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.
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.
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?”
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.
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