Category: Historical Fiction

5×5 International Women’s Month: Celebrating Amazing Female Authors

Welcome to the newest edition of 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. Today, we are talking with Sofia Fenichell, AM Scott, Collette McLafferty, Susanne Tedrick and Finola Austin in honor of international women’s month. These fantastic women write in genres across the board.

We have some exciting releases next month with Susanne Tedrick’s fascinating read, Woman of Color in Tech, that will help women of color learn the skills they’ll  need to succeed in (and revolutionize) a technical field and AM Scott’s science fiction, space opera in her last book from her Folding Space Series, Lightwave: Longshot.

Sofia Fenichell is an author and CEO of Mrs. Wordsmith, a children’s edtech company. Their most recent book, FLUSH! and 37 Essential House Ruleshelps children learn how to respect their homes, their parents, and themselves. With the added flair of vocabulary words on every page, great artwork and puns galore, kids and parents a like can laugh and learn from this read. It’s available to purchase now, through Mrs. Wordsmith.com. And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon to be shipped in June.

Finola Austin’s anticipated historical fiction novel, Bronte’s Mistress, will be having a summer release this August. It’s a steamy and captivating imagining of the affair, that is still some of the hottest literary tea out there.

Last but not least, we have Collette McLafferty. Her book, Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer, is a memoir in which she details her life in the music industry and how she had to deal with a huge lawsuit for signing a cover in a bar. This is a fascinating read, indeed.

Now, that we’ve met our authors, let’s get to the question and answers.

 

Image via Students’ Union Royal Holloway 

 

1. As a full time/part time writer, what is some advice you could give aspiring writers when things seem hopeless?

Collette McLafferty: I would say this to any writer feeling hopeless: You have to remember your voice is your gift and no one can take it away from you. There is no circumstance or rejection that can tear you away from a pen and paper, a laptop or hitting that “publish” button. At the same time, it’s okay to take a break once in a while. I’m a huge fan of “The Artist Date”, a once a week exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. Go out get fresh air, see a movie, call up that old friend. Inspiration is like a fickle lover, it goes away sometimes, but it always comes back!

AM Scott: a. Join some of the online writing communities. By participating in some of the pitch parties on Twitter and the writing community built around those parties, I got some really valuable critiques before I published. They’re also very supportive—there’s always someone willing to encourage you. active, not in your house or at your job. I find hiking can jolt loose ideas and help me feel more optimistic .Hang in there—don’t quit. Even if you can’t afford to take classes or buy ads,there are free writing and marketing resources out there!

Finola Austin: Every word you write brings you closer to your goal of writing a novel, and, most importantly,every word you write makes your writing better. Some writers set daily word counts for themselves but this approach has never worked for me. I write when I can—early in the morning,late at night, on weekends, and frequently on airplanes. Rather than beating yourself up about what you can’t do, given the other demands being made on you by the rest of your life, focus on what you can achieve.

Sofia Fenichell: Being a writer is a calling. It’s a need that you have within you. Not everyone has it. You can’t really give up if you have that need. When things seem hopeless as a writer, you have no choice but to keep going in one way or another. So as you grow into being a writer, remember that the best writers are those that know how to listen and take feedback. Failure is your phoenix rising.

Susanne Tedrick: I would say the first step acknowledging the feelings that you are having. I think our society has conditioned people to either quickly get over or stifle negative feelings. Ignoring or pretending you don’t have negative feelings, including hopelessness, is much worse for your overall health. Accepting your feelings as they are and giving yourself the time and space to cry, talk to a good friend or therapist, additional rest, meditation,exercise or whatever method of (healthy) release you need, is the best first step in getting over hopelessness effectively. The second, important part is dissecting those feelings and challenging them. For example, if you’re saying to yourself “there’s no point in going on” or “I’m destined to fail” in the face of a setback, what substantive indicators do you have to back those assertions up? You may need the help of an impartial, trusted friend or advisor to offer a different, less emotionally charged perspective. 

 

2. Did you choose the genre you wanted to write in or did that genre choose you?

Colette McLafferty:To say my genre chose me would be an understatement! In 2014 I woke up to the headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Ugly for P!NK Tribute Band” via The New York Post and watched in horror as this story went viral about me worldwide! I was really named in a $10,000,000 lawsuit, but it was between two men and had little to do with me. I spent the next two years in The Twilight Zone as I spent $15,000 fighting a lawsuit against a man I had never met while the mainstream media completely rewrote my identity. I wrote daily in a blog called, “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” which eventually became the title of my memoir. Before this event, most of my writing was short form music journalism and songwriting. The day I wrote “The End” on that final manuscript of “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” was the day I got my sanity back.

AM ScottLike many writers, I write what I read. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a child, and my favorite subgenre is space opera, so writing it came naturally. But I started writing romance, because that’s what I read when I’m stressed. I was reading a “military” romance, but it was clear the author had never spoken to a military person, and I thought “I can do better than this!” Turns out I couldn’t, not at first. It took me a few years of writing before I felt comfortable publishing.

Finola Austin:A little bit of both. I’ve always loved nineteenth-century fiction, especially the works of the Bronte sisters and George Eliot, and my Masters degree focused on literature from the period. I didn’t want to be an academic as I couldn’t see the appeal of writing essays that only a few people in the world could understand. Instead historical fiction, for me, is a way of making the past accessible and visceral, and shining a light on the parallels between the then and the now.

Sofia FenichellThe genre of creating books for children definitely chose me! I wanted to help my own children fall in love with writing and become great writers. I could only see the value of writing going one way with the internet. But I was shocked by the poor quality of educational materials available for the  language-learning industry – poorly conceived, low-quality visuals, with many products that had very old copyright dates! The more I dug around, the more I realized that the sector was dominated by large publishing houses that underinvest in data-driven curation and high-quality content. All the investment and creativity was going into video games and entertainment. So, I was determined that Mrs Wordsmith would become the Pixar of Literacy.

Susanne Tedrick: The genre definitely chose me. Upon reflection on my own experiences in getting into tech – the successes, failures, and lessons learned – I realize that the sharing of this knowledge with the future women of color tech leaders was the book I was destined to write.

 

 

3. Who is your favorite author and why?

Collette McLaffertyMy favorite author will always be Louisa May Alcott. “Little Women” was the first book I picked out for myself. I found it at a garage sale. I was ten years old. I read the entire series including “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys”. It was the first time in my life I connected to characters on the page and developed a long term relationship with them. I was an avid reader as a child. Sadly, during my teenage years I fell into a vortex of self esteem and body issues. Like many girls, I distanced myself from my interests and passions during this time. I stopped reading for a while. Louisa May Alcott represents a time in my life when I could show up to the page with curiosity and no sense of limitations. 

AM ScottOoh, that’s a hard question. I have a lot of favorites! But right now, my very favorite science fiction author is Julia Huni. Full disclosure here—she’s my developmental editor, and my sister, but her stories are full of fun and adventure.

Finola Austin: Two women novelists I very much admire are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who wrote scandalous British novels classified as ‘sensation fiction’ in the nineteenth century, and Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian writer who wrote the beautiful By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept in 1945. Both women were incredibly talented. Both were also parents—Braddon had six children of her own and raised five stepchildren, while Smart was a single mother of four. I admire their writing, their grit and work ethic, and the fact that, for both, writing was an artform and a way to act as breadwinners for their families.

Sofia FenichellI like to read inspirational stories about people who defied the odds and retained their sense of humor, humility and integrity. My favorite author is Maya Angelou. I think we are at a point in humanity now where we all need to read more Maya Angelou. We need to hear from authors who make us think about our vulnerability and our unmitigated potential for growth. My favorite line from Dr. Angelou is “life loves the liver of it”; from Letter to My Daughter.

Susanne TedrickWriter and feminist activist Audre Lorde. I’ve found her poems and essays are always so powerful, thought-provoking and incredibly relevant today. It was through her writing that I came to understand intersectional feminism; while we may all identify as women,our race, class, sexuality and many other factors will ultimately shape what we experience in the world. No two women will experience life in the exact same way on gender alone.

 

4. As a female, do you think your gender/or how you choose to identify helps give you a different perspective in the world? And how has being an author helped you share that perspective?

Collette McLaffertyAs a female in the world, I constantly experience a lot that doesn’t fly with me. I see many whistles that need blowing and conversations that need to be had regarding the climate for women. When the mainstream media presented me to the public as a “bad, ugly singer” I realized my insecurities were not my own. They were taught to me and painstakingly marketed to me. As an author tackling this topic, I’ve had the opportunity to pull down the curtain and expose the multi million dollar business of shaming women for profit.  When I wrote the first draft of “Confessions” in 2014, it was before the “me too” and “time’s up” movement. I felt like a lone wolf of sorts. Now I’m part of a big, beautiful machine, that is disrupting the old narrative. There is a real opportunity to break the cycle, and it starts with the written word.

AM ScottI do have a different perspective than men—and many women too! This is my second career—I spent twenty years in the US Air Force as a space operations officer. It was a great career, but as a woman in a male-dominated profession, I had to fight against sexual discrimination. But think my background allows me to appeal to both sexes, because I understand the major issues of both, so my both my female and male characters ring true.

Finola AustinI’m going to speak in generalized terms here but, traditionally, girls have been raised to be highly attuned to the thoughts and feelings of those around them. We praise girls a lot for being ‘helpful’ and ‘kind’, rather than ‘brave’ or ‘daring.’ This kind of conditioning helps and hurts women as novelists. Having a honed sense of empathy is great for developing the interior monologue readers love to get access to when reading, and for unpacking interpersonal character dynamics. But women’s tendency to put themselves last, downplay their achievements, and shy away from risk can really hurt them when it comes to getting the damn novel written or promoting themselves once their books are ready to see the light of day. Again, this won’t hold true for everyone, but societal expectations can be hard to  overcome. Something that’s been amazing about sharing my writing with others is hearing that I’m not alone. Writing about some of the worst parts of being a woman has led to other women confiding in me, for instance about their unhappiness in their relationships, unpleasant sexual experiences, or ambivalent feelings towards motherhood.

Sofia FenichellYes definitely, I think being female and a Mom helped give me a particular perspective in the world. As the publisher of books for kids, I’m able to translate what I see going on in the world, into the eyes of my children. For example, we’ve just published a book called FLUSH! And 37 Essential House Rules which provides kids with the rules they need to become independent thinkers, visionaries, even renegades. Research also shows that kids who are able to accurately label their feelings, have more positive social interactions and perform better in school using their full range of vocabulary. Children who can think for themselves and respect their homes and the people around them go on to do unexpected and incredible things. We believe the home is a safe place where kids can test the boundaries and learn how to operate.Being an author helped me to conceive of this book as a way to equip kids with the language they need to take responsibility for themselves, laying the foundation for school and well beyond.”

Susanne TedrickBeing a woman, and specifically a Black woman, does give me a different perspective in the world. As part of a historically marginalized group, I see and feel the challenges Black women face in the world every day. Yet, Black women have learned to be incredibly resourceful and resilient in the face of any obstacle. It’s because of this that we’ve not only been able to survive but thrive in many domains. Being an author has allowed me to share this message of hope and perseverance with others. It can be hard,but it’s not impossible.

 

5. What is the best way, in your opinion, to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Collette McLafferty:The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to take a deep dive into your passions. Go out and find the women who not only made history but are the history makers of tomorrow. For me personally, I like to take a deep dive into the catalogues of female songwriters and performers  that are criminally underrated. Tracy Bonham is one of the best pop writers in my book and should have stayed on the charts. She hit #1 on the male dominated modern rock charts in the 90’s, a feat that was not repeated until Lorde cracked the code 17 years later with “Royals”. I’ll listen to the music of composer Maria Anna Mozart, who is often referred to as “Mozart’s Sister”.  I like to support groups like the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. They formed at a time when females were actively discouraged from participating in the rock world. Since music is my passion, that is how I will celebrate. 

AM ScottI love highlighting the accomplishments of women in science, technology,education and math. Stories like “Hidden Figures” are a wonderful way to bring those women to the attention of young women and hopefully inspire them to STEM careers

Finola AustinMy answer to this one may seem pretty obvious, but, no matter your gender, read books written by women (or pre-order books by women that will be out soon!). Don’t just read novels by women from your country, or of your ethnicity, or who share experiences similar to your own. Seek out the stories you haven’t heard before and, when you find ones you love, share them with others.

Sofia Fenichell: The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to acknowledge the hard work that it takes to pursue a dream and to encourage our children to find their own dreams. Seize the opportunity to teach your children about what you do each day whether you’re a female author or a CEO . Find gentle ways to bring them on the journey with you. They not only will help unlock solutions, but they will thrive as a result. Children learn most by the example we lead. Recently I sat down with my daughter to read our new book in the Mrs. Wordsmith child development series called Flush! and 37 Other House Rules and when she laughed out loud, I knew we had created the right book.

Susanne TedrickI think the best way to celebrate is to honor and spotlight the women in your life or in your circle who are out there doing amazing things. Sharing their stories and more about how they’ve influenced and inspired you is a great way for others to learn about more amazing women who are making things happen.

 

Image via The United Nations

 

 

Featured Image via Bookstr

 

 

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7 Underrated YA Books You’ll Wish You Read Sooner

There are a lot of mainstream YA books everyone has heard of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Fault in Our Stars, to name a few. But being a mainstream read doesn’t necessarily make a book “good” or any better than others of the genre, and these underrated YA books prove just that. These books might slip under the radar, but after reading them you’ll ask yourself: where have these books been all my life?

1. ‘The Gypsy King’ by Maureen Fergus

via goodreads

The Gypsy King is one of my all-time favorite YA fantasy reads, yet.  Maureen Fergus is a Canadian author and it can be hard to come by this book in the US but if you decide to go out on a limb and order it online, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The book follows Persephone, a sixteen-year-old slave who is sold to a chicken thief named Azriel. But Persephone quickly realizes that Azriel is not what he seems, and Persephone herself is a part of a prophecy much bigger than herself. Equal parts sassy and brave, Persephone will have you rooting for her through her many adventures and her encounters with courtly life. 

If you love deception, courtly politics, romance, and adventure—you’ll fall in love with The Gypsy King and its subsequent books. Don’t let its meager number of reviews discourage you; the book might not be well-known, but it’s certainly something you’ll wish you discovered sooner.

2. ‘White Space’ by Ilsa J. Bick

via goodreads

White Space is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Half the time you’ll be disoriented, confused, and maybe even a tad scared–but don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience!

The book follows Emma Lindsay, who has the ability to disappear into other people’s lives in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, she finds herself in “White Space”—the very story she thought she’d written. Here she finds other people from different lives, states, and even time periods. As the characters (and readers alike) struggle to separate reality from fiction, they must ultimately come together to figure out why they’re there, and how they might escape. 

Compared to the likes of Inception, this book plays with your mind, pulling you in deeper into not only the world, but the minds of its characters. If you love ambiguous thrillers, add White Space to your TBR today!

3. ‘Pivot Point’ by Kasie West

Image via Goodreads

You’ve probably heard of Kasie West’s contemporary works, but what about her paranormal romance? Pivot Point follows Addison Coleman, a girl who can look into the future, and see how a decision will impact her life. When faced with the chance to live with her father outside of her paranormal world, Addie peaks into the future to see how her choices will play out. The book alternates between the two scenarios–one in which she stays with her mother, the other where she moves in with her father—showing both the good and the bad of each decision. At the end of the book, Addie must decide which path to follow.

Not only does Pivot Point explore a unique concept, but it’s heart-wrenching in the fact that Addie can only ultimately choose one path to follow, meaning she’ll never get to experience everything in the other. Short, fast-paced, and fairly easy to read, you’ll speed through this book in no time. 

4. ‘These Shallow Graves’ by Jennifer Donnelly

via goodreads

While Jennifer Donnelly is a fairly well-known author, I haven’t heard much buzz about her YA historical mystery. These Shallow Graves, a standalone, follows Jo Montfort who, instead of getting married like she’s supposed to, wants to become a writer for a newspaper. When Jo’s father is shot dead in what is supposedly a suicide, Jo teams up with a reporter from her father’s paper to go in search of the truth.

Action-packed, well-written, and romantic, These Shallow Graves is perfect for the mystery lover in you. 

5. ‘Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

via goodreads

Yes, this book is as cheesy as it sounds. But it’s cheesy in the best possible way, and is sure to hit you in your feels. 

Julia is the complete opposite of her arch-nemesis Jason; she’s book-smart, and not very popular, where Jason is the class clown. But when Julia begins receiving romantic texts from an unknown number on a school trip, Jason promises to help Julia track down her secret-admirer. Meant to Be is not only funny, cute, and romantic, but it explores what “meant to be” (more commonly referred to in the book by it’s slang counterpart: “MTB”) really means, and if it’s as realistic as it seems.

6. ‘Chase the Dark’ by Annette Marie

via goodreads

I’ve recommended this book before, but will never turn up the chance to talk about it, simply because it’s so unknown. Available in both Kindle and paperback, Chase the Dark explores the paranormal world of Piper Griffiths. As the daughter of two haemons, children born to humans and haemons, Piper shouldn’t be alive. Yet, miraculously, she is. When her father’s Consulate—a place meant to shelter daemons in their travels, and keep the peace between them and humans–is destroyed, Piper finds herself on the run with two untrustworthy (but very handsome) daemons.

Set in an urban fantasy setting, this YA book is one you won’t be able to put down. Annette Marie explores her deeply-built world over the course of five books—giving you all the more time to fall in love with the series’ characters. 

7. ‘The Demon King’ by Cinda Williams Chima

via goodreads

If you love fantasy, strong world-building, and courtly politics, you’re sure to love this four-book series. The Demon King introduces us to Raisa, the princess of the Fells, who yearns to one day lead her people like the famed warrior queen Hanalea. Meanwhile, Han Alister is a reformed thief who, in an encounter with the High Wizard’s son, steals the wizard’s amulet—only to realize it once belonged to the infamous Demon King.

Interweaving between plotlines, character perspectives, and remnants of the world’s past, The Demon King explores class relations and what it means to be a hero/heroine in a rich fantasy setting anyone with a love for the mythical will enjoy.

Featured Image via Mental Floss

 

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The Famous Pie!

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, ‘Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?’” – Kathryn Stockett, The Help

 

Image Via The Concordian

Published on February 10, 2009, The Help became one of the best representations of maids in the 1960s. Since its publication date, eleven years ago, The Help has been published in 35 countries with three different languages. Selling more than three million copies, it spent “more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.” That’s how you know that it has made a difference in the book world.

 

 

After graduating from Ole Miss, Skeeter returns home with a degree. Although she has made an accomplishment in her life, it is not good enough for her mother, who would rather her have a ring on her finger. Skeeter normally goes to her maid Constantine to talk about the crazy lady, that is her mother, but Constantine is nowhere to be found. Aibileen, who is a maid for one of Skeeter’s friends, is raising her seventeenth white child when she undergoes the loss of her son. She loves taking care of the little girl, but her heart is more broken than she cares to admit. These two women, along with the help of Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, band together to write a book about their lives as maids.

 

Image Via CNN.com

Struggling with crossing the lines of the times, this book has allowed many to gain a better understanding of how it was to live in the 1960s. The distinction between white and black women is very distinct, as no black person is on the same level as the white women they work for. All black maids are always self-conscious of what they do or say, in order to keep their jobs.

 

 

The Help was made into a movie adaption two years after the publication of the book, and it was just as good, if not more. I know that many of the fans, as well as myself, love the scene of Minny’s crap pie. I personally wanted to create a pie of almost the same caliber, but I know I don’t have the brawns to do such a thing. I love these characters and I hope that you love them just as much as I do.

 

Featured Image Via American Profile

 


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Face Full of Kells

The Book of Kells is old and I’m not talking first Harry Potter old. In fact, I’m not even talking The Lord of The Rings old. The book is believed to have been created in 800AD in an Irish monastery and the Latin manuscript is 340 folios, a.k.a 680 pages. It takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, the abbey that was home to the manuscript for many years, but now it is on permanent display in Trinity College Dublin. Thanks to modern technology and the 21st Century monster that is the internet (just kidding, we love you), you can now view the book in its entirety online.

 

 

The book has long been on display in Dublin, but visiting it comes with an entry fee. Pair this with the cost of, you know, getting there, if you aren’t Irish, it adds up to a hefty price to read a book. Plus, the University only has two pages on display at any given time. This new digital edition, however, has the manuscript in its entirety and is totally free.

 

 

So what’s the deal with The Book of Kells? What makes it so famous? In short, it is actually a collection of ancient books that retell the Gospels. It is full of lavish and extravagant illustrations that were way ahead of their time, with 12th Century writer Gerald of Wales describing them as “the work of an angel, and not of a man”. These illustrations are the most important aspect of the manuscript, with much of the text jumbled and messy. It appears that the text was never the focal point for the monks at work, and as such, it is not what The Book of Kells is remembered for today.

 

 

Shockingly, only thirty folios have been lost throughout the years, though the manuscript has undergone several rebindings. Careful preservation has ensured that the manuscript is legible today. The book calls a “specialized climate-controlled case” home, keeping it safe, dry and clean. Digitizing the manuscript is a very positive move towards longevity and since the internet is forever, there’s no fear of loss or decay!

So, if you can’t quite make a trip to Dublin happen, pour yourself a Guinness and read The Book of Kells in your own home instead.

 

featured image via trinity college dublin

 


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10 Thought Provoking Quotes by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, a literary genius, an advocate for feminists everywhere, a tormented, complicated soul, celebrates her would have been 138th birthday today. And on this special day, we want you to remember some of the remarkable sayings Woolf has blessed us with. So, here are 10 quotes by the prolific author, which makes us realize why she became such a profound figure worldwide.

1. On history

“Nothing has really happened until it has been described.”

image via bbc

 

2. on personal growth

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”

image via the new yorker

 

3. on comedy

“Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.”

image via buboquote

 

 

4. On feminism

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”

image via the new yorker

 

5. on fiction

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

image via national portrait gallery

 

6. on aging

“The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.”

image via literary hub

 

 

7. on nature

“The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.”

image via wikimedia

 

 

8. On diet

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

image via new statesman

 

9. on youth

“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.”

image via moniq’s artyfacts

 

 

10. on being authentic

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

image via Blogging woolf

These quotes make it easy for us to realize the impact Virginia Woolf has had on culture, feminism, life and writing, and why her significance is as prevalent to this day.

featured image via granta

 

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