Thursday, March 19, 2015


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Amazon UK Review
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.

A White Room Made No. 1!!!

Amazon US Review
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.

 Goodreads Review
In the end, I just really loved this story. I enjoyed watching Emeline's transformation, and seeing her challenged. I really liked the progression of her and her husband John's relationship. Supporting characters like Lottie and Ethel were well-developed, and the characters who conspire against Emeline are creepy and self-serving, yet possibly redeemable.
Guys, 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.

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 2013 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.”

—RenĂ©e Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

Q&A and Reading on Central Valley Talk

Barnes and Noble Review
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 ...

Watch My Very First Book Reading!

Don't Forget to Check out the Fire Section!
Photo by Randy Enriquez

Why Society Says "Women Are Crazy" & How it's Connected to 19th Century Hysteria

Are Women Really Crazy? 
A Women's History Discussion

The video above is of a talk I did for Women's History Month. I spoke at West Hills College on the impact the turn of the century hysteria epidemic still has on modern day women. Here is a little taste of what you will see:

Women are crazy! That's a common phrase now a-days. We hear people say that on television, in music, advertisements, and from the people around us, both men and women, but does that mean women really are crazy? Sure we cry, sometimes we scream, and we might even slam things but are those symptoms of mental illness? I think we'd all have to say no, and yet women can't shake this word - crazy. What's more, women in our society have accepted that they have to hide certain emotions and behaviors for fear of appearing weak or crazy. 

The reality is, that phrase has meaning. It reflects a perception about women in our society, but where did it come from? Why is it a part of our culture? And more importantly, when did women begin to accept it?

Watch my video to find out!

Honoring Women's History Month with Fiction

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Interview with Stephanie Carroll on 
Celebrating Women's History Month

How does your work contribute to modern day women and or Women’s History Month?
I write fiction for women and particularly fiction that empowers women. The message that seems to come up in most of my fiction, nonfiction, and blogging is that women get this bad wrap as being “crazy” or weak but really they aren’t and never were.

The reality is that this idea is a historical remnant of the hysteria epidemic of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was believed at that time that almost all women were “hysterical,” that their sexual organs actually messed with their brains making them incapable of emotional, mental, or physical stability.

Women weren’t crazy and aren’t crazy, yet most of us spend our lives feeling like our normal feelings and behaviors are symptoms of weakness and insanity. This is unacceptable and untrue, so it is my goal as a writer to empower women to overcome this stereotype that has plagued us for over a century.

photo credit: rockcreek via photopin cc
I hope that my book is a contribution to women’s history because I put a lot of effort into capturing the historical experience of women at the turn of the century. I put a lot of research into the book and tried to make sure that everything was as historically accurate as possible. The characters and events in the novel are not true, but they are based on real accounts and trends of the time. 

I also think it sheds light on an often forgotten part of the women’s rights movement. Most people think of the women in the 1920s, but it was the experiences of the women at the turn of the century that led to the “New Woman” of the 1920s. It was these women who served as the transitional generation. They were still very obligated by tradition and culture, but were beginning to push back and say no to their inequalities. It just wasn’t them but their children who finally broke through.

Do you think of yourself as a feminist?

I do but not in the way that many people think. A true feminist is simply someone who believes in and supports the rights and equality of women. Many believe a feminist is an angry woman shouting in the streets, bra burnt to a crisp, but we can be much more subtle.

In my novel, I deal with some controversial women’s issues. My goal was to be as neutral and unbiased as possible, and my education as a historian helped me in that endeavor. There are no pro or con positions in this book. This book is not meant to influence anyone one way or the other. It’s meant to show how and why women made difficult choices in response to the obligations of their sex.

According to your website one of your inspirations is Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Paper). How did you apply that to your book?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published in a magazine in the early 1890s. At first glance, many readers, both past and present, see a scary story of either a haunted house or a situation of pure insanity. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is considered a part of the Victorian Gothic and horror genre, but it is much more than that.

The story was inspired by Gilman’s own experiences after seeking help for her “nervousness” and “melancholia” from the famous neurologist S. Weir Mitchell, who was known for his rest cure
for hysteria.

Historians now look to Gilman’s short story as one of the most revealing looks at the experience of a woman diagnosed and treated as a hysteric during the late nineteenth century. Since Gilman was also a feminist with very public ideas regarding her views, this work is also seen as a look into how feminism may have developed during a time when hysteria was being diagnosed on epidemic levels.
Public Domain Photo

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman diagnosed with hysteria and confined to her bed as a form of treatment. Her doctor-husband won’t allow her to do anything but rest because it was believed stimulation would worsen her condition. The story is written as if it were a journal she has hidden in her room. Eventually she goes mad and comes to believe there is a woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper in her room. In the last scene, she is “creeping” around the room peeling the yellow paper from the walls and laughing as everyone watches in horror. She has freed the woman behind the paper and in doing so has become her, a wild thing freed from her bounds.

The first thing in A White Room that people recognize as reminiscent of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the situation of a husband taking his wife to an isolated and disturbing country home and forcing her to rest as a form of treatment for hysteria. I re-envisioned the element of something inanimate coming to life with the house and furniture as the culprits. I chose those elements instead of the wallpaper because I didn’t want to rewrite “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I wanted A White Room to stand on its own.

There are a variety of other more subtle elements that I took from the story, as well. The narrative is told from a limited and unreliable first-person perspective, so certain characters, like the husband, are strangers to the reader, and certain events may have occurred differently than how we are told.

There is also a very distinctive mood created in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” It’s a sense of isolation, despair, unease, and mystery characteristic of a gothic haunted house story, but with an uncertainty of whether or not the things the main character sees are ghosts or not. Gilman later explained that her story wasn’t meant to be a ghost story, and I can say the same thing about A White Room.

Why is Charlotte Perkin’s Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” important for women’s history?

In many ways the hysteria movement reflected or embodied certain problems women wanted to be rid of in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Women were believed to be fragile physically, emotionally, and mentally, which is why society considered the public domain as something from which women needed protection. This mentality also meant that women were seen as more susceptible to mental illness and lacked the competence to make decisions regarding their own wants and wellbeing. Unfortunately, this meant that a woman’s objections could be questioned and cast aside because her mind was considered unstable. This was accepted by society, both men and women.
Public Domain Photo

When Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the hysteria diagnosis was not only popular but widely accepted. Gilman was a feminist and women’s rights advocate in addition to being a writer. Her story drew attention to the ignored problems with the diagnosis and treatment of hysteria. The amazing thing about the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is that it manages to encompass this in the span of ten or so pages, and it reveals it through experience not through direct explanation. In a time period when it was unacceptable to have these views, taking readers through the experience of a woman had an impact that others could not achieve through stating the problem directly.

Gilman’s message did have an impact, not only to modern readers, but on contemporary readers, including the doctor (S. Weir Mitchell) Gilman wrote the story in response to. In her own words:

“But the best result is this. Many years later I was told that the great specialist had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Tell us about how your experience as a Navy Wife has affected your writing and this novel.

I actually got the idea for A White Room while I was struggling with a military move. After I graduated from college, my husband was re-stationed in Fallon, Nevada. The move was really difficult for me.  It was going to be the first time I lived far away from friends and family, and Fallon is a very small town, isolated. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to have any options in such a small community. It turns out Fallon became like a second home to us and I earned several awards while working as a reporter there, but I could never have imagined anything like that happening when we first arrived.

I started to feel like I was losing it. Everything felt like an unwanted obligation. I felt so overwhelmed and pressured by everyday responsibilities like paying bills, grocery shopping, getting gas, showering. This, of course, was a reflection of how I felt obligated to move for my husband and give up my goals and chances for a career.  At the time, though, it just all felt like everything was too much and a part of me just wanted to give up, stop caring about everything and go insane.

While feeling all of that, I got the initial idea for A White Room. What’s funny is that by feeding these emotions into a story and writing about my character’s pursuit of purpose, I escaped my own white room and found my purpose in life – to be a writer.

Even though the story is historical and has nothing to do with the military, I have had many military wives and girlfriends tell me how much they relate to my character’s experience. They have to be ready and willing to pick up and move, often times to strange and isolated locations. Their lives are very dependent on their husband’s careers, and it often feels like going back in time to when women were simply wives and mothers. Many military wives struggle to pursue their dreams because of the frequent moves and their husband’s work requirements. Not to mention, the emotional and mental stress of six to twelve month deployments, which are enough to drive any woman insane.

In spite of all that, military wives want to support their husbands, support their husband’s service to our country, and to serve our country through their support. Military wives often doubt themselves because of the difficult experience of it, but the reality is they are some of the strongest women in the world. That is why I write Unhinged & Empowered, to help them during those moments that make them feel crazy or weak, to help them realize that those moments are what make them so inspiring and strong.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and I wish you luck and success during Women’s History Month.

Thank you so much for having me. I hope that everyone gets the chance to be a part of Women’s History Month and remember the amazing things women endured and conquered for us today.

The Yellow Wallpaper Reading and Explanation

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My novel A White Room was inspired by "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In these two videos I read the entire short story and give some backstory and history too.

For more on "The Yellow Wallpaper" check out how the short story inspired my novel and my article on how the story reflects women's situation a the time in Gothic Horror or Women's Reality on author Essie Fox's blog The Virtual Victorian.

Reading of "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Some History and Backstory about "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

If you've enjoyed these videos about The Yellow Wallpaper, consider checking out my novel A White Room.

Books Inspiring My Novella

So as I worked on the new Gothic novella (explained in the article to the right), I have had a couple of books and movies that served as inspiration. Of course, The Secret Garden and Wuthering Heights once again made an appearance through the house and landscape of the novella.

The novella is set in a crumbling mansion amid endless green fields. I have fields because I couldn't find an American location that compared to the moors of England. Who knows. It might still be out there, so please hit me up if you know of some American moors!

Why not base my book in England? I've considered that and as tempting as it is, I fear I don't know enough about being British. I'm hoping my someday trip to England to see the moors will change that. Oh yeah, I'm ganna see the moors! 

 I also wanted to read a couple of classic Gothic tales to get into the feel of the Gothic tradition. Amazon happily supplied an array of free classics. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekylle and Mr. Hyde was the piece that finally kept my attention and guess what? 

It's a novella! I also tried to read The Turn of the Screw and a few others, but like many twentieth century readers, I struggle with classics. And that's coming from a Victorian history fiction author!

More recently though, I read my first Neil Gaiman, Coraline and I was hooked by the Gothic and creepy magic that took place in that story.

It sort of gave me a boost in confidence because I couldn't, for the life of me, think of any popular and successful modern Gothics other than the works of Tim Burton, which aren't novels!
Then I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman, and oh that book was amazing, a superb mixture of magical realism, childhood fantasy, and a little bit of Gothic, even with the not-so Gothic setting of an English country neighbourhood. Loved it!

Stay Tuned to Read My Short Story in Legacy

The Legacy Anthology

I am so very excited to announce my participation in a month-long writing challenge, beginning Friday January 9th, that will become the very first #30Authors anthology!


The Legacy project is being coordinated by the founders of the The Book Wheel and Velvet Morning Press.

They are gathering authors to write pieces on the theme of legacy in the month of January. Authors will then share their experiences of writing from beginning to end via Twitter and other social media networks.

You can keep track of these Tweets as authors will be using the #30Authors hashtag. Authors will also have an assigned day when they will be interviewed via Twitter about the challenge. My day for that is Tuesday, January 13th, so mark your calendars!

At the end of January, the authors will turn in their work, and Velvet Morning Press will compile them into an anthology to be released this spring.

The best part is all online proceeds from print and ebook sales will benefit the charity Paws for Reading! Cute & educational.

So if you aren't following me on Twitter, hint, hint.
Digital Winky Face.

Also check out The Book Wheel and Velvet Morning Press' Twitter pages so you can keep up with all the Legacy authors, updates, and news. It's going to be quite a month!

Sign up for my for my newsletter to keep informed about the project and when it releases!

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Research for my Next Novel: An Article Featuring Thomas Edison

A News Article Featuring Thomas Edison

So I've been working on The Binding of Saint Barbara, my next book set in 1890 and revolving around the first death by electrocution and the warden's family who lived in the prison at the time.

My plan (keep in mind plans can change) is to incorporate real newspaper articles reporting on the events this book follows. I've been retyping them because including them as images just won't work so here is a section of a clipping that will probably make its way into the story, one way or another.

Note: the facial expressions in the parenthesis were actually in the newspaper article. That's how they wrote it, which is kind of nice for me as an author trying to recreate these scenes. When I put an ellipses (. . .) it means I cut something out of the article. I did that for your benefit because it's long and some parts aren't very interesting. So here it is:

The Evening Post: New York, Tuesday, July 23, 1889.
The Great Inventor at the Hearing in Behalf of Kemmler—The Results of His Experiments Leave No Doubt in His Mind.
W. Bourke Cockran expressed the other day an ardent desire to get Thomas A. Edison in the witness’s chair in the hearing before the referee, Tracy C. Becker, ordered for the purpose of finding out whether Kemmler, the condemned murderer, would perish by cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional, means, if his life were taken by an electric current. Some, if not all, things come to those who wait, and this morning “the greatest electrician of the age,” as Mr. Gerry called him the other day, came to Mr. Cockran, whose anticipatory joy is reported to have been shared by the Westinghouse Company, to the extent of declaring that it would give $100,000 to get the wizard on the cross-examining rack.

Mr. Edison, as he was introduced to Mr. Cockran and shook hands with him, wore a wonderfully smiling and peaceful countenance for a prospective victim. When Mr. Edison had taken his seat to testify, Mr. Becker rose, went across the room, and stood over Mr. Edison while administering the oath—a procedure which revealed the slight deafness of the electrician to those who were not already acquainted with the fact. Then Assistant Attorney General Poste, who has a sonorous voice, raised it to stump-speech pitch in examining Mr. Edison.

Mr. Poste—In your opinion, could an electric current be generated by artificial means and so applied to the body of a human being as to cause instant death?
Mr. Edison nodded his head as if affirmation to such a self-evident truth was not worth giving in words.
Mr. Poste—In every case?
Mr. Edison again nodded his head.
Mr. Poste—Without pain?
Another nod of the head from Mr. Edison.

Continuing Mr. Edison said that the contact he would advise in executions by electricity would be the placing of the hands in battery jars filled with water containing a solution of caustic potash. He would advise the use of either an alternating current or a continuous current very much broken up—as it could be done by mechanical means.

. . .
Mr. Poste asked Mr. Edison what he thought of Franklin Pope’s testimony that among the possibilities for Kemmler was carbonization at the hands—or rather wires—of the Westinghouse dynamo. “I don’t understand that—I don’t see how it could be,” answered Mr. Edison mildly, shaking his head.
. . . 
Mr. Poste (with considerable confidence of tone)—You are familiar with the Westinghouse dynamo?
Mr. Edison (in a low voice)—No. I know it only generally.
Mr. Poste—You have seen it?
Mr. Edison (on before)—No, I haven’t seen it.
Mr. Poste—Has Harold P. Brown any connection with you or the Edison Company?
Mr. Edison—Not that I know.

. . . 

Mr. Cockran began his cross-examination in his usual somewhat low tone of voice. “I’ll have to come over there,” said Mr. Edison, picking up his chair and dragging it across the room. “Yes,” said Mr. Cockran, without stirring, to the great electrician, “Come right over here, Mr. Edison.” The inventor turned his best ear to Mr. Cockran, and Mr. Cockran put his mouth pretty close to it, and then, at close quarters, the cross-examination proceeded. Mr. Cockran—You didn’t make those experiments in regard to resistances until the day before yesterday. You were preparing yourself for to-day, I suppose?
Mr. Edison (with a smile)—Yes, in order to be able to answer questions from personal knowledge.
Mr. Cockran—Do you know anything about pathology?
Mr. Edison (promptly)—No, sir.
Mr. Cockran—About anatomy?
Mr. Edison—No, sir.
Mr. Cockran—You didn’t consider that a part of your electrical education? I ask the question because Mr. Gerry testified that it was.
Mr. Edison (demurely)—Yes, sir.
Mr. Cockran—Do you know what blood is?
Mr. Edison—I think I know pretty nearly. It is composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Mr. Cockran—Well, you’ve named about all the elements of the human body.
Mr. Edison (quietly)—I can’t help that.
Mr. Cockran—In what proportion are these elements in the blood?
Mr. Edison (testily)—Assume that I don’t know anything about it. Now, go ahead.

At another time Mr. Edison told Mr. Cockran point-blank that his questions were “non-sense.” Mr. Cockran continued to press such questions, and in the end appeared well pleased with the result. Mr. Edison, however, did not modify any of his previous expressions of opinion.