Heather: Hi Nicole! Welcome to The Maiden’s Court! I would love to open this discussion today by asking how you came across Victoria Woodhull and what made you decide to write about her?
Nicole Evelina: Hi Heather. I’m so happy to be here. I love the name of your blog!
I found out about Victoria Woodhull on Pinterest, of all things. A friend of mine pinned a picture of a pretty Victorian woman who captured my attention. The caption said: “Known by her detractors as "Mrs. Satan," Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman's suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.”
I knew then and there I had my next book subject. I mean, any woman called Mrs. Satan is someone I need to learn more about. And the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. I also became angry that we didn’t learn about this important, powerful, ground-breaking woman in school. As a historical fiction writer, I’m attracted more to the stories that are nearly forgotten; I view it as my mission to help bring them to life so that at least one more generation remembers them. I couldn’t stand the idea of another generation of girls being denied a role model (such as she is) just because history nearly forgot her.
H: Thank you, the credit for my blog name goes to my husband! I agree, a name like "Mrs. Satan" would make me want to know more!
I sure that many people do not know much about Victoria Woodhull, myself included, and it can sometimes be difficult to attract a reader’s attention to a less well known character. What would you want to tell them to hook them in? The floor is yours!
NE: Victoria’s life was so wild that I don’t think it takes much to get you interested. She’s one of those people who had such a crazy life that you’d think I was making this stuff up, but I’m not. Victoria was one of 10 children, born dirt poor in the small town of Homer, Ohio. Her father was an abusive con man and her mother was a crazy religious zealot. She married very young to a man who was also abusive but managed to overcome her early misfortunes.
By 31, Victoria was a self-made millionaire. Forty eight years before women got the right to vote, she ran for President of the United States, becoming the first woman ever to do so. She was also the first woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street (with her sister, Tennie), the first woman to testify before a Congressional committee (she argued that the wording of the Constitution already gave women the right to vote), and one of the first women to run a weekly newspaper. Victoria was an impassioned advocate and speaker on women’s suffrage, Free Love (the right for people to marry and separate/divorce at will without the interference of the government), and equality of the sexes. Keep in mind that this is in the 1870s!
She was friends with the bigwigs of the suffrage movement including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and powerful men like President Grant and Cornelius Vanderbilt. But she never quite learned not to bite the hand that feeds her those actions, combined with her outrageous political beliefs, are what contributed to her downfall…
H: Wow! That is quite the impressive resume for a woman of any time period, let alone the 1800's!
Did you do a lot of research before writing this book? What type of research? Is there a lot of material out there about her?
NE: I always do a lot of research about my subjects, partly to make sure I’m accurate, but also because research is one of my favorite parts of writing historical fiction. I tend to lean toward books when I don’t have connections to experts in my research area. There are several outstanding biographies of Victoria, plus some books on the suffrage movement contain valuable information about her. I was lucky that Victoria was very much a public speaker, so newspaper articles chronicling her activities, are still in existence, as are her speeches and many letters and articles that she wrote. Plus, her newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, is housed in its entirety both online and on microfilm at several universities.
There is a short bibliography at the end of the book that lists my main sources, but if you’d like to see my complete research list, please visit https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/madame-presidentess/research/.
H: Very cool - I love when fiction authors give us bibliographies, not so much because I want to check their accuracy, but because I love to have an idea of where to go to do further reading on a subject that has caught my eye. And I haven't hesitated to reach out to a few authors for their resource lists when writing a research paper for my Masters program!
Victoria Woodhull sought to become president even though women did not yet have the right to vote; this sounds destined to fail right from the start. Did she really have any chance in attaining her sought position and if not, why did she continue to pursue this goal?
NE: At first, she didn’t enter the campaign to win, but to bring attention to the suffrage movement and make a statement that women can do anything men can do. In 1871, she actually said, “I will admit, in the spirit of openness that my announcement as a candidate a year ago was for the mere purpose of lifting a banner, of provoking agitation, and creating a rallying point for suffrage. But now, seeing as how people support me and have taken to my cause, I have little doubt of the possibility of success. Little as the public think it, a woman who is now nominated may be elected next year.” So it seems that during the course of her campaign, she grew in faith that she might actually achieve her outlandish dream. Whether or not that was ever possible or if she just started believing her own press is up for debate. By the time the election actually rolled around, her campaign had crumbled and she spent Election Day in jail, so by then it is certain she knew she wouldn’t succeed.
H: That's impressive that she simply had the nerve to get up there and pursue something that seemed so far out of reach for the time, especially in the face of likely failure.
This might be a tough question, but I just have to ask because I can't help the comparison because I had the opportunity to interview the author of this book I'm going to mention. Another novel about Victoria Woodhull was released less than a year ago, The Renegade Queen by Eva Flynn. How does your book stand apart from this previously released novel and why should a reader choose yours instead of Flynn’s or in addition to hers?
NE: This is a tough question to answer because I haven’t read Ms. Flynn’s book. I intend to, but I make it a point not to read competing works until mine is published so that there isn’t any way I can be consciously or unconsciously influenced. Having said that, look at how many books are out there about people like Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. I believe that every author comes to the same information with a different perspective and will produce a different story, even if their source material is the same. I’m not sure what angle Ms. Flynn took on her book, but mine is historical biographical fiction, which means it is highly based in fact, and is closer to creative non-fiction than a totally fictional novel. There are certainly fictional elements and characters (as we can never truly know another person’s motivations or personal conversations) but I wrote my book to be informative as well as entertaining, rather than placing entertainment at the fore. I would hope that readers experience both, as did the Chaucer Award for historical fiction committee, who honored the book with first place in the US history category.
H: I think that is a great practice - not only do you not want to influence yourself, but I would imagine it prevents you from stressing yourself out with self-comparisons while in the publishing process. I haven't had the chance to read either book yet myself, so I too look forward to them.
Are you a full time author or do you have to find time to write around a typical 9-5 job? How do you find time to write?
NE: No, I don’t write full time – yet. That is my goal. Right now I work full time as a writer in the marketing department for a health care company. Because of that, I do most of my writing on the weekends and on my vacation days. Occasionally, if I’m really inspired or doing NaNoWriMo, I’ll write at night, but my brain is usually toast by the end of the day.
One of the things that has helped me find extra writing time is that I no longer watch TV. There are a few shows that I allow myself to watch on my Kindle while I’m eating, but that is it. Now I have much more time for research, writing and reading. And I’m a happier person for it.
H: I can understand about freeing yourself from TV - I mentioned at the beginning of this post that my internet woes were now solved, but I had no cable or internet for the last week and I found myself with so much time I didn't know what to do with it!
Have you had any struggles in the writing/publishing process? How have you worked through these? Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
NE: Oh yes. My road has not been easy. I started out the traditional route. It took me two years to find an agent and I was with her on submission for two years, with many close calls (we went to acquisitions with my debut novel three times at major publishers) but no luck. There is so much rejection in both querying and being on submission. You have to learn to deal with it. Even once you’re published, you’ll get negative reviews. All you can do is accept that everyone has a right to their opinion (even when they are wrong!) and move on. I try to think about the books that I didn’t like that everyone else seemed to (or vice versa) – that helps me to remember the subjective nature of art. Another thing that helps me is to read the 1 and 2 star reviews given to writers/books I love or that are extremely popular or critically acclaimed. Once you realize that even those people get panned, it makes taking criticism of your own work a little easier.
My advice for aspiring authors is to write what you are passionate about, even if that isn’t where the market is going. If you care about it, chances are very good someone else will, too. You will thank yourself when you’ve read your book for the 10th time in the editing process and you are sick of it. At least if it’s a subject/plot/character you love, you’ll have the will to carry on.
Take whatever path to publication is best for you. If you want an agent and a major publisher, query your heart out. But know that it can be a long process filled with rejection. (Or not. My mentor’s first book sold overnight, two weeks after she got her agent.) If you decide to go indie, educate yourself (there are plenty of books and web sites that will help you) and please, please pay for professional editing and cover art. They will be worth every penny.
And no matter what, don’t ever give up. It is really true that the only sure way to fail is to give up. You started writing because you have a story to tell and you know what? Someone in the world needs to read that story. So when you have a rough day, think about that person. It might not take away all the frustration or sadness, but it will give you a renewed sense of purpose.
H: Fabulous words of wisdom and I couldn't agree more about the cover art and editing, readers (and reviewers) will thank you for it! Thank you for stopping by today!
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Been Searching for You, a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
She also writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. The sequel, Camelot’s Queen is out now.
Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Find Nicole Evelina: Website | Twitter | Pinterest | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Tumblr
*Winner: U.S. Women’s History category – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical FictionBuy the Book: Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords
Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.
Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”
But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.
Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.
Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.
This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.
Tour Wide Giveaway!!
As part of the tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, there is a tour wide giveaway on offer. Please note that this giveaway is coordinated by the HFVBT coordinator and not me, so any questions or issues should be directed to her.
To enter the Madame Presidentess Giveaway for a paperback of the book and/or Victoria Woodhull Bumper Sticker, please see the GLEAM form below. 3 winners will receive a copy of the book and a bumper sticker. 7 winners will receive the Victoria Woodhull Bumper Sticker.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 26th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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