In 19th century Ireland, Mrs. Moloney interrogates her daughter’s fiance Micheal to determine his ability to properly support them, debating fate of divine purpose versus consequences of actions, secrets of God and those revealed to man. She then relays stories passed down to her by her parents of how the fates of certain families were sealed, admonishing Michael to decide whether it was providential destiny or mere consequences of their actions. It is her story—the incident that changed her life’s trajectory and estranged her from her parents—her refusal to be a product of her time. O’Callaghan blends Irish folklore and Christian mythology with fiction, about the origins of Christianity in Ireland, specifically the Ceile De, or Companions of God, and their Cailin an Tsagairt, or Priest Women, who were threatened by Roman Papacy and Norman invaders. Though the daughter’s inexplicable ignorance (contrasted by her fiance’s knowledge) and sudden symbolism at the end are confusing, this is a beautiful story rich with legends, family, and mercy. I was fortunate to receive this wonderful novel through a Goodreads giveaway.
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The last Iberian sultan’s mapmaker Hassan and Circassian concubine
Fatima share a love for a poem by Al Attar in which they only have
the opening lines. They continue the tale together, alternating and
combining their own stories of the birds looking for their king.
Hassan draws maps that reshape reality, coming under the scrutiny of
the Spanish Inquisition when Fatima is too open with Luz, Queen
Isabella’s advisor, emissary, and secret inquisitor. Fatima must
find a way to save her best friend, embarking on a journey—guided
by a jinn in animal form—where she finds her true self on the
hidden island of the bird king. Friendship is tested, credibility is
stretched to the limit, and redemption is found. Magical realism
blends historical events and mythology well, thought there are a few
too many cliffhangers in the latter half of the tale. It’s a
beautiful story of desire to escape a horrid time in Spain’s past.
I was given a digital copy of this fantastic story from Grove Press
bestselling and award-winning authors bring to life a breathtaking
epic novel illuminating the hopes, desires, and destinies of
princesses and peasants, harlots and wives, fanatics and
philosophers—six unforgettable women whose paths cross during one
of the most tumultuous and transformative events in history: the
OF SCARLET: A Novel of the French Revolution, releases October 1st,
2019! Check out the amazing cover below and pre-order your copy
RIBBONS OF SCARLET: A Novel of the French Revolution (Coming
October 1, 2019)
of Scarlet is a timely story of the power of women to start a
revolution—and change the world.
late eighteenth-century France, women do not have a place in
politics. But as the tide of revolution rises, women from gilded
salons to the streets of Paris decide otherwise—upending a world
order that has long oppressed them.
Sophie de Grouchy believes in democracy, education, and equal rights
for women, and marries the only man in Paris who agrees. Emboldened
to fight the injustices of King Louis XVI, Sophie aims to prove that
an educated populace can govern itself–but one of her students,
fruit-seller Louise Audu, is hungrier for bread and vengeance than
learning. When the Bastille falls and Louise leads a women’s march
to Versailles, the monarchy is forced to bend, but not without a
fight. The king’s pious sister Princess Elisabeth takes a stand to
defend her brother, spirit her family to safety, and restore the old
order, even at the risk of her head.
when fanatics use the newspapers to twist the revolution’s ideals
into a new tyranny, even the women who toppled the monarchy are
threatened by the guillotine. Putting her faith in the pen, brilliant
political wife Manon Roland tries to write a way out of France’s
blood-soaked Reign of Terror while pike-bearing Pauline Leon and
steely Charlotte Corday embrace violence as the only way to save the
nation. With justice corrupted by revenge, all the women must make
impossible choices to survive–unless unlikely heroine and
courtesan’s daughter Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe can sway the man
who controls France’s fate: the fearsome Robespierre.
bestselling author of historical fiction. A native of southern
California, she attended Boston University where she earned a
Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. She has written
four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian
Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice
Network” and “The Huntress.” All have been translated
into multiple languages. Kate and her husband now live in San Diego
with two rescue dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests
include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.
bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning
work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the
most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s
capital with her husband, cats, and history books.
bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura
always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence
of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and
archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in
early American history from The College of William and Mary,
published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently
held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval
Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre
fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR
HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing her the exciting
opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for
storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis,
Maryland with her husband and two daughters. www.LauraKamoie.com
an award-winning, multi-published author of female-centered
historical fiction, who holds both a Bachelors in History and a law
degree. With two previous books set in France—during the 13th and
16th centuries—Sophie has a passion for French history that began
more than thirty years ago when she first explored the storied
châteaux of the Loire Valley. She lives in the Washington DC
metropolitan area with her husband, children and a small menagerie of
the award-winning and international bestselling author of six
historical novels set in France, including the upcoming Meet
Me in Monaco, set
to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding releasing in summer 2019,
a novel of the French Revolution’s women in Oct 2019. In
selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last
Christmas in Paris became
& Mail bestseller
and also won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR
Award. Her works have received national starred reviews, and have
been sold in over a dozen countries worldwide. When not writing, you
may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to
travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty
bestselling author of rip-your-heart-out historical women’s fiction
that crosses the landscapes of Europe. Her love of history began as a
young girl when she traipsed the halls of Versailles and ran through
the fields in Southern France. She can still remember standing before
the great golden palace, and imagining what life must have been like.
She is the owner of the acclaimed blog History Undressed. Eliza lives
in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and
two very naughty newfies. Visit Eliza at www.eknightauthor.com/,
or her historical blog, History Undressed, www..
You can follow her on Twitter: @EKHistoricalFic,
Moloka’i told the
story of Rachel Utagawa, nee Kalama, who lived in the Kalaupapa
lazaretto from age 7 when she was diagnosed with leprosy. This book
follows her daughter Ruth’s life, from the moment she was taken
away from Rachel and her husband Kenji, for her health’s sake. Dear
Reader watches her adoptive parents choose her, the half-Japanese,
half-Hawaiian 5-year-old at the orphanage, sees her come of age on a
California farm, and witnesses her incarceration in the Japanese
internment camps in the US during WWII, along with her parents,
brothers, husband, and children. This novel connects with the first
one when Ruth meets Rachel, in the same scene from Ruth’s
perspective this time, a brilliant and heartening re-telling of an
emotionally charged meeting.
the nuances of racism, fear of contagion, and human rights as he
tells of the horror of being found out as a victim of leprosy in late
19th / early 20th century Hawai’i, and the
dread of a child separated from her family to live with strangers. As
with especially well-written historical fiction, the setting of
Hawai’i / Moloka’i becomes its own character, showing Hawai’i’s
children growing up surfing, the US stealing the islands from the
last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, and the evolution of the
lazaretto. Brennert touches upon Hawai’ian and Japanese honor, race
relations and the lack of internment camps for Japanese in Hawai’i.
He digs deep into Hawai’ian folklore, with a supporting character
who is a native healer, how the “separating sickness” destroys
families, and how friendship blends into family.
I was fortunate to
receive a copy of this beautiful novel from St. Martin’s Press. I
highly recommend reading Moloka’i for full immersion into the
From a cosmopolitan family are beget descendants who are stolen for
slavery in the American South, bringing dear reader to Fammy, who
begets Clora by a black man because she wanted a black baby for her
own, after enduring her master’s rapes and the selling of her
children. She takes her life, as does Clora, when she envisions the
future of her daughter Always. Yet Clora persists as a spiritual
entity, watching her family throughout their lives. This is the story
of Always, unable to follow her siblings in their escape by passing
for white, who rises above her veneer of subjugation, fully prepared
to live free after emancipation. Clora witnesses her family branch
out again across the globe.
presents the vicarious existence of slaves, and the various ways that
could procure a safer passage, as well as the intricately convoluted
familial connections betwixt white masters / mistresses and slaves.
The hint of dialect bumps through both races, showing the blending of
cultures based on proximity, and religion also bleeds across the
barriers, represented by Clora’s routine references to the
Christian God. This novel offers a valuable lesson in how the
foundation for systemic racism was laid and on what our country was
built, in spite of the whitewashed American dream. Read it with a
careful eye toward the small references and unspoken understandings
A sleeping sickness befalls the little college town of Santa Lora, CA, starting with Mei’s roommate Kara, prompting a quarantine of their dorm. Quickly overwhelmed, the hospital sets up the children who succumb in the public library. The patients wake up in random order with time span and chronology confusion, or they never wake up—dying or coming to consciousness days, weeks, months after succumbing. Mei becomes part of the relief effort by those immune to the illness. Thompson Walker brilliantly moves in and out of the epidemic containment through cordon sanitaire and the sleepers’ astonishingly realistic dreams. Graphic descriptions of virtual long lives lived for decades and anomalies that persist after awakening draw the reader into the deep wells of grief and confusion of those who wake to a lesser reality. The frustrated anger and desperation of family and friends prevented from contacting loved ones is credibly shown by such irrational actions as climbing the quarantine fence and rushing the police. The author references other such unusual occurrences, and how conspiracy theories can easily form from a frightening epidemic never diagnosed by doctors. It brings to mind the sleepy sickness brought on by the Spanish flu epidemic of the early 20th century, whose victims remained catatonic for decades. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this well-written, wonderfully told novel from the publisher Random House through a Goodreads giveaway.
When I asked the Tall Poppies for speculative authors, I was given Janie Chang’s name. I fell in love with her two novels; read my reviews on Dragon Springs Road and Three Souls, and eagerly anticipate her upcoming book.
Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies, inspirations material and intangible, magic spells, and treats.
With only three books under my writing belt, I’m not sure that there is a defined process yet. Each has been a different journey. I’ve sold one novel on the basis of a synopsis, and then delivered a totally different book. I’ve also written a synopsis and stuck to it pretty closely.
I see stories everywhere, but when an idea keeps coming back, it’s the one I take seriously. It always begins with a “now wouldn’t it be interesting if…” or “but what if…” series of thoughts, and then I dive into research to determine whether I can make it work. For my first two books, the opening scene just came to me and that provided impetus. The third … well, I’m still revising the first chapter.
Research itself provides so many ideas, insights, and anecdotes that you pull into your work. I probably spend six months off and on for research.
When the writing begins, I treat it as a job. Its butt glue time. Or as Shilpi Gowda says more elegantly, ABC: Apply Bum to Chair. I write 6 days a week. My husband goes into “support the author” mode and makes dinner. Housekeeping standards nosedive. The cat thinks she’s finally trained me to sit still for hours so that she has a lap to sleep on. Because basically, you need to get words on a page before you know whether your ideas are any good. You can imagine all you want in your head, but without executing those thoughts, you really can’t tell. You have nothing to work with. You can always edit crap, but you can’t edit a blank page.
Describe your publishing process from final draft to final product, including publishing team, timeline, and expectations of you as the author.
Well, this is something I’m trying to change. I’ve been very much a loner during the writing process; mostly because in the early stages my manuscripts are so embarrassingly dog poop that I don’t want to inflict them on author friends, even the ones who’ve offered to be beta readers. Thoughtful reading and critique is time-consuming.
I’ve hired professional editors though, because you do need someone else to offer critique. You’re always too close to your own work. The first draft may not be 100,000 words yet ,but it needs to be the entire story from start to finish, so that the editor can see what you want to achieve with your story, characters, and themes.
Then I revise based on the editorial notes and a discussion with the editor to make sure I understand what she means. This is where the most extensive re-writing comes in. Many drafts. After that, I send the manuscript to my agent who gives it a yea or nay, whether it’s good enough to send on to my publishers. Then it’s working with the editorial teams at HarperCollins (my publishers)–substantive editing, line editing, copy editing (where historical facts are double-checked, among other things), and then the final proof reading.
But lately some author friends have managed to convince me that they really are OK with reading dog poop and I’m starting to think it would be better for my mental health to have writing friends to talk things over with rather than stew on my own while eating too much chocolate.
Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially how you (exciting!) came to be a Tall Poppy.
You definitely need to socialize with other published authors. They understand the business challenges, they nod sympathetically when you wail “But writing in third person is so hard compared to first person!”. I have a poet friend who is the loveliest, most non-judgmental person ever and we walk around the seawall talking about everything: adolescence, sexual abuse, the state of Canadian literature. I have a group of women novelist friends and we take turns hosting potluck dinners every 3-4 months. I love cooking, so whenever possible, I invite authors and friends from the publishing industry over. Sometimes my guests don’t know each other, so it’s a good way to help people network.
Social media is good for staying current, but email is the medium I use to exchange deep, dark thoughts with my really good author friends. And OK, it’s not all serious stuff. One of them has a new book coming out in 2019 and it’s going to be a killer. We’ve been sending each other ideas for which actors to cast in which roles for when someone buys the film rights.
As for Tall Poppies–I’m not sure of the process except that it’s by nomination. So I think my nomination might’ve been due to Weina Dai Randel. Then the others check you out. I first met her online when her duology about Empress Wu came out, when we were both part of an online group for writers of novels about Asia. Then she invited me to join her panel in Portland, at the annual Historical Novel Society conference, and that’s when we met IRL. I met about 20 Poppies in Chicago at PoppyCon and they’re all so smart and fun and NICE. It was like an instant sisterhood. You feel you can talk about any problem and everyone will care and offer good advice. The accumulated wisdom in that group is awesome.
The stories you share of your ancestors and China on your website are fascinating. It’s clear that this drives your work; how does your writing influence your life?
When you know how much work it takes to write 100,000 words, you really need to focus on the story that pushes its way to the front of your brain, the one that’s important enough to sustain your interest through the long months of writing to come. And so far, it’s the China of my parents’ childhood and the history of that era that’s pushing the hardest.
Writing has changed my life totally. You recalibrate your schedule and your relationships. Fortunately, I have friends who understand that writing books is not a hobby; it’s serious business. So I can’t travel with them or do as much with them as before. You need time for writing and mental space to let the story grow.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I live for those moments in the creative process when your characters take over and take your story in a different direction than what you had planned. This is why we write and write, to get enough of the plot and the characters and their challenges onto the page so that your subconscious has enough to work with. Then you get the reward, of those flashes of insight when you realize “Well of course this is how that character would handle the situation”–and then the next few pages almost write themselves and another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. It feels like magic.
In Brazil, Nazi fugitive Klaus Holland, aka Matheus Esperanca, raises his son by a prostitute with a Jewish kapo from Udenspul, the concentration camp he commanded. The son, Deus, considers the kapo his mother, and after her death, takes mysterious photos from her to a professor in his US university to research his ancestry, where he learns the true identity of his father and the extent of his crimes. Olokita brilliantly uses the concept of god as a measurement of morality, or rather lack of humanity, as Klaus plays God in determining who dies, though his own religious beliefs remain deliciously ambiguous. The character development is so well done that dear reader will be researching names. Although written in third person for everyone else, Klaus is in first person, bringing the reader up close and personal to a man with his own version of right and wrong based on his complete lack of empathy, exploring the idea of how powerful he believes himself. The ending revelation is quite coincidental and is evidenced only by Klaus’ perception, so it’s not clear why it’s readily believed by Deus and his new love Heidi. It’s anti-climactic after the delightful irony of Klaus’ downfall. With so many rumors, legends, and news items, inspiring a plethora of literature, on the Holocaust, this unique story of a fugitive hiding out in South America is a definite must-read. It’s themes rove beyond the simple good vs. evil and the idea that one can distinguish such traits in anyone, with characters revealing the dangers within themselves. I received a digital copy of this fantastic novel from the author for an honest review.
This collection opens with a tale so convincing dear reader will be googling Count Darlotsoff of the Russian Revolution. Roorbach’s stories ramble along pleasantly, with wit and wisdom, from a unique perspective. Then BOOM! Something astonishing happens, sometimes indicated by a simple line, “And fell into a basement hole,” and sometimes portraying a much larger concept, such as patricide. The tales delve into history—the aforementioned Russian Revolution; plunges deep into socio-political culture—“His father was an important king or chieftain in an area of central Africa he refused to call a country, an area upon which the Belgians and several other European powers had long imposed borders and were now instituting ‘native’ parliaments before departing per treaty after generations of brutal occupation;” and parses human emotions and relationship dynamics—“sharks unto minnows.” There’s even a ghost story, with elements of land conservation, familial squabbles, and burgeoning love. As diverse as the themes are, and as broad the representation of people, one story stands out for its LGBT ignorance, as a main character tells the benefactor of her theater, a widower asking for a kiss, “Marcia had politely allowed just one, then explained that while being a lesbian might not mean she was entirely unavailable, her long-term relationship did.” He then proceeds to win over her wife, and they merrily cavort about town, all three holding hands, doing everything as a threesome. Lesbian relationships are real relationships, and lesbians are not toys for a man’s pleasure. That being said, this is a blemish on a set of otherwise fascinating and weird and brilliant stories. The book is dedicated to Jim Harrison, whose fans will likely appreciate Roorbach’s work.
In a post-divorce cleansing, Grace Hansen finds a tackle box her grandpa asked her to keep. Inside she finds mementos from his WWI experience and a letter with a puzzle for her to solve for his redemption. She travels to France to walk through the same towns he did according to the diaries he kept during the war. Her life is in danger as she is stalked and burgled, deepening her grandpa’s mystery, fervently urging her toward resolution. Of course there is a French love interest, an unlikely but not impossible coincidence making the world smaller. Tod’s writing flows so well it seems the reader is walking with Grace through small French towns in her grandpa’s shoes. Fans of Tatiana de Rosnay and Diane Chamberlain, and lovers of history, art, and culture will appreciate this novel. Follow Tod’s forays into her own grandfather’s war experience on her blog https://awriterofhistory.com//.