Eva Flynn: Thank you, I’m glad to be here Heather. I really enjoy your blog.
H: Your novel The Renegade Queen focuses on a woman who pushed against social norms for women in 19th century America. Can you give us background information to set the scene; I have only heard the name Victoria Woodhull in passing?
EF: Victoria Woodhull was born into poverty and through sheer willpower became the first female presidential candidate, the first female stockbroker, publisher of a newspaper, the first women to testify in front of Congress, and the first American to publish The Communist Manifesto. And yet when Susan B. Anthony wrote the History of Woman’s Suffrage, which was four volumes and 5700 pages, Victoria is not mentioned once. This novel explores those times and the rivalry between Victoria and Susan.
I have all the sympathy in the world for Susan B. Anthony. She gave her life for the cause and then at the age of 50 a younger, richer, more beautiful woman comes onto the scene with an appalling background and becomes more popular, and wins more support from politicians and the newspapers in a few short months than Anthony did after years of campaigning. Anthony felt that her place in the world was displaced and that she was losing control of the movement.
Victoria was more radical and wanted immediate action to alleviate the inequities for women, the poor, and the immigrants. Victoria knew in her heart that she was right and did not understand why a social revolution could not occur immediately. Anthony, being older, wiser, and perhaps more cynical felt that small, incremental gains were the only way to get to a state of equality. Anthony was focused on the right to vote, thinking women could become a powerful voting group and make these other reforms happen over time. Victoria wanted everything immediately, for she knew that there would be male politicians that women would not cross the street to vote for.
And while she was the first woman to run for President, she was also the first presidential candidate to spend election night in jail. Her enemies had her arrested on a contrived charge and tried to destroy her.
H: It’s truly incredible what is put in the history books and what doesn’t make the cut!
You have written about a period of social change, is it the time period or the upheaval that drew you to the topic (or both)?
EF: What intrigues me about Reconstruction is that it is analogous to the end of the War of Independence in that our country is in tatters, 600,000 men are lost, the South is destroyed, and the elite have to figure out what America stands for, who we are. We have immigrants coming to our shores, we have the former slaves demanding their rights, and we have women who are dumbfounded that they had to hold society together while their men were at war, but they are not considered worthy of the vote. It is a time of second renewal for this country. And yet historians often refer to Reconstruction as a period of “failure” or a time when nothing noteworthy happens. I could not disagree more, Congress passed important amendments during Reconstruction that still affect our lives. Robber barons such as Commodore Vanderbilt were remaking this country with new industries and great wealth. And minorities, women, African-Americans, and immigrants were finding their voice and beginning the discussion of equal rights that we are still having today.
H: I feel that Reconstruction is frequently overshadowed by all of the post war negativity – that’s what I was always taught in school. The end of war times are always fascinating because you are looking at what resulted from that war, the winners and the losers.
The Renegade Queen features a love story between Victoria Woodhull and James Blood. Would you describe this book as a historical romance with the emphasis on the love story or more of a historical novel that includes romance elements?
EF: The love and support of James is integral to Victoria’s life, she simply could not have fought the battles she did without him taking care of her children and other business interests while she was away. In terms of the novel, I would say that I see the romance as being the secondary storyline that is woven throughout the story with Victoria’s struggles for equality being the primary storyline.
H: I’m more and more intrigued by this story! A great story that isn’t told and some excellent characters.
Is The Renegade Queen intended to be part of a forthcoming series or will it be a standalone book? If a series, what can we expect?
EF: Yes, this is a series. The next one will be about Victoria’s life in England where she is still active and fighting for her causes, but she also struggles with who she is. Is she who she thinks she is or what other people say? And what matters in terms of identity? In England, as you can imagine, people were very concerned about her family and lineage and she has to find a way to fit into society despite the fact that her lineage is nothing but horse thieves.
The series will focus on characters during the Reconstruction. I plan to also write more about Susan B. Anthony as well as Benjamin Butler and George Francis Train who are all in this book.
H: I look forward to learning more about this time period from the rest of this series.
Why the title The Renegade Queen?
EF: Victoria led the charge against the status quo and was often referred to as a “queen” in the newspapers. She also compared herself often (and somewhat hilariously) to Queen Victoria who was ruling England. I shied away from using the word “rebel” because of its Civil War connotations.
H: Oh, man, I’m trying to picture her comparing herself to Queen Victoria!
Did you do a lot of research before writing this book? What type of research?
Yes, I spent an extraordinary time researching the personalities and the time period, and I loved it. I was so moved by every character’s story that I want to write a novel on each of them!
In addition to the excellent biographies of Victoria Woodhull, Commodore Vanderbilt, Karl Marx, Susan B. Anthony, Benjamin Butler, and Henry Ward Beecher that I read, I also read primary sources; newspapers from the time period, Victoria’s speeches, Victoria’s newspaper articles that she wrote, and Tennessee’s speeches. I also consulted court transcripts of various proceedings that involved Victoria. In addition, I read interviews with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other contemporaries of Victoria.
H: It’s awesome to have access to first-hand accounts and her speeches and court documents. That adds such a “real” layer to the novel.
For those who have not read your work, how would you describe your writing style?
EF: For this novel I chose a first-person conversational style for a few reasons. I chose first person because I wanted the readers to experience Victoria’s life as she did and from her point of view. She was vilified during her lifetime and some biographers are less than kind, and I wanted to give her a voice. I made the novel conversational because the time and cadence of speech is so removed from our own that I wanted the historically accurate language to flow well and be easy to grasp.
Elmore Leonard once said that a writer must leave out the boring parts, and one of my biggest challenges with this book was what to leave out. Through my research I found so many fascinating stories that I was tempted to cram them all in, but I held myself back. I tried to keep the pace up-tempo so people would finish the book!
H: I love that you wanted to keep the reader truly into the feel of the period through the language and style. It helps to immerse the reader in the whole experience.
When you are not reading for research, what type of books or what authors do you enjoy reading?
EF: I read a wide variety of books. I enjoy biographies and non-fiction. In fiction, Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors. Elmore Leonard is incredible in terms of his pace and dialogue. I also read older authors/classic authors. I enjoy C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. If I need something to lift my spirits then I look to Anne Lamott or David Sedaris.
H: I have enjoyed the style of Elmore Leonard too, his books are excellent.
Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process? How have you worked through these? Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
EF: My biggest struggle is finding the time to write. I own my own business and have two young boys so my days are very full. I find myself getting up at 4 am to find the time to write, but this quiet time before anyone is asking for anything is the best time of the day. Without the quiet writing time, I’m sure I would be insane! I would just tell readers to persevere even in the face of rejection or struggles. I would also say not to feel pressured to publish on anyone else’s timetable. Your art cannot be rushed and your voice deserves to be heard.
H: I can’t even imagine the struggle to find time to write! I think those are some excellent recommendations. Thank you Eva for stopping by today, I have learned so much about something I knew absolutely nothing about!
Eva was raised on bedtime stories of feminists (the tooth fairy even brought Susan B. Anthony dollars) and daytime lessons on American politics. On one fateful day years ago when knowledge was found on bound paper, she discovered two paragraphs about Victoria Woodhull in the WXYZ volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. When she realized that neither of her brilliant parents (a conservative political science professor and a liberal feminist) had never heard of her, it was the beginning of a lifelong fascination not only with Victoria Woodhull but in discovering the stories that the history books do not tell. Brave battles fought, new worlds sought, loves lost all in the name of some future glory have led her to spend years researching the period of Reconstruction. Her first book, The Renegade Queen , explores the forgotten trailblazer Victoria Woodhull and her rivalry with Susan B. Anthony.
Eva was born and raised in Tennessee, earned her B.A. in Political Science from DePauw in Greencastle, Indiana and still lives in Indiana. Eva enjoys reading, classic movies, and travelling. She loves to hear from readers, you may reach her at eva[at]rebellioustimes[dot]com.
Find Eva Flynn: Goodreads | Twitter | Website
Two Renegades So Controversial, They Were Erased From History
Discarded by society, she led a social revolution. Disgusted by war, he sought a new world.
She was the first women to run for President, campaigning before women could vote.
He was the Hero of Vicksburg, disillusioned with the government after witnessing the devastating carnage of the Civil War.
Their social revolution attracted the unwanted who were left out of the new wealth: the freed slaves, the new immigrants, and women.
Who were they?
This is the true story of Victoria Woodhull and the love of her life, James Blood.
Adored by the poor, hated by the powerful, forced into hiding during their lifetimes and erased from history after death, the legend of their love lives on.
It’s 1869 and Victoria has a choice to make. She can stay in an abusive marriage and continue to work as a psychic, or she can take the offer of support from handsome Civil War general James Blood and set about to turn society upside down. Victoria chooses revolution.
But revolutions are expensive, and Victoria needs money. James introduces Victoria to one of the wealthiest man in America—Commodore Vanderbilt. Along with her loose and scandalous sister, Tennessee, Victoria manipulates Vanderbilt and together they conspire to crash the stock market—and profit from it. Victoria then parlays her fortune into the first female-owned brokerage firm.
When her idol Susan B. Anthony publishes scandalous rumors about Victoria’s past, Victoria enters into a fierce rivalry with Susan to control the women’s movement. James supports Victoria’s efforts despite his deep fears that she may lose more than the battle. She might lose part of herself.
Victoria starts her own newspaper, testifies to Congress, and even announces her candidacy for President. But when Victoria adopts James’s radical ideas and free love beliefs, she ignites new, bruising, battles with Susan B. Anthony and the powerful Reverend Henry Beecher. These skirmishes turn into an all-out war, with Victoria facing prejudice, prosecution, and imprisonment. Ultimately, Victoria and James face the hardest choice of all: the choice between their country and their love.
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