An Interview with Carl Schenfield from W.D. McIntyre’s Bluebell

Today’s interview complements of the author’s son Scott.

As the character I’m interviewing today for Novel PASTimes, is featured in one of my dad’s, as yet, unpublished novels, let me set the stage for our discussion.

Part One of “Bluebell” opens in 1939, with Willis Jefferson approaching the town of Drewsport.  An adult black man, Willis was saved, as a child, by Rowena Kramer, a kindly white woman, just 12 years earlier during a violent storm on the plains of Kansas. Miss Rowena introduced Willis to education, and instilled in him, a love for all.

As he nears the town’s first house, a woman’s scream startles him.  Realizing it would be suicide to go to her aid, he tries to ignore the sounds of the beating, but is stopped by the memory of Miss Rowena’s teachings.  He rushes to the house where he finds a viciously beaten white woman.  Though his actions are heroic, he doesn’t become the beloved of Drewsport and pays the ultimate price for his actions. 

The subject of my interview, Carl Schenfield, is an investigative reporter and novelist who kicked off Part Two of “Bluebell”, by going to Drewsport intent on seeing it pay for its crimes.  As we spoke, we took much delight commenting, when possible, with excerpts from the novel, which I’ve set aside in quotation marks.


Scott: Thanks for meeting with me Carl.  My research shows you were a correspondent in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and it was there you met someone that greatly impacted you.  Can you tell me about that meeting?

Carl: He was a “young man, a gunner’s mate from a PT squadron, at an airstrip on Leyte.  They were there waiting for transportation north.  The boy was being reassigned after having been hospitalized for injuries incurred when his boat was blown from beneath him.”

Scott:  And you talked with him for a long time?

Carl:  No, it was “a brief encounter…war rarely leaves time for proper introductions.  Such meetings might be no more than sharing a slit trench, a life raft, foxhole, or being slung over the shoulder of some guy who’s risking his life to save your butt.”

Scott:  That doesn’t sound like ideal circumstances for investigative reporting.

Carl:  Actually, “these situations, and the myriad of others created by war, make room for an openness that is seldom achieved in more refinedcircumstances.  Maybe there’s an attraction, maybe there isn’t; it’s of little consequence.  In the next minute either, or both of you, could be dead.  It had been that way with…Jeremy.”

Scott: Other than what he told you, what stands out about your time together?

Carl:  We “were together less than an hour” but even in that short time, I “learned a great deal about the boy, his family, friends…and his hometown.”

Scott: Being a reporter during the war, you probably “had seen more death than a hundred men would see in a lifetime. In the midst of such wholesale slaughter, why would hearing about the death of one man make such a lasting impression?

Carl: During my time in the Pacific, “there had been atrocities enough on both sides to foster grave misgivings concerning the state of the ‘civilized’ world.” Then the kid told me what his town had done, and “I was forced to acknowledge the truth: Ignorance, and the fear it breeds, will always combine with hate to produce the same crop.”

Scott:  According to my dad’s synopsis of the book, your role in the story covers approximately two weeks and you learned as much about yourself as you did about the town, but very little of either offered much hope for humanity.  

Carl:  Well, if I may be allowed to quote the same synop, “Bluebell, however, is not a tale of gloom and doom.  There are more than enough moments of tenderness, love and actual brotherhood to give the reader reason to search, expectantly, for the tunnel’s light.  It is there, and Bluebell points to it, but not in a way that all will see.”

Scott:  Wow…thanks Carl.  That makes me want to get this book published even more.

Author Bio

W.D. McIntyre has been writing since the 1950’s and is still working on new novels or performing rewrites of old ones.  His publishing dream though, died many years ago and now, any hope that this 94 year-old WWII Navy veteran’s writing will get published rests almost entirely with me, his son.

In earlier years, Dad worked hard to get his writing published.  I have documentation showing over 115 submissions of his work to multiple publishing sources.  But that effort only produced one short story being printed in a 1981 issue of Virtue magazine.

This lack of achievement could explain why submitting work stopped years ago and, to some, serve as evidence that the writing wasn’t good enough to make it to the public.  I disagree. I’ve learned, from studying TV talent competitions, that ‘Lack of Success isn’t necessarily tied to Talent’. 

For instance, consider Kelly Clarkson, the first season winner of American Idol.  My research showed this incredibly talented and successful singer had nearly given up on her dream of making it in music, until a friend talked her into trying out for American Idol.  Her victory proves she was gifted but it was the exposure on national TV that propelled her to fame.  

With that thought in mind, my goal has been to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation of who his dad is and what he has written.  In essence, I’m trying to duplicate the success experienced by Kelly Clarkson through getting my dad’s talent well known.

More About My Project

Find out how to get 3 FREE short storiesby dad

Read an excerpt from Bluebell

Check out Read My Dad’s Stuff’s blogor Facebook page

Learn All About Bluebell

Follow Rowena Kramer-Carlsonon Twitter

Peruse interviews with other Bluebell characters

Meet Betty Sweet from Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thank you. I’m honored that you thought to invite me.

Tell us something about where you live.

I live in the home my husband Norman and I purchased shortly after he returned home from the war in his hometown of LaFontaine, Michigan. It’s a nice place to live. Not too big, not too small. It’s just right. 

If ever I need something that only a city could provide, I’m just a forty-five minute drive to Lansing in one direction and Detroit in the other.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

I’m not sure that there really is anything special about the name Betty. I’m not an Elizabeth or a Bethany. Just plain old Betty. All my life, though, I’d longed for something a little more elegant or sophisticated. But no such luck. 

At least when I married Norman I gained the last name Sweet, which I like very much. 

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

Well, I’ve mostly just been a little housewife since I married Norm. Between you and me, I’m not especially good at it. That’s not to say that I keep a messy home. But I’d rather spend my time reading or writing or even sitting outside in the yard, enjoying the sunshine on my face. 

Who are the special people in your life?

Oh, I am such a fortunate woman to have a family who loves me. Of course, it’s a family I married into, but as far as I’m concerned it still counts. I don’t know that I’d have anything close to this kind of joy without my darling Norman. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved and he has given me more in this life than I could have ever dreamed. 

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

The deep desires of my heart have changed as I’ve grown older. I suppose that’s normal. When I was a young girl I wanted nothing more than the love of my parents. Then, as I teetered on the ledge between childhood and womanhood, I longed for the love of a husband. After I got married, I wanted so badly to have the love a child all my own. 

It seems that my deepest desire — to be loved — has also grown in me a yearning to love others deeply. 

What are you most afraid of?

Oh goodness. This is the kind of question that makes me feel a bit antsy. There are so many things in this life to fear. Aren’t there? 

I suppose that my greatest fear is that something bad will happen to someone I love dearly. Even more than that, I fear that I wouldn’t be able to do anything for them. It’s the helplessness that frightens me.

Do you have a cherished possession?

Would you think me terribly superficial if I said that my pink and gunmetal gray Chevy Bel Air is my favorite possession? It’s pretty and shiny and I feel so sophisticated when I drive it around town. Does it help if I tell you that it was a gift from my Norman?

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

Isn’t it fun to daydream? That’s when I let myself wonder about what might happen in the future. Sometimes I imagine that the little stories I tell my nephews will end up in a book. Other days I picture myself working more and more at the family bakery. Still other times I dream of growing old in the house Norm and I have always loved, watching the sunset from my porch. 

I don’t have big dreams. Not really. I guess that’s because the life I have is as much — if not better — than what I’d imagined as a child.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

I never considered myself a particularly strong person. That was always the part my sister Clara played. She was the determined one, the fighter. Clara the Conqueror, I like to call her.

But there are times when even a weak person is called on to show great strength. And in those moments, she does well to remember that her might isn’t her own. It comes from the Lord who is glad to have our burdens cast upon him. 

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that I am strong, but only through the power of my Father in heaven.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

How very kind of you to have me! 

Betty Sweet is a pleasantly plump forty-year-old, but when this 1960s suburban woman loses her husband unexpectantly, she struggles to find her purpose in life. She can’t imagine what God has in mind when she finds herself the soul caretaker of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had. 

Betty and her nephew make an odd pair. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. As Betty and Hugo struggle through their grief and the difficulties that life can bring, they slowly learn to trust one another as they discover hope and commonality through the magic of storytelling. 

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, as well as A Cup of DustA Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the country. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.

A Chat With Peyton Cabot from Valerie Fraser Luesse's The Key to Everything

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Thank y’all for having me. I ’preciate your time.

Tell us something about where you live.

I guess that oughta be an easy question to answer, but for me it’s kinda complicated. I grew up in Savannah, Georgia—that’s where my daddy’s whole family lives, and they pretty much decide what’s what—or at least they used to. But ever since I spent a summer with Mama’s Aunt Gert down in St. Augustine, that feels more like home to me than Savannah. I really loved it there. Aunt Gert has a little bungalow on the San Sebastian, and she taught me how to drive her boat, the Madame Queen. Her best friend, a fisherman named Finn, showed me how to handle myself out on the Atlantic. Flying’s my favorite thing, but a boat on open water comes mighty close to being in the sky.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

Yes. And I hope you’ll forgive me—I don’t mean to be rude—but . . . well, I just can’t talk about that. I guess it’s a little too soon.

Who are the special people in your life?

My parents, of course. Both of ’em are heroes of mine—for different reasons. Lisa. She’s everything. If we can get married one day—well—the rest would take care of itself, but nothing I ever do will matter much without her. Then there’s Aunt Gert and Finn. They made me feel welcome and taught me what I needed to know when I was in a real bad place. I never woulda made it to Key West and back without the two o’ them. Bonnie and Jasper showed me how much kids need to be put first and how awful it is for ’em when they’re not. Gina and Mama Eva at Cubano’s fish camp showed me what a real family looks like; Will became my friend on a Daytona race track and came through for me just like he promised; Aunt Jack got me well when I was hurting so bad I thought I’d die; Ginger, the best nurse in the U.S. Navy, helped me recover from something you woulda had to see to believe; Millie showed me what’s what on the islands and helped me find work—they’re all friends I made trying to get to Lisa—all the people who got me through.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To marry Lisa and fly airplanes—and be a good man like my dad—a good husband and a good father.

What are you most afraid of?

Anything that would take Lisa away from me.

Do you have a cherished possession?

I have two. One is the map my dad took with him when he rode his bicycle from Georgia to Key West—he was fifteen like me. I musta studied that map a million times before I finally figured out that I needed to find my own way. It’s hard to get where you wanna go if you’re following somebody else’s directions—you know what I mean? The other is a pair of aviator sunglasses that a pilot gave me. I can see everything a whole lot clearer through the aviators.

What do you expect the future will hold for you?

After everything I’ve been through, I don’t think it’s smart to expect anything. You can hope for it, and you can work for it, but you can’t really expect it. I hope to marry Lisa and have a family like Gina’s—honest and loving—not like Daddy’s clan. And I hope to become a good pilot.

What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?

That we all have a “true us,” if that makes any sense. We have to find it and hold onto it if we ever wanna be happy. Nobody else—not even the people we love—can tell us who we are.

Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!

Thank y’all. It was real nice to meet you.

Peyton Cabot’s fifteenth year will be a painful and transformative one. His father, the reluctant head of a moneyed Savannah family, has come home from WWII a troubled vet, drowning his demons in bourbon and distancing himself from his son. When a tragic accident separates Peyton from his parents and the girl of his dreams seems out of reach, he struggles to cope with a young life upended. 

Pushed to his limit, Peyton makes a daring decision: he will retrace a slice of the journey his father took at fifteen by riding his bicycle all the way from St. Augustine to Key West, Florida. Part loving tribute, part search for self, Peyton’s journey will unlock more than he ever could have imagined, including the key to his distant father, a calling that will shape the rest of his life, and the realization that he’s willing to risk absolutely everything for the girl he loves. 

Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac and Almost Home, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Dave.

Book Review: Into the Free by Julie Cantrell

There has never been a better time to go back and read novels that were released a few years ago. I recently did this by listening to the audiobook from the library of Into the Free by Julie Cantrell.

I’ve never read a book by this author before. I’ve been missing out. These characters will stay with me for a long time. Millie is a young girl at the beginning of the story so in that sense it’s a coming of age novel, but it’s so much more.

Set during the Depression and the pre-WWII years in Mississippi, Millie grows up with a father who beats her mother. She wants to help her mother and even once tries to stand up to her father, but it’s obvious there is nothing she can do. There are secrets Millie’s mother kept that are slowly revealed. Details about farms, horses, and rodeos bring the story to life. I have to add that narrator of this audiobook did a fabulous job. I can still hear her voice in my head!

Life doesn’t get easier for Millie, not even later when after tragedy hits her family and she goes to live with another family that seems like an answer to prayer. I love plots that are not predictable and that do not suggest the existence of a trouble-free life. There is always hope and this novel delivers hope so skillfully. The struggle to believe in God, characters who are shown to be false believers, and the sense of being supernaturally cared for that Millie experiences in many different ways throughout the story give this novel great spiritual depth along with some great lessons. I can see this as a great book club novel, and what’s wrong with going back to something older?

I recommend this novel if you haven’t already read it. I gave it 5 stars!

Known for the inspirational Celtic theme employed in most of her books, Cindy Thomson is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books, including her newest, Finding Your Irish Roots. A genealogy enthusiast, she writes from her home in Ohio where she lives with her husband Tom near their three grown sons and their families. Visit her online at CindysWriting.com, on Facebook: Facebook.com/Cindyswriting, Twitter: @cindyswriting, Pinterest: @cindyswriting and Book Bub: @cindyswriting.

Meet Jackie Kennedy as seen in the novel And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Thank you for doing this.  I must say that it is an honor since you are respected and admired, someone who became an American historical icon.  Throughout your life there have been such tribulations and triumphs. From the time you married John Fitzgerald Kennedy, your life seemed to be a roller coaster ride from becoming First Lady, to having to endure the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, to making a life for yourself.

Elise Cooper: Can you excuse me that I referred to you as Jackie Kennedy, not Jackie Onassis?

Jackie Kennedy: I think that’s perfectly acceptable, given that many people continue to address me as Jackie Kennedy, even after my marriage to Aristotle Onassis. The Kennedys are American royalty, after all, and I will always be a Kennedy.

EC: How would you describe yourself?

JK: I hope the best way to describe me would be that I was a dedicated and loving mother and wife, but also that I maintained my pose and dignity in the face of adversity and great tragedy. 

EC: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as First Lady?

JK: While I’m proudest of the way I safeguarded my children’s childhoods—the media seemed especially intent on turning my daughter Caroline into a ghastly Shirley Temple—my restoration of the White House has probably been my most enduring accomplishment. I’m proud that I was able to return many of the original antiques to our country’s Maison Blanche, to make our country’s greatest house something every American could be proud of. 

EC: Your proficiency in languages became a valuable asset. Please explain.

JK:My fluency in both French and Spanish became valuable assets while Jack was campaigning for the White House. The Cajuns in Louisiana especially appreciated my ability to speak French—all these people contributed so much to our country’s history so it seemed a proper courtesy to address them in their own language. 

EC: How would you describe JFK?

JK:Jack had the ability to make anyone—any woman especially—feel like she was the only person in the room. I was engaged before him, you know, but only Jack ever had the ability to make me dream of what could be. He was my daring trapeze artist, willing to hurtle his way through life for a chance at glory. 

EC: Is it fair to say your relationship with JFK can be broken up into three parts:

Early marriage, Formidable to him in that you did not look the other way, and partners where he recognized how necessary and important you were to him? 

JK:Jack and I had a rough road during the early days of our marriage, especially with his indiscretions and then my miscarriage and the stillbirth of our daughter, Arabella. However, we managed to weather those storms, together, and that made us stronger. Once he was president, I understood that I was different from Jack’s girls du jour, and while I wasn’t willing to look the other way, I also recognized that only I could be his wife and the mother of his children. After the Cuban Missile Crisis and the death of our son Patrick, we leaned on each other and became full partners. 

EC: The nicknames you came up with are very interesting. Please explain. 

JK:They are interesting, aren’t they? Well, I did call Jack’s father Poppy Doodle. Joseph Kennedy was the patriarch of the entire Kennedy clan and the two of us got along swimmingly. Jack and his father always called me kidor kiddo, and I called Jack Bunny. It was a silly nickname, really, referring to his boundless sort of energy. 

EC: What kind of mother do you think you are and compare that to your own mother?

JK:My mother did the best she could, but she divorced my father, Black Jack Bouvier, and that was very difficult, especially in those times. Once I had Caroline and John Jr., I knew they came first in everything. 

EC: How would you describe Bobby?

JK: I once remarked that I wished Bobby was an amoeba so he could multiply and there would be two or more of him. He was the Kennedy brother most like me and we became very close, especially after Jack’s death. I think he was America’s shining hope, and that hope was extinguished with his assassination in 1968. 

EC: Do you think you were an advisor and confidant to Bobby?

JK:I like to think that I helped encourage Bobby to fulfill his dreams and his family’s legacy. He helped pull me out of my darkest times and I hope I was there for him when he needed me. 

EC: Is it true you made the decision to take Bobby Kennedy off life support? What was that like?

JK:It is true and it was one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. 

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Joe Kennedy-was he a father figure?

JK:While I was very close with my own father, I was also very attached to Mr. Kennedy. He was the patriarch of the Kennedy clan and after Jack’s terrible back surgeries, I think Mr. Kennedy realized that I wasn’t just some empty-headed debutante. I believe that I reminded him of his eldest daughter, Kick, who died shortly after World War II. 

EC: What are your interests?

JK:I always loved books—as a girl I hoped to perhaps pen a great American novel—and after my marriage to Aristotle Onassis, I became a book editor and was able to help shepherd many wonderful books to publication. I also enjoyed poetry, travel, and horseback riding. 

EC: Do you have any regrets?

JK:I think it’s difficult to live a life without harboring any regrets, but I hope I did the best that I could to be a good mother and wife, and also to leave a lasting impact on my country. That’s all any woman, much less any First Lady, can hope to accomplish. 

THANK YOU!!

Stephanie Thornton is a USA Today bestselling author who has been obsessed with the stories of history’s women since she was twelve. Her latest novel, And They Called It Camelot, is a lightly fictionalized account of the life of iconic First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and her prior novel, American Princess, reimagines the life of Theodore Roosevelt’s wild child daughter Alice. Thornton is also the critically acclaimed author of four novels set in the ancient world: The Secret HistoryDaughter of the GodsThe Tiger Queens, and The Conqueror’s Wife. She is a high school history teacher by day and lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter.

Meet Violet Channing in Beside Still Waters by AnnaLee Conti

My name is Violet Channing.  Orphaned at a young age, I found myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me died. 

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, at his death my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors. 

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire was my greatest fear. 

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor. 

“It’s just a cold,” she said. 

But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee. “Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.”

Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her. 

Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory. At the corner grocery, I bought a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. On the Classifieds page, an ad caught my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Could this be the answer?

Before I could grow fainthearted, I penned an application and mailed it off to the address.

A week later, I received a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulsed through me as I withdrew the note which requested that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dressed carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invited me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson described the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, was recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother had died, and the girl’s father needed a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounded too good to be true until she told me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I knew about the Yukon was that it is wild and frigid. Did I have the courage to go there?

I thought of my shabby apartment. I had nothing to keep me here, but would I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox?

I decided to take the leap. Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fell in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

About the Author 

ANNALEE CONTI’s experiences growing up in a missionary family in Alaska in the fifties and sixties provide inspiration for her writing. She has published numerous short stories, devotionals, articles, and church school curriculum on assignment for Gospel Publishing House, as well as four books. Beside Still Waters is the third novel in her Alaskan Waters Trilogy that tells the life and death saga of a Norwegian immigrant family who battles the beautiful but often treacherous waters of early twentieth century Southeast Alaska to find love and happiness in the midst of tragedies.

AnnaLee is also a teacher and ordained minister, who resides with her husband in the Mid-Hudson River Valley. Together, they have pastored churches in New York State for more than 35 years and are now retired. Learn more about AnnaLee and her books at www.annaleeconti.comand sign up for her inspirational blog at http://annaleeconti.blogspot.com/.

Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Historical fiction based on real historical people can be a tricky genre to pull off. I admire Callahan for taking on C. S. Lewis’s wife, Joy Davidman. I knew little about her, and I expect that is the case for many fans of C. S. Lewis. She brought Joy to life while exploring her complicated relationships and her chronic health issues. I loved the way Lewis is shown as well, the way he depended on Joy emotionally and enjoyed their philosophical and theological discussions. From what I can tell, Callahan treated these historical people fairly. In the author’s note she explains how she did her research.

That alone is enough to give this book a high rating, but the writing is seller, captivating, and caused me to read this book quickly. I love a novel that pulls me in like that. If this was made into a movie, I think it would be better than the new one on Tolkien.

Highly recommended.

Interview with Alice from Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess

Elise Cooper: Do you like the nickname “The Other Washington Monument?”

Alice Roosevelt Longworth:I actually can’t recall who first dubbed me with that particular moniker—some newspaperman or other—but I’ve rather grown to revel in the title. After all, I’ve personally known every president back to McKinley and an invitation to my salons was considered mandatory for entrance into Washington society. A fossil of my age might as well be a monument to something!

EC: How would you describe yourself?

ARL: In one word, a gadfly. Someone has to make people question themselves—especially those politicians on Capitol Hill—and I supposed it might as well be me. 

EC: How would you describe your dad?

ARL:Theodore Roosevelt was the greatest man I ever knew. While far from perfect, he advocated living a strenuous life for himself, his children, and his country. It’s because of him that I wrung every last experience from my long life. 

EC: Did you sometimes feel like an orphan in your own family?

ARL: Certainly, when I was young I often felt somewhat removed, somehow “other.” After all, I was the only child of my father’s first wife—who died after my birth—and a constant reminder to my father of the love he’d lost. My stepmother did her best to raise me, but I didn’t make her job an easy one!

EC: Did you resent being sent as a young child to be raised by your aunt?

ARL: Never! I loved Auntie Bye with all my heart—she was often the one person in the family who really seemed to understand me. And once I was older, I understood my father’s need to recover from the grief that came from losing his beloved wife and his own mother on the same tragic day. 

EC: Were you constantly looking for your father’s approval and attention?

ARL:Always! Who wouldn’t want the undivided attention of Theodore Roosevelt? 

EC: How would you describe the relationship with your dad?

ARL:My father was larger than life and I sought to emulate him in everything I did. Unfortunately, that meant we were often at loggerheads—we’d have gotten along swimmingly had I been a boy, but smoking, shooting guns, and gambling were hardly considered proper behaviors for the well-bred daughter my father expected. However, all that changed with the 1912 election, when my father realized what an asset I was to his campaign. 

EC: Did you always enjoy confronting society’s norms by smoking, shooting a gun, driving a car…?

ARL:Of course! Who wouldn’t enjoy doing all that? 

EC: Do you agree with this quote, “A Roosevelt is never defeated, not in the polls, and not on the battlefield”?

ARL:The stark reality is that sometimes we do lose a battle—be it in war or the polls—but the important thing is to never give up. My father once said, “The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again and again…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly—my father never gave up in anything and neither did I. 

EC: How would describe your relationship with your husband Nick?

ARL:Ah, Nick, my darling little lamb. Nick was both my greatest friend and my greatest enemy throughout our marriage. I think we both challenged each other (and maybe made the other person crawl through hell on more than one occasion), but we emerged stronger on the other side for it. 

EC: Were you angry at your husband for not supporting your dad in the 1912 election?

ARL:Not especially, since I knew what a difficult place my family had put him in, what with forcing Nick to choose between his friend and home state supporter in President Taft versus my father. In fact, my father essentially commanded Nick to support Taft so he could save face in Ohio. That said, I was certainly upset with some of Nick’s extracurricular activities during the election!

EC: Was getting the Pekingese puppy Manchu the best gift ever given to you?

ARL:I certainly received many fabulous gifts over the years—my Cuban pearls and the gold filigreed fingernail sheaths from Empress Dowager Cixi rank right up there—but Manchu was by far my favorite! 

EC: Why did you like the saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone sit right here by me?”

ARL:While I’d never take aim at an innocent lamb, I certainly didn’t mind taking potshots at the powerful denizens of Washington. (Who, let’s face it, often deserved it.) Take my cousins Franklin and Eleanor as an example—Eleanor started the Roosevelt family feud with the Teapot Dome stunt she pulled while my brother Ted was running for New York’s governor and Franklin (whom I referred to as Feather Duster) grew power-hungry when he ran for an unprecedented third and then fourth term as president. If someone wanted to sit next to me and dish about them, who was I to argue? 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

ARL:I had so many over the years: that my father would return to the White House, that I would find love, and that my daughter and granddaughter would live happy lives. I suppose my greatest dream was to wrest every experience from this life, and I think I accomplished that with gusto. 

THANK YOU!!

Stephanie Marie Thornton is a high school history teacher and lives in Alaska with her husband and daughter. She has written many historical novels about strong women after becoming  obsessed with women from history since she was twelve.

photo by Katherine Schmeling Photography

Introducing Louisa from Jessica Fellowes’s Bright Young Dead

Thank you for doing this. You appear very loyal, willing to threaten your job as a nanny to defend your friend who is accused of murder. You live in an exciting time because society is changing and it appears your hopes are changing as well. 

Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to become a nanny of sorts?

Louisa Cannon:I needed to get away from London and my friend Jennie was with Miss Nancy when I bumped into her just before Christmas 1919. Miss Nancy mentioned that the nursery maid had left and they were in need of another, what with Lady Redesdale expecting another baby at the time. I thought it couldn’t be too hard to pick up what to do, and I’m good enough at sewing too, because of helping my mother with laundry and mending the linens for the big houses. 

EC: Now that many of the girls are older you have morphed into a chaperone-what is that like?

LC: Nanny Blor looks after the littlest ones, and I think because Miss Nancy and Miss Pamela and I are not too far apart in age, it was more natural for it to be me going with them to London. Although I know London, I don’t know it the way they know it. I’d never have seen the insides of some of the houses they go to, let alone the parties and the nightclubs. Sitting with Miss Nancy or Miss Pamela I hear all kinds of conversations that the likes of me would never be party to usually. 

EC: You have become an amateur sleuth-why?

LC:I didn’t mean to! But Mr. Sullivan became a friend of mine, when he was working for the railway police – he’s a sergeant with the Metropolitan Police now – got me interested. Nanny Blor’s sister knew the nurse who was murdered on the train, and that got everyone involved somehow. I didn’t really want to get caught up in it all but somehow it happened, and knowing Miss Nancy and hearing what the police were investigating. it meant I was the one who could put the pieces together I think. 

EC: Alice Diamond is a larger than life criminal-are you afraid of her?

LC:Yes, but not because I thought she would be violent. It was more that she was the most powerful woman I’d ever seen. I didn’t know a woman could command attention in a room like she could. And she does whatever she wants. I’m not saying those are necessarily good things and she’s a thief – that’s bad, of course. But there’s something amazing about seeing a woman know what she wants and go after it, with no man stopping her.

EC: Do you ever wish that you can trade places with the “Bright Young Things,” those you work for, and become part of the rich and famous?

LC:I don’t think that I want be rich and famous, I want to be myself. But I don’t see why I shouldn’t be myself and have a little of what they have sometimes. I do like those beautiful dresses. It’s all just pretend in a way, like putting wallpaper up. What you look like on the outside – does that mean that’s what you are on the inside? I don’t know. I feel sometimes like what I wear betrays me and that if someone could really see me, they’d see me in something different. But I am who I am, I can’t change that and I don’t know that I really want to. 

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Guy?

LC:Oh. That’s hard to do. I like Guy, I like him a lot. We’ve been friends for some years now and I know he has been sweet on me in the past. It’s just complicated because I want to work, and if I marry, I have to quit my job. But for Guy, life could go on just the same as before, only he’d have a wife instead of his mother doing his washing and cooking his meals. It’s an exciting time for women right now – 1925! We can go out to work and earn our own money, and not have a father or husband telling us what to do. I want some of that. 

EC: Since this is 1925 are you a supporter of women’s suffrage?

LC:Yes, of course. We’ve got the vote now – well, sort of, if you’re over 30 years old and a house owner. But it’s better than the nothing we had before. I believe in women’s rights. There aren’t enough men around since the war and women have to be able to go out to work to support themselves. 

EC: Do you think he is unusual in that he treats women as equals-considering his police partner is a woman?

LC:Yes, I think Guy is unusual, which is why I like him and why it gets complicated between us. He does show real respect for women, and he listens. Not many men do that. Though I don’t know that he’s very interested in trying to change the world, he’s quite happy to keep the status quo, I think. So he’ll be good to women but I don’t think he wants them in charge or anything like that. What man does? 

EC: Is it more fun to be around Nancy or Pamela?

LC:They’re both very different. Miss Nancy is quite sharp, you have to be careful not to be on the wrong end of her. But she can also be very funny, and a lot of fun. She’s the most daring, the most willing to try something new. If it wasn’t for Miss Nancy I wouldn’t have had the courage to go to the 43 nightclub, and I’m grateful to her for that. Miss Pamela is quieter but she’s steady and kind. The others rely on her to be their rock. If you were in trouble, Miss Pamela’s the one you’d want on your side. 

EC: What do you like doing for fun?

LC:I don’t get much time for fun but I like reading – Lady Redesdale tells me books to read for history and she is kind enough to let me borrow from their library. Otherwise, I go for long walks with the littlest girls – Debo and Decca – and I love learning more about the flowers that grow in the country. I grew up in London and didn’t see much more than the odd patch of grass and oak trees. Out here in the country you can see for miles and miles, nothing but fields and hedgerows and birds soaring in the skies. It makes me feel free. 

EC: What are your hopes and dreams?

LC:I don’t know that I dare think beyond next week. But I suppose it would be nice to think that I might be a woman of some significance somehow, one day. That seems a bit silly, I know. I had to leave school at fourteen and I don’t know any science. I’m not sure what work I might be able to do but I’m always looking about, you read about things in the newspapers that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago. 

THANK YOU!!

JESSICA FELLOWES is an author, journalist, and public speaker, best known for her five official New York Times bestselling companion books to the Downton Abbey TV series. Former deputy director of Country Life, and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, she has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, She has knowledge of the 1920s era and has now ventured into writing  a series of historical crime fiction with returning characters Louis Cannon and Guy Sullivan. 

Book Review: Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick

Everything She Didn’t Say

by Jane Kirkpatrick
Revell, 978-0-8007-2701-7
September 2018

Reviewed by Cindy Thomson
Everything She Didn't Say-Book Cover
Jane Kirkpatrick’s newest novel is based on the diaries of Carrie Strahorn, a woman who during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century accompanied her railroad employee husband as he wrote promotion for westward settlers and later helped him build several new towns when he became an investor. Carrie wrote her own published pieces for magazines along with her account of their adventures in the American West.

It’s hard to imagine how pioneers grappled with establishing settlements in deserts, and the accounts of how they rode on stage coaches in Indian territory very much exposed with little to defend themselves with gave me shivers. Carrie’s longing for a family and how she resolved issues in her marriage made her a character readers will root for, even though modern readers can’t truly relate to the magnitude of her struggles.

Kirkpatrick takes the view that Strahorn probably gave a tidy version of her experiences in her memoir and in letters to her family, so she imagined what life had really been like for her based on historical accounts. There were parts of Carrie’s actual writings that do give the reader the idea that she’s not telling the whole story. These appear at the end of the chapters and are what Kirkpatrick built upon. The author is a master at this kind of storytelling. I’m a Jane Kirkpatrick fan. I love how she brings life to real historical figures, people that I probably never would have learned about if I hadn’t read her novels. The historical notes at the end of the book are not to be missed.

It did take me awhile to get into this story. If that’s the case for you, I recommend you keep reading. For me the pace really picked up in the last third of the book. The problem sometimes with telling the story of a real-life person is that there any many things that occur during a lifetime, and some of those things don’t move the story along at a pace fiction readers expect, and yet they really happened so the author wants to include them. Overall, I enjoyed the story. If you are a historical fiction fan, and it’s likely the readers of this blog are, I think you will enjoy Everything She Didn’t Say.

I was given a review copy by the publisher with no obligation to post a review. I have given my honest opinion.