Gifted Book By: This novel “Harlequin’s Riddle” was part of a gifted #bookhaul of mine from my Mum and Dad for #WyrdAndWonder, Year 4! They happily surprised me with a lovely bundle of books I featured during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 celebrating the Indie Publisher Odyssey Books! This continues my readings of those novels as I was overjoyed I can read all the lovely stories I had either showcased and/or featured but wasn’t able to read during our Year 3 Wyrd And Wonder.
Thereby, I was gifted a copy of “Harlequin’s Riddle” by my parents and I was not obligated to post a review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Note: I received the Press Materials last year from the publisher and had asked if I could re-use them if and when I was able to read and/or review the stories I was featuring during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 (2020); and thankfully was given permission to do so which is why I am using them during my readings this 5th Year of Wyrd And Wonder.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I was quite smitten with all the stories I’ve selected to feature from this Independent Publisher – each of the guest features will tuck us closer to the stories themselves, introduce us to the writers and give us a newfound appreciation for the Fantasy stories which are being independently published by publishers who champion the crafting of stories and the writers who have created these fantastical worlds for us to discover.
I wanted to begin this series of features with Ms Nightingale – as her world is a rather curious one – both from the perspective of what initially inspired her series and how she first fused curiosity to building the foundation of this world she’s given us to read and by how her characters simply step forward from that world and embrace our imaginations.
As you might remember – two years ago, I had the lovely pleasure of running a series of guest features for Odyssey Books. Their authors were very welcoming to me and open to my enquiries as much as they returnt my interview and guest post topics with such hearty depth – it was a true pleasure to host all of them! I even interviewed one of them via #SatBookChat as I did a takeover chat experience that year as well.
Last year, I was able to start my readings again of Odyssey Books via “Cassandra” (see also Review) whilst previously I had featured Elizabeth Foster’s “Esme’s Wish” (from 2020: see also Review) and Felicity Banks Rahana trilogy: “The Monster Apprentice” (from 2020: see also Review) and “The Princess and the Pirate” (see also Review) in 2021.
This #WyrdAndWonder I am picking up from whence I last left off – I have the complete set of stories for the Tales of Tarya to read and I couldn’t be happier! I didn’t want to set out to read the first novel if I knew I couldn’t read the rest of the series. Thereby, I waited until our 5th Year to begin my journey into this world and it is my hope to read the rest of the Odyssey Books I have on my shelves every Monday throughout May. Part of what drew me into these stories was the premise of them — how they are a combination of reshaping what we understand about Shakespeare against what we love about Mythological Fantasy and Fantasy which is set in a world re-inspired by another writer.
Whilst I am planning to read the Odyssey Books authors on Mondays – you’ll find two more lovelies from them being featured and read this month: “Esme’s Gift” the sequel to “Esme’s Wish” and “The Shadow of the Skytree” (see also Interview). I am attempting to get a copy of “Songlines” by Carolyn Denman as well. Join me on Mondays as I take my own odyssey into a publisher’s canon of stories and series.
Ten years ago, Mina’s beloved older brother disappeared with a troupe of travelling players, and was never heard from again. On the eve of Mina’s own departure with a troupe, her father tells her she has a special gift for storytelling, a gift he silenced years before in fear of her ability to call visions into being with her stories.
Mina soon discovers that the travelling players draw their powers from a mysterious place called Tarya, where dreams are transformed into reality. While trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, she discovers a dark secret to the players’ onstage antics. Torn between finding her brother or exposing the truth about the players, could her gifts as a storyteller offer a way to solve Harlequin’s riddle?
Converse via: #HistoricalFantasy, #YAFantasy, #TalesOfTarya
as well as #OdysseyBooks & #WyrdAndWonder
About Rachel Nightingale
Rachel Nightingale has been writing since the age of eight (early works are safely hidden away). Harlequin’s Riddle is her first novel.
Rachel holds a Masters degree and PhD in Creative Writing. Her short stories have been selected several times for exhibition as part of the Cancer Council Arts awards, and winning the Mercury Short Story competition (junior section) at the age of 16 only fuelled her desire to share her stories with the world. One of her plays, No Sequel, won the People’s Choice Award and First Prize at the Eltham Little Theatre’s 10 Minute Play competition in 2014, while another, Crime Fiction, was performed at Short and Sweet Manila in 2016. Her second passion after writing is the theatre, and she has been performing in shows and working backstage for a rather long time. She co-wrote and performed in the 2013-2015 version of the hugely popular Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920s murder mystery set on the iconic Dandenong Ranges train.
The inspiration for the Tarya trilogy, which begins with Harlequin’s Riddle, began when she read a quote by Broadway actor Alan Cumming about that in-between moment just before you step on stage and enter a different world, and began to wonder what you might find in that place between worlds.
I have been hosting for Poetic Book Tours for a few years now, where I am finding myself encouraged to seek out collections of poetry or incredible fiction being published through Small Trade publishers and presses. I have an Indie spirit and mentality as a writer and I appreciate finding authors who are writing creative works through Indie resources as I find Indies have a special spirit about them. It is a joy to work with Poetic Book Tours for their resilience in seeking out voices in Literature which others might overlook and thereby, increasing my own awareness of these beautiful lyrical voices in the craft.
I received a complimentary copy of “passiflora” direct from the author Kathy Davis in order to formulate my interview questions and to better showcase her collection through our conversation. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
As I was sitting and listening to #Spotify (a bit of a random spin of Contemporary Indie Artists – songwriters, bands, ballards, hodgepodge of genres, etc) whilst working on prepping my posts for the last days of April & the first days of May (as aside from a few blog tours sprinkled throughout May, most of you know MAY is my month to rock & cheer for the Fantasy novelists who draw me into their Speculative Fiction worlds as I co-host our 4th @WyrdAndWonder this year!
Whilst the music was lifting me spirits & mood – I kept a ready eye for new tweets & bookish news – as also I was drafting new posts & sorting out where I am with both my blog’s schedule and my #currentreads! I had the pleasure of receiving the photos which will accompany my conversation, today! I was quite excited for them as I felt they added quite a bit to the interview itself and allowed everyone to see the Ms Davis’s photography.
I’ve been fortunate to start reading & showcasing poetry again this Spring, 2021. I kicked it off with Arisa White’s new autobiographical poetic drama “Who’s Your Daddy” (see also Review) whilst I concluded April with Cheryl Wilder’s “Anything That Happens” which is also autobiographical and dearly dramatic as she elevates how to heal through trauma by finding cathartic clarity in poetry and dramatic prose. (see also Review)
This May I welcome Ms Davis to my blog and it was an honour to host her and Ms Wilder – as they are newly on my radar for poets who write stirringly realistic poetic dramas & autobiographical narratives in dramatic poetic formats.
I was truly grateful to welcome Ms Davis to Jorie Loves A Story – especially after having learnt she’s been enjoying the way in which I approach sharing my readerly experiences in the works of Poetry & Drama I seek out from blog tours. It is nice to have such wonderfully positive feedback from a fellow poet who is enjoying reading the reviews which challenge me the most as a book blogger to compose.
In part, because unlike Fiction & Non-Fiction – poetry speaks to a different part of our heart & mind – it connects through the soul and takes us on a different kind of emotional journey. To be able to have my words on behalf of the collections I’ve read and reviewed in the past resonate with someone else is the best compliment I could receive. May all who visit find a bit of inspiration in what I’ve left behind. And, hopefully find some encouragement to constantly seek out works of literature which seek to challenge them to read harder and deeper into new literary waters,…
Your poetry is infused with the natural world and the rhythms of nature. As they read as if your observations of those moments were writ as soon as you saw them – I was left curious, do you take a notebook with you to keep those impressions as they first appear to you or are these reflections on the memories of those moments?
Left to Right : a) wildflower meadow, b) herb garden in Ireland and c) wildflower meadow
Photo Credit: Kathy Davis
Davis responds: I keep a journal on my desk where I’ll note things I’ve seen or heard that have stayed with me, but often I’ll pull those “obsessions” into my life in some way—to play with them firsthand, figure out what they mean. For example, after I met the naturalist described in “How to Grow Wild,” I put her advice to use in turning a portion of my yard into a wildflower meadow. The process taught me much and helped me work through my grief for my mother—leading to the poem. And each time I see a monarch butterfly, I think of her.
Another example is the borage blossoms described in “Undone.” I was introduced to the herb when I worked on a farm in Ireland, harvesting the flowers to sell to local restaurants who used them as a garnish on salads. I loved the color so much that later, when I was back in the U.S., I planted borage in my own garden. So, it was something I saw daily during the summer that ultimately found its way into the poem.
I oft find this true myself – how something we’ve observed has a larger impact on us lateron. The art of journalling is something I’ve struggled to maintain off/on over the years of my life. I have moments where it is fluid and others where it is elusive. I celebrate anyone who has better luck than me at maintaining a way to chronicle their thoughts, memories and experiences. We share a mutual love of photography, though! I would love to say I can garden but I’ve never had the right patch of land for it to make it conducive as the soil where I live is quite aggressively non-starting when it comes to plants. Wildflowers give me so much joy every year seeing where they’ve grown and what stretches of road they have beautified. It would be keen to have a meadow like this one day as there is a draw to connect with both the earth and the flowers whilst your gardening, I must admit.
Connecting your life and your experiences into your poems was wonderful to see — all the poets I’ve been featuring this Spring were doing the same thing – wherein their poetry collections read more like Non-Fiction Memoir than just a collection of poems. It is that fusion of life and memory and heart and soul which spoke to me the most in each of the different collections I was reading and ultimately showcasing on Jorie Loves A Story.
The harmony of nature and the time elapses of our lives tend to connect to each other as you’ve shown throughout ‘passiflora’. How did you develop your style of poetry and find a way to purport time itself through the natural world as it reflects against your own experiences?
Sunrise from Ft. Worden on Olympic Peninsula of Washington state : Photo Credit; Kathy Davis
Davis responds: Someone once said that to garden is to live in the past, present and future at the same time. And I think, as a gardener, the rhythms of nature are something I rely on as a constant against which the chaos of our day-to-day lives plays out, and that shows up subconsciously in my writing. Yet, climate change has shown us how fragile our environment is and that the cycles we depend upon are being disrupted (as in the poem “Freeze”). Where then do we find hope? That is a question with which I often find myself struggling. Maybe, like in the poem “Fort Worden,” hope is found in the willingness to keep on trying—whether we’re working to protect a marriage or the Salish Sea—and in taking the time to share and celebrate what we have, like the beauty of a sunrise.
I could not agree more with your sentiments — the best bits of life are the moments we can hold onto and celebrate – even if they are smaller joys, they are still something which gives us a great deal of happiness to reflect upon and to catch portions of our lives as their being lived. As you said, it is hard to grasp everything that happens in our lives and that leads into a lot of introspective reflection, too. Climate change has definitely played a role in the cycles of the natural world and the influx of issues with both gardening on a small level and on a larger scale due to the inconsistencies of the weather and the conditions of the land itself.
Hope is something which renews all of our spirits and allows us to great every new tomorrow; quite true. I liked how you were working things through your mind and sharing your thoughts with us in your poems.
Converse via: #NonFiction, #Autobiography and #Poetry Drama
& #KathyDavis and #passiflora
About Kathy Davis
Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer from Richmond, VA. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, storySouth and other journals. Davis holds a BA and MBA from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction.
Acquired Book By: I have been hosting for Poetic Book Tours for a few years now, where I am finding myself encouraged to seek out collections of poetry or incredible fiction being published through Small Trade publishers and presses. I have an Indie spirit and mentality as a writer and I appreciate finding authors who are writing creative works through Indie resources as I find Indies have a special spirit about them. It is a joy to work with Poetic Book Tours for their resilience in seeking out voices in Literature which others might overlook and thereby, increasing my own awareness of these beautiful lyrical voices in the craft.
I received a complimentary copy of “Anything That Happens” direct from the author Cheryl Wilder in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I have a wonderful surprise for you – I’m featuring both a review and an interview with the poet Cheryl Wilder. This is an interesting collection of poetry as the poet is exploring a particular moment in her life where something happened which affected the rest of the hours which came next – how tragedy and circumstances can affect us on a soul level and how we choose to transition through gut-wrenching circumstances can sometimes make or break how we enter the future.
We’ve all gone through hard circumstances at some point in our lives – we’ve all have had things happen which shake up our understandings about life and for some of us, we’ve been in accidents on highways which happened before we could process what happened at all. I still remember when my parents and I were in a car accident out of state and how blessed we were to walk away from it. It is not something I’ve mentioned in the past and I rarely speak of it IRL – it was a footnote on that one particular road trip and a humbling moment of awakening realisation on the other hand. There are moments we plan in life and then, there are unexpected moments which seek to teach of us something even if we never knew we signed up for the lesson.
In this collection of poetry, I knew I was going to be exploring raw emotions attached to the circumstances surrounding the poets experiences with the car accident and the after effects that accident had on her life due to the circumstances which followed. I elected to talk about certain sections of the collection in my interview with Ms Wilder as well as comment about the collective threading of these circumstances in the collection which I felt told the greater story and held within those passages the heart of ‘Anything That Happens’.
You’ve taken your experiences and have cleverly tucked them into poetic stories which tell pieces of your own story but let the reader fill in the unspoken bits as well. How did you sort out how to thread the tragedy into the confluence of poems which creates the backbone of Anything That Happens?
Wilder responds: I put the book through many iterations of order. Up until the last draft, I had themes that didn’t make the final cut. Once I refined the story, I figured out how I wanted readers to enter and exit the book. The car crash, which was the trauma that underlay all other events, made a natural frame for the collection.
Photo Credit: Cheryl Wilder
I knew the “Slipped” poem series had to be in the beginning, to introduce the crash. But, how to end? I wanted to bring readers into the experience while being careful to not overwhelm their emotions. I decided an arc was the best way to accomplish my goals. The poems about being my mom’s caregiver were also heavy, so I put them in the second half. (My editor, Tom Lombardo, suggested the section break before introducing the “Mom” poems.) After that, I placed poems in the collection by considering how the other themes fit into the arc.
I felt you had a natural rhythm and pace within this collection – as this is how I interpreted the order of the poems myself as a reader and how I saw this hidden patterning of how the poems were organised. Being my father’s caregiver for the past five years since he survived his stroke, I can sympathise with others who are carers for their parents and/or other loved ones, too. I felt the anchours were the “Slipped” series but you had such a wonderful cadence of honesty about how interconnected the trauma of that sequencing had an overlap effect on the rest of your life, too. And, how transparent you left your emotions and your thoughts in the poems themselves was truly quite the impact on us who were reading your stories.
You’ve mentioned poetic imagery and language as cornerstones of what renew as a writer. How do you find writing poetry allows you to connect to a reader and merge your vision into their own understanding of what you’ve written? What draws you into poetry in other words and how does the fusion of what you write into a poem become a vessel of thought others can find tangible in their own lives?
Wilder responds: I was drawn to poetry by its power to “say the most with the least amount of words.” My parents weren’t great communicators. As a child, I had a lot to say and didn’t know how to say it. There are many forms of expression, but I hungered for language. I found my path through lyric poetry.
Art is a reflection of the world. If a poem is doing its work, it is holding a mirror up to the reader. One way I create the mirror, or vessel, is by writing to the unknown reader, preferably someone 100 years in the future. I want the person to get something from the poem that has nothing to do with me. It may sound counter-intuitive, especially since my collection is personal, but I worked to rid the poems of me “the writer.” When I accomplish that, the poem is what’s left. And if I’ve done my job, it serves as a mirror to the world.
Another angle is to look at form. I think the lyric form draws readers into it. The form is sparse in language and there’s a lot of white space. I see white space as an invitation for readers to become part of the poem—to fill in the blanks. Line breaks do some heavy lifting here. For example, when I finish reading a line, I can insert my experiences—words and images—before moving on, even if it’s subconscious. The line, and the break that ends the line, allow me to be inside the. I suppose this is how a poem can also be a vessel. I try to create this same kind of space for my readers. Yes, walk in my shoes for a while, but at the same time, I hope you’re reflecting on the shoes you’re walking in.
I find everything I read has a way of looping back into my own personal experiences and how I’ve interpreted the world up until the moment I’ve reached inside the poem(s) I am reading. We all interpret what we read differently and choose to take a journey into what we read differently, too. Some stay on the outside fringes of what they read but I’ve always taken a more personal approach – to truly feel and experience what is being shared on page and in effect, this carried over to visual storytelling outlets as well. Whenever I see a film, I become whomever the lead character is and walk through their journey as if I had lived it myself. I love how you used the mirror effect to explain your writerly legacy and how the words we leave behind cast a reflection both the world at large and on the hours we’ve spent living ourselves. Language and stories irregardless of their format to express ourselves is a wonderful way of uniting both distance and time but also a mutual respect for further exploring our own humanity and the curious ways in which life itself is a pursuit of enlightenment.
A debut poetry collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance.
At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows Wilder’s journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with... and even respect.
Converse via: #NonFiction, #Autobiography and #Poetry Drama
& #CherylWilder and #AnythingThatHappens
About Cheryl Wilder
Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens, a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection (Press 53, 2021), a collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press, 2017), explores the frailty and necessity of human connection.
A founder and editor of Waterwheel Review, Cheryl earned her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
I love seeking out Biographical Historical Fiction stories in order to better understand the persons who’ve lived before me and to have an interpersonal glimpse into their lives – which is why I seek out an equal amount of Biopics in motion pictures to watch as well. This is how I came to watch the Netflix original mini-series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker”. (see also Wikipedia) Coincidentally, this aired whilst I was preparing my interview questions for this blog tour and thankfully it gave me an inside glimpse into the back-history of what inspired this poetic drama by the author.
Those of us on the tour received a PDF copy of the story by Ms Augustin – as you know, due to my chronic migraines, I cannot read stories electronically but I do sometimes read chapter samplers of stories online to gather a bit about a writer’s style and to better understand what the story might yield in print when I go to read it in a format better suited for me. In this instance, as I was moving through the PDF to find a section to preview for my interview questions I noticed there are photographs included with this story. I wanted to post an advisory on my tour stop that if you are a sensitive reader one photograph did concern me as it actually shows a lynching which I was not personally expecting to be included myself.
Outside of that photograph, the few sections I previewed helped inspire this conversation and I was thankful to have this copy of the book to use in my research to present a better rounded picture of what inspired the poet to create this dramatic story about the Walkers and how the Walkers are continuing to inspire everyone who finds their story. This is a well-timed conversation as many are still watching “Self Made” and I know others are regularly chatting about Madam CJ Walker and the impact she had on both industry and women-led companies who re-wrote what a woman can accomplish in whichever endeavour of business she chooses to become involved and find success.
I found watching “Self Made” to be an incredible story of both internal strength and belief in one’s self to pursue your own dreams and goals in life whilst embracing the fortitude one needs as a woman to achieve the impossible in a male-dominated world. There is so much truth in this mini-series about what women have faced in different generations to overcome the oppression of yesterday – it is a rising light of how hard we have had to fight for what we have as women of industry as much as how hard it is to build a brand when the concept for the brand isn’t one that everyone wants to embrace.
I loved the fact Octavia Spencer had the lead role in bringing Madam CJ Walker to life as I loved her performance and her instincts for telling Walker’s story. I have long admired her acting and am wicked thankful she is now in high demand as she deserves to continue to get these kinds of roles where she can shine such a wonderful light on the characters I feel she was bourne to portray! She’s just a wicked good actress and its a delight to see her in roles which I feel are strengthened due to how she’s approached them as an actress.
I also feel we are undeserved as both readers and citizens not to embrace more of the diversity of our country and of the persons who have made historical impacts on our society. We have such a beautiful diverse citizenship and yet, a lot of the historical stories which need to be told are never brought to light. I am thankful Walker’s story is finally coming into the mainstream in order to reach a broader audience but I have always maintained we need more stories about living histories of all persons in our country’s past in order to have a better rounded view of our History. All voices and lives need representation and all lives are important to be heard and shared.
It is an absolute joy for me to highlight the life and history of Madam CJ Walker and to share this interview on the blog tour celebrating her life and story. I hope you will walk away with some inspiration for your own life as much as have a better understanding of what Madam CJ Walker had to endure in order to reach for her dreams and bring to reality the world she saw in her dreams.
Author, producer, and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter, A'Lelia. Rojé's singular and accomplished work is presented through the intimate lens of the mother-daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric to haiku, blackout to narrative. (One poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.) Written in tribute to Walker, Out of No Way deftly and beautifully explores themes of race, motherhood, sacrifice, beauty, and the meaning of success in Jim Crow America.
Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair started falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process, she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America.
Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring. Whether I am reading selections from Indie Authors & publishers to Major Trade and either from mainstream or INSPY markets – I am finding myself happily residing in the Historical past each year I am a blogger.
What I have been thankful for all these years since 2013 is the beautiful blessing of discovering new areas of Historical History to explore through realistically compelling Historical narratives which put me on the front-lines of where History and human interest stories interconnect. It has also allowed me to dive deeper into the historic past and root out new decades, centuries and millenniums to explore. For this and the stories themselves which are part of the memories I cherish most as a book blogger I am grateful to be a part of the #HFVBTBlogTours blogger team.
I received a complimentary copy of “Naked Truth: or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit” direct from the author Carrie Hayes in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I wanted to read “Naked Truth: or Equality, the Forbidden Fruit”:
Ever since I first started to uncover a hidden niche of Historical Fiction which I refer to as Feminist Historical Fiction – those stories which are redefining our knowledge about the Women’s Rights movement, the histories and lives of the Suffragettes and everything interconnected to Intersectional Feminism as well as the larger breadth of how fighting for Women’s Rights has been an ongoing battle for many generations – those are the stories which have been enriching my readerly life for four years now.
I read a re-telling of the life of Victoria Woodhull in August (Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina) which helped heal my heart about the portions of Woodhull’s life I felt so very difficult to read through in Flynn’s edition of the story.
It has led me down some interesting passageways – as I’ve been following in the stead of Victoria Woodhull in different incantations of her her life being told whilst I also found a remarkable trilogy about Genevieve and how her story could be re-told through a Feminist lens by Nicole Evelina (ie. the Genevieve Tales Trilogy archives).
I am encouraged by finding strong female characters that are illuminating the long history of Women’s Equality. This includes a historical mystery novel The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe which approached the topic from a unique angle of discussion.
Through my readings I have felt more anchoured to the history of all the women who’ve lived before me, making our lives better for their sacrifice and dedication.
I was reading so many of these stories for quite a long while (over about two years) before they stopped coming through my Inbox in regards to blog tours. I had meant to seek more of these kinds of stories out myself by way of my local libraries or on Scribd (for audiobooks), however, as we all notice life has a way of taking us elsewhere at times when we’re thinking of following another path entirely. Thereby, I have let serendipity help me find new voices in this wonderful scope of Historical Fiction which parlays into Biographical Historical Fiction as well – as most of these stories are straight out of the living persons accounts about what was happening in the world and how women have been fighting for our Equality for far more years than anyone could imagine!
And, this is the latest I’ve found which picks up the threads of what I’ve previously read whilst encouraging all of us to carry onwards – to seek out more stories of our conjoined histories and to peer back into what has been fuelling the fight for our rights through decades and centuries of fierce women who have stood up, resisted and found their voice through protest to seek a better future for us all.
In a small way, I’ve been contributing to their legacy by amplifying voices on Twitter – by retweeting and sharing the content about the #WomensMarch and the continuing quest to have our rights secured in all facets of our lives. I might be an online activist right now but that doesn’t lessen my voice or my hope for a better tomorrow for all women once we no longer have to fight to be heard, respected and treated as equals. For me Feminism is Intersectional – it is about all of us together – including our transgender sisters – as we either all rise together or we all continue to fall.
It is better to understand History than to continuously repeat it and in this regard, it is best to understand the sacrifices of the past which have endevoured us to live as free as we do now in our modern world. Here is to the continuing fight to secure more rights and to finally have true Equality.
What first inspired you to research and eventually write about the History of Women’s Rights and the Suffragette movement?
Hayes responds: As a girl, my upbringing was somehow slipped into that space between privilege and feminine acquiescence…. by which I mean to say that my ignorance of the feminist movement (despite or maybe because of my mother’s personal friendship with Gloria Steinem) was absolute. I understood practically nothing about suffragism.
When Margaret Thatcher was first elected as Prime Minister I was a student at a girls’ school in Britain, but the only reference to feminism on the part of the teachers there was a look. They’d give you a look. No one ever said anything directly about the history of the women’s movement. My own mother was such a maverick, I couldn’t imagine ANYONE dictating to her or denying her ANYTHING… so I was completely oblivious to what women had actually gone through…. Now, when I read my answer, that sounds pretty unlikely, particularly as my mom had been a friend of Gloria’s in the sixties, but their friendship was complicated by my dad’s antipathy towards Gloria… so perhaps that made all things feminist sort of verboten…. In his defence, though, he was not a male chauvinist….So, many decades later, long after both of my parents had died, I came across Other Powers, which was Barbara Goldsmith’s biography of Victoria Woodhull and it just lit a flame inside of me.
And there is so, so, so much about this part of history that people simply know NOTHING about….. which is also really astonishing! For example- who knew that there was a vibrant, respected community of female columnists and publishers in the United States during the nineteenth century? I had no idea. Or that the highest paid syndicated columnist after the Civil War was a woman, who wrote under the name of Fannie Fern… and she was the person who coined the phrase ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ I think that’s fascinating.
I couldn’t agree more – how much History is left unknown and unsaid – whilst I was in school I was remarking about how there are these large gaps in information being shared – about Feminist topics, about the Suffragettes and Women’s Rights, about the Civil Rights era and also about African-American History – so much History was completely ignored and never taught. It wasn’t until I became a book blogger and ‘accidentally’ realised my favourite niche of literature is “historical fiction” did I finally get to soak into compellingly honest and authentically written stories straight out of the historic past which sought to not just educate us on the past through a lens of the person’s who once lived but to give us a proper bit of insight into what shaped their lives and why they choose to live the lives they had.
I oft lament nowadays online – my blog and on #bookTwitter, Historical Fiction is what needs to replace required readings in History and Social Science classes because the writers who are researching these stories and are writing them with such a tenacity of voice to tell the truth of the past ought to be in the hands of today’s students. They’d learn far more through the pursuit of those stories which could offer a springboard into further readings and research than the general route they take in those classes without the stories. At least that is my two pence!
I can relate to what you’re talking about in a few regards – as I hadn’t realised I was raised to be an Intersectional Feminist nor did I realise I was a Feminist until again, I became a book blogger – as those terms re-surfaced and as I sought out their definitions and better understood Intersectional Feminism, I realised this is how I was raised and how I grew up as my Mum was equally dynamic and independent in her own right, too. I think when you come from a background of strong women (such as we have; for me it is generationally shifting back even into my great-great-great grandparents) – it self-motivates you through your own personal histories to become more self-aware of the world and of the history of women’s rights as well. I love fiercely strong women and I am walking the path of being one myself.
What sparked the interest to tell this particular story in this vein of lens?
Hayes responds: Well, the Claflin sisters are pretty irresistible as protagonists. Their legend gives everything about them a wiley, unreliable, and pretty saucy aspect. Some people absolutely loved them, and others were like, ‘Woah! Free love, sexual agency, what???’ And there’s also a part of them that is exactly like the Kardashians are today. Super media savvy, with one version of themselves that the public sees and another that is probably closer to the truth of who they really are – to wit, Kim reading law, etc…
Originally, I had Naked Truth starting when they were much, much younger, because there’s this wild sensationalism of their life with their parents, and Victoria’s time in California and Tennessee’s first marriage – all of it, very hard hitting Victorian melodrama, along with Canning’s alcoholism and drug addiction and various charges of prostitution and all that steamy stuff. But being a debut novelist, I was advised the book could only be so big. Then I couldn’t figure out how to gauge the plotting, so as to break it up into a trilogy and make it a more marketable, manageable product.
Eventually, I worked with a fabulous editor, Nicoke Bokat who really helped me get a handle on the story and the telling of it. Then, co-incidentally, I read The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer (a novel about photographer Lee Miller), and the way she told the story in the present tense gave me a lot to think about….. Then it began to dawn on me that Tennessee and Victoria’s story is actually about the media and how it is delivered and how it is consumed. It is particularly about women and the media, and how caught up we, as women, are by image and perception- more than we are by fundamental truths…..so the whole thing played out as a sort of decoupage in my mind- or like in old movies where you see newspaper headlines spinning round…
I love when you have too much material rather than feeling as if you’ve short-changed your story by not writing enough! I have a feeling I’ll have this same issue once I start to publish my own stories as I tend to write in length rather than in the shortness of word counts and the structures of industry. (er, my blog is a testament to this!) I felt breaking your story into three installments was a smart choice – as I personally love seeing how a story can evolve and redefine itself through multiple installments of the same narrative. I have read several firsts as a book blogger in the past which I hope to continue reading one day as they were incredibly strong and well founded at their beginnings. Here’s to seeing your fully realised story eventually published and released as a trilogy!
As I have been travelling alongside Woodhull for awhile now, I know there is a dear amount of her history to ‘unpack’ and ruminate over – hers is not an easy story to tell nor is it an easy story to read due to the fixed marks of time and circumstance which affected her history. I’ve lost a lot of sleep over reading about her story and of processing certain moments of her life.
What are you hoping Historical Fiction readers will gain from the perspective you’ve provided?
Hayes responds: That there was so much more going on that we might imagine in the lives of those who now exist now only as footnotes or obscure curiosities. That and also that the female impulse to bury those women who don’t suit us (for whatever reason) is not a good one. That the issue of sexual equality, a woman’s right to privacy and to her own body, even within marriage, has remained controversial in the political discussion because the leaders of the suffragist movement shied away from taking it on, preferring only to deal with the vote – as opposed to actual sexual equality. There were some wonderful discussions around this just before the 19th Amendment’s centennial. Much of what’s plagued women during the fight for equal rights has been due, in large part, to those rights not being addressed in tandem with the right to vote.
I concur with this – in our pursuit to secure the right to vote, we did not secure the right for other ‘civil rights and liberties’ which should have been inherently given at the same time and yet were withheld. Our ongoing pursuit of those freedoms and rights is still playing out today and are still undecided in regards to being a secured right and being merely a temporary one which is constantly besieged of being overturn. By re-tracing the histories of what we’ve been fighting for and what we have accomplished we can better understand the stakes of today.
Whilst at the same time what was more challenging – aligning your story into the timeline of History and/or threading a story of your own vision into History as it unfolded?
Hayes responds: For me, the life of the Claflin sisters was a gift. Their real life adventure moved beautifully apace with the timeline of history. They were products of that time and their story flowed accordingly. Simplifying their narrative was an enormous challenge, because they knew everyone and went everywhere. Choosing how to rein it in was the tricky bit. The running joke in my family was that it was “The Story Too Big To Be Told!”
You gave me a jolly good laugh about the ‘story too big to be told’!! I love how you’ve found characters to write about who were so vividly alive during their lifetimes that their stories simply knitted together as if you were merely writing down their actual histories rather than having to pierce together a history that you hadn’t previously known. Some characters and/or lives we’re created come together in such a way as to give us pause about how we write and how writing fuses us into a creative space where there is something else going on besides the artfulness of telling tales and touching souls with our words.
What was your favourite section of the novel to write?
Hayes responds: I love, love, the big scenes, with crowds of people and tons of food. What one reads now are mere snippets of the original set ups. The dinner party where Victoria decides she will have her own newspaper was a favorite and the scene in Washington after Victoria’s speech at Lincoln Hall. I enjoyed those very much. I also love to write scenes where we think it’s going to go one way and then something happens, so that it goes in a different direction. I do find those great fun.
I loved how you’ve responded to the question and to all the questions I asked of you – it felt like a very organic conversation and one we might have had over tea or lattes. It shows how much you love your topic and subjects of interest whilst also painting the portrait of a writer whose in love with creating the story she was meant to write and cast out into the world. It is a pleasure of joy to be able to share this with my readers and the visitors who are following the blog tour!
From Washington Heights to Washington D.C. comes a true American Herstory. Filled with intrigue, lust, and betrayal, this is the fight for sexual equality.
1868, on the eve of the Gilded Age: Spiritualist TENNESSEE CLAFLIN is smart, sexy, and sometimes clairvoyant. But it’s her sister, VICTORIA WOODHULL, who is going to make history as the first woman to run for President of the United States.
It starts with the seduction of the richest man in America. Next, they’ll take New York City and the suffragist movement by storm, because together, Tennessee and Victoria are a force of nature. Boldly ambitious, they stop at nothing, brushing shoulders with Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony, using enough chutzpah to make a lady blush.
That is, until their backstabbing family takes them to court, and their carefully spun lives unravel, out in public and in the press.
Converse via: #HistFic or #HistNov as well as #HistoricalFiction and #Equality
+ #NakedTruth, #WomensRights and #HFVBTBlogTours
Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook
About Carrie Hayes
Over the years, Carrie has tried a lot of things. She’s sold vacuum cleaners, annuities and sofas. She’s lived at the beach and lived in Europe. She’s taught school and worked in film. For a while, she was an aspiring librarian, but she fell in love and threw her life away instead. Back in the States, she started over, then met an architect who said, “Why don’t you become a kitchen designer?” So, she did. Eventually she designed interiors, too. And all that time, she was reading. What mattered was having something to read. Slowly, she realized her craving for books sprang from her need to know how things would turn out. Because in real life, you don’t know how things will turn out. But if you write it, you do. Naked Truth or Equality the Forbidden Fruit is her first book.