Work, Work, Work

Work, Work, Work

Work, work, and more work. That pretty much describes the lives of the colonials, whether it was New England or Virginia. Whether you were male or female, young or old, literate or illiterate, you worked.
What you worked at depended on whether you lived on a farm or in town.
People in town ran small shops, taverns or manufacturing. Men worked in those places with their older sons, by about age 11. The women stayed home, trying to maintain the house, which was often very difficult, unless there were servants. Maintaining the fire, baking, cooking, cleaning, sewing. All this was daily work. The children were expected to watch their younger siblings, help with cooking and cleaning and learn their letters. The idea was that children needed to be trained to do all the things they had to do as adults. Teenaged boys were expected to work in the businesses and learn them from the ground up.
On farms, there was a bigger variety of work. Men had to farm the land, planting food as well as raising animals for meat. They also had to hunt and fish to supplement the meals. Those who had tobacco farms had even more to do, including plucking the flowers off the tobacco plants in order for the leaves to grow bigger. Women were obligated to help with the farm, especially handling the herb gardens and the personal vegetable and fruit plants. It was the woman who would can and dry all the foods come fall. The children began to help by the age of 7 or 8. They could collect eggs, pick flowers off tobacco, run errands, even milk the cows. By 11, the boys could be trusted to work in the fields. Teenage boys were educated enough to copy letters for their fathers (no carbon paper back then) and were junior members of the farm community. Girls were required to learn how to turn wool into thread, use a spinning wheel, run a loom and other things necessary to produce clothing. They could recognize their names when written, but they did not always have benefit of education as the boys did. But they learned how to keep their families warm and fed, which, back then, was more important, anyhow.
An Interview with Tamar Anolic

An Interview with Tamar Anolic


I interviewed Tamar Anolic, an up and coming author recently. She was willing to answer all my questions. Thank you so much for speaking with me at length, Tamar!

I am a writer out of the Washington, D.C. area. I am the author of two novels of alternate historical fiction that focus on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia. The first is “Triumph of a Tsar,” in which the Russian Revolution is averted and the hemophiliac Alexei, son of Nicholas II, comes to the throne. The second is “Through the Fire: An Alternate Life of Prince Konstantin of Russia,” which examines the life that Konstantin, cousin to Alexei and Nicholas, might have lived if the revolution had been averted. “Through the Fire” is a novel in short stories; each chapter is short story that stands on its own, but as a whole, the novel tells the story of Konstantin’s life.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid because I liked making up stories. I’ve been interested in the Romanovs and Russian history for close to twenty years now, and in all of research, I wondered what kind of tsar Alexei would have made. He was often a headstrong child, but he was also sick a lot, which gave him compassion for the suffering of others. The Bolshevik revolution’s ending of the Romanov dynasty and of Alexei’s life only added to my fascination. Eventually, I found myself what would have happened if the Revolution had never occured and Alexei had become tsar- who would he have married? Who would his four sisters have married? How would Alexei’s hemophilia have affected him into adulthood? Where in the Romanov dynasty could history have been different, enough to avert the Revolution? All of that speculation and plotting turned into my novel, “Triumph of a Tsar.”
While I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I continued studying photographs of the Imperial family, to keep the faces of the people that I was writing about strong in my mind. During that process, I came across pictures that I had seen previously, but these images took on new significance to me as I was writing. This includes pictures of the poet Grand Duke Konstantin and his children, because his son, Prince Igor, is Alexei’s aide-de-camp and has an important role in “Triumph of a Tsar.” But photographs of Igor’s brother, Prince Konstantin, also jumped out at me. Prince Konstantin had suffered heartbreak when his proposal of marriage to Princess Elizabeth of Romania was rejected. Konstantin also had translucent blue eyes that I found captivating, so even while I was writing “Triumph of a Tsar,” I knew I wanted to write something about Konstantin. At first, I thought it would be a single short story- the story “Before the Fire,” which is the first thing I wrote about Konstantin, and which was published in the journal “The Helix.” Before I knew it, however, more and more stories about Konstantin started flowing, including the short story “Rumors of War,” which was published in The Copperfield Review. Soon, I had enough for a book-length project, and this became “Through the Fire.”
ecause my historical fiction is alternate historical, the development of these stories came about as a unique blend of studying what actually happened in history, what my characters were like as real people when they were living- and then projecting that into a future that was very different from the course that history actually took. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” I thought that Alexei’s hemophilia and his need to manage it would make him careful of his health and mindful of the need to marry young and produce an heir, while all the while doing as much for Russia as he could during the short lifespan that he thought he would have. With “Through the Fire,” I thought that Konstantin, who was devoted to his regiment, would stay in the army for life, and that it might take him a few years to find another bride after his first proposal was rejected.
 It’s hard to say that I have a single favorite writer. However, there are definitely writers whose work has given me either a solid background in, or a new way of thinking about, the Romanovs’ history. There are also authors who have helped me think about how to write about the Romanovs in fiction while remaining true to who they were as people. These authors include Robert Massie (who wrote “Nicholas and Alexandra” among other famous books); Simon Sebag Montefiore (whose recent book “The Romanovs: 1613-1918” is about the whole of the Romanov dynasty and highlights both the early Romanov rulers and their connection to Nicholas II and his immediate family); and novelists such as Laura Rose, whose book “The Passion of Marie Romanov” is a good example of faithfully bringing an underrepresented Romanov to life.
 I’d have to say that both Alexei and Konstantin are my favorite characters. Both “Triumph of a Tsar” and “Through the Fire” really wrote themselves in a lot of ways. With “Triumph of a Tsar,” it was a lot of fun to give Alexei the character arc that he was denied in real life, and to watch Alexei become a full-fledged adult and active participant in history. With “Through the Fire,” it felt incredible to give a voice to one of the more junior members of the dynasty, about whom so little has been written, and who often gets overlooked.
As for upcoming projects, I’ve been selected to speak at the Historical Novel Society’s North American conference at the end of June. I’ll be speaking about the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution- different ways that the Revolution could have been averted, and how to write about the Romanovs as characters in historical fiction. I’m excited about both the topic and the conference- there are a lot of interesting topics and speakers on the program, and I think the conference is going to be great.

An Interview with Mike L Ross

An Interview with Mike L Ross

Mike L. Ross sat down with me recently, and answered all my questions! Thank you Mike for taking the time. Here is what he had to say:


My wife Marti and I live in Kansas, just north of Wichita. We’re transplants from Oregon, where I used to work for Intel as a software engineer until I retired. About a year ago we decided to move south to be closer to our grandchildren. We have four of them, the oldest is five years old. When not writing, researching, and marketing books, I help other seniors at a retirement community with woodworking, and serve as a consultant for computer matters to anyone who needs it. I also enjoy running, karate, and fencing, but have slowed down in these as I get older.

PictureI went to Rice University in Houston back in the 1970s, and graduated with degrees in Mathematical Sciences (Computer Science) and German. I went back to school and graduated in 2011 with a master’s in software engineering from Portland State University. I taught college computer science for three years after retiring from Intel.

I suppose I started writing originally because of my mother – she was a high school English and Spanish teacher. I sold some short stories when I was fourteen, because she had contacts at Random House. I got back into serious writing about ten years ago, because I’m fascinated with history, and think some stories just have to be told.


Mike’s first book of the Across the Great Divide series is available soon. Read on to learn what it is about.

It’s always interesting when asked to choose a favorite anything – there are so many. However, probably my top three favorite writers are James Clavell, Tom Clancy, and Anne Perry. That’s a pretty diverse group! Clavell is just a master storyteller, and his historical fiction, like Tai Pan and Shogun are an amazing blend of meticulous research, and characters that walk off the page. I admire Clancy because of his attention to detail, vast technical knowledge, and down to earth attitude. I got into an email exchange with him once, and he conducted an impromptu session on character development that helped shape my writing. He took the time, even though I’m not a famous person. Anne Perry has mastered her era and genre to a degree rarely seen. Her Monk and Pitt series show how to keep a multi-volume series fresh, with characters growing and changing, yet every story is plausible and true to the era. Her WW1 series examines a different era, but captures the spirit of the war, and weaves new characters that engage and draw you in. I have an almost embarrassing twenty-one of her books on Kindle.

Other than just a love of history, I’ve always been attracted to learning more about the nineteenth century. My main character, William Dorsey Crump, was a real person, and I knew his granddaughter Katie when I was a kid in Lubbock, Texas. As an adult, I remembered Katy’s stories, and then started researching him—the story was just too fascinating to leave alone. Will was a Confederate cavalry soldier, a mountain man, a rancher, and a founder of both Shallowater and Lubbock, Texas. He fought under John Hunt Morgan, and participated in Morgan’s raid north into Indiana and Ohio, then spent two years in POW camps in the north. The Civil War era particularly attracted me, because I see so many parallels with today—a deeply divided country, issues of prejudice and sanctuary cities, the federal government versus state and local, and tariffs, just to name a few similar issues. The solution of that time was war – a war that killed one in five adult men in the country. My series, Across the Great Divide, is intended to explore those historical issues, and get readers thinking about how there could be better solutions today, while being true to the spirit of the times.

Probably my favorite character aside from Will is Luther, who is entirely a product of my imagination. Luther is about the same age as Will, fifteen when the story starts, but born a slave. His owners are the Clay family, granddaughter of Henry Clay. His mother and sisters are on another plantation, and run away to escape cruel treatment. Luther goes on the Underground Railroad, getting Will’s sister Albinia, another principle character, involved. Luther has to choose between the safe but debasing life of slavery, and saving his family. After his mother’s torture, he must choose between letting revenge and hate consume him, or forgiveness and love. He’s a strong man, but one driven by passions.

My historical fiction stories generally stem from an event or person in history that fascinates me. My mother taught me to write, but also to research, in an era before the internet—it’s so much easier now. I start with the event or person, and learn everything I can about it. Then I place myself, or someone I know well, in that situation, and get to know the character—of course, the character won’t be exactly the same as a real person, but that gives an outline. I write character sketches of all the principle characters—I know their birthdays, their likes and dislikes, their physical descriptions, their strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. I write down how I want the character to grow and change through the story. Julia, Will’s oldest sister, is a good example—she starts off as just a money-grubbing golddigger looking for a rich husband, and ends up a strong woman, risking her life for others, to save her sister Albinia and act as a Union spy. Once I have my characters, I outline the book. Since most books are some form of the hero’s journey, I pay attention to whether I’m following that. I want to have a definite beginning buildup, climax, and falling action that ties together all the threads of the story. Even though I’m writing a series, I want each novel to stand on its own.

The outline sets the beginning, climax, and end for each chapter – something I learned at the Oklahoma Writer’s Conference, listening to a seminar by Adriana Mather. There are of course adjustments that happen along the way, either due to new research, new ideas, or simply a character that starts complaining to me about how they are written. The outline steers the story, and knowing my characters in advance helps me to know how they would react in a given situation.

I have several upcoming projects – I’m halfway through writing the second book of the Across the Divide series, tentatively entitled “The Search”, which takes Will west in his mountain man phase, into the middle of Red Cloud’s War. The third book will be mostly about Luther and Julia, post Civil War, and the final one follows Will up to the founding of Lubbock. I have another project started about a Civil War nurse, and yet another based on the incredible life of my mother, a rather different type of story – more of a spiritual journey and missionary biography. Across the Great Divide, Book1: The Clouds of War launches April 24 for pre-order, and release date on sale everywhere is May 14, from Harper Collins, through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local bookstore. There will be Ebook, paperback and hardback editions, and a little movie trailer that Harper Collins is producing. I write about American history every day at facebook/historicalnovelsrus and my website, http://www.historicalnovelsrus. I have an email list that points out bargains in historical fiction, and gives occasional peeks at chapters in new projects.

Temperance Flowerdew, Founding Mother

Temperance Flowerdew, Founding Mother


Temperance Flowerdew was one of the earliest women to arrive in Jamestown. The settlement was established in April 1607. She arrived in the summer of 1609.
This week’s founding mother was born around 1590 in Norfolk County, England. Her parents were Anthony Flowerdew and Martha Stanley. She had at least two siblings, Stanley and Mary. Temperance married Richard Barrow on April 29, 1609 in St. Gregory by St. Paul’s, in London.
Days later, Temperance boarded the ship, Falcon, commanded by Captain John Martin. It was one of a convoy of nine ships, referred to as the third supply, headed for Jamestown. The Sea Venture was the lead ship and most of the new government agents were aboard that ship. It appears that Mr. Barrow was on that ship. Three quarters of the way there, the convoy hit a hurricane. The Sea Venture was separated from the convoy and believed lost. Many of the supplies on the other ships were thrown overboard to lighten the ships.
The other eight ships did land in Jamestown, adding hundreds to the number of citizens, without the supplies. The Englishmen were not getting along with the Indians because John Smith had left. There was not enough food. Temperance, Jane Pierce and her little daughter and one other woman were assigned a place to live together. The winter was so bad that they called it the Starving Time. Mrs. Pierce was an herbologist. It was her knowledge of wild foods that saved the lives of Temperance and little Jane.
By 1613, Temperance’s husband was dead and she married George Yeardley, one of the soldiers on the Sea Venture. A month later he was appointed deputy governor of Virginia. Meanwhile Stanley, Temperance’s brother, had acquired land across the river from Jamestown. George and Temperance patented 1000 acres on that spot and developed a well-run plantation over the years.  They had three children, Elizabeth, Argoll and Francis.  When George’s appointment was up, in 1617, he took his family for a trip to England. While there, the King knighted him and appointed him Governor.
Back in Virginia, George served 1619 to 1621. In early 1619, twenty Negroes were brought to Jamestown. The Yeardleys bought several of them and brought them to Flowerdew Plantation, making Temperance the first mistress of Negro slaves in the New World. They were the premier couple of the decade.
When George died in November, 1627, the couple had several plantations. Temperance was the richest lady in Virginia. George’s brother became the trustee of the will and guardian of the children. She turned around and married the new governor, Francis West in four months. West desperately wanted her land. He even went to England to file a petition, but failed. Unfortunately, Temperance did not see her children grow up. She died a little over a year after their father.

An Interview with Author Judith Arnopp

An Interview with Author Judith Arnopp


Elizabeth:       Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live, education, family. Whatever you would like.
Judith: As you know, my name is Judith Arnopp and I live in Wales. We recently moved from a small farm near Lampeter, to Aberporth just a short distance away on the west Coast. I write historical novels and articles, do a few talks and lectures. My more recent work focuses on the late medieval and Tudor period. My other interests include history (of course), gardening, needlework, walking and reading. I grew up in a small town north of London, but we often took holidays in Wales and it became a childhood dream to live here– I’ve been resident in Wales for twenty odd years now and hardly ever leave, not even for holidays.

Elizabeth:      What induced you to start writing?
Judith:I enjoyed history at school and studied it at university so, when I decided to write professionally, historical fiction was the natural choice. I like to strip away the finery of well-known historical people and consider what they were like underneath. Imagine our queen with her feet up watching Strictly Come Dancing – off duty, her guard down. What is she thinking? What is she feeling? I usually write from a female perspective. Women, especially medieval women, were poorly represented in the historical record and very often their experiences are only traceable via the records of the men whose lives they shared. It is fascinating to follow their path, consider the whys and wherefores of their actions, and flesh out the bones of the facts we know about them. I always stress that I write fiction but it is very heavily reliant on research.
I don’t believe in evil. I think everyone has a dark side and sometimes our murkier nature takes over, so there are no villains, there are no saints, just a bunch of people fighting inner battles – as we all are. I try to humanize women who have previously been demonized both historically and, more recently, in fiction.

Elizabeth:       Who is your favorite writer? Why?
Judith: I love the classics. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens etc. and I aspire to the talents of more modern authors like Hilary Mantel, Michel Faber. As a young girl I read a great deal of Historical novels: Jean Plaidy, Rosemary Hawley Jarman were among my favourites then. Something must have rubbed off on me, for when I began to write seriously historical fiction was my automatic choice. Having a master’s degree in medieval history makes things easier simply because I know how to research without getting side-tracked.

Elizabeth:       What attracted you to your special genre?

Judith: Oops, I think I’ve covered that in the previous questions.

 Elizabeth:      Who is the favorite character of all whom you have created? Why?

Judith: Most of the people I write about actually existed so I had to study what is actually known about Margaret Beaufort, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth of York etc. and then flesh out the historical bones. My favourite fictional character has to be Joanie Toogood from The Winchester Goose, a confident, warm hearted prostitute from Southwark. The goings on at Henry VIII’s court are very different when viewed through Joanie’s eyes. In my latest novel, Sisters of Arden, Margery is a novitiate nun whose life is thrown into disarray by the dissolution of the monasteries. Her adventures on the road during The Pilgrimage of Grace are quite eye opening.

Elizabeth:       Would you take a minute to explain how you develop your stories?

Judith: I write instinctively with very little planning. I know roughly where my story will end because history has already been written but figuring out how my characters will get there is as much an adventure for me as it is for them. Sometimes events unfold from nowhere. I do very little actual plotting on paper, it all unfurls during the process. The characters definitely speak to me and tell me what is what.

Elizabeth:       To end this interview, what piece of information, upcoming project, advice or request would you like to share with this audience?

Judith: I am just starting my twelfth book which is about Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII. I have no title as yet but it will feature Mary reflecting on her life, her relationship with her father, Henry VIII and her abhorrence for Anne Boleyn. She was hugely affected by her parents’ divorce, the break from Rome and I hope to examine the state of the church in England, and her fears of what will happen after her death when the throne passes to Elizabeth. Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth is fascinating – the conflict of sibling love and rivalry. I enjoy writing about infamous women. As with Margaret Beaufort, I don’t intend to whitewash them or excuse or deny anything but I provide them with the opportunity to explain the reasons behind their actions.

Author Bio
When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens.
If you like English history, you will like Judith Arnopp’s books! Her novels include:
Sisters of Arden
The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series)
 A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York;
 Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr;
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
 The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Song of Heledd;
The Forest Dwellers
Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines.
For more information:
Author page: