February 20, 2013

Leitchfield, Ky Author Alison Atlee's Debut Novel Now Out

Leitchfield, Kentucky author Alison Atlee has just had her debut novel named "The Typewriter Girl" released by Gallery Books.

The interesting twist to the book is the use of quotes from a unique source, the 1890 book "How to Become Expert in Type-writing," by Mrs. Arthur J. Barnes.

Don't think this has anything to do with typewriter lessons though, as the interesting quotes, such as "If you form a careless habit in the beginning, you will probably always keep it," and "Exact rules cannot be given for every emergency in life," which are quoted at the beginning of each chapter of the novel.

They are there to show how the heroine of the novel must learn various lessons in the environment of 19th-century Britain as she finds her own way through life.

According to Atlee, the reason the novel is called typewriter girl is because the novel's protagonist, Betsey Dobson, starts off her career in that capacity, as did the vast majority of women that entered the workforce in that time period did.

The storyline of the book is centered around the tension between the independent streak in Dobsom and the mores and folkway of the society she was born into.

While this at first glance sounds like a thousand other stories out there, the differentiator is how the story interacts with the struggles of working women at a time when women were starting to enter  the workforce in large numbers.

Betsey is shown in all of her strengths and weaknesses, as she struggles with her bad reputation, romance, and using her business savvy to succeed.

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Atlee said this:

"When you're writing a novel, you want conflict. The harder things are for my character, the better it makes the story. So in a way, the limitations are helpful because the character has to find ways to get around them.

"A good part of Betsey's character comes from how difficult it was for women to achieve nontraditional ambitions, especially education. Schools for working-class women like the one Betsey attends did exist, but the courses could be watered-down versions of what men were offered.

"Plus, with the lower wages women earned and the need to be at work six or more days a week, you really had to sacrifice for it," she says. "I connected Betsey's situation to the single parents I know, trying to get a degree in the midst of holding down another job or two and caring for their families.

 "It can be done, but it takes grit, and plenty of it."

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