Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Author Interview with Diana Rubino ~ Eliza Jumel Burr: Vice Queen of the United States

Please help me welcome author Diana Rubino…

Good morning, Diana…Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets? 

I am originally from Jersey City, New Jersey, and now live on beautiful Cape Cod with my husband and two tabby cats, Milo and Lucky.

Where did you get the idea for ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF THE UNITED STATES?

When I was researching Alexander Hamilton for my biographical novel about him and his mistress Maria Reynolds, the nation’s first public sex scandal, I read some books about his political rival Aaron Burr. Through him, I learned about his last wife, Eliza. She fascinated me—she grew up dirt poor and with her wits and street smarts, invested in real estate and became New York City’s richest woman. I had to write about her.

Why did you choose this genre (is it something you’ve written in before)?

I recently began writing biographical novels with few or no fictional characters. My other books always featured a fictional hero/heroine, and included some historical figures, but I truly enjoy writing about real people who shook up history as the main characters. Because I stick as closely to the historical record as possible, I don’t need to make much up!

What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?

There aren’t many biographies of Eliza out there, and I didn’t have much in the way of sources to consult. Also, the story covers her life from her teen years to her 50’s, so I needed to add a few subplots—including two murders of young women that actually occurred. Eliza helped solve these murders (not in real life, but in the story).

Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?

My husband Chris and I own a construction cost estimating business, CostPro, Inc., based in Boston. We’re celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary in March. I am Director of Marketing, and since I’m outgoing, I enjoy meeting people, networking, and bringing in the work that we do.

What’s your favorite book of all time and why? What’s your favorite childhood book?

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII WITH NOTES BY HIS FOOL WILL SOMERS by Margaret George. She writes in such vivid detail, she brings you back to Henry’s time with her lush descriptions. Since I’m a huge Tudorphile, I enjoyed it all the more. It was great for research on my novel about Henry VIII.

My favorite childhood book is FRIENDLY GABLES by Hilda Von Stockum. I read it in 5th grade, found it in the library several years ago and re-read it, enjoying it just as much.

What do you want readers to come away with after they read ELIZA JUMEL BURR?

That she’s an unforgettable historical figure who never became a household word, but I hope she inspires women to realize that they can succeed in whatever they work hard at and never give up on.

What is your favorite quote?

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo

If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? (PG-13 please 🙂

I’ve always wanted to meet Richard III. I’d talk to him about his life leading up to becoming king, and how he feels about inheriting the throne from his brother Edward. I’d like to meet him over High Tea in York, England.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Now they are about real people, but several of my earlier characters, especially Vita, the heroine of my 1894 New York romance FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET, is based on my great-grandmother, who had 4 kids and was a successful businesswoman, small-time bootlegger and local politician.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

My idol at the time, Ray Davies of the Kinks. I was editor of a music magazine in Houston, I got a backstage pass to one of their concerts, and got to meet him backstage. He posed for a photo with me, was so gracious and polite, and it was a huge thrill to meet him. 

 

Blurb:

Providence, Rhode Island, 1775: At the glorious moment of the American nation’s birth, little Betsy Bowen is born into grinding poverty.

She is raised in a brothel, indentured as a servant, and when her widowed mother is jailed, she toils at backbreaking labor in a workhouse. Like all new Americans, the indomitable Betsy is driven by dreams—of security, of status, of wealth….

But most of all she dreams of being reunited with her father – none other than George Washington, a founding father of the United States of America and the nation’s first president. Sharp wits, good humour and a thirst for education help single-minded Betsy reinvent herself, and as Eliza Capet she pursues her quests. She is determined to create her own property empire, conquer the social elite, and above all, to win her dear father’s acknowledgment.

She also craves love – true romantic love. Though she happily marries French wine merchant Stephen Jumel and makes them both fabulously wealthy, her heart belongs to lawyer, aspiring president, and former Revolutionary War Colonel Aaron Burr.

Excerpt:

July 11, 1804, a day I’ll never forget, a Wednesday, I rose early from fitful sleep. Two of my servants huddled in the kitchen, murmuring instead of cooking. They held the newspaper wide open.

When I walked in, they froze as if turned to stone, and held the paper out to me.

“What is it?” Without fresh coffee I was half-awake. But seeing the paper, I trembled. My mouth dried up. “Oh, no …” I hid my eyes with my hands, I couldn’t bear to look.

“M-Miss Eliza …” Mary stammered. “Vice President Burr shot General Hamilton in a duel.”

Too weak to stand, I grabbed a chair and sank into it. “He … shot Hamilton?” My head spun, dizzy with relief. But I still didn’t know about Aaron. “Is he all right? The vice president?”

“We don’t know, ma’am. It just says General Hamilton was mortally wounded.”

Without another word, I ran down the hall, threw open the front door, not closing it behind me, and raced to Gold Street in the gathering morning heat. Humidity soaked my clothes. I mopped sweat from my face.

I banged on his door. No answer. “Aaron, open the door, it’s me, please, we need to talk!” I banged again. Echoes answered me. I stepped back and squinted into the sunlight, shading my eyes to see the upper windows. Nothing stirred. The house was shut tight. He’d fled. But where? When would I see my beloved again?

Hamilton died the next day, and the city fell to its knees in mourning. It was even more pronounced than when Papa passed – because Hamilton was one of New York’s own.

Public grief over Hamilton paled beside the anger at Aaron. As I approached Trinity Church for the funeral, Gertrude’s father Gouverneur Morris greeted me. “I’m to deliver the eulogy. But indignation mounts to a frenzy already,” he cautioned me, eyeing the mob.

The tolling church bells and muffled drumbeats echoed through the sweltering city air. I thought of every place Aaron could be. I knew he hadn’t meant for this to happen. It was a tragic twist of fate. I also knew Aaron’s political career was over. He’d never be president.

“Oh, Aaron,” I wailed, “Where are you, my love?”

About Diana

My passion for history and travel has taken me to every locale of my books and short stories, set in Medieval and Renaissance England, Paris, Egypt, the Mediterranean, colonial Virginia, New England, Washington D.C. and New York. My urban fantasy romance, FAKIN’ IT, won a Top Pick award from Romantic Times. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society and the Aaron Burr Association. My husband Chris and I own CostPro, an engineering firm based in Boston. In my spare time, I bicycle, golf, play my piano, devour books of any genre, and spend as much time as possible living the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.

Contact me at:

My Website

www.dianarubino.com

My Blog

http://www.dianarubinoauthor.blogspot.com

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor/?ref=hl

Twitter

https://twitter.com/DianaLRubino

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, giveaway

#HobbyCareerPassion: ONEY, MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY by Diana Rubino

Weekly Feature: Learn about the hobbies, careers, and passions of characters in fiction books. I’m pleased to introduce my first guest, author friend Diana Rubino…

ONEY, MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY by Diana Rubino

Ona Maria Judge, known as Oney, was Martha Washington’s house slave. With the help of free blacks, she escaped, never to be recaptured. Her passion can be summed up in one word: freedom.

“I am a mulatto, and light-skinned enough to pass for white. My father, Andrew Judge, was a white indentured servant who got his freedom when I was a child. My mother, Betty, was a seamstress, and another slave of the Washingtons.

“Whenever I saw free blacks, an anger churned in my heart. Why are they free and me not? It was not fair that I was a slave. Although as Mrs. Washington’s waiting made I was not subject to any hardships, I was still her property. No human being should be property. Slavery is evil, and the Washingtons, who never said the word ‘slave’, were two-faced. What galled me was that Mrs. Washington said she felt like a slave, confined to the house whilst Mr. Washington went on travels. When I saw no progress towards emancipation of slaves, it made me more determined to master my craft so I could be self-sufficient someday. I became an expert seamstress.

“I planned my escape with the help of free blacks. It took over a year to plan the right time and to make sure a ship was leaving to bring me to freedom. But I hastened my escape when Mrs. Washington told me I’d make a nice wedding gift to her granddaughter Eliza, I thought she meant I’d sew her a negligee or a quilt for a wedding gift. But, no, she meant I’d be the gift.

“I swore whatever wedding gifts she gave to Miz Eliza, one of them would not be I.

“Whilst they were packing up to go to Virginia, I was packing to go, I didn’t know where; for I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty. I had friends among the colored people of Philadelphia, had my things carried there beforehand, and on May 21, 1796, as the Washingtons ate dinner, I walked straight past them and out the front door. When I shut it, I left them—and my forced bondage— behind me.

“They knew I went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and tried to get me captured a few times, but gave up. I am free now and choose to remain so.”

Blurb:

ONEY: My Escape From Slavery is a painstakingly re-imagined account of a true and painful story told generations on. At its heart is the paradox of liberty – for an individual, for a race, for a nation. In a modern world where cultures and histories collide, it is a timely reminder of perspectives on ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ that we may have become blind to. It is a big, strong, uplifting book with a soul.

Excerpt:

The hour finally came—while they ate dinner.

Nothing heavied my heart—not remorse, not guilt, not sadness upon fleeing my master and mistress. Raw thirst for freedom overcame all that. I walked straight past the Washingtons and out that door. When I shut it, I left them—and my forced bondage— behind me.

I tore through the muddy streets in pouring rain. Gasping for breath, soaked to the skin, my heart slamming in terror, I glanced behind me, again and again. No one pursued me—yet. I dreaded and expected pounding footsteps, a clap on my shoulder. But, I asked myself, who would chase me through the driving rain? No, it is not possible, I affirmed—they didn’t even know I’d left the kitchen.

At the Jones house I slowed and caught my breath. When Absalom opened the door, I staggered inside, laughing, sobbing, gulping for dear life.

I spent the night pacing the attic room, hands clasped. “I beg of you, dear God, walk beside me on this journey. See me through this safe. Don’t let them capture me. I only want to be your servant, no one else’s.”

As daybreak nudged away the darkness, I fell to my knees, weary with fatigue. “Thank you, dear God, for ending my final night of bondage.”

Mary forced a hoe cake down me and hugged me goodbye. Clinging to her, I poured my heart out. “I’m still a-scared, Mary, no matter what courage I got, I’m still a-scared.” I loved Mary so, but wished I’d been hugging Mamma right now.

“I know you are, dear, but you’ve got protection. And your freedom is worth a bit of fear.”

Purchase ONEY from Amazon: getbook.at/OneyJudge

About Diana

Diana’s favorite eras are Medieval and Renaissance England and all American history. A longtime member of Romance Writers of America, the Richard III Society, and the Aaron Burr Association, she recently completed a romantic thriller about Alexander Hamilton and biographical novels about Eliza Jumel Burr  and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife Sophia.

Connect:

www.dianarubino.com

https://www.facebook.com/DianaRubinoAuthor/

Twitter: @DianaLRubino

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Filed under Author Blog Post, Hobbies...Careers...Passions

IN THOSE FIRST BRIGHT DAYS OF ELVIS by Josephine Rascoe Keenan

I’m sure those who know me can imagine how excited I am about today’s guest…I admit, I haven’t read the book yet, but with a title like that, you can bet I’m going to. Please help me welcome Josephine, with an intriguing book and a truly fascinating interview….

One trivial decision can change a whole life.

In Those First Bright Days of Elvis, Book I of the YA series, The Days of Elvis. 

When fifteen-year-old Julie Morgan makes a casual decision to attend a concert at the football stadium of her Arkansas hometown her life is irreparably changed. At the concert she encounters three strangers: a lookalike, who could pass for her twin; a college boy, who will be the love of her life; and Elvis Presley, with whom she forms an unlikely friendship as his “good luck charm,” before his meteoric rise to fame. Julie, a small-town girl bound by the social code of the 1950s, makes a serious mistake in in her attempts to cope with her broken home and bolster her damaged self-esteem. One misstep leads to another, and another, and yet another, ultimately catapulting her into a terrible dilemma with no apparent way out.

In Those First Bright Days of Elvis weaves a story of human anguish and betrayal, love and loss, recrimination and regret, and shows how choices, once made, can change one’s life forever. The book meticulously recreates the “golden days” of drive-in movies, screen wire petticoats, and flashy American cars, when the world seemed brighter and more innocent than today. But was it?

After working many years in theatre and film as a director and as a professional actress, Josephine Rascoe Keenan retired to focus on writing novels and short stories for young people.  In May of 2016 Pen-L Publishing launched her debut novel, In Those First Bright Days of Elvis, Book I of a series entitled The Days of Elvis, about a young girl with an absentee father.  Book II, In Those Dazzling Days of Elvis, launches in June of 2017. Two of Josephine’s stories have appeared in the teen magazine, Cricket, and her poem, A Ride on Grandpa’s Foot appeared in Modern Maturity magazine. Her plays have toured with Artreach Touring Theatre; and one was chosen as a winner of Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s New Play Contest.

Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?

I was born and raised in Arkansas’s oil patch, El Dorado, city of “black gold,” where In Those First Bright Days of Elvis is set. We make it more southern and call it El Duh ray duh. I now live in Cincinnati, Ohio with my husband Frank and two feline princesses, Katie Katherine Kalico and Molly Underfoot.

Where did you get the idea for In Those First Bright Days of Elvis?

I have always preferred historical fiction to dull history books we studied in the classroom. I wanted to give young people of today a glimpse of what life was like in the middle of the 20th century—how it was similar, and how it was different.

What is the most difficult thing about writing a book?

The most difficult thing for me was finding information about how to actually write a book. I wrote two other books, yet unpublished, before writing In Those First Bright Days of Elvis. Just because you may be good at English grammar and love to read, doesn’t mean you have the know-how to construct a plot and create characters your readers will love. The first thing I learned about writing novels was that without trouble for the main character, a book is not interesting. This led me to the next step, the creation of a compelling plot and characters that people could relate to. I strongly believe that my work in theatre has helped me to write convincing dialogue for my books.

What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?

With regard to this book, the most difficult part was doing the volumes of research necessary to give authenticity to a work of historical fiction, even though the story stems principally from the imagination.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

The only real person in the books is Elvis Presley, and his dialogue and letters are fictional. All of Elvis Presley’s concerts, recording dates, and appearances used in the book were thoroughly researched. The Hillbilly Amateur Show, which occurs in Chapter One of In Those First Bright Days of Elvis really did take place on October 17, 1955, at the War Memorial Stadium in El Dorado, Arkansas. According to eye witnesses who attended the concert, he wore the clothes described in my book.

All other events and characters, no matter how much they may remind you of someone you know or knew, are totally fictional. Naturally a writer draws on human characteristics to create a credible character, but it is more fun, in my opinion, to make up a character than to describe someone real.

Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about this book, the characters, title, process, etc, you’d like to share?

In those days there was no Drivers Ed in the schools; parents taught kids to drive. The first thing I learned about driving was to back down the driveway. The idea was if you could back up, it was a piece of cake to go forward. In the small town of El Dorado we got our learner’s permits as young as age 12. By age 14 we were fully licensed to drive, when and if our folks would let us have the car.

The only drugs we knew of were prescriptions from the doctor, or aspirin for headaches, and coke syrup for upset stomachs. Our teachers could give us a hug to show they valued us and a whipping if we didn’t “sit down and shut up” when told.  It went without saying that if you got a whipping in school, you got another one when you got home. Parents backed the teachers and Principal. In spite of threats, few kids were ever whipped in school. The presence of the wooden paddle with holes in it lying on the teacher’s desk was enough to deter most misbehavior. We were full of energy and found it difficult to sit still and study all day, but we did so, rather than take the consequences. School was interesting and fun, once you bit the bullet and realized you had no choice except to knuckle down.

When I grew up, there were no cell phones, no computers, and few families had televisions. I was fourteen years old before we got a TV in our home. Kids today don’t know how lucky they are not to have to sit at home and wait for their boyfriends or girlfriends to call. Another tidbit: Girls did not call boys in those days. They had to wait for the boy to call them.

What book have you read that you wish you had written?

I would have to say A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck—a brilliant writer. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, as well as the two companion books, A Long Way from Chicago, and A Time of Giving. All three books will touch your deepest emotions, bringing tears as well as side-splitting laughter. These books, though written for kids, must surely attract a huge crossover readership, for they so accurately and humorously reveal human nature and devoted family life.

What is your favorite book of all time? What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite book of all time must be Gone with the Wind, although I have read and delighted in many books. To name a few: Anya Seton’s Katherine; Mary Stewart’s  Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment); Désirée by Annemarie Selinko. I’ve enjoyed many classics, including Eliot’s Silas Marner, Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I adore Gary Schmidt’s middle-grade books, especially Okay For Now and The Wednesday Wars, and how could I omit the great Harry Potter series?

My favorite childhood books were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. When needing comfort, I still turn to Laura’s stories.

Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?

I have had many jobs in my life, for acting and directing theatrical productions do not provide steady work. In New York, I worked for Goodson-Todman Television Productions on To Tell The Truth (daytime), a game show. I taught speech and drama for three years in the D. C. area, and I have worked with temporary employment services, such as Kelly Girl. For many years I supplemented my work in the entertainment industry as a realtor. But I always knew in the back of my mind that someday I would focus entirely on writing. In 2006 that day came. Somewhat regretfully, I abandoned my lifelong career in theatre and film to write fulltime for young people. Regretfully because I adored being in the world of entertainment and played some intriguing roles that brought me enormous gratification, as well as awards for excellence in both acting and directing.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

The most famous person I have ever met was Johnny Cash. We met when I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a feature role in his movie, The Pride of Jesse Hallum. During breaks when the film crew was busy lighting our stand-ins, Johnny and I sat on a log and talked about Arkansas, where we both hailed from. He was a truly admirable person. Over the course of my years in theatre, I’ve had the priviledge of working with many famous people. To name a few: Karen Grassle (known for Caroline Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie television series) in As You Like It at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Daniel Davis (known for The Hunt for Red October and the sitcom The Nanny) in the Cincinnati Playhouse production of Hamlet; Robert Townsend (known for The Five Heartbeats) in the PBS Ket television series Another Page; major league Cincinnati Reds baseball star Johnny Bench in a Fifth Third Bank TV commercial; Patricia Neal narrated a PBS special I appeared in for KET called This Other Eden; Soupy Sales (known for What’s My Line and other TV game shows) in Tomboy Productions film This Train.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want readers get in touch with their emotions as they read not only this first book in The Days of Elvis series, but also the next two, In Those Dazzling Days of Elvis, (coming out in June 2017), and In Those Glory Days of Elvis, (coming out in the spring of 2018.) I hope that they will laugh, cry, and relate to the characters. I hope the book will stir their emotions and touch their lives in such a way that they will see that people are pretty much the same today as they were in that historic time period known as the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Most of all I hope they will find answers to their own problems through the characters and their choices.

What actors would you like in the main roles if your book were made into a movie?

This is the most fun question of all, because I look forward to the three books in The Days of Elvis series being made into a movie. (I believe if you believe it will, it has a much greater chance of happening.)

I would invite the following actors to audition. In my own directing of theatrical works, I never precast a show. It is so important to evaluate how actors sound and look together as an ensemble.

For the following roles:

Julie/Carmen – Emma Stone and Rooney Mara

Mama – Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, and Julianne Moore

Claudia – Cameron Diaz and Kara Sedgwick

Scott (the father) – Matt Damon and Russell Crowe

Farrel – Sterling Knight and Shia La Beouf

Engene Hoffmeyer – Jamie Bell and Rupert Grint

Maylene – Jennifer Lawrence

Frances Latimer – Hollan Roden and Blake Lively

Mamaw (in book III) – ME! (-:

Papaw – Billy Bob Thornton

What is your favorite:

Movie – Pretty Woman

Music – Classical and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Place you’ve visited – the American west

Place you’d like to visit – DeSmet, SD

TV show from childhood – As the World Turns

TV show from adulthood – The Duchess of Duke Street

Food – Hot Water Cornbread and turnip greens

Sports team – The Arkansas Razorbacks

I prefer television to board/card games

What is your favorite quote?

“Of all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” John Greenleaf Whittier

Thank you, Alicia, for your support and thanks to your readers.

Follow me on Facebook: Josephine.Keenan1

and Twitter: FJKeenan1

Visit me at www.KeenanNovels.com, and sign up for my blog.

 

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Filed under Author Blog Post, Elvis Presley, New Release, Uncategorized