Yesterday, I tried to give you an idea of what “Henrietta’s
Journal” is all about. Today, here are the answers to a couple of questions
that keep popping up.
Q. Are these all new characters, or is there a connection to
your other books?
A. For the most part, the Beauchenes are an entirely new
family. However, it helps me to visualize the story if I can relate it to
others I’ve written, so there’s at least one connection. Sharp eyes will
recognize Elizabeth Dubois, whom you have met before in “Damned Yankee” and “Yankee
Reconstructed.” In those books she was an old lady, the widowed mother of Susan
Grenville, and grandmother to the Grenville children. In this story she is
still a young woman in her thirties, and her daughter Susan appears briefly at
age seven. Elizabeth befriends Henrietta early in the new book, helps her
adjust to life in Charleston, and serves as godmother to Henrietta’s children.
Q. I want to know more about Henrietta’s later life as the
Civil War draws nearer. Will there be a second book?
A. At the moment I am planning a second volume. Of course, I
can’t promise anything, for, as Henrietta would be the first to tell you, life
changes very rapidly. However, as my mother would have said, “I’ll do it, God
willin’ an’ the creek don’t rise!” But here’s what I think will be coming a
couple of years down the road.
The idea for “Henrietta’s Journal” came out of a rough sketch
for a much larger book dealing with the beginning of the Civil War, its effect
on the cotton trade, and some interesting but little-known facts about southern
blockade runners, spies, and smugglers during the war. The diary Henrietta kept was
originally going to hold some clues to a couple of mysterious happenings in the
larger book. Then the diary took on something of a life of its own and became a
stand-alone novel. The next book will take place some twenty-five years later.
The main characters will be Henrietta’s children (now all grown up). They will
solve some of their 1860s dilemmas by re-discovering the diary their mother
wrote and uncovering the clues she left in the journal.
Eventually the two books will have close ties. I’m even
considering an electronic edition for the two stories that would let the reader
click back and forth between Civil War crises and the unsolved issues in the 1830’s journal. I’m
as curious to know what will happen as you are!
What’s more fun than peeking into someone’s diary and
learning all their secrets? Well, how about an entire novel, written as diary
entries that chronicle the story of a marriage?
Henrietta’s Journal is a historical romance. Henrietta is a
20-year-old English girl, raised among the sheltering walls and dreaming spires
of Oxford. In 1832, her diary begins with the first day she meets Julien, a
handsome and wealthy cotton broker from Charleston, South Carolina. The two
could not be more unsuited to one another, but their attraction is immediate
and unbreakable. A whirlwind courtship, a hasty marriage, and a stormy journey
across the Atlantic-–and Henrietta finds herself in a strange new world. Charleston in the 1830s is an insular society
controlled by a small group of families who consider themselves a new
aristocracy of culture, wealth, and refinement. Their public buildings are
modeled on Greek and Roman styles. Their children receive classical educations.
They spend their days recreating the past, while relying on black slaves to do
the hard labor that makes such leisurely white lives possible. As a ruling
social class, they do not welcome outsiders.
Henrietta declares she will never be a slave-owner. Julien
replies by agreeing, because in South Carolina, a married woman is not allowed
to own property of any kind. Henrietta tries to hold onto her independence;
Julien and his father will not even allow her to choose the name of her
first-born child. Henrietta’s every word and action are noted down for
criticism and correction. Julien’s younger brother, a lecherous and vicious
drunk, is forgiven for any misdeeds because he is still young. She soon gets
the message. Men may do as they like. Women must do as they are told.
The book is a love story, but it also provides a revealing
look into the contradictions and injustices of the South in the years leading
up to the Civil War. The bonds between husband and wife are frequently tested
by their differing value systems. Henrietta soon finds that she has compromised her own beliefs in order to keep the peace
within her disapproving family. Then the principle of compromise takes on a
life of its own, leading her further and further into a world where
prostitution, rape, murder, opium addiction, and kidnapping are all excused as
The Amazon print version should be functional by the
What a way to start a Monday! First, my latest book -- Henrietta's Journal: A Life of Compromise -- just became available for pre-ordering on Amazon's Kindle page. As a pre-order, you can get it for $2.99, and your copy will automatically appear in your in-box on September 19th. Of course, you can wait till September 19th and order it for immediate delivery (if you are into instant gratification) , but by then the price will go up to $4.99. The special price reduction is for anyone who already wants to read this story of a young English woman who marries into a cotton-dealing South Carolina family in the 1830s. The book follows her day-to-day musings as her slave-owning new family disintegrates into the turmoil of seduction, rape, murder, opium addiction, and kidnapping. There's a bit of something there for everyone!
The other good news this morning comes in the form of an announcement that sometime in the middle of last night, this website has hit a milestone marker -- TWO MILLION page views in the past seven years.
Thanks to everyone who faithfully reads these blogs posts and checks out the book announcements at Katzenhaus Books.
When I’m getting ready to start writing a new book, I take
the time to find out what was going on during the historical period in
question. Normally I’m looking for wars,
major battles, presidential elections, economic crises, inventions, new laws—any
event that might change the lives of my characters. When my story is set in Charleston,
South Carolina or the Low Country between Charleston and Savannah, I check the
weather conditions, too. That’s a region prone to hurricanes, major temperature
fluctuations, insect infestations, earthquakes, and lethal epidemics.
This time, however, I was in for a surprise. I was getting
reading to write Henrietta’s Journa
set in Charleston in the 1830s, and I wanted to know if there had been any
hurricanes. The period turned out to be relatively quiet on the weather front.
Only a couple of tropical storms threatened, and those barely brushed the city.
I was not expecting to find two major astronomical events. They were both so
spectacular that I had to write them into my story. What caught me most off
guard was the realization that just as I would be getting ready to announce the
upcoming publication of this new book, two similar events would be
happening in South Carolina in 2017.
The first event was a massive storm of meteorities witnessed
all across the South on November 13, 1833. No mere meteor shower, this! People
were terrified, many declaring that the world was coming to an end as the
sparks seemed to be falling all around them. The occasion was the Leonid
Shower, which occurs in mid-November every thirty-three years. In 1833, the
earth’s orbit took it very close to the orbit of the comet Tempel-Tuttle and was said to have caused some 100,000
shooting stars per minute. Another legend says that the song “Stars Fell on
Alabama” was written to commemorate the event . And witnesses declared that this famous woodcut was an accurate depiction of what happened.
Now, in 2017, we are told that an even greater
meteor storm will fill the skies on Saturday, August 12. This one
comes from the Swift-Tuttle comet and is called a Perseid shower. Although
articles on the internet are claiming that it will be the brightest shower in
human history, its expected 300 shooting stars per hour cannot hope to rival
what Henrietta Ainesworth witnessed in 1833. Still if you want to get a feel
for what Henrietta’s experience was like, it wouldn’t hurt to look up at the
sky on Saturday night.
Stay tuned to hear about the second event.
Now that the Katzenhaus Summer Promotion is officially over, we’ll be moving on to some major announcements about upcoming books. Let’s start with the answers to last week’s quiz questions.
Henrietta Ainesworth is a fictional character, which is why no one successfully “googled” her. She is the main character in my next book. She was born in 1832 in Oxford, England. Her father, Sir Ephraim Ainesworth, is the Keeper of Medieval Manuscripts at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. His office in Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room oversees scholarly access to such priceless holdings as the Digby 209—a twelfth-century manuscript containing the works of several prominent churchmen of the period. (Digby 209 is a little different in that the scribes who copied it did a lot of doodling in the margins—and some of the doodles are quite funny and more than a little pornographic.)
In 1832 Henrietta meets Julien Beauchene, an American from Charleston, South Carolina. His family has made a fortune by acting as cotton factors—which means they buy up cotton crops from plantation owners, store it in their warehouse, and then sell it for the highest possible price to textile manufacturers in England and France. When Henrietta and Julien fall in love, Henrietta faces several dilemmas. She is violently opposed to slavery; he is a slave-owner. She has led a sheltered, scholarly life in Oxford; he comes from the brash, energetic, and business-oriented new United States. Henrietta’s only role model as a wife is her mother, who is a take-charge, controlling woman who dominates her meek librarian husband. Julien’s mother died when her children were small, and Julien has grown up with the example of a strong and dominating father.
Is there any hope for the marriage of Henrietta and Julien? The answer lies in the up-coming book. We’ll do a title and cover reveal in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.