It’s day 12 of the Fellowship of Fantasy Writers Blog Tour and today I’ve got Charlotte Henley Babb with me as well as Madame Elvira O’Sullivan from Charlotte’s novel, 20 hours to Charles Town, but first let’s learn a little bit about the author:
Web designer, social networks manager, blogger, novelist, and online writing instructor, Charlotte Henley Babb has been writing since she was four, and now makes up fractured fairy tales for people who have survived beyond the love’s last kiss. Where the stories are for people over 20 who have survived marriage, divorce, child-rearing, post-graduate education, bankruptcy, empty nest, and widowhood?
Charlotte Henley Babb writes them.
Her first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil, was published in 2012 and was awarded the Sharp Writ First Place in Fantasy and Science Fiction. It also received an honorable mention in the 2014 National Federation of Press Women communications contest for adult novels.. She has self-published short stories in ebook and print format, doing the technical work, cover design, and layout herself.
Charlotte has taught English in high school and junior college, written procedure manuals, and edited association newsletters. She has presented at education and writing conferences on using the Internet, blogging, and writing science fiction. She brings to any project a number of experiences: technical writer, gasket inspector, wait staff, fabric and craft retail associate, craft artificer, secret weapon, and telephone psychic. Currently she manages the website, social media presence, and monthly newsletter for Sherman College of Chiropractic.
Connect with Charlotte
We are here today on the airship Freya’s Cloak, a luxurious, and some say notorious, cruise vessel, to interview Madame Elvira O’Sullivan, the protagonist of 20 hours to Charles Town, the first in the series of Madame Elvira’s Magnificent Excursions by Charlotte Henley Babb.
Your outfit is stunning. Was it made in Paris? What kind of clothing do you prefer to wear?
My personal seamstress designs my clothing for my business appearances. She has worked in New York couture making clothing and has a gift for making a fashion flattering, no matter how ridiculous or extravagant the style. Presentation is part of each business transaction, so I am always prepared to look my best. The fabrics are products of my textile holdings, all produced and manufactured in the American colonies, including the laces. My craftswomen are skilled and talented.
When I am not making an appearance, I prefer to wear a silken kimono, something loose and flowing against my skin. In the air, I often wear leather to keep warm. The wind is quite brisk when one is flying at 60 miles an hour at 5000 feet.
Tell us a little about your world, and where you fit in?
In the modern world of 1845, throughout all the British American colonies, Spanish Florida, Louisiana, the First Nations, Mexico, and Liberia, my excursions are well-known for comfortable and speedy travel above the wild landscapes between the colonial cities, primarily New York, Baltimore, Charles Town, New Orleans, and on occasion, Savannah in the Liberian territory. My Liberian allies protect us from air pirates, as their ships are highly advanced and masterfully crafted.
I provide luxury transportation for the highest echelon of business travelers, taking them to the sky for discreet entertainment and a secure location for sensitive business matters. Invention and industry are expanding daily, and my ship is secure from industrial espionage. Introductions are made for new partnerships and on occasion, a dispute of patent or trade secret can be negotiated to the benefit of all the claimants.
What is your answer to your critics that your ship is a nothing but a brothel, and you are a common whore?
I am hardly common. Who does not trade one’s body and time for profit, regardless of the actions one performs? A whore is one who knows the value of her personal assets, and demands appropriate compensation.
My ship is the best in the Americas, with more clients who wish to ride than will be accommodated. I vet my clients very carefully, and they know the value of what I provide. They pay willingly and handsomely for my services, all of which, I may add, are legal, even though I am above land-based jurisdiction.
My women are well-trained in many arts, from stenography and music to massage and conversation. They are truly courtesans, much like the geisha of Japan. I prefer to think of them as personal assistants and hostesses, most uncommon whores, and well-worth the investment.
Are you one of your profession who has a heart of gold?
I believe my heart has been described as stainless steel. I expect my employees and my clients to behave according to my rules. Those who refuse need not associate with me.
It is my mind that is made of gold, and the means of procuring more of it. I have found that having a well-educated workforce, paid above living wages, is more productive of better products. Therefore, I thrive, my employees thrive, and my business thrives. There is no need to “give it away.”
Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there? What is your background?
I grew up in a whorehouse in New York. It was better than being on the street, hungry, cold and dirty. I was kept clean, fed, and clothed to be presentable to the gentlemen. It was not as bad as working in some of the sweatshops or trying to feed a brood of children by laundering clothing or rag picking.
I have no family. Whether I was abandoned, sold, or orphaned, I have no knowledge.
How were you able to build your current business?
At 16, I was purchased by an older man who saw something in me that no one else did. He treated me much like a daughter, except for the sex, but he was not very demanding. He gave me a place to live, and treated me much like a pet that could be taught to do tricks such as dancing, entertaining and gathering information.
He is the one who taught me how to invest money, though he had no idea how well I did with the small sums he gave me, or what I earned on my investments. When he died, he left me a sum of money that allowed me to expand my holdings. In the process of receiving my inheritance, I made the acquaintance of a number of solicitors. They too expanded my knowledge beyond what they taught me.
What are your goals? What would you like to achieve?
I am working on expanding my excursions to the West Coast…San Francisco, Seattle and Mexico City. The First Nation tribes of the western lands now claimed by Spain and France do not welcome anyone stopping for refueling or taking on water in their territory. They tolerate fur traders and those who take on their way of life, but they work to stem the tide of Europeans against their boundaries. I would fly over them and leave them undisturbed, but make alliances with the Californians, bringing them goods and services quickly and inexpensively. Cross-country and ocean voyages are quite slow and dangerous.
Who is your enemy? What makes you enemies?
I have many enemies, as does any successful man or woman of business. There are those who would take over my business to see me lose everything out of spite because I play the game more effectively than they. They do not understand my business plans or how I am successful.
There are rumors of a group of investors who covet my empire but who do not have the intestinal fortitude to negotiate with me directly. Instead, they hire the Mauverton detectives to infiltrate my business interests, to spy on my workers, and to steal my trade secrets. One of their operatives is a woman aboard my ship, and we have come to an agreement where she informs me of their plans.
Recently another operative, a man, has come to me who says he wants to turn against his employers to work for me. I know that he has worked as a double agent before, so I will decide whether to keep him to feed the Mauvertons what I want them to know. I believe his situation is desperate enough that he may be of use to me.
What is your greatest fear? How will you plan to overcome it?
Some factions between the colonies want war to consolidate the colonies, even to rekindle the failed revolution of the seacoast colonies to secede from Britain. Manufacturing and trade flourish, but land is what people want, and the borders are well-guarded. The influx of Irish escaping the famine has caused many people to move inland to settle farms, build towns and develop communities. British America is hardly the savage wilderness of a hundred years past. War benefits no one, other than suppliers of weaponry, and it turns industry to non-productive endeavor. My next excursion takes some of the colonial ambassadors to a meeting in Charles Town to discuss the recognition of Texas as a nation, now that it has declared independence from Mexico.
I have encouraged the First Nations to negotiate with the British and to permit as many of the buckskins and children of the surviving rebels to travel through their lands to Texas to form their new nation. The Texicans have discovered new natural resources that may be very profitable, and an alliance with them would expand my network.
Do you have a special relationship?
My closest friend is Zulie Mensah, my chief of security and personal guard. I literally trust her with my life, and she is an invaluable advisor. Beyond that, I do not discuss my personal life.
Do you regret never having had children?
As for children, the one I conceived was taken from me when I was about fourteen. I was told she didn’t survive, and a whore who cannot conceive is more profitable. I take life as it comes. My businesses provide food, housing, education, and employment for other women’s children.
Do you recruit your women from your other employees?
No. While I have no qualms about my own choices, I do not hire an escort who has not already chosen this lifestyle. No woman should be forced into prostitution from want or lack of opportunity. If I have a redeeming virtue, it is that I provide opportunities for choices of occupation, station in life and career. I am personally responsible for providing for a new generation of young women who have the means and support to use their brains and talents as well as their bodies.
What was the most exciting adventure you’ve ever been on?
The one I am currently experiencing. The past is only important for what one learns, and the future is beyond the distant horizon. If one does not find adventure in one’s day, one is not paying attention.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about life?
Trust is often misplaced. Risking betrayal is unwise at best, but can be fatal if one trusts the wrong person. Yet trust is necessary risk in both business and personal relationships.
I rely on my crew to manage the ship, my Cook to prepare the best food in the air or on the ground, and on my women to do their jobs well. More importantly, they trust me to manage well, much like the matriarch of a large family, which gives me a great deal of responsibility.
Most importantly, I trust myself.
Thank you for your time and candor, Madame O’Sullivan.
Don’t forget to check out some of Charlotte’s available books and stories:
A dead cellphone calls with a job offer and a promise of dragons.
Giving up what’s her self-esteem for coffee, her last chance to redeem her life comes as a job offer to be a fairy godmother. But Faery is shrinking, the other fairy godmothers have disappeared, and nothing she does turns out right.
How can she put together the happily ever after each of her clients wants with her boss standing in her way?
Fairy Godmother Maven Morrigan has her own way of making the happily ever after come true for The Frog Prince, Rumpelstiltskin and Beauty and the Beast. Three fractured fairy tales to bring you a smile
Separate stories also available $0.99
Five flash fiction stories of magical encounters in the modern world.
A ten-piece bucket of Southern fried flash fiction.
A short-short about a cup of coffee on a sunny morning and a decision.