My friend and fellow historical fiction author, Stephanie Dray, has a new book out today! She calls The Women of Chateau Lafayette a seven-year labor of love. I know all about books that take years to come to fruition so I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve read her previous books, America’s First Daughter and My Dear Hamilton and loved them, so I’m sure this one will be excellent as well.
Oh and it was picked as one of OprahMag’s most anticipated historical fiction novels, so….Be sure to check it out!
✭✭✭ ABOUT THE BOOK ✭✭✭
An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.
Most castles are protected by men. This one by women.
A founding mother…
Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.
A daring visionary…
Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing—not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France firsthand, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.
A reluctant resistor…
French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become.
Intricately woven and powerfully told, The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us.
STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, cats, and history books. For more, see: StephanieDray.com
I feel like in the last six months, and especially in the last two to three weeks, I have popped out of some kind of opaque chrysalis that I didn’t know I was living in into a new life, a new me. I have a new outlook on life, a greater feeling of maturity (I’ve always been a little emotionally behind others my age), and an energizing feeling of direction and purpose.
I know with crystal clarity what kind of life I want to live and am taking steps in all aspects to get what I want.
I feel like there is no limit on what I can do. That’s why I chose the phrase “infinite possibilities,” as my Word of the Year for 2021. I am optimistic that this year will bring me endless possibilities for success, growth, money, and all good things. And I plan to take advantage of every one of them.
To that end, I’ve established both author and personal goals for 2021. I’m fine with sharing both here because I am the same person whether you are talking to me as an author or a regular person and I aim to be authentic in all I do.
Get a contract for Minor bio. (Okay, that’s more in my agent’s hands than mine.)
Finish Colonial/Revolutionary War histfic by end of July.
Finish WWII histfic by end of July.
Write female inventor histfic by end of 2021.
Start on modern retelling of a classic (I’ll be working on ideas for this while I am writing the other books) by the end of the year.
Write poetry again. (I did this as a child and teenager, but I’ve lacked the confidence as an adult.)
Attend the Biographer’s International and Historical Novel Society virtual conferences.
Hopefully the Ethics in Arthurian Legend book a I wrote a chapter for will be published. (That is out of my hands.)
Do what I can to get Madame Presidentess and Daughter of Destiny optioned.
Lose 40-50 lbs by June 1.
Walk outside when the weather is nice. Swim if the pools open again.
Like everyone else, 2020 was a year unlike any other. My word of the year was Flow, which could not have been more apt, as COVID-19 taught us all to “go with the flow,” more than ever before.
Some of my struggles:
I worked harder at my day job that I ever have.
I transitioned to full-time working from home.
I hid from COVID-19 and worried about the future.
I dealt with burnout in my day job.
But for a crazy year, it had some amazing moments:
I signed with agent Amy Collins.
Daughter of Destiny did extremely well in a book-to-movie contest.
I finished the Minor biography.
I took a big step in the future of my day job, even if it ends up not going anywhere.
I started a new blog – I’ll be telling you all about it in the New Year.
I re-did practically my whole house myself (with a little help from dad).
I found my personal style/brand.
According to Goodreads, I read about 85 books (my goal was 100), not including research, which would have put it closer to 200.
And how did I do on my 2020 goals?
Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020). Nailed it!
Finish and sell/self publish Minor biography. It’s finished and Amy is doing her best to sell it.
Work on WWII historical fiction book. Wow, this one came in under the wire. The main character started talking to me again maybe two weeks ago (after more than a year of silence) and I have not quite 10,000 words written.
Help with human trafficking anthology. Wrote my short story for this, but the anthology never got off the ground. I don’t think it is going to. Hopefully I will be able to share the short story in another way someday. I’m really proud of it. It’s in a contest right now, so we’ll see what others think of it.
Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee. Did this and had SO MUCH fun working with these women, attending events and getting the word out.
Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote. I was honored to be asked to speak about both Virginia Minor and suffrage in the state of Missouri. One of my audiences was the Missouri Chapter of the League of Women Voters, which was amazing!
Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK. This was the worst possible year to take on this role, but I made it. I have to admit, I’m glad that it is over. It is not a hard job, but it is tough to handle when my day job is constantly in crisis mode.
If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.) This didn’t come to pass.
Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs. I thought about them. Does that count?
Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?) This did not come to pass, but Daughter of Destiny did very well and is now in a second contest, so who knows what the future will bring?
Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone for your support this past year and always. I couldn’t do what I do without you and some days knowing that you are out there cheering me on is what gets me though. I wish all of you a safe, healthy and happy end to 2020 and a wonderful 2021. I’ll be back tomorrow with some thoughts about the New Year!
I sat in my favorite local coffee shop the other day and tried to do a little planning for 2020 and it only kind of worked. I mean, I have a list of goals and to-dos, but I don’t have a clear-cut plan like I have in previous years. At first, this worried me, like the driven part of me was broken, but then I realized, it’s okay. In 2020, I’m just going to go with the flow. Which is why I chose flow as my 2020 word of the year.
I’ve pushed myself so hard for the last six years or so in order to build a career. Now I am at a point where I can reap the benefits and take opportunities as they come. Yes, I’ll still make things happen when I need to, but I don’t know that I need to be as intentional about it.
Looking Back at 2019 Goals I did a fair amount of this in my post on nearly driving myself to burnout (which I am proud to say I am emerging from – I’m back to working on the Minor biography after a month of rest), but I wanted to specifically examine my goals for 2019. I’m shocked to see I did better than expected, especially for a year in which I didn’t publish anything.
Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell a book I’m co-writing with another author. We did our best to pitch this book, but were unable to get a contract for it due to circumstances outside of our control.
Finish the proposal for, successfully pitch and sell another book on the suffrage movement (different angle from above) I’m working on. After the experience of the book mentioned above, I shelved this. But the good news is that I might be able to use it for my dissertation when I go back to school in a few years.
Write both of these books by their deadlines (I’m hoping both will be traditionally published by August 2020). N/A
Finish the biography I’m working on (not Rose, someone else) and sell it. I think I get half credit on this. Research took a lot longer than I expected because I found so much more material than I thought would be available. I have a proposal and sample chapter done and am still querying agents. I’m nearing a second finished chapter.
Attend three conferences and have successful speaking engagements at the ones I’m booked at. – Woot! Did this and it was FABULOUS!
Possibly work on either Isolde or the gothic fiction book I’m planning. I’ve thought about both, does that count?
Keep up to date on the progress of Madame Presidentess as it makes its way toward becoming a TV show or movie. – Yeah, this was a disappointment, but I knew going in that it was unlikely to happen. But there is still hope for the future!
Finish chapter for non-fiction Arthurian book (due March 2020).
Continue working with local League of Women Voters chapter on Centennial Committee.
Speak locally about the August 2020 centennial of women getting the right to vote.
Adjust to new role of assistant editor for Novelist’s Inc. member newsletter, NINK.
If we end up with a female presidential candidate, promote the heck out of Madame Presidentess. (This is no reflection on my personal political choices. I will, however, use it to my advantage if it becomes a reality.)
Side projects to be worked on when/if have the time: Hallmark book, devotional, musical based on Kill Hannah songs.
Option Madame Presidentess again as well as the Guinevere Trilogy. (I realize this is out of my control, but I can have it on here in an effort to think positively, right?)
So, yeah, I think that is plenty for one year, especially in addition to my more personal, non-writing goals. I’m excited to be headed into the ’20s. Let’s hope those flapper dresses make a comeback and that these ’20s don’t have the economic depression the 1920s did!
I made a big decision the other day. I’m not sure when or where – it will depend on finances and what life has in store – but I’m going back to school to get my PhD in American History and Women’s Studies. My specialty will be the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. This will help me gain credibility in the non-fiction publishing world, as well as hopefully improve my fiction writing as well. What will I do with the degree? I would love to be a research professor (assuming I need a full-time job that isn’t writing).
What about you? What are your goals? Do you have a word of the year for 2020?
USA Today Bestselling box set containing Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend.
Game of Thrones meets The Mists of Avalon. Perfect for fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philippa Gregory, George R. R. Martin and Signe Pike.
Best Fiction Series – Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Awards
Guinevere is remembered for her role as King Arthur’s wife and for her adulterous affair with Lancelot. But there is so much more to her story…
Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Experience the world of King Arthur through Guinevere’s eyes as she matures from a young priestess who never dreamed of becoming queen to the stalwart defender of a nation and a mistress whose sin would go down in history. Throughout it all, Guinevere faces threats from both foreign powers and within her own court that lead her to place her very life on the line to protect the dream of Camelot and save her people.
This compendium of Nicole Evelina’s two-time Book of the Year award-winning trilogy – Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend – gives fresh life to an age-old tale by adding historical context and emotional depth. Spanning more than three decades, it presents Guinevere as an equal to the famous men she is remembered for loving, while providing context for her controversial decisions and visiting little-known aspects of her life before and after her marriage to King Arthur.
Book One: Daughter of Destiny Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her. Learn the true story of her early life.
Book of the Year– Chanticleer Reviews
Best New Voice, (Silver Award), IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards
Winner – North Street Book Prize
“Rich and stunning, easily comparable to novels by other bestselling historical fiction authors.” – Chanticleer Book Reviews
Book Two: Camelot’s Queen Guinevere is now High Queen and Arthur’s top strategist. But when she is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and driving her into the arms of her champion. Can the Grail’s promise of peace set things right or will peace prove as dangerous as war?
Fiction Book of the Year– Author’s Circle
Best Second Book– Next Generation Indie Book Awards
“Historical fantasy at its finest!” – InD’Tale Magazine
Book Three: Mistress of Legend Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth. Not one to quietly cede power, she fights for her ancestral homeland against an invasion that threatens both her people and her life.
Finalist – Chaucer Award (historical fiction pre-1750) – Winners TBD
These are exciting times! In the last two days The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy has been dubbed a bestseller by Barnes and Noble (top 8 in fantasy) and been within the top 2-4 books in three categories on Amazon.
AND the big BookBub featured deal is tomorrow (it’s the keystone of the promo I have going right now). Please keep sharing on social media, Bookbub, Goodreads, through text or email, in person, anything you can think of so we can hit the USA Today Bestseller list! Tell everyone you know. I bet they could scrape together $0.99 from their couch cushions or car. (Or if you’re like me, the bottom of your purse!) Please direct them here.
Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has purchased the book and/or helped promote it so far. You are a Godsend to me.
Don’t fall over from shock. I’m actually blogging rather than announcing something. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. 🙂
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you likely know I have a thing for haunted houses, both in fiction and in real life. Like real haunted houses, not the fake kind that pop up around Halloween and are only good for a jump scare. No, no, I mean the old ones that have actual spirits in them. I have an aunt who for many years counted ghost hunting among her hobbies, so maybe it runs in the family.
Oddly enough, I can’t handle horror movies. I saw one in 1999 (The House on Haunted Hill remake) that scared me so much I had to leave the theater before it ended (there are reasons for that even though it is a terrible movie) and I haven’t watched one since. (Crimson Peak being the exception, but it was so bad it hardly counts as horror.)
However, one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies has long been the 1999 remake of The Haunting,starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor. I will be the first to admit this movie is cheese – or at least the last third of it is. But I love it. You see, I have a special connection to it. I was fortunate to go to England for the first time in the spring of 1999 as the capstone to a class I was taking in college. We were there for two weeks and the first week we stayed at Harlaxton Manor, an old Jacobean manor house in Lincolnshire that is now used in part as the overseas campus for the University of Evansville. (It really is haunted by at least two ghosts. Ask me how I know.) That just so happens to be where The Haunting was filmed just a month before. They still had set pieces we got to see and we were allowed to fish through a pile of what they considered trash for souvenirs from the set. I got a wardrobe tag for the photo double for Nell (I checked the credits and it is authentic) and my friend got the padlock that is prominently seen in an exterior night shot when they show how the front gates are chained at night. I’ve seen every “making of” related to that movie. Sadly, only two of the interior shots (minor ones you wouldn’t even notice) and the exterior actually made it into the movie. The rest was filmed on a sound stage.
Quick plot recap for those who have not seen/read The Haunting of Hill House: Psychologist Dr. David Montague (in the book) or Marrow (in the movie) contrives to bring together a group of unsuspecting subjects (who all have some kind of psychic abilities) in order to study, well, here’s the first place where the plots diverge: in the book, it is supernatural phenomenon, but in the movie it is more the power of suggestion in supernatural phenomenon. Anyway, you get the point. He is hoping for a large group, but ends up with only two: Nell, a timid woman who up until recently has acted as caregiver for her mother (who has now died) and Theo, an obnoxious, possibly lesbian (or clearly bisexual in the movie), socialite who can be downright mean. Then there is Luke. In the book, he’s the heir to the house who is only there at the insistence of the current owners who want family present and as a possible love interest for the girls. In the movie, he’s another study participant. So they gather and are told about the history of the house and not long after supernatural things start to occur. Eventually, we are lead to question if those things are really happening or are just in the minds of the participants, especially Nell. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.
The Haunting has been adapted for screen three times: first in 1963 by Robert Wise (I’ve seen parts of this version and can say it is much better and closer to the book than the later version) and again in 1999 by Jan de Bont, then for Netflix in 2018. (I have not seen this; my friends have warned me it would be too scary for me.) If you want to see laugh out loud parity, watch Scary Movie 2, written and directly by the Wayans Brothers, which was highly based off of this movie. (Fun fact: their version of Theo was the inspiration for the physical description of Mia in Been Searching for You.)
For purposes of this blog, I’m only going to discuss the 1999 movie and the book.
The top picture is an actual interior of Harlaxton that appears in the movie. (I have the exact same picture from when I was there.) The bottom is one of the many interiors shot on a sound stage.
My thoughts on the book vs. the movie:
Characters – Nell is much better fleshed out character in the book. (Granted that is usually the case with film adaptations.) She has a charming, captivating imagination in the book that you can easily see devolving into madness, something totally lacking in the movie where she is just child-like. Theo is meaner in the book (sometimes unnecessarily so) and still lacks the depth of a fully-formed character, but she’s better than the vapid version in the movie. It’s like she only exists in the movie so Catherine Zeta Jones can be sexy. And Luke. *sigh* He’s a filler in both versions, but at least in the book he has a bit of a purpose as someone for Nell and Theo to fight over. In the movie, he’s just – there. Its like they felt they had to include him. One character I’m glad they axed in the movie is the doctor’s wife, who in the book is cartoonishly obnoxious, overbearing and wholly unnecessary. And why, why does each version have a different last name for the doctor? (Even different between the two movies.) Of all things to change, that is NOT important!
Plot – This actually follows much more closely than I expected. Most of the supernatural phenomenon are similar, at least until you get to the end of the book/movie, which I think is good. Jackson does a pretty darn good job of scaring the crap out of you, to the point where it doesn’t need to be embellished. However, the back story of the house is TOTALLY different, another completely unnecessary change from book to movie. In the book, the story is of the tragic family of Hugh Crane and his two daughters who possibly haunt the house. In the movie Hugh Crane is a coal magnate who employs slave labor and the ghosts are the children he worked to death. WHY? Why, why, why, why, why? Ugh! Throughout the book, I found bits and pieces that the movie gave a brief nod to (such as one of Crane’s wives hanging herself), but if you hadn’t read the book, they didn’t make any sense. They do now that I have read it, but it is a sign of poor film-making when you don’t weave your homages into the plot.
The scene from the 1999 movie where Nell’s bed attacks her.
Setting – I’m biased here. I think Harlaxton was perfect for the movie, especially in it’s isolation and architecture, though I wish they would have used more of the actual interior in the movie. What they did design was beautiful in an odd way, but also way over the top. I would have preferred more of an old Victorian house interior, the kind of place that could give you the creeps in real life. (For what I’ve seen of the 1963 movie, they did right in that version.) There is a scene in the book where Nell fears the canopy of her bed is going to lower and suffocate her. Now the scene in the movie where Nell’s bed attacks her and cages her in makes more sense. But there is one change in scenery doesn’t make sense to me. In the book, next to the huge main doors there is a little door that goes into the library that Nell refuses to enter. For some reason, it scares the hell out of her. (I don’t think you ever find out why…or least I don’t remember it.) In the movie, when Nell finally gets up the courage to enter, it goes into a replica of her mother’s sick room. I think there is supposed to be some psychological symbolism there, but to me it is totally baffling why they didn’t keep it as a library and a totally pointless change.
Script – If you’ve seen the 1999 movie, even without having read the book, you will find yourself repeating “in the night, in the dark.” I was thrilled to find that phrase came from the book. Seriously, anytime anyone says “in the night,” I have to say, “in the dark,” which makes me giggle. Read it or watch the movie and you’ll see why. And the movie tagline “some houses are born bad” also comes from the book.
Ending – I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that the ending to both the book and movie are highly unsatisfying. The book feels like Jackson got bored with it and took the easy way out. I mean, there is sort of a motivation there, but there are other ways the same point could have been accomplished that would have been more in keeping with the plot and more satisfying for the reader. The movie, oh the movie. Let’s just say that someone was impressed with their own CGI skills. The movie actually scared the bejezzus out of me until they showed you the ghost of Hugh Crane. I am a firm believer that your imagination is way scarier than anything Hollywood dreams up to make a ghost visible. At this point, the movie devolves into a sort of morality tale that pits the evil child-killer (Crane) against the savior of their spirits (Nell) for the redemption of the house. It has a kind of similar theme to the book’s ending, but is utterly ridiculous.
(The cherubs are from the 1999 movie.)
Even for all it’s faults, the book is iconic and has spawned countless ripoffs and retellings. (For a fairly good YA version, read Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall.) Jackson’s writing is likely the reason why. That woman can turn a phrase and build atmosphere like no one’s business. The movie, is…well…likely only admired by me and the director.
Have you read the book or seen any of the movie/TV adaptations? Let me know your thoughts. I’d love to discuss them in the comments.