Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Into the Sunset with Westerns
Author Guest / September 18, 2019

With summer already headed into the sunset in most locales, we’ll take a look at fiction set in the most famous of “into the sunset” areas–American-set and Western novels.  After decades of tremendous popularity, with the exception of a few movies and books–the “Lonesome Dove” series and remakes of “True Grit”–the genre has been out of favor recently.  But a few new and notable novels would like to reverse that trend. Proceeding chronologically, we begin with 355: THE WOMEN OF WASHINGTON’S SPY RING by Kit Sergeant.  Following the lead of the popular AMC TV show “Turn,” Sergeant presents the intertwining stories of three women who might have belonged to the secret spy ring referred to in Washington’s notebooks.  Meg Moncrieffe returned from boarding school in Ireland to find a colony in revolt.  Though her sympathies were initially with the British, her love for Aaron Burr persuaded her to look at another solution.  Elizabeth Burgin’s loyalties lay strongly with the colonists’ side after her husband died aboard one of the notorious British prison ships.  When a Culper Ring member approaches her, she’s ready to put herself–and her family–at risk to bring down the men who caused her husband’s death.  Initially furious…

Melanie Dobson | Wanderings (or “The Wonder of Research”)
Author Guest / September 13, 2019

Damp air settled between the marlstone walls, its chill creeping into my bones as our group wandered reverently through the ancient mines. We stopped to read the old inscriptions, listen to the stories, and remember all that happened in these tunnels along the southern tip of The Netherlands. During World War II, these passages were used to hide artwork from the Dutch masters and as an escape route for Allied pilots and those escaping the Nazi occupiers. What would it have been like to be a Jewish woman down here, I wondered, trying to navigate the thousands of tunnels as she fled from a Nazi officer intent on finding her? What if, in order to save her life, she had to leave behind the boy she loved? My mind began to follow my feet in the wandering. Each of my novels builds block-upon-block on the foundation of an experience like this one. In those tunnels last year, I could feel the wetness of the marlstone walls on my hands and the coldness in my lungs. I could breathe the moist air and fight the weight of darkness as the walls pressed in. In the wandering of my mind, the breadth…

Bella Ellis | Exclusive Interview: THE VANISHED BRIDE
Author Guest / September 11, 2019

Welcome to Fresh Fiction! Congrats on the release of your new novel, THE VANISHED BRIDE, the first book in your new Bronte Mystery series. Please tell us a little bit about where you came up with the idea for this book, and about yourself!  I have been a fan of the Bronte sisters since I was around the age of 10. The idea for The Vanished Bride came as I was writing another novel set in Haworth. I had the idea of the Brontë sisters appearing in this novel as cameo characters, involved in uncovering a literary mystery. However, as soon as I had that idea I realized what a great novel it could be in its own right, and so The Vanished Bride was born. One of my favorite things about this novel was your clear appreciation and admiration for each of the Bronte sisters. What was your favorite thing about bringing each of them to life in this book?  I love Charlotte, Emily and Anne so much that it was really important to me to take a great deal of care in bringing my fictional versions of them to life. They are such iconic women, and mean so…

Gill Paul | Sexing up the Romanovs
Author Guest / August 28, 2019

The new Netflix series The Last Czars is a visually stunning and generally accurate account of Nicholas II’s ascent to the Russian throne and the mistakes he and his wife Alexandra made that more or less assured their tragic fate. However, right from the first episode, there are sex scenes galore, as if some studio exec decided it needed ‘sexing up.’ One such scene in the final episode had me yelling out loud at my screen. It showed Maria, third daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, making out with one of the guards in the Ekaterinburg house where they were held from April to July 1918. She is unbuttoning her blouse while he is ripping off his jacket, presumably about to have consensual sex, when the door is thrown open by Avdeyev, commandant of the guards. This is implausible on many levels. First of all, Maria was a deeply religious girl, who followed the daily practices of the Russian Orthodox church and was unquestionably chaste. She was also a tsar’s daughter, who in other circumstances might have been matched with foreign royalty or a Russian aristocrat, while the guard in question was a lower-class factory worker. Maria was an obedient girl,…

Pam Webber | Exclusive Interview: MOON WATER + GIVEAWAY!
Author Guest / August 21, 2019

Welcome back to Fresh Fiction! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your book, MOON WATER?  Hi! Many thanks to Fresh Fiction for the warm welcome. Career-wise, I’m a family nurse practitioner and a long-time nursing educator. In 2015, I switched from writing nursing research articles and texts to writing novels. Creating meaningful historical fiction is the more difficult yet most rewarding writing I’ve ever done. It is an art form that requires a significant amount of time and skill to develop, especially if you want to write literary fiction. While completing my first novel, The Wiregrass, I knew I had a good story, but needed help with designing the infrastructure supporting the story. Consequently, I began taking creative writing classes with a New York Times bestselling author. The classes were difficult but incredibly valuable.  Hopefully, what I learned is evident in Moon Water, a stand-alone sequel to The Wiregrass. Interestingly, the classes also made me a more astute reader of fiction as well. In Moon Water, the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Nettie, comes home to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and gets hit with sucker punches coming from all directions. Her boyfriend since grade school wants to…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Renaissance, A Lush Splendor
Author Guest / August 21, 2019

Complex as its luxurious brocaded gowns in rich colors, the Renaissance abounds in stories of intrigue, political maneuvering, lust, and murder, and features larger-than-life historical figures.  In this month’s column, we will look at four novels exploring this world of splendor and violence. We begin with THE VATICAN PRINCESS by C.W. Gortner, which features one of the Renaissance’s most fascinating characters, Lucrezia Borgia.  This novel, narrated in her own voice, deals with the central portion of her life, after her father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, becomes Pope Alexander VI.  The beautiful Lucrezia and her brothers Cesare and Juan are stars of the Papal court–but also pawns in the political power games that seek to maintain the Borgias as the dominant family of Renaissance Italy. Her first marriage is annulled when the winds of fortune change, after which she is allied to a Prince of Naples.  His later death, and the convoluted scheming between marriages, lead to charges by her enemies that she was involved in murder and even incest. A third marriage to the Duke of Ferrara, scion of the equally powerful d’Este family, finally provides a measure of stability for a girl who has been forced to survive in a…

Jennifer Vido | Jen’s Jewels Interview: FIONA DAVIS
Author Guest , Interviews , Jen's Jewels / August 9, 2019

What inspired you to write The Chelsea Girls? I met an actress in her nineties who started telling me what it was like in the New York City theater world during the McCarthy era, and I realized this was a story that very few knew. As I dug into the research of that period, I was struck by how many actors and directors had had their lives destroyed by a misguided witchhunt, many of them at the very cusp of their careers, which means we don’t know the plays or performances that were lost because of McCarthyism. I wanted to tell that story. The Chelsea Girls takes place during the 1940s to 1960s. What is the most fascinating thing you learned while researching this time period? The book takes place at the Chelsea Hotel, and I was surprised at how many famous people had stayed there over the years. The poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death there, and artists like Jackson Pollock and John Sloan called it home. Then you have all the rockers: Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious. Playwright Arthur Miller sought refuge there after his divorce from Marilyn Monroe. The list goes on an on, and…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Daring and Danger – A Tribute to WWII
Author Guest , History / July 17, 2019

Continuing with WWII fiction in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we’ll focus on stories that illumine some fascinating but lesser-known people and events in the war, most based in historical fact. We begin with THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM by Marie Benedict.  In pre-WWII Austria, beautiful—Jewish–actress Hedwig Keistler catches the eye of the wealthiest man in Austria, arms dealer Fritz Mandl.  Knowing that marriage to the powerful Mandl may keep her and her family safe from the rising tide of anti-Semitism, after a short courtship, Hedwig weds him.  Certain his glamorous wife doesn’t care about or understand the weapons he develops and sells, Mandl discusses them freely around her with his business partners.  But Hedwig is brilliant as well as beautiful, with a life-long interest in science nurtured by her father. When Mendl becomes ever more abusive and controlling, Hedwig flees from him, first to London and then to America—where she becomes film star Hedy Lamarr.  But she also carried with her the plans for the Nazi’s weapons systems—and an invention of her own that will pave the way for secure communications and cellphone technology. A look behind the glamorous façade, Benedict’s book reveals a woman as…

Carrie Turansky | Who Were the British Home Children?
Author Guest / June 28, 2019

Many readers are familiar with the Orphan Trains that took impoverished children from large cities in the East to live with families in small towns and on farms in the Midwest. But did you know during that same time period more than 100,000 poor and orphaned British children were sent from England to Canada as British Home Children? This child emigration scheme was started by those who had good intentions and who hoped to clear the streets, children’s homes, and workhouses of orphaned and abandoned children in England’s overcrowded cities and towns. The children were promised a better life in Canada, but sadly that was not the case for all of them. Most of these children were not adopted and welcomed into families. Instead, the boys were taken in as indentured farm laborers and the girls worked as household servants called domestics, even at very young ages. Those who took them in simply filled out a form and paid a small fee. There was little screening and often no follow up. Because of this, and prevailing attitudes of the time, many of these children suffered neglect and mistreatment. Many slept in barns or other outbuildings and were not given adequate…

Richard Kirshenbaum | Exclusive Excerpt: ROUGE
Author Guest / June 26, 2019

From Rouge: A Novel of Beauty and Rivalry. Copyright © 2019 by Richard Kirshenbaum and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press. Chapter 2 A NEW FRONTIER Sydney, Australia, 1922 The heat was unbearable, constant, itchy, and apparently determined to do battle with her skin. It was ironic how brutal the journey had been given that the point of it was to flee a brutal adversary at home. Her mother’s favorite phrase came to mind as she grasped the railing of the ship: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Were her dear mother here right now, she would also be telling Josiah to protect her skin by putting on her hat. Instead, in a flash of rebellion, she stared head-on into the sun as though the sun itself were her enemy and she would win the face-off so long as she did not betray fear. Oy vey ist mir. She could not keep this lament far from her mind as she thought of the distance between her loving mother and herself. The distance increased with every second, along with the ache in her heart. She could practically smell her mother’s distinct scent: sweet, earthy, like the kasha and sweet white…