What People Are Saying About My Forthcoming Title

Before I get to the feedback, I'd like to give you a brief update on the status of The Binding of Saint Barbara. It is finished and ready to begin the publishing process but for various reasons I am attempting to pitch to agents and publishers before going directly to indie publishing again. Unfortunately, the process of pitching agents and editors is can take a lot of time, so I'm still in the waiting phase. I'll keep you updated on social media and via the newsletter so make sure you are subscribed or follow me.

Now for early reader feedback:

Jennifer Kincheloe
"Stephanie Carroll spins a mesmerizing tale of love, captivity, the power of death, and the depths of memory. This is a vivid, fascinating, thought-provoking book. I couldn't put it down and can't wait to read it again." Jennifer Kincheloe, award winning author of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc and The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. 

It’s a book that I would read again and again. It was a page turner. It’s one of those books that when I sit down to read it, I get frustrated when I have to stop and do something else. —Laura Jones   

… right around the 50% mark it picked up like an avalanche and I couldn’t put it down. I finished the whole second half in one night. … I loved the gothic atmosphere and the historical events. I love learning about things I don’t know about. —Nicole Evelina, award winning author of Madame Presidentess and other novels.
Nicole Evelina

I really enjoyed the story itself, very unusual to what I normally read. I liked that it filled multiple genres: mystery, fantasy, coming of age. . . . I was swept up into the story half way through the first chapter. –Krystal Andersen
Allison Hiltz

I liked that The Binding of Saint Barbara adds dimension to a dark topic, allowing the reader to circle around the moral complexities of the nation’s first electrocution without forcing a particular reaction. Allison Hiltz, founder of The Book Wheel Blog & The 30 Authors Event and Candidate for Aurora City Council.

Stephanie Carroll's ability to portray Victorian characters never fails to impress, and her portrayal of the historical events leading up to the controversial first death by electrocution was nothing less than gripping all the way up to the final heart-wrenching moments. –Rene Miller Parades, Instructor of History, West Hills College 

[Stephanie] did such a great job with [the villain]. I really fell for it. I thought he was genuine and then WHAM! He’s such a sick bastard and you are so talented for making him so twisted! (Actually, I may be a little afraid of you now.) —Nicole Evelina, award winning author of Madame Presidentess and other novels.


(In Progress)

Inspired by and set amidst one of the most controversial decisions in American history—the first death by electrocution—The Binding of Saint Barbara follows the story of the people who came to know, fear, and love the condemned ax-murderer during the year he awaited his death in Auburn Prison in 1890 New York.

Charlotte Durston hasn’t stepped outside the walls of the castle-like fortress of Auburn Prison since she was a child. Her overprotective father, the warden, makes sure everything she needs is provided, so she has no need to go out nor does she have a need to interact with the inmates until now. At seventeen, she is desperate for a normal life and for people to treat her like an adult. Her parents agree to send her to Bernard College in Manhattan where she can have a proper coming out in society, but first she must prove she is responsible and can manage herself even around the worst sort of people.

Her father tasks her with ministering to the newest inmate, the first man condemned to the electric chair. However, in an effort to impress the man she loves, Guard Daniel McNaughton, Charlotte gets too close to the cell, and the prisoner reaches through the bars and strangles her until she loses consciousness. The trauma should have ended when Daniel pried the prisoner’s fingers from her throat, but from then on, Charlotte is plagued by panic attacks intermingled with flashes of memory—someone leading her through a lightning storm in the middle of the night.

Charlotte is still determined to leave her cloistered life and begs for another chance, but the next inmate she meets not only has information that could determine the outcome of the electrocution appeal and save the man who tried to kill her, he also knows something about Charlotte, a secret about a lightning storm that happened over ten years ago. As the memories become ever more vivid, Charlotte realizes that night is the answer to why she cannot break free from her prison and that it must hold the key to her escape.

Experience one of the most controversial decisions in American history – the world’s first death by electrocution – through the eyes of those who witnessed it and the man who endured it.

Incorporating historical newspaper articles and the battle between Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla—Stephanie Carroll mesmerizes readers by interweaving history and intrigue to create a seamless exploration of the good and evil in us all.

A Little More About the Charactersin The Binding of Saint Barbara

Experience one of the most controversial decisions in American history – the world’s first death by electrocution – through the eyes of those who witnessed it and the man who endured it.

Charlotte Durston is a prisoner in New York’s Auburn Prison – but she isn’t a criminal, she’s the warden’s daughter. Under the thumb of highly moralistic parents, she hasn’t stepped outside the walls of the castle-like fortress since she was a child. It’s for her protection, or so they say, but at 17, Charlotte is desperate for a normal life in the adult world. In order to prove herself, she sets about ministering to the newest inmate, the first man condemned to the electric chair, a good deed she will come to sorely regret.

Guard Daniel McNaughton sees everything from his post outside Kemmler’s cell. Though slowly falling for the one woman he’s forbidden to love, he can’t deny the oddness of Charlotte’s bloody fingers or the ghosts in her eyes, nor can he turn a blind eye to the unsavory advances of one of the inmates toward her. He is also all too aware of the war within the warden’s family and the battle going on in Kemmler’s soul. As he fights to help the condemned man find salvation, Daniel also confronts his own weaknesses, praying to find the strength and steel to protect those he loves. 

Condemned William Kemmler is the first man to walk through the prison’s gates who will not leave again. Fighting an addiction to alcohol, a looming death sentence and his own personal demons, he unwittingly sets off a chain of events that not only determines his chances at redemption, but leads Charlotte down a dark path of visions and panic attacks intermingled with flashes of memory that may or may not be real, causing everyone around her to question her sanity.

Warden Charles Durston is posed to make history when as the first warden to oversee an electrocution, but a terrible secret from his past haunts him as he fights for the legality of this so-called “humane” method of execution. 

Inmate Michael Bradley is a survivor. Struck by lightning as a boy, he is more than he seems. This two-bit con man has information that could determine the outcome of the electrocution appeal and knows something about Charlotte, a secret that is key to why she can’t break free from her prison. As the only person that holds the key to her escape, he wields more power than anyone suspects – a position he intends to use to his full advantage.

Gertrude Durston, has spent her life serving the less fortunate within the cold stone walls of Auburn Prison, and she has gained a level of authority she values more than she even realizes, but she is ready to risk it all. She is so determined to save William Kemmler's soul that she is ready to sacrifice anything, including her marriage and public ridicule by breaking a prisoner out of Auburn Prison so he can testify on Kemmler's behalf.

The actions of these individuals will not only change the course of history but the course of each of their lives.

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Stephanie Carroll has given us a truly amazing gift and I can't wait to see this one as a movie. A brilliant debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her writing. Thank you for a beautifully crafted tale. - Amazon UK Review

A White Room Won!

Shelf Unbound Magazine Notable Page Turners & Favorite Cover! Pg 36 & 40
“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper, this book shows with alarming clarity what life was like for women before the modern age freed us of so many restraints … absolutely mesmerizing.”—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

USA Book News Best Book Award Cross Genre Category
A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... Despite the consequences, Emeline defies society’s expectations in her endeavor to help others, risking not only her marriage, but her reputation—and ultimately, her freedom. An intelligent story, well told.” 
—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

Appearance on Authors & Artists

A White Room Made No. 1!!!

I totally loved this book. It's been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, ... Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the Gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables ... and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier's works. - Amazon US Review

Post Your Review Today!
If you enjoyed A White Room or Legacy, show your support and help me find new readers by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads today! 

(On Amazon just click the "customer reviews" link next to the star rating and it will take you to the reviews where you can click "write a review.")

Thank You!!! 
Your time and support means so much to me!

. . . if you want some realistic historical fiction that deals with difficult issues, that doesn't allow a love story to overcome the plot, and that has you really feeling for the characters involved, go and read this right now. - Goodreads Review

Q&A on Central Valley Talk

Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it's about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn't put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It's not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me ... - Barnes and Noble Review

Check out the Fire Section!
In addition to being an author, I am also a fire dancer! Betcha didn't expect that, did you?

Join Me on My RV Adventure through History!!!!

Our lab Raja in the RV.
She loves the captain seat.

This video is the first of many that my husband and I have been making in preparation for our RV adventure, which will involve us visiting a variety of locations that are of significance to Gilded Age & Victorian history up the west coast from Southern California to the Northern part of Washington. We are doing this as a fun part of us moving from Cali to Washington. 

However, we don't like to do things in the most easiest or normal ways, so instead we got a used RV and renovated it. This video is a walk-through that shows you the before renovation. If you want to skip ahead, this video is linked to 17 more videos detailing the renovation and moving process. I'm going to share more of these videos in the coming weeks on this blog and my Unhinged Historian blog, but not every single one because I think our adventure in history is going to be of more interest to you. 

Still, I want to get you caught up on what's been going on and what we've been doing for the last year because it's why you haven't heard much from me as of late. 

Also, here is a little timeline to help you keep track of what's going on:

Picture from a trip to Northern Washington
April 2016
My husband decided to leave his job, and we realized it was the first time he wasn't in the military and wasn't tied down to a job, so we could actually go wherever we wanted (which we've never done in our entire adult lives). After much discussion of climate, culture and nearby family members, we chose Northern Washington.

From April to August we did a lot to our house to make it ready to put up for sale while my husband finished up his degree in computer software engineering and I finished up my second novel. At this point, my husband didn't try to get another job in the area where we lived because we had his GI Bill while he attended college. Besides, we expected to leave relatively soon, so he didn't feel it was ethical to start a new job when he would have to quit in a few months. 
We completely renovated two bathrooms,
put in a new shower and claw-foot tub. 

August 2016
We listed our house expecting to sell it in a month and head up to Washington by October. My husband had also started the process of applying for jobs in Washington.

September 2016
Nothing. No one wanted the house; we weren't even getting walk-through's and no one had offered my husband a job in Washington despite many phone interviews. We lowered the price of the house, and told ourselves it would be okay but for how long? My husband graduated from college that month, which was great but it meant we no longer would receive a chunk of GI Bill cash that was keeping us from depleting our accounts. I decided to get a job and started doing marketing part time for a small car dealership.

October 2016
Still nothing. We started getting worried. We were just hemorrhaging money. Of course my husband was now actively looking for jobs in Washington and had several companies fly him out for interviews. Unfortunately, it turned out he's at this point in his career where he can move up from being a supervisor to a manager, but he doesn't have enough experience for people to be interested in giving him a full moving package. We lowered our price again. We also started to freak out but just a smidge. 

November 2016
Okay, by this point we had started to panic a little. We lowered the price again, and we hoped the end of the election season would end the freeze on house-buying. Apparently, house sales go down around elections of new presidents because people fear things will change radically, especially with the political opponents of 2016. We started to get more views but still very little action.

This was my poor husband after he'd done
a full day of repairs underneath the house.
December 2016
The holidays. No one was even looking, and we were really unsure as to how to proceed. We started talking about my husband throwing in the towel and getting a job come the new year. Then suddenly one day somebody literally showed up on our doorstep wanting to buy our house out right, no inspections or anything. We thought we were saved, but then it turned out to be a total low-ball and the individual refused to negotiate. 

January 2017
Right after the low-ball experience and right after Christmas, we got the miracle from Jesus that we were praying for. Someone put in a serious offer, and we went into escrow after lowering our price like five times over six months. It was a really difficult and stressful process because by this point were were seriously almost out of money but we had to pay for various repairs and issues that came up during the inspection process. 

February 2017
Nevertheless, we closed escrow February 24, and headed to Southern California to spend a couple of weeks with some of our family before heading up to Washington. Thankfully we got a little money from the sale, so we are no longer freaking out financially and are just praising God and Jesus for getting us through this. 

This is where we are at in the process as I'm writing this post so what's next?
This was from right after we signed the escrow papers.

Our Plans for the next few months:
March 2017 
We are going to visit family and make our final adjustments to the RV. Then we will start a two week journey up the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington hitting up beaches, forests, and historical landmarks of interest for the Victorian Era and Gilded Age in America. 

I'm super excited and I hope you are too because I'm taking you on this journey with me!!!!!! So stay tuned!!!

Book Review: The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

Official Book Description
It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels—but must disguise them behind covers of more lady-like books. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. 

Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. 

If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief's son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity. And shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail.

Anna must choose—either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

My Thoughts
I really, really enjoyed The Secret Life of Anna Blanc. It was a fun and an adorable romp into America’s Gilded Age Los Angeles. Author Jennifer Kincheloe kept me constantly guessing, smiling, and laughing out loud – for real not just lol style. 

First thing, as a Gilded Age historical novelist myself, I was blown away by the unique history that went into this book, which is based on a real police matron. Kincheloe did a fantastic job of incorporating interesting historical details from turn of the century LA, to the world of crime, to the inner workings of police matrons, to the world of prostitution, to upper class fashion. It all ties back to setting, and I really enjoyed that as most Gilded Age and Victorian novels take place in New York or England - especially for crime and mystery novels. It's rare to get this kind of look at the West Coast without it being a western. 

Kincheloe is also very talented at characterization. The main character Anna Blanc is like a Scarlett O’hara type but even more lovable. I don’t know how, but Kincheloe managed to make naivety, self-absorption, and stubbornness into hilarious and again lovable traits! Anna Blanc is also caring, tenacious, and especially daring. Building a character like this really shows the skill of the author. Supporting characters were also great fun, especially Joe who makes a perfect side-kick and romance. He’s gritty and just a little bit bad. I loved him!

The overall story is exciting and interesting too, not to mention really good at keeping you guessing. I don’t usually go for mysteries or crime novels as I fear they will be predictable, but that was not the case here. In fact this book is making me completely reevaluate my opinions of these types of books because this was so good! I was sure I knew who the bad guy was, or that I had guessed who it was, at least once in my many attempts, but in the end I was still surprised, not only by who but by how it perfectly rounded out the plot. I was also intrigued in the side-plots, from the criminal rapists (not the main murder mystery) to the question of Anna Blanc’s engagement.

But what really made this story shine for me were the little things. The use of language both historical and just in different character’s voices was awesome. I loved that her side-kick, Joe, had this thing for singing and that Anna shouted things like: “Oh biscuits!” and “worse than a rattlesnake cupcake.” Then there was this ongoing thing that Anna would say about “doing what any sensible woman would do in that situation” which would be followed by something utterly hilarious!

I should also mention that I listened to the audio version and the narrator Moira Quirk was quite talented. She did all kinds of voices and accents that brought the story to life.

All in all, I was really impressed with this book and how much fun it was to read/listen to. Jennifer Kincheloe is a master of comedy, character, plot, Gilded Age history, and especially writing. I cannot wait to read the second installment in her Anna Blanc series! 

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc is available on AmazonAudible, and wherever books are sold. Visit Kincheloe's website and join her email list to receive all kinds of unique historical books and goodies.  

About the Author

Jennifer is a research scientist turned writer of historical fiction. Her novels take place in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD and combine, mystery, history, humor, and romance. Her debut novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF ANNA BLANC was a finalist in the Lefty Awards for Best Historical Mystery, The Colorado Author's League Award for Best Genre Fiction, the Macavity Sue Feder Award for Historical Mystery, and is the WINNER of the Colorado Gold for Best Mystery.

Jennifer grew up in Southern California, but has traveled to such places as Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Papua New Guinea. She's been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. Jennifer currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers, two dogs, and a cat.

Visit Jennifer at www.jenniferkincheloe.com

The First Female Presidential Candidate was Actually in 1872!

Did you know that Hilary Clinton is not the first female presidential candidate??? Author Nicole Evelina did, so she wrote a book about it and she re-enacted it, so I couldn't pass up the chance to interview her just in time for the elections!

Interview with historical novelist Nicole Evelina author of Madame Presidentess

Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction. She is also the author of romantic comedy Been Searching for You and award-winning historical fiction Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view.

Victoria Woodhull is relatively unknown. What inspired you to write about her? How did you find out about her?

I learned about her by seeing a picture of her with an alluring caption on Pinterest, of all places. The caption said, “Known by her detractors as ‘Mrs. Satan,’ Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman's suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.” I immediately had to know more and began my research. I mean, any woman called “Mrs. Satan” is someone I have to get to know!

Why did you choose to write about her in particular?
Not only is Victoria fascinating, but the fact that she’s been nearly forgotten motivated me. As a historical fiction author, I’m attracted to the stories of people, especially women, who are in danger of being lost to the pages of history. Bringing those stories to light and making sure their heroines are remembered by future generations is my personal mission. I wanted to help get Victoria’s name back in the history books where it belongs. I also wanted to help people envision her as a living, breathing person in a way you can’t typically do in a historical text. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she called my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, home for a while as well – in fact, it is where she met her second husband.

If Victoria were alive today, what do you think she would think of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?
I think she would view Hillary as a political daughter of sorts and get along very well with her. Both women are intelligent, ambitious and tenacious. They have both been through extremely personal attacks in the media (the newspapers of Victoria’s day were as vicious as our news media is today), been caught up in family scandal and underestimated because of their sex. I don’t think Hillary’s email scandal would have bothered Victoria in the least because she was accused of blackmail several times throughout her life. (We can’t know if it was ever true of her, but we do know her mother and her sister Polly were serial offenders.)

Having no political background, but a strong reputation in business and a lot of money, I think Victoria could probably relate to Donald Trump more than you might think on first glance. However, she was not one to suffer a fool, so she would not put up with his anti-female, anti-name-the-group rhetoric. She was a suffragist and a Communist (in the sense of being for worker’s rights) so she would tell him where to step off very quickly. She was also surprisingly learned for a woman without much formal education, so she’d be quick to rebuff his emotional attacks with logic and facts. Plus, she was a great speaker and I have no doubt could hold her own in a debate with him.

Tell us How You Got Involved with a Re-Enactment of the 1872 Election?
Nicole Evelina (left) with a Victoria Woodhull reenactor.

The reeenactment was an out of the blue thing for me. I had a booth back in July at a Women’s Expo where I was selling books and I overheard someone mention President Grant, which isn’t something you hear in everyday conversation. So I politely inserted myself into the conversation by mentioning I just learned a lot about him in researching my book about Victoria. It turns out that the woman who make the remark works at Ulysses S. Grant Park here in St. Louis. That was when she told me they were going to hold a re-enactment of the election of 1872, something I later learned was four years in the planning.

Because that’s the election Victoria ran in, I immediately asked if there was anything I could do to help. While their rules prevented me from selling books in the gift shop or on-site, I was asked if I’d like to “campaign” for Victoria – period costume and all. It was so much fun!  They allowed me to give out post cards and talk about my book. And as it turns out, Rebecca Rou, who is filming a documentary about Victoria, saw my tweet about the event, hopped a plane and came out to the event to capture footage.

Read Nicole's blog post on the reenactment for more.

What is the most unusual thing you learned about Victoria in your research?
There are a lot of unusual things about her, from her upbringing to her family’s antics (things you couldn’t make up) and her unconventional attitudes toward sex, marriage and the role of women. But what most fascinated me is that she was a Spiritualist and believed she had clairvoyant and healing powers. Victoria’s mother encouraged her and her sister Tennie in this belief and her father used these gifts to make money even when the girls were very young. Victoria maintained her whole life that she was guided by the spirits, especially that of the Greek orator Demosthenes, whom she identified as her spirit guide. She claims he predicted her success in New York as well as her candidacy. She said she consulted the spirits regularly and was even President of the national Spiritualist’s association at one point.

What’s one interesting thing you learned while researching this novel?
That the suffrage movement wasn’t all roses and sisterhood like I expected. That was the picture Hollywood and my high school textbooks painted. But the suffrage movement was actually broken into two competing factions in the mid-1800s, the American Womans Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, that endorsed suffrage state by state and were more conservative, and the more radical National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which advocated for federal women’s suffrage. Victoria was a member of the later for several years. In addition to being split ideologically, the women often disagreed and fought with one another more than you would think, penning unflattering articles and messages about one another and speaking out publically against each other. The rift between the two major groups wasn’t mended until 1890, when they joined as the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

How long did it take you to write Madame Presidentess?
I did about six months worth of research before writing. The writing itself took about nine months and I edited for another several months. So in total, about a year and a half.

Victoria Woodhull

How closely does your novel mirror history?
It’s as close as I could make it without this being creative non-fiction. I’d say it’s about 70% accurate. I made up some secondary characters and one of Victoria’s affairs is fictional (but it was inspired by a rumored affair). Of course, as with all historical fiction, most of the dialog and details are made up, but all of her speeches, courtroom testimony, articles and even a few lines of dialog are taken from historical evidence. We even have descriptions of her home in Murray Hill and her brokerage office. Thanks to the biographers, we also have records of actual words from Cornelius Vanderbilt, Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Catharine Beecher and Susan B. Anthony, all of which were used in the novel where possible. The authors notes at the end of the book go into great detail on what is accurate and what is not and why.

What kind of research did you do to make this book come to life?
My main references were newspaper articles from the time and biographies of Victoria, starting with the fanciful one she commissioned from Theodore Tilton during her lifetime and Emanie Sachs’ scathing account published just after Victoria’s death, through more recent works such as Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull by the recently deceased biographer Barbara Goldsmith, Notorious Victoria by Mary Gabriel and The Woman Who Ran for President by Lois Beachey Underhill. I also read quite a few books on women’s lives in mid-to-late-19th century America, as well as the on suffrage movement and electoral politics at the time (voting was very different and not nearly as anonymous then as it is now). For those who are interested in my sources, I have a complete reference list on my website here: https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/madame-presidentess/research/.

Who was your favorite character after Victoria?
I had a ton of fun writing Victoria’s larger-than-life parents, but my favorite has to be Victoria’s sister, Tennie. As Mr. Vanderbilt would say she “has spunk.” She was so authentic and didn’t care what anyone thought. If you told her a woman couldn’t do something (like smoke cigars or curse, both of which Tennie did), she’d go and do it in style a) because she wanted to and b) to prove you wrong – and she’d do it in public. The one thing that irritated me about her was her co-dependence on her parents, especially her mother, and how she could be so incredibly loyal to them after all they put her through. I’m guessing it has to do with how she was raised and probably kind of brainwashed by them. But there’s not a lot of historical evidence about her mindset, so that’s one of the places where I had to make a writer’s leap.

Victoria Woodhull
Do you have another project in the works? If so, what is it?
Once Madame Presidentess is out and the election is over, I am going to concentrate on writing Mistress of Legend, the third and final book in my Guinevere trilogy. This book will cover the end of Guinevere’s life, including the fall of Camelot and what happens after. In my version, she certainly doesn’t live out her days in a convent! I will also begin research for a WWII-era historical novel about a Catholic nun who helped hide Jews and aided the resistance in France. She was a victim of the concentration camps and should be on the path to sainthood, but few people outside of her native country know her name. As far as I can tell, there is only one book written about her in the world.

What is your focus in historical fiction?
To rescue little-known women from being lost in the pages of history.

Pen Name:
Nicole Evelina

Why I picked it:
Nicole is my real first name and Evelina is a variation of my mom’s name. It’s Celtic name meaning “bright.”

Why a pen name:
My real last name is impossible to spell, remember or pronounce.

Favorite books:
I’m a firm believer that to be a great writer, you first have to be an avid reader. I estimate that I’ve probably read several thousand books in my 30+ years on this planet. A few of my favorites are:

Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Juliet by Anne Fortier
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

More About Nicole

Nicole’s debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance

Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
Nicole’s writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Independent Journal, Curve Magazine and numerous historical publications. She is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness.

Her website/blog is http://nicoleevelina.com and she can be found on Twitter as well as on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. Her email address is nicole [dot] evelina [at] att [dot] net.

The Agent Waiting Game

By Corie Howell via Flickr cc.

I'm in the middle of a lot of waiting games right now. My husband is waiting to hear back about out-of-state jobs, we're waiting to get buyers for our house, and I'm waiting to hear back from literary agents as I’ve been shopping The Binding of Saint Barbara around. It’s been an interesting process when I compare it to how it went with my first novel A White Room.

With that one I wrote dozens of queries and sent them out to hundreds of agents and all I ever got back were rejections. Each time when I got nothing back, I’d return to my novel and ask myself if it was really ready yet and if there was a way to make it better. Then I’d do another round of editing, and I did this for two years, from 2010 to 2012.

By the end of that two years, I felt like I had queried every single possible agent there was who represented my type of book. Finally, I had a lucky break when a top agent from a top house gave me actual feedback about the book—the first agent to ever give feedback—but at the same time he also rejected me. This told me that it was good enough to get his attention, so I took his suggestions and made the changes. Then another lucky break! I was attending my very first writer’s conference, the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, and it just so happened he was one of the agents that was participating in the pitch sessions.
This was during the conference.
Can you believe my hair? I was trying to look responsible. ;)

So I went to the conference and pitched him, a very nerve-racking two minutes. They had speed dating style pitch sessions where authors get to pitch a bunch of agents with only two minutes and thirty seconds to do so; however, you have even less time than that because you are supposed to leave time to let them ask questions.

The particular agent who I was interested in did things differently. He just asked to read your first couple of pages. It turns out sitting there silently while an agent reads your first page is more uncomfortable and frightening than trying to sell them your book in one sentence. Then he looked up and said, “I’ve read this before.” To which I responded gleefully, “Yes.” Then with a suspicious tone, he asked “What, did you think I wouldn’t remember?” My eyes bulged. “No. No, I hoped you would remember. I hoped you would think it got better.” Heart thudding, nails digging into palms. “All right,” he said. “Send me the manuscript.”

A job interview by Pulpolux !!! via Flickr cc.

I wasn’t as confident after that suspicious look he gave me, but still more confident about him than the others I’d met. I sent the book to him and he responded with interest, explaining that he and his assistant read the manuscript and liked it but wanted to see a few changes. He made sure it was clear that even if changes were made, it wouldn’t guarantee that he’d take me on as a client. I knew he had to say that just to be safe, but with all the attention and time he gave my book, of course he would take me on ... right? He sent me a word document with a list of requested changes, a list that was three pages long! So I made the changes in about two months and sent it back. This was it. After two long years of hunting agents and after four years of writing and editing my novel, I was going to have representation.


He passed. Just like that. It was pretty devastating, but I also saw the positive. This told me that the novel had potential, and I had just gotten free content editing from a big New York City agent.

At that time, the indie publishing revolution was gaining momentum, and I had done some research on it before the conference. After that final rejection, I decided it was time to move forward on my own. It turned out to be the best decision I could have made because after trying to acquire an agent for so long, I was just desperate, and I was willing to give up just about anything to see my book in print. If I had gotten an agent and a publishing contract at that time, I would have agreed to terrible terms and terrible royalties and rights. I would have regretted it.

My very first signed book.
This time around, I’m approaching the process in very much the same manner as before, doing my research, writing the best query I can, but this time I don’t have that desperation. I feel confident that if I don’t interest an agent or publisher, I can always just do it myself. I feel confident that I’m familiar with the industry, the process of getting agents and publishers, and the important parts of negotiating contracts. I actually have a negotiating advantage because of that confidence.

As of right now, I’ve had three requests to see the manuscript, and all within either a day or a week of sending a query. Still, if I get an agent but can’t stand the publishing contract terms I have to choose from, I can still walk away and do it myself.

A couple of disclaimers ...

If you have a first book and are getting nothing but rejections, this is not a thumbs up to just self-publishing. I spent years editing my book, I put it through beta readers on multiple occasions, got the agent feedback, and I hired an editor to give me feedback on the concept and general writing, and that was all before I got into copy editors and whatnot.

A lot of industry types suggest that if you are getting nothing but rejections to move on and write your next book. This is still fantastic advise. By the time you get that second book done, you will have a higher quality of product to sell, and you will know a lot more about the industry just from general research. Then whether you go indie or traditional, having multiple books to start with means a higher chance of making better profits.

Why even bother with the agent process when I had such a positive experience with self-publishing? Well, even though I wouldn’t give up my indie experience, I would prefer a situation where I didn’t have to do as much of the production work so that I could focus on the writing work. This is something that has become especially clear to me recently. I’m really good at doing things myself and making sure they are done right, but I have to put myself into it almost 100 percent, and I have found it difficult to do that and give as much time to writing as I would like.

So where am I on writing books? Check out my Working on a New Series post on that very topic!

Working on a New Series!

Typing Content by Search Engine People Blog via Flickr cc.
It's October 2016, and it's author update time, so where am I on writing books? After coming to a stopping-point with The Binding of Saint Barbara (I can’t say it’s finished until it’s published and right now I'm waiting to hear back from agents), I took a little writing break because I was really burnt—to a crisp black! When I cooled off, I considered the couple of rough drafts I had hanging around, and I kept finding myself drawn back to the original idea that inspired me to write a novella around this time a year or so ago. You may remember, I wrote a post about it.

The original idea was to write about a Victorian heroine struggling with chronic pain and illness (inspired by my own struggle with chronic pain) on the English moors, incorporating elements of both Gothic and magical realism, but without paranormal themes. Then I saw this photo of a prominent Victorian spine specialist, Dr. Lewis Albert Sayre, observing a half nude woman suspended in his contraption, and well, you know how it goes with me and my images of inspiration.

Dr. Lewis Albert Sayre and his treatment for scoliosis.

Ultimately, the novella I wrote sucked! At the time I was trying to learn to write fast, and also overcome my fear of clichés, so I ended up writing a sloppy tale of Gothic tropes. Boo! But now, having grown past those hang-ups, I have some new plans for this premise.

I can’t divulge everything, but basically I employed a visual plotting system to help me come up with some ideas that I really like. Not only am I planning to turn the novella into a novel, but I’m also considering making it a three or even five-part series. This just goes to show that I don't do short very well - lol!

The series would focus on several stages of life for the heroine, Lorena. Right now I’ve plotted three books, the first focuses on Lorena’s attempts to overcome her chronic illness as a young girl after her father sends her to a sanatorium/asylum, the second book focuses on her debut in upper class Gilded Age society and her marriage to her second choice because invalids aren't easily married off, and the third book would focus on her adoption of an orphaned child because invalids couldn't have children very easily.

I’m not dedicated to the specifics yet because a lot of that will come out in the research stage, which is what I’m working on next. Even though at this point, I am extremely familiar with the Victorian world, I still have to conduct research because I need details from the specific Victorian world I’m interested in. Plus, for me at least, the research stage is where a lot of my story development occurs. While researching one aspect of my story, I’ll learn historical points of interest and those will inspire ideas for scenes and characters.

Keep in mind that last year, I had completely different plans for this story and next year it might look completely different than I’m expecting it to look right now. This is the nature of creation, for me at least, which is actually funny because I am the ultimate planner, but I can’t plan or know where my art is going to go.

So to keep up, check out my Pinterest Board where I’m keeping track of all my research resources.

And read my post on The Agent Waiting Game to find out what's going on with The Binding of Saint Barbara.