about him as a fellow writer, and she is curious about what he thinks of her taking on his fictional character. He is quite charming and goes out of his way to make Nellie feel special.

Last words?

Liz and Nellie was a lot of fun to put together. My characters always feel real to me, but in this case they truly are real. I hope readers enjoy meeting these historical figures as much as I have.

Author Bio:
Shonna Slayton writes historical fairy tales for Entangled TEEN. Cinderella’s Dress and Cinderella’s Shoes, set in the 1940s are out now. Spindle, a Sleeping Beauty inspired tale set in the late 1800s, will be out October 2016.

She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.

The best way to keep in touch is by signing up for her monthly newsletter. She sends out behind-the-scenes info you can’t read anywhere else. Sign up is on the sidebar of her website Shonna Slayton.

 

 

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Nellie Bly’s World Race Coming to Television

Nellie Bly’s Historic Race Around The World Being Developed For Television

By Anita Busch

This article is courtesy of Deadline.com: http://deadline.com/2015/03/nellie-bly-eighty-days-book-television-series-1201384763/ 

80days_cover_largeIt’s the best of journalism meets The Amazing Race meets Around the World in Eighty Days. Phileas Fogg, move aside. One of the most daring stories in history is that of investigative journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (aka Nellie Bly) who in 1889 decided she would try to beat the fictional record in Jules Verne’s now classic story and go around the world less than 80 days.  At the same time, because competition is the name of the game in journalism, Cosmopolitan sent their own reporter Elizabeth Bisland, out to beat not only the 80-day fictional Phileas Fogg record but also try to one-up Bly who was working for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspaper.

Now that story, based on Matthew Goodman’s bestselling book, “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” is being developed for television by Zero Gravity Management’s Christine Holder and Mark Holder with producer Lloyd Levin (Boogie NightsUnited 93Watchmen) and Beatriz Levin.

“We are developing it as a limited show and talking to creators now,” said Zero Gravity’s Marc Holder. “After that, we’ll go to talent. People have tried to explore her story from her days undercover at a woman’s insane asylum, but not many people have tried to delve into this particular story. Goodman just did such a wonderful job with this book. They are both courageous women and this story is really inspiring.”

The race started on November 14, 1889 and each reporter left from New York, but went the opposite way around the world. The story grabbed headlines at the time and enthralled readers who were kept on the edge of the seats as each reporter filed stories about their dramatic and sometimes dangerous adventures. The race spanned over 24,000 miles using railroads and steamships as their main mode of transportation.

Beyond captivating the nation, the lives of both the well-respected journalist Bly and her competitor Bisland were forever changed by the journey. Bly ended up winning the race by four and a half days and set a world record. She had circumnavigated the globe in 72 days.

 

In which Nellie Meets Jules Verne

AMIENS, FRANCE – 23 November 1889

Nellie risked a time-guzzling deviation only 8 days into the race, sacrificing two nights of sleep, to accept an invitation to the home of Jules Verne –  the author who inspired her own voyage. It meant going to Amiens, France.

“Oh how I should love to see them,” she said upon learning of the invitation when she arrived in London. “Isn’t it hard to be forced to decline such a treat?”

Jules and Honouring Verne at home with their dog Folette. Amiens 1894

Jules and Honorine Verne at home with their dog Folette. 1894

Two days later she received a memorable welcome from Jules and Honorine Verne. “Jules Verne’s bright eyes beamed on me with interest and kindliness, and Mme. Verne greeted me with the cordiality of a cherished friend,” Nellie recalls. “Before I had been many minutes in their company, they had won my everlasting respect and devotion.”

Nellie’s visit with the Vernes lives on today at the Maison Jules Verne, a living tribute to the French author attracting visitors from around the world. Many rooms reflect the descriptions in Nellie’s own book Around the World in 72 Days.

Nellie’s description of the Verne’s salon is framed and hung there for all to read:

“The room was large and the hangings and paintings and soft velvet rug, which left visible but a border of polished wood, were richly dark. All the chairs artistically upholstered in brocaded silks, were luxuriously easy…”

Here at the  Maison Jules Verne, for the first time, I was quite literally following in Nellie’s footsteps. Nellie Bly and I were in the same room …separated by 125 years.  I guess I might have asked Mr Verne the same questions:

Have you ever been to America? Answer: Once to Niagara Falls. I know of nothing I long to do more than to see your land from New York to San Francisco.

How did you get the idea for your novel? Answer: “I got it from a newspaper.”

It was an article in Le Siècle newspaper showing calculations on travelling around the world in 80 days that Jules Verne discovered the basis of his novel. They had not taken into account the difference in the meridians which gained a day for Phileas Fogg and meant he won his bet. Had it not been for what he called ‘this denouement’, Jules Verne told Nellie he would never have written Around the World in 80 Days.

By candlelight they visited the author’s study which remains just as Nellie saw it. She was surprised by its modesty. So was I. “One bottle of ink and one penholder was all that shared the desk with the manuscript.” The tidiness of his manuscript impressed Nellie giving her the idea that “Mr Verne always improved his work by taking out superfluous things and never by adding.” Great advice for all writers and something I must keep in mind as I write this blog.

Jules Verne's home today

Jules Verne’s home today

Before she knew it, it was time to leave her new friends the Vernes. They shared a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire before bidding each other farewell.

The race was on.

Jules and Honorine Verne diligently followed Nellie’s progress around the globe and sent her a congratulatory telegram when she reached America. That fleeting visit made a lasting impression.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.

Amiens railway station where Nellie was met by the Vernes.