History Lessons

Writers of historical fiction love old buildings, especially houses, and I well remember the first¬†one I visited. I grew up in Fountain City, Tennessee and when I was ten I went on a school trip to Blount Mansion (1796) in nearby Knoxville. It’s a handsome but simple structure, its claim to fame being that it was home to Southwest Territorial Governor William Blount and is one of the first frame houses built west of the Allegheny Mountains. A lot of kids were disappointed because it wasn’t a real mansion, but I was enthralled. We were told not to touch anything, but when nobody was looking I stroked the banister. It felt different somehow, maybe because I wanted it to or maybe because I thought I was touching history. What I recall even more were the...

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Cover Story: Lost & Found

As the author of fourteen published novels, I can honestly say that none of my covers pleased me as much as the one for my latest book Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans. The art director tracked down one of the few Degas paintings done in New Orleans that was in the public domain and deftly incorporated title and by-line without compromising the integrity of the artwork. It’s also a breath of fresh air with the current, inexplicably awful trend to feature headless heroines on the covers of books. There were other reasons I was delighted by the choice of this portrait of Degas’s cousin Mathilde Bell, part of the extended family occupying the Esplanade Avenue house where he lived and worked during his 1872-3 visit to New ¬† Orleans. That Degas...

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On the Road Again

I was barely settled in my new home in California’s glorious Sonoma County, still unpacking in fact, when my publisher called with the earthshaking (usually not a welcome word in this part of the country!) news that my latest historical novel, Creole Son, is finally rolling off the press. It’s a project I began researching ten years ago while living in the French Quarter, one that has ridden the usual publishing roller coaster of rejection, rewrites and revival before finally finding a home at Water Street Press in nearby Healdsburg. The story follows French painter Edgar Degas in 1872-3 when he visited the New Orleans branch of his family and found them, along with his career and the city itself, deep in crisis. Degas is the only French Impressionist...

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