Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blast from the Past: Loaded Questions with Christopher Moore, author of "You Suck: A Love Story"

I love Christopher Moore. The moment I picked up his novel Lamb, a novel that follows around Biff, the thirteenth apostle and Jesus' favorite childhood pal. I routinely recommend it as one of the funniest books that I have ever read. I have an admittedly embarrassing confession that I couldn't bear to tell Christopher that last time I interviewed him. Four years ago while shopping at a bookstore I lucked upon Christopher Moore, he was doing an event later at
another bookstore but had stopped by the store I was at, as is customary, to sign all of the copies that were on hand. Not only did I purchase everyone of his books (signed, they were signed to me!) I also told him this funny scene I had imagined would have fit very well in the plot of Lamb. Now, I have seen a good many perfectly capable, eloquent and wise individuals meet their idols (movie stars, musicians and authors) and immediately turn into a blathering ninny. Blindsided by the sheer luck of arriving at an unpublicized appearance by one of my favorite authors and convinced I could make him laugh, I attempted to tell my story. The words ... well, the words got out of my mouth but once I had finished Christopher was simply starring at me in a kind yet bewildered (maybe not bewildered, maybe just puzzled ...) way that implied that I had most certainly not been funny.

Flash forward two years to 2006 and the interview below in which I got a chance, more composed, to talk with Christopher Moore again. I tried to keep my gushing to a minimum but I am not sure that I succeeded. After we had emailed several times back and forth and were done with the email I thought about telling him about our brief and strange encounter - sure that he would not remember because it hadn't been *that* terrible. I envisioned the bewildered -- er, puzzled look on his face, however, and pledged not to risk doing it again.

I just read some news of the next book by Christopher Moore, titled Fool: A Novel which is set to be released in February of 2009.

Below is my 2006 interview with Christopher Moore. Do enjoy.

K Hewitt: Your newest book A Dirty Job has been nominated for the Quill Awards (the nomination came in 2006, which it won for best General Fiction!) . Ive already voted for you and promise to use what little sway I have with friends and family to get them to vote as well. What I want to know is whether or not you have an acceptance speech ready.

Christopher Moore: No, actually I won a Quill award last year (for The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror in the Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror category) and my publisher, Lisa Gallagher accepted the award. If I win this year, I'm sure she'll accept it again. I'll be in England researching a new book.

Kelly: Maya Angelou is also nominated for a Quill this year for her newest book of poetry. One of your books Fluke: Or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings is kind of a play on her well known I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Are you nervous about seeing her at the Quill Awards ceremony? Is there a Quill Awards ceremony?

Christopher: Maya is the shit. We would so hit it off. Like I said, I'll be in England, but I'd love to meet Maya.

Kelly: If the two of you hug and make up do you promise to send a copy of the photo to Loaded Questions so that we can run an exclusive story?

Christopher: You betcha.

Kelly: According to our friends over at Wikipedia, your books are considered "absurdist fiction" how do you feel about that?

Christopher: I feel that Wikipedia is considered almost a legitimate reference source. No, actually, that's as good a description of what I do as anything.

Kelly: Plug time. Would you like to share a few words with Loaded Questions readers about your next book?

Christopher: My next book, YOU SUCK: A Love Story, is a tender love story that illustrates the difficulties a young, urban couple encounters while trying to deal with the complications of being vampires, and how they are able to avoid the forces of the law, the light, a bunch of frozen turkey bowlers. It's like Romeo and Julliet, except there's less sword fighting and more people doing the nasty.

Kelly: Okay, how about a hypothetical? Your agent has booked you for a literary festival. Upon your arrival you learn that you're entered in a three-legged author race. You have two options for a parnter: Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer. Who do you choose? (In my defense and Christopher's Norman Mailer was alive and well, walking with two canes in 2006. He has since passed away, making the question a bit easier.)

Christopher: Oh come on, can I get someone that isn't 90 years old!!!? That's all I need is to be tied to someone who probably won't survive the first fifty yards.

KH: What are some of the books, music and movies that load down the shelves of Christopher Moore?

CM: I've got a new book by Nicole Galland, who writes cool historical novels. I have a new book by Matt Ruff, that won't come out to the public for a while. I have a bunch of my own books in British edtions, which they just sent me, and I have a buttload of books on Medieval history, because my next book is going to be set in that period. I've just moved into an apartment from a big house, so my bookshelf space has been cut back quite a bit. If I'm not going to be reading it in the next month or so, it goes in storage.

Practical Demonkeeping (1992)
Coyote Blue (1994)
Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (1995)
Island of the Sequined Love Nun (1997)
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1999)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (2002)
Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (2003)
The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (2004)
A Dirty Job (2006)
You Suck: A Love Story (2007)

And the forthcoming Fool: A Novel (20

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blast from the Past: Loaded Questions with "Peony in Love" author, Lisa See

Interviewing Lisa See for the release of her first novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a no brainer. I have always been a fan of Chinese historical fiction and after visiting Beijing a few years ago I wanted to read as much about China as possible. This lead to a long and enjoyable detour through the books of the stellar Pearl Buck, the truthful and stark books by Anchee Min, a native author who survived the Cultural Revolution and came to the US to write about her life in the propaganda machine known the opera, Madam Mao Zedung and a Chinese imperial dynasty and finally to the story of Lisa See's Snow Flower, a story rich in the historical lives and communication between Chinese women.

Below is an interview I did over two years ago with Lisa See who, as you will see, is a wealth of information about Chinese history and culture. It is important to note that while the most recent book by Lisa See at the time of our interview is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - her most recent novel is Peony in Love. As the interview ends See writes a great deal about Peony in Love which she had already finished at the time.


Kelly Hewitt: Your most recent novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is based around nu shu ("women's writing") which has been noted to be the only gender-based written language to have been found in the world. When did you first learn about this form of communication? What led you to base a novel around it?

Lisa See: I first heard about nu shu when I reviewed a book for the L.A. Times on the history of footbinding. It was just a short three or four page mention, but I thought, how could this exist and I didn’t know about it? Then I thought, how could this exist and we all didn’t know about it? Because so often we hear that in the past there were no women writers, artists, historians, chefs, and the list goes on and on. Of course women did these things, but that work has been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up. Nu shu, on the other hand, was an example of something that women had invented, used, and kept a secret themselves for a thousand years. That amazed me, and I have to say I became totally obsessed.

But it took me a long time before I realized I would write a novel based on nu shu. I read all this academic stuff written by scholars and I went to southwestern Hunan province to learn what I could. What I discovered was that the scholars—as brilliant as they are—always seemed to leave out the emotions inherent in the secret language. It was something used by real women who had real emotions. I thought a novel would be the best way to explore that.

Kelly: I imagine that you spent quite a bit of time doing research about your family for you first book On Gold Mountain: The One Hundred Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family, during that process did you ever discover something that surprised you?

Lisa: I worked on On Gold Mountain for five years. I interviewed friends, relatives, business associate, and even some enemies of my family. I spent a lot of time in people’s attics, basements, closets, and garages looking at ephemera. I went to Waterville, Washington, where my grandmother was from, to Central Point Oregon, where my great-grandmother was from, to my family’s home village in China, and to a lot of national, state, and local archives of various sorts. It’s hard for me to pick one thing that surprised me, because I was surprised so many times.

I guess the thing that really got me though had to do with my great-grandmother. In my family, everyone always talked about my great-grandfather, Fong See, but rarely about his wife. She was the mom, so I guess not very interesting. I knew she’d been born in Central Point, that her mother died when she was a baby, that her father died when she was seven, that she was raised by brothers who were reputed to be quite cruel to her, and that she ran away from home when she was seventeen. That’s it! I contacted the historical society in Medford, OR, and got a very good researcher. Periodically, she would send me things she’d found – a clipping about Ticie’s father’s death in a horse-racing accident, when her brother got married, the homestead claim for the property. The researcher drove by the homestead and saw that the barn was still there.

I decided to go up and see what I could see. I went to the property and walked around, and then I drove to the cemetery, which was just down the street. I knew Ticie’s father’s name, but not her mother’s. I walked through the cemetery until I found John Milton Pruett’s gravestone and next to it the one for his wife, Luscinda. I now knew when she was born and when she died. About a half hour after that I was at the historical society and I asked if it ever snowed in Medford. (It was 120 degrees that day, no kidding, so it wasn’t a crazy question.) The researcher told me that, yes, it snowed, but they were also known for their fog and heat. In fact, she didn’t live in Medford and kept an 1877 copy of a diary written by a man who was a farmer by day and a preacher on horseback by night. He always made a notation of the weather and the researcher now used it like an almanac so she would know how to dress for work. Would I like to take a look at it? Sure!

I had just learned that Luscinda had died on April 9, 1877. I turned to that page in the farmer’s diary and he was there with her when she died. It turned out he was the Pruetts’ next door neighbor. The whole diary was filled with anecdotes about the Pruett family—how they traded butter for lard, how they traded peaches for pears, how much the reverend paid the Pruett boys to do hauling for him. And it tracked when Luscinda first got sick, when the Reverend Patterson’s wife made her special homemade cough syrup, that when Luscinda knew she was going to die the Bible verse that she asked him to read at her funeral, and, finally, what the weather was like on the day she was buried.

Kelly: I was fascinated to learn, when researching for this interview, that your grandfather, Fong See, was the patriarch of Los Angeles' Chinatown. How has your grandfather's legacy shaped your life?

My great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad. My great-grandfather was the godfather/patriarch of Los Angeles Chinatown. I don’t look at all Chinese, but I grew up in a very large Chinese-American family. I have about 400 relatives in Los Angeles, of which there are about a dozen that look like me. They were my mirror, so how could I believe I was different than they were?

All writers are told to write what they know, and this is what I know. And when I don’t know something – nu shu, for example – I love to find out whatever I can about it and then bring my sensibility to the subject. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in many ways I straddle two cultures. I try to bring what I know from both cultures into my work. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but perhaps the American side of me is able to open a window into China and things Chinese for non-Chinese, while the Chinese side of me makes sure that what I’m writing is true to the Chinese culture without making it seem too "exotic" or "foreign."

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and great-aunt and great-uncles in Chinatown. As I said, we have a big family. There were lots of Chinese weddings and one-month parties. Recently, I’m sorry to say, there have been too many funerals. All of these things have been very traditional Chinese. Pioneer Chinese American families really hang on to tradition and culture in a very old-fashioned way. In China, traditions changed and evolved over the last 100 years. That just wasn’t the case with the families who came to America. They held on to their traditions as though they were frozen in time.

Many of my memories are about food. My grandfather loved to cook. Because our family was so big, we had lots of banquets. When my oldest son went to college, he was very homesick. He would visit the girls in the next room, because they had a rice steamer. The smell reminded him of home and helped him with his homesickness.

Anyway, to answer your question, the influence has been in everything in my life. It’s in how I raise my children, in what I eat, in how I remember the people in my family who’ve died. It’s in what I plant in my garden and how I decorate my house. I have a western doctor, but my main doctor is from China and practices traditional Chinese medicine.But because of how I look I will always be "outside." In Los Angeles Chinatown, people know me. But when I go to other Chinese communities or to China, people see me as an outsider because of how I look. When I go into the larger white community here in the U.S., people look at me and talk to me as though I belong, but inside I often feel very foreign. In both worlds, I’m a bit outside. I think this has made me a better – and certainly more interesting – writer, because it really makes me look and feel.

Kelly: Having designed a walking tour of LA's Chinatown yourself, what places and sights would you recommend for visitors?

Lisa: I love the Chinese American Museum, which isn’t in Chinatown proper. It’s at El Pueblo, where Olvera Street is, in one of the last of the original buildings of the original Chinatown. They’ve done a great job with their permanent and temporary exhibits. I also highly recommend walking the length of the two walk-through streets from Broadway up to Chungking Road. My family’s stores—the F. See On Company and Fong’s—are in the block west of Hill Street. Stepping into them is like stepping back in time. They have great antiques, but also wonderful people, if I do say so myself. My great Uncle Kuen is at Fong’s. He’s 96 years old, sharp as a tack, and filled with great stories.

Chinatown is interesting today because of the juxtaposition of the old and then all these trendy art galleries. It’s fun just to poke around. I love Realm, which has a contemporary take on curios and home décor. Somewhere in there, you need to eat, so I’d recommend the Empress Pavilion for dim sum, the Mayflower Restaurant on Spring Street for dinner, and the Phoenix Bakery for some take-home goodies, especially the strawberry and whipped cream cake.

Kelly: You are a woman of many talents, involved in your writing as well as the community. What kind of projects are you currently working on?

Lisa: I liken what I’m working on now to a reverse mirror image of Snow Flower. It doesn’t have a tile yet, but I’m guessing Peony might be in it somewhere. Unfortunately there’s no short way to say this, so I hope you’ll bear with me. The new novel is set in the 17th century in the Yangzi Delta. The women there were from the elite class, highly educated, but also lived in almost utter seclusion. More women writers in that small area were being published than anywhere else in the world at that time. This is another one of those things that made me think, why didn’t I know this and why doesn’t everyone else know this? It’s really remarkable. No other country in the world comes remotely close to how advanced China was in this regard.

There was a subcategory of these women writers called the lovesick maidens: sixteen-year-old girls who were obsessed with the opera, The Peony Pavilion, caught cases of lovesickness like the heroine in the opera, and wrote beautiful poetry as they wasted away and died. The new novel is based on a true story of three of those lovesick maidens who were married to the same man, who together wrote the first piece of literary criticism written by women ever to be published in the world. Wu Wushan’s Three Wives Commentary of Mudan Ting stayed in print in China for 300 years, and yet almost no one knows about it today – either in China or in other parts of the world. I’m writing it as a ghost story within a ghost story, and I’m using the richness and magic of the Chinese afterlife to explore the different manifestations of love—mother love, romantic love, erotic love, deep-heart love—and how they can transcend death. Ultimately the story is about female friendship, the cost of expressing creativity under oppressive circumstances, and the desire and need for women to be heard—all as timely and pertinent today as they were three centuries ago.

I’m also working on two other China-related projects. The first is a young adult book on the history of the Chinese in America. This is a completely different kind of project and lets me look at photographs, archival materials, and other types of ephemera to help tell the history in a way that will be captivating to kids. The other project is a calendar for 2008 of photographs from beautiful places in China. I’m writing the text.

Kelly: I am one of those people who can't help but fill their shelves with books, CD, and movies. What is the one thing that loads down the shelf of Lisa See?

Lisa: These days, the things that are literally loading down my shelves are the foreign editions of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It’s being published in thirty languages, in hard and soft covers, and in some cases large print, on CD and on tape. It’s the most of any one thing I have on any of my shelves, and it’s kind of embarrassing. But I bet that wasn’t the answer you were looking for.

I’ve got lots of books on Chinese art, history, and culture. Most of them have long been out of print, so I’ve spent a lot of time surfing the web to find them from all over the world. It’s always a treat when a new one arrives. I’ve also got tons of music – lots of Bob Dylan, soundtracks, Mexican and South African music, hip hop, operas, everything really. But I’m not a big movie collector. I love to go to the movies and I probably see about 100 a year, but I rarely feel a need to own them. The ones I do own are Top Hat, Aliens, The Matrix, and Jules et Jim.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Books That Just Arrived: "The Heretic Queen" by Michelle Moran

The Heretic Queen
by Michelle Moran
September, 2008

I was very happy to find the brand new copy of the latest novel by Michelle Moran waiting for me on my doorstep earlier this week.

The second Egyptian novel (after Nefertiti) by Michelle Moran arrived last month to praises from some of the most successful and prominent historical fiction around. Robin Maxwell, author of Mademoiselle Boleyn, writes, “Performing deft feats of Egyptian magic, Michelle Moran transforms stone-cold history-from-hieroglyphs into gripping narrative, peopled by unforgettable characters seething with conflict and passion. I couldn’t stop reading, but I didn’t want this book to end.”

Lauren Willig, author of The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, agreed writing, “Michelle Moran breathes new life into the faded paintings on tomb walls, bringing Ramesses, Nefertari, and the whole panoply of ancient Egyptian splendor to vivid, bustling, page-turning life.”

I emailed Moran when I heard that her new book was coming out and she was kind enough to agree to do a second interview. Here is a link to my first interview with Michelle Moran. Stay tuned for our second interview, coming soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blast from the Past: Loaded Questions with "Dreamers of the Day" author, Mary Doria Russell - The First Interview

I have written a lot about Mary Doria Russell and have interviewed her a total of three times. The following interview is our very first interaction and I use the word interaction purposefully because if nothing else Mary Doria Russell is both hilarious and interactive. I will probably always remember our first interview because it was the first time that an author completely surprised me (but in a pleasant not creepy way) when she called me honey, shared her inner conversations:

"I've asked myself, "Mary, would it effing KILL you to write a novel about a middle-aged Ohio lady? Why does everything have to be so hard? Why do you always pick out something that takes years of research because you don't know jack about any of it when you start?"

All of this and she cusses! I once wrote about her: "Mary is a kind, boisterous, funny, and an honest woman who once told me that, in order to make sure she wasn't writing a 'feel-good Holocaust novel', she had quite literally flipped a coin to find out which characters would live and which would die. Mary Doria Russel likes to cuss and I like not stopping her." That introduction, we later noticed has been used by several websites when discussing the bestselling author. Mary even informed me in our last interview that my observations had been used to introduce her at the grand opening of the Granville Library.

In short, I jump at a chance to interview Mary Doria Russell. Here you can access my second interview with Mary and my third Mary Doria Russell interview in which she uses twice the amount of profanity as usual. There's more to it than just the brutal honesty and naughty words, Mary has also shared a great deal of her history and shared very personal childhood memories especially when discussing the character Agnes Shanklin, heroine of her latest novel Dreamers of the Day, signs of a truly genuine nature.

Without further chatter, here is my first interview with Mary Doria Russell that has never been shared here at Loaded Questions as with all of the Blast from the Past interviews which originally appeared on another website.

Kelly Hewitt: Is it true that for A Thread of Grace you literally flipped a coin to decide if your characters would live or die?

Mary Doria Russell: Yeah, it's true. Here's the thing of it. I was writing a novel about Italy, the one nation in Nazi-occupied Europe where citizens participated in a vast conspiracy to deny the Germans what they most wanted: Jews. They were stunningly successful, despite 20 months of vicious and vindictive occupation by Italy's jilted ally. More than 85% of the Jews of Italy survived -- not only native Italian Jews but also thousands of foreign refugees.

Now the trouble with this enterprise is, whenever you write about rescuers or survivors, you invite readers to identify with them. You risk indulging fantasies like, "I would have hidden Anne Frank," or "I'd have fallen down and pretended to be dead," or "I would have emigrated at the first sign of trouble." No. You wouldn't have. The overwhelming statistical reality is, if you were Jewish, you'd have died and if you weren't, you'd either keep your mouth shut and join the party to get a job, or you'd gleefully heave a rock through somebody's shop window and take whatever you wanted. Don't kid yourself. People haven't gotten any more moral or decent or prescient in the past 60 years, I promise you.

So the problem was, How do I avoid writing a Feel-Good Holocaust Novel? Because unless you are in Darfur, right now, fighting the Janjuweed, you don't get to feel good about the Holocaust. You don't get to take vicarious credit for the balls-to-the-wall crazy-ass bravery that the Italians showed during the Nazi occupation. Only they and Paul Rusesabagina --whose resourceful courage was dramatized in Hotel Rwanda-- get to feel good about how they behaved. The rest of us should be ashamed.

I needed to do something that would make readers feel the jeopardy, the uncertainty, the complete randomness of who lived and who died. All the survivors and combat veterans I interviewed said the same thing: It was dumb luck, who lived and who died. It didn't matter if you tried to stay safe, or if you took insane chances, it was dumb luck. So my son said, "Okay, let's make a list of the characters and flip a coin. Heads they live, tails they die."

As the author, I got to decided when and how they died, but I only reversed the flip in one case, where it would have been too sentimental to accept the coin toss.

Kelly: Did the process make you nervous? Have you done this for other novels? Would you recommend it to other authors?

Mary: No, none of the other novels seemed to call for this. I started The Sparrow, for example, with a sole survivor, so pretty much that settled things. I loved my characters, and I delayed offing them as long as I could, but they were going down. Would I recommend it to other authors? Hell, I don't know! Unless you're writing to formula, every novel is a new puzzle. What works for one story or writer may not have anything to do with what works for another. That said, it did bring a kind of immediacy to the story. The reader was allowed to identify with a character, to buy into the decisions, and then had to "live" with the consequences.

I wanted it to be the opposite of a Star Trek novel, for example, where you know Spock and Kirk are going to live, and at the end of the story, the franchise will still be intact. That bleeds the tension out of the narrative.

I actually had one reviewer bitch that he didn't think I should have written the novel that way because it wasn't safe for him to identify with characters or fall in love with them, since they might die. Well, duh. Holocaust.

Stupid shit.

Kelly: You have been commended for the detail and intricacy of your knowledge about various military maneuvers in A Thread of Grace which takes place in WW II Italy. Do you feel like your father's background, as a Marine Corps drill sergeant, helped to form your skills in this area?

Mary: My dad certainly helped with the weaponry. He actually knew how to field-strip an Italian sidearm, and gave me the instructions over the phone along with an estimate of how long it would take someone who was good at it vs. just learning how to do it. He was also the ideal dad for a girl. We are polar opposites politically, and have been since I was about 12, but very similar temperamentally. He instilled in me both intellectual confidence and a no-bullshit work ethic that's served me well in Academe and as a novelist. When I start something, I will hammer at it until it's done right. So he was a support both globally and with militariana. I had several others who helped with that aspect of Thread and, of course, the war itself is massively documented. I read a ton of books on the Italian campaign of 1943-45, from German, Allied, civilian
and partisan points of view.

Kelly: The Sparrow and Children of God are both highly acclaimed Science Fiction novels that also deal heavily with religion and morality. That's a lot of ground to cover but you do it with amazing ease.

Mary: Big laughs! Honey, it took me 60 drafts. What looks like "amazing ease" is the result of relentless, ruthless editing. The Sparrow was not just my first novel, it was my first attempt at creative writing of any kind, unless you count grant proposals. Remember, I'm a Ph.D. in biological anthropology. My trade was teaching gross anatomy, with a specialty in craniofacial bio mechanics. The last English course I took was during the Nixon Administration. Sonny and Cher were still married, for crissakes. I had a standard metric shit-load to learn about writing fiction, and it didn't come easily.

Kelly: A quick look at your website shows some great pictures of your pets. I've read about how important your dachshund Annie Fannie is to you. Have you ever thought about writing some children's books and using her as a character?

Mary: SHRIEKS OF LAUGHTER!!!!!!!!!! Actually, she is a character in the novel I'm writing now,which is decidedly not for children. It's called Dreamers of the Day, and it's set against the background of the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, when T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, and Lady Gertrude Bell invented the modern Middle East.

For the past 12 years, I've asked myself, "Mary, would it effing KILL you to write a novel about a middle-aged Ohio lady? Why does everything have to be so hard? Why do you always pick out something that takes years of research because you don't know jack about any of it when you start?" This time I'm doing a first person narrative for Miss Luisa Middleton, an Ohio maiden lady on holiday in Egypt shortly after her mother dies in the Great Influenza of 1919. Luisa is traveling with her dachshund Annie (names may be changed to protect the innocent). I swear to you, the dog is an important plot device, not an annoying self-indulgence.

Admittedly, this does give an excuse to tour with my own Annie when the book comes out. She's already doing gigs with me, and I can tell you right now: she is cuter than Amy Tan's yorkies, she is better behaved than Amy Tan's yorkies, and she is way longer than Amy Tan's yorkies.

Kelly: I am one of those people who can't help but fill their shelves with books, CD, and movies. What is the one thing that loads down the shelf of Mary Doria Russell?

Mary Doria Russell: I have a nearly complete set of Dorothy Dunnett's novels. Everything I know about writing I learned from her Lymond series, mixed with what I picked up from Robert Ludlum's thrillers!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Loaded Questions with "The 19th Wife" Author, David Ebershoff

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Random House, August 2008 - 528 Pages

On Sale at Amazon.com for $17.16, 34% Off

The 19th Wife is a novel within a novel that tells two very distinct and yet related stories about the controversial issue of polygamy. One part of the novel is the story of Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of famed Brigham Young, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who divorced her husband, went on a national speaking tour, telling the story of her life and later wrote two books published in 1875 and 1903. The second part of the novel is a modern-day murder mystery that tells the story of Jordan Scott a young man expelled at the age of fourteen from the Firsts, a fundamentalist Mormon cult in Mesadale, Ariz. Jordan's newly discovered stability is turned upside down when he hears that his mother has been arrested for murdering his exceedingly creepy, polygamous father. He drives back home to see her for the first time in six years and reluctantly decides to help prove her innocence.

David Ebershoff, an editor at Random House, has written a very vivid novel full of characters emmersed in the world of polygamy and religion in the 1800s as well as modern characters who are also living a life in which polygamy and religion play a major role. The difference? One clear distinction is that the key characters in the story that take place in the 1800s are founders and early leaders in the Mormon church, the modern characters, still involved in polygamy, are part of a church that is called Firsts, a radical group that has broken off from the larger Mormon Church.

Ebershoff offers the reader a unique view of a very interesting time in US history as well as a eye-opening story of a modern fundamentalist cult and the struggles of one boy to free himself and the ones he loves from its grasp.

Kelly Hewitt: Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The 19th Wife I found that the two story lines complimented one another. But I wondered about what prompted you to add the storyline involving Jordan, the LDS exile? It seems as though the story of Ann Eliza Young was certainly rich enough to provide for an entire novel. What do you think Jordan's storyline adds to the overall message of the novel?

David Ebershoff: I wanted to tell a full story of polygamy in America. When I started working on the book, I initially thought the story would end around 1890, when the LDS leader, President Woodruff, changed the Church’s position on polygamy. But the more I got into the subject, the more I realized that American polygamy has had a whole second act that I could not ignore. And so I tried to come up with a story and a structure that could tell the reader about polygamy 2.0 in an entertaining and perhaps enlightening way.

Kelly: One of the major themes that exist in the modern polygamist storyline is include the "lost boys" of the Mormon faith who have been abandoned on the streets, of which Jordan is one. In your research did you find that this is a prevalent issue among young LDS males? Were you able to interview or contact any of these "lost boys"?

David: Just to clarify, the present-day polygamists are not LDS. They are called FLDS and in my novel I call them the Firsts. Their ancestors broke away from the LDS Church generations ago over the issue of the polygamy. The so-called Lost Boys – those boys and young men who are kicked out of polygamous communities – are, therefore, not at all a part of LDS culture. Yet among the FLDS the Lost Boys are, unfortunately, a sad truth. I spoke with some of them about their experiences. This is in part how I created the character Jordan Scott.

Kelly: Many of the reviews of The 19th Wife have drawn obvious parallels between the book and events that took place in April at the Yearn for Zion Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints in west Texas. Were you still working on the novel at the time? Given the amount of research you have done about the world of polygamy I wonder how what must have been going through your head at the time, aside from a general feeling of good timing on your behalf!

David: By April of this year, I was all but finished with the novel. We had galleys and I was making a few final corrections. When I saw on the news what was happening in Texas, like many people I found myself very concerned for the children. I kept asking myself, What would I want if that were me? In fact, I had asked myself that question many times during the four years I was writing The 19th Wife.

Kelly: Maybe this is a baseless and naïve question, but have you received any contact from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or anyone affiliated with it?

David: I have received hundreds of emails from Mormons, all but one of them positive. Many people have thanked me for telling this story, while others have told me stories about their own 19th century ancestors. And I’ve heard from a lot of gay Mormons. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy being gay and Mormon. Since the book came out a few months ago I’ve sensed from all the emails and people who have come to my readings that they appreciate seeing a character (Tom) who perhaps represents their lives just a bit. I’ve been very moved by all these responses, although I have to admit I am not wholly surprised by them because when I was writing The 19th Wife I met many people who were open about their faith and their Church’s past and graciously shared their own experiences with me. The Church itself has not officially contacted me. This is a novel after all. As the White House said recently in response to a question about American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld’s amazing novel about a First Lady similar to Laura Bush), “We don’t comment on fictional characters.”

Kelly: I was astonished, and impressed, to read that you were Norman Mailer's editor for the last five years of his life. I am sure you are asked this frequently but, what was it like to be Norman Mailer's editor? How did working with Mailer influence your own work?

David: As an editor, it was both an extraordinary and very ordinary experience. It was ordinary because I work with all writers the same way: I read their manuscripts and tell them exactly what I think. I believe the best way to show a writer respect is to respond to his or her work thoughtfully and fully. And so that’s how I worked with Norman. But of course this was Norman Mailer, and so in many ways it was an extraordinary experience. He liked to be edited. That doesn’t mean he agreed with everything I said. But he was always open to comments about his work. He was always thinking about his work, always striving to improve it, always turning over ideas. He was like that until the last days of his life. He once said to me about writing, “You got to give ‘em fucking juice. The reader wants to know you give a damn.”

Kelly: I read in an interview that your sudden inspiration to write The 19th Wife was so strong that you set aside another book that you were already working on. Can you share any information with us about that?

David: It was a novel inspired by a true crime in Tijuana and San Diego in the 1920s – a terrible crime in which a whole family, mother, father, two daughters, end up dead. My best friend, who read the manuscript many years ago, keeps telling me I should go back to it, but I don’t think I will. At least not now.

Kelly: And finally the question that every author hates for an interviewer to ask, especially fresh after the release of a bestselling novel, but members want to know what's next? Have you already began working on your next novel?

David: I’ve just begun writing a novel about tennis. I know, polygamy to tennis? I promise, one day it will all make sense.

David's The 19th Wife Website has some wonderful materials about Ann Eliza Young, including a fully digital copy of her 1875 book about being involved in polygamy. It can be read here. Please do note that it is a large file.

The site also offers some of the original newspaper stories that are featured in the book. View those here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Loaded Questions with "One More Year" author Sana Krasikov

  • One More Year is a collection of stories that deals with culture clashes, individual identity and follows the lives of individuals caught between their native land (Russia, Ukraine, Georgia) and the pull to succeed in America.

The night that I began reading One More Year by Sana Krasikov I didn't go to sleep until well after it was light outside. I read each one of the stories, paused afterward to think and was shocked when I realized that it was 4:00 am. Since then I have been raving about this collection of short stories, each of which features characters from Russia, Georgia and Ukraine many of which are in the process of escaping their old lives and in some case cultures to live in America.

The stories featured in One More Year include mothers separated from their children in order to provide a better life, wives fleeing husbands.

Part of what makes these stories so interesting is the clear differentiation between aspects of American culture as compared to that of Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia. This is no mere "book about immigrants". While the people who have migrated in the stories of One More Year have come from a region of the world that has been historically linked (if only by lines on the map), each story features characters who have come from different cultures and for very different reasons. Perhaps Sana expresses this best, in another interview she wrote "when some of your characters are from other countries, themes of migration come through; though I think my stories are less about migration itself, and more about life in a post-migration world." And she absolutely gets it right.

As you all know, I recommend a lot of books and like every one of them. But One More Year is a very big recommendation, you don't want to miss this debut.

Kelly Hewitt: The reviews for One More Year have been stellar and I have to admit I myself have raved about the book since the moment I first picked it up. A critic at the Miami Herald wrote that you are "as good as Junot Diaz and Jhumpa Lahiri were at this stage in their careers." I wonder – how do you react to the comparisons that you have received? Do you read/follow what many of the critics have written about One More Year?

Sana Krasikov: First, thank you for covering One More Year. I’m grateful for all the work you took to touch on the different levels of the book. Sure, I’ve read reviews. It’s a difficult job to write a review. I think that going through Iowa taught me that everyone reads differently. The way people will interpret a work will depend on what stage of life they are in, what memories and experiences the story brings up for them. Frank Conroy always spoke about this varying “zone” in which a reader’s expectations engage with the words on the page. It sounded rather abstract, but I’ve since come to realize that literature does get its life from a reader’s interaction with it. One of my friends, who went through a divorce, loved “Better Half.” A friend of the family responded more emotionally to the “The Repatriates” because of the way the story depicted of the corporate world, and how it excluded people like him, who lacked a certain cultural literacy. As far as comparisons with other authors go, I suppose any new author who has not established him or herself yet will be compared with others. That’s been happening forever, even Pushkin’s early work was compared with Byron’s.

Kelly: Many of your short stories deal with individuals who have just recently immigrated from Ukraine, Georgia and Russia, are in the process of leaving or are visiting the United States. The whole time I was reading I could not help but wonder, when did you yourself leave Georgia for the US? Did you arrive alone or with family?

Sana: I left in 1987 with my family. We were part of a more structured immigration than some of the characters in the book, who came after the Soviet Union no longer existed.

Kelly: One of the stories that struck me as the most profound was the story "Better Half" in which Anya, newly immigrated, meets and gets into a rather tumultuous but oddly genuine and curiously romantic marriage with Ryan, a guy who some of the readers of your stories have labeled as the "wrong guy". You have written that you saw the relationship between these too oddly matched individuals as a relationship of necessity, loneliness and necessity. The necessity of this situation is the attainment of a green card. I am curious – the whole concept of green card's, false marriages and desperation to stay in the US has been played out in countless movies, television and book. Do you believe that these sort of arranged green card marriages with the pressure to prove their genuineness are as prevalent as one might believe?

Sana: Anya’s situation is complex - her marriage is not a “green-card marriage” in the premeditated sense. At some point she has to choose between staying put or visiting a sick parent at home and not being able to re-enter the country. So her boyfriend does her a favor and proposes. Would she marry him under different circumstances? Probably not. On the other hand, there’s a genuine physical attraction in their relationship. In life, all kinds of factors play into why two people end up together. I know plenty of men and women who have married “for green-cards”, and a lot of those marriages have worked out great. I also know people who now live together because someone’s rent-controlled lease ran out. We make the most personal choices based on all kinds of contingencies.

Kelly: While reading One More Year I thought to myself "now that was the most intense story" only to change my mind after reading the next story. Is there a particular story among this collection that you find to be most personal?

I’ll take it as a good sign that people have a hard time deciding which story is their favorite. “The Alternate” is close to my heart. There’s a certain humor in it about the aspirational side of being an immigrant, and how hollow that aspiration can be.

The idea for that story came years ago when my cousin and I were in Boston for my sister’s med school graduation. My cousin’s mother had died when her daughter was too young to remember her. The man who hosted us in Boston was her mother’s high school friend. She’d been an attractive woman, and my cousin looked just like her – and it became obvious that this man had once had feelings for her mother. He kept trying to engage my cousin in conversation about her, to which she dryly replied, “sorry, I don’t remember her.” You could he was so disappointed.

Kelly: In the short story "There Will Be No Fourth Rome" you present two very contrasting characters that represent each side of the conflict, a conflict which your story makes very clear didn't begin recently but has existed for quite some time. There is Larisa, a member of the Russian intelligentsia who represents classic Russia in her meager existence which is garnered from a disability pension. On the other hand there's the narrator's childhood friend Nona, eager and ready to move up in life, bolstering her position by being the girlfriend of a foreign businessman. You mentioned in another interview, quite well, that these two women were "almost like mirror images of one another – a rising class displacing a declining one". I have read that while you grew up in Georgia you have spent time in Moscow, did you ever feel the conflict of classes that your characters are living? Was there ever hesitancy on your behalf as a native Georgian to spend time in Moscow? Or is that a naive question to ask?

" there’s the Moscow where young women flash their Zarkowski crystal-encrusted cell-phones and the Moscow where older women stand next to metro entrances peddling hand-knit socks. " - Sana Krasikov

Sana: For me, an idea for a story usually comes from a line of dialogue, which then becomes a key on which the whole story turns while I write it. By the time I’m done, the sentence seems like a throwaway line, when it’s really the cornerstone. In Companion, it was the line when Earl tells Ilona “but a woman like you should never have to worry about money.” That line conveyed the irony of Ilona’s whole situation. The phrase that ended up giving me the idea for No Fourth Rome came from the lips of a friend of mine in Moscow after I told her I was staying with a woman who didn’t own a cell phone. Her response was “that poor creature,” which I found really funny. Anyone who’s been to this city can tell you there are two Moscow’s – there’s the Moscow where young women flash their Zarkowski crystal-encrusted cell-phones and the Moscow where older women stand next to metro entrances peddling hand-knit socks. I have never been to a place where class division is more generational. I’m sure part of it has to do with the Russian ethos, which existed even in Soviet times, when grandparents would spending the last of your pensions to buy a grand-daughter that new German doll. Children first. But it also has to do with how, in a matter of years, all entitlements for older people were wiped out – what they’d worked for their whole lives now meant nothing. It was almost impossible not to capture that after being in Moscow for a while.

But I can’t say I ever felt uncomfortable as someone from Georgia – I wasn’t culturally readable that way, since my accent is American, if anything.

Kelly: I wonder, was there increased attention paid to One More Year after the recent Russian-Georgian conflict?

Sana: Not particularly. I was surprised that the review in the New York Times, which came out a month after the conflict, didn’t even mention it. At least people know where Georgia is on the map now, which confirms that war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. There’s definitely a subtle undercurrent of Russian-Georgian tension in some of the stories, which rises to the surface at certain moments, like in No Fourth Rome, when Nona rags on her sister Ecca for changing her name to Katya, the more Russified version of Ekaterina, after Ecca marries a Russian guy.

Kelly: Part of what makes these stories so interesting is the clear differentiation between aspects of American culture as compared to Georgia, Ukraine, and Russia. As I have written above, this is no mere "book about immigrants" and while the people who have migrated in the stories of One More Year have come from a region of the world that has been historically linked (if only by lines on the map), each story features characters who have come from different cultures and for very different reasons.

Sana: Right. Central Asia, for example, is very different from the Ukraine, and yet those two places existed under one super-structure. I think one of the assumptions we have about why people come to this country is to seek “a better life.” But what does that mean exactly? In “Asal,” Gulia’s husband is a wealthy man, who has grown a successful rug business in capitalist Uzbekistan. She decides she’d rather be a maid for a while in New York, than the wife of an entrepreneur, to teach him a lesson. For her, leaving is a matter of dignity, not opportunities.

Kelly: This is perhaps a hopeful question on my part. Sometimes when musicians make CDs they have tracks that were, for one reason or another, not included in the final product. I enjoyed these stories so much that I find myself hoping that there were maybe more stories in this series that were not included in the final product. Is there any hope of more One More Year stories? Perhaps Another One More Year for the title?

Sana: I’m so glad you asked this! One of my favorite stories didn’t make it into the collection because it felt too much like a bonus track. I haven’t had time to send it out yet to magazines, but I’d like to. It’s called “The Tenth Coldest Day” and it is different from the other stories, but not as different as people think if they take a closer look. I really want to find a good home for it.

Kelly: And finally, the one question that authors are often loathe to have to answer. I know that you mentioned that you were beginning to think about your debut novel, a work that would feature a historical element. Can you share any more information about your next book? A work that, after the success of One More Year, is sure to be highly anticipated.

Sana: So far, I’ve only worked on it in the most abstract sense. Part of that is that I have to understand who the characters are before I commit them to paper. I’ll say this, the hero will be a man who is older, who grew up in an orphanage, and who designs ships for Arctic climates. Or at least I hope that’s what he does, because otherwise I know much more than I need to about bow propellers and double-acting tankers.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Loaded Questions with "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn" author, Robin Maxwell

This is a very big week for fans of historical fiction at Loaded Questions. We began the week with an interview with the first lady of Plantagenet historical fiction, discussing her new book and giving us a glimpse of her next novel.

Today we present to you another very high profile historical fiction author in the form of Robin Maxwell, an author who has continually supplied her fans with vivid characters, fascinating storylines and a unprecedented glimpse into the secret lives of the Tudor monarchs. Since Robin's debut novel was released in 1997 she has faithfully written a new novel every two years creating a current catalog of seven novels, her eighth to be released in January, 2009.

My interview with Robin Maxwell, which you will find below, should almost be called a conversation. While securing a time to conduct the interview Robin and I emailed back and forth, chatting about our love of Tudor history (which I am currently working on my Masters in), projects that we have worked on, other movies and novels that have attempted to tackle Tudor historical fiction and generally just having a great time chatting back and forth. Many of the questions I ended up asking I already knew the answer to after our series of emails but I still wanted to ask them so that the Robin Maxwell fans out there can see the answers.

Robin Maxwell is a boisterous, engaging woman who knows her history and tells one hell of a story.

Kelly Hewitt: You write a lot of novels about the Tudors and one can't help but notice that they've become very popular these days with fiction novels, movies, and television. As a master's student studying the Tudors I get this question all the time and so I feel somewhat guilty asking you but, have you watched "The Tudors" on Showtime and what do you think?

Robin Maxwell: I was totally addicted to "The Tudors". Once I got over the fact that 10 years ago I pitched the same idea to television (I'm also a screenwriter) for a mini-series and got laughed out of the room, and also got over the fact that The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, which was optioned three times (once for a feature film, once by NBC and Hallmark Entertainment, and once by Fox TV and A&E Network) and never produced, I just started watching the Showtime series and enjoying the sexy Henry VIII and the well-cast Anne Boleyn and other characters. I really enjoyed Sam Neill as Wolsey and thought he was very sympathetically portrayed (even though he was a villain in Secret Diary). I'm never satisfied with how any feature film (like "The Other Boleyn Girl") or TV movie portrays Anne, because they never give her enough credit for being a prime mover in the politics of the time, especially the Protestant Reformation. She is always the pawn, or the victim (of her father, for example in "The Tudors", or the evil bitch in "The Other Boleyn Girl."). What I did like about the Showtime series was that with such a long format (20 episodes over two seasons to tell the whole Anne/Henry story) they managed to get so much in. I thought the costumes and sets were fabulous, and all in all, about 10 times better than "The Other Boleyn Girl".

Kelly: Have any of your books been optioned for television or the silver screen?

Robin: The Wild Irish was optioned last year by Australian producer Monica O'Brien, for a feature film. I had already adapted my own novel into a script, so she optioned them both. Since then she's been doing a bang-up job, and now has all the financing she needs lined up, and two "A-list" directors who are very interested in the project. She tells me it will begin shooting in early 2010 (this coincides with the availability of the directors' schedules). I'm VERY excited about this being produced, as there hasn't ever been a heroine like Grace O'Malley, nor so dramatic a backdrop of the conflict between Elizabeth I (in her waning years, when she took on more of her father's murderous characteristics than her mother's) and the Irish people who wanted independence from England. What some call "Elizabeth's Irish War" was one of genocide, in which nearly half of Ireland was wiped out. We jokingly call the movie "Bravetart," and believe that when it gets produced it will sweep the Oscars.

Kelly: Since publishing your first book The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn you have written a new book every two years! Is that by coincidence or do you have a system down?

Robin: It's not really a system. It's just the way my publishing deals were structured. For the first four books I was given about 15 months to deliver a manuscript. Then it takes about 9 months from that point to get published. However, for the last two -- Mademoiselle Boleyn and Signora da Vinci -- I was given much shorter delivery periods. The new "conventional wisdom" is that an author should have a new book out every year (so her readers won't forget her!). It was really too short a time for writing the Da Vinci book, as it was all a new world for me and new characters, after six Tudor and Elizabethan novels, so I was actually late delivering. But I have a wonderful editor, and she was understanding. The downside with delivering it late was that the publishing date was pushed back to January `09. That seems to me a weird time to publish a book, as everybody's kind of "shot their wad" on Christmas presents. And now with this economy looking so dismal, I'm hoping that the new book gets a fair shot once it's on the shelves.

Kelly: I was fascinated to read an article you wrote for the Huffington Post in which you compared Hillary Clinton with Anne Boleyn in the article "Hillary Boleyn: Has Anything Changed in Half a Millennium". Do you have any modern day comparisons for the other Tudor women you have written about?

Robin: Not so much Tudor women, but I'm thinking seriously about writing another Huffington Post, comparing George W. Bush to Philip II of Spain. Philip ruled when Spain was the richest country in Europe, with "treasure ships" sailing into Spain groaning with gold from the New World. Yet, in his obsession with a religious war against the Protestants in the Netherlands, and sending his Armada against heathen English, he believed God was speaking into his ear and telling him what to do, he ended up bankrupting his country totally. Twice. Sound familiar?

Kelly: I have heard that you are working on a new novel set in the Italian Renaissance. What can you tell us about the new book?

Robin: Signora da Vinci is about the Itallian Renaissance seen through the eyes of Leonardo da Vinci's mother. C.W. Gortner (previous Loaded Questions interviewee and author of The Last Queen) recently reviewed the book, and rather than trying to explain it myself, I thought I'd let you read what he said about it. I agree with my agent who said that Christopher "nailed it."

"In this exquisite gem of a novel, Robin Maxwell conjures a fascinating account of Leonardo Da Vinci's mother, a bold woman whose adventurous spirit and quest for her own truth captures the exuberance of the Italian Renaissance. Though little is known of the historical Caterina da Vinci, Maxwell's impressive research and keen storytelling skills sweep us into a very plausible account of a young alchemist's daughter whose unfortunate love affair brings her the greatest love of her life - her genius son - as well as the opportunity to escape the restrictions of her gender and enter a seductive garden of philosophy, art, learning, and danger. From the dusty streets of Vinci to the glories of Lorenzo Il Magnifico's Florence and the conspiratorial halls of Rome and Milan, Signora da Vinci is a tour de force celebration of one woman's unquenchable ardor for knowledge and of a secret world that historical fiction readers rarely see.

- C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen

Kelly Hewitt: I was interested to read in your biography that you initially moved to Hollywood in order to be a parrot tamer. How did you come to that profession?

Robin Maxwell: I'd been keeping exotic birds (started with parakeets) from the age of eight. I graduated to parrots after college, and they became a passion with me. When I moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 1976 parrot keeping had become "the thing," and when I was trying to find work, I stumbled into a gig taming birds who had just come out of quarantine (that was when birds were still allowed to be imported) and before they were shipped off to pet stores to be bought. In truth, it was a horrible job, because the birds had been so traumatized (and even injured) during their capture in the wild and in quarantine, and because there were even cruel, abusive "tamers." I quit the job after I reported one of these monsters and my boss refused to fire him. Now my husband and I share our lives with an umbrella cockatoo and an African grey parrot, who have been lovers for 25 years. I consider the birds my dear friends and my muses.

Titles featured in this interview:

The upcoming new release, Signora da Vinci
Published by NAL Trade, Jan. 2009

The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

Published by Arcade, 1997

The Queen's Bastard
Published by Arcade, 1999

The Wild Irish
Published by William Morrow, 2003

Mademoiselle Boleyn
Published by NAL Trade, 2007

More titles from bestselling author, Robin Maxwell:

Virgin: Prelude to the Throne

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2002

"...a riveting portrait of Elizabeth I as a romantic and vulnerable teenager, dangerously awakening to a perilous liaison with the wrong man."

England, 1547: King Henry is dead. Elizabeth's half-brother, nine-year-old Edward, is king in name only. Thomas Seymour, brother to the ambitious duke who has seized power in this time of crisis, calculatingly works his way into Elizabeth's home in genteel Chelsea House. He marries Henry's widow, Catherine Parr, and uses his venerable charms and sexual magnetism to indulge his infatuation for young Elizabeth. Caught hopelessly under Thomas Seymour's spell, surrounded by kind friends and hidden enemies, Elizabeth can only follow her heart to ensure survival.

To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes

Published by Harper, 2003

In 1483, Edward and Richard of York—Edward, by law, already King of England—were placed, for their protection before Edward's coronation, in the Tower of London by their uncle Richard. Within months the boys disappeared without a trace, and for the next five hundred years the despised Richard III was suspected of their heartless murders.

In To the Tower Born, Robin Maxwell ingeniously imagines what might have happened to the missing princes. The great and terrible events that shaped a kingdom are viewed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, and her dearest friend, "Bessie," sister to the lost boys and ultimate founder of the Tudor dynasty. It is a thrilling story brimming with mystery, color, and historical lore. With great bravery and heart, two friends navigate a dark and treacherous medieval landscape rendered more perilous by the era's scheming, ambitious, even murderous men and women who will stop at nothing to possess the throne.

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