Thank you so much for being here, Juliet Waldron.
Thanks so much for having me, Roseanne!
1. First up is the obligatory question. When did you first begin writing?
Early, but then that’s standard for most writers. At heart, most of us story tellers, simple as that. I started with what we’d call fan fic, writing a play based on Bambi that was performed in the auditorium before all the fourth grade classes. I was pretty elated by that!
2. Wow, that is an early start and quite a feat. Who or what inspired you to write?
Our house was full of books. All my elders enjoyed telling stories about their childhood or just recounting events of the day with lots detail and sometimes, funny embellishments. My grandfather was a Lit professor with a wry sense of humor who could turn a trip to get gas and groceries into an adventure. In short, I had inspiring role models.
3. Wonderful role models. I love a good story teller. So what do you like the most and least about writing?
At the moment, what I hate most is sitting to type. Maybe I need a standing desk, as my back has been giving me fits. I’m not a fast writer, and I spew something out and then have to go over and over it in order to completely build a scene. What I like the most is the moment when those characters I’ve been imagining (and imagining) suddenly pop into three dimensions and begin to talk and walk without any apparent help from me. Then, writing a story becomes rather like watching a play.
4. Characters taking over is the best part of writing. And what do you do for fun and relaxation when not writing?
I’ve been a cyclist for 40 years. Although I used to ride distance (25-50) miles, those days are gone. It still puts a big smile on my face, though, when I hop on my step-through Granny bike, , and ride a few miles to shop or to the library or farmer’s markets. I also volunteer with bike rodeos for kids and perform advocacy work to make cycling and walking safer. I keep a small garden, and read—of course—as well as slouch on the couch and watch too much TV with a cat or two.
5. Sounds fascinating and much more physical than me. What authors do you like to read?
We have some wonderful authors of genre fiction at BWL, and I’ll mention just a few—A.M. Westerling, Kathy Fischer-Brown, Jamie Hill and Margaret Tanner come to mind, but there are plenty of others whose stories I’ve read and enjoyed. I read non-fiction, too, especially history and archeology. That’s not only for research, but because learning new things about our human past is a kick.
6. They are excellent writers and you’re right, BWL does have a lot of wonderful authors. Tell us, what’s the thing you’d most like people know about you?
My books focus on relationships and on women’s experience in whatever time or place. Our names don’t often make it into the history books, but we were there, accomplishing things that moved society forward. I’d like to shed some light on both parties in a relationship. Mozart had a wife and so did Alexander Hamilton. These women are interesting in their own right.
7. Excellent. Tell us about your current novel, where we can find it and your website/blog?
I’m finishing the second half of “A Master Passion” which is about Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth. Not only did our Founding Fathers possess exceptional minds, they had personal lives, too. In this case, both husband and wife have fascinating ‘backstories.’ Imagine a world in which Albany sits on the edge of frontier! And Hamilton himself has a life story that struck even his contemporaries as improbable, the stuff of fiction.
You can find out more at: http://www.julietwaldron.com
The first book of the set is available at:
8. You obviously have a fondness for history. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
At a long ago Romance Writer’s Convention, I heard Nora Roberts instruct: “Put your fanny in the chair.”
To that I will add Jimmy Hendrix: “Get experience!” And there you have it.
9. Ah yes, I heard her speak and she said the same thing. Great advice. Do you base your characters on real-life people?
I would say that I do, even my historical fiction. I’ve often read true stories that have inspired the big “what if?” question. That’s the germ of every tale.
10. Where do you get your ideas?
From life, as above, whether it’s life in the past or observable behavior. When I write fantasy, which I do occasionally, I head to the big storage cabinet of myth, but even a wolf man has to be a consistent and believable character.
11. You’re right about that. What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I doubt there’s much that’s interesting. I’m just another writer with a head full of stories I hope to tell. No extra toes or anything like that. J
12. LOL So, who’s your favorite author and what’s your favorite book?
That’s a tough one. As a child, I remember reading “Little Men” about 30 times. I also got stuck on Jane Austen for a time, as well as Gore Vidal’s “Burr” and Eco’s “Name of the Rose”. I read Margaret Irwin, Margaret Campbell Barnes, Rhoda Edwards (“Broken Sword”) and Sharon K. Pennman back in the day, and wanted so much to write fiction like them. Right now, I’m enjoying Susanna Clarke’s “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” which is a fantastic genre mash-up.
Excerpt from Master Passion
Betsy heaved a sigh of relief and smoothed her party dress. In the center of the table sat the tea, steaming in a fine English china pot her mother had given her. The surrounding fare was substantial. The guests were obviously enjoying their repast. It was a full-scale affair, a long table covered with savories as well as sweets.
Some, Betsy had made herself, some she had brought in from famous Philadelphia bake shops. From her kitchen had come apple, pumpkin, kidney and pigeon pies, conserves of pears and plums, and loaves of bread.
That wonderful Dutch treat, oleykoecks dusted with sugar, those that had escaped the nimble fingers of the children, were not an hour old and wafting fragrance over the table. From the German baker there were sticky honey cakes and high tortes of nuts, cake and cream. A fine ham sat in state beside the tea pot with slices cut to order by Davie, who had stayed with them. He was resplendent tonight in a fine new wig, coat and pants.
Betsy knew that to the Philadelphians, as well as to the rich southerners, her tea was a simple affair. No roast pig, no pheasant, no songbirds stuffed in pigeons stuffed in ducks stuffed in turkeys. Nor any French cook backstage drowning everything in sauce, such as Mr. Jefferson employed.
Betsy didn’t have money for such luxuries on the slender salary of her public servant husband. Even if she had, her Dutch housewife’s upbringing wouldn’t have allowed her to ever feel easy with a French cook in the kitchen.
After a little time, she overheard the judgment of Philadelphia society upon the table of Mrs. Secretary of the Treasury.
“Pumpkin custard baked in the pumpkin. How quaint!”
“Yes. Good Lord. I haven’t been intimate with the dish in years.”
“Well, try some. It’s delicious. I’d quite forgotten how good it can be.”
The first speaker was Mrs. Willing, a tall and fashionably dressed brunette, a member of an old Philadelphia family. The second, Mrs. Bingham, was younger, fair and bejeweled.
“Look at this whipped cream! I must say, this is the first edible Republican tea I’ve had. The torte is Herr Kumkraker’s, certainly, but excellent as usual. The rest, I divine, came from her kitchen. I must confess it’s all extremely well prepared.”
Betsy, holding her chin high, strode to confront the speakers. Mrs. Willing, she thought, was, as usual, sailing just to the lee of rude, but then, what else could be expected from someone whose father had been a war profiteer? The other lady’s maiden days had been spent coquetting it among the red coats during the occupation. One of her bosom friends had been the glamorous, notorious, and now forever banished Peggy Shippen—Mrs. Benedict Arnold.
“Ah, Mrs. Secretary Hamilton, such a marvelous table!”
“Yes, and so perfectly apropos for our Republican Court.” Mrs. Willing caught the flash in Betsy’s dark eyes and quickly added, “These days, with so many well-trained émigrés to employ, one is liable to overlook one’s native diet.”
“Such satisfying food! Why, it’s the kind of tea my worthy Grandmother Chew often served.”
“Your chef…is, ah, from New York?”
Betsy was certain they were fishing for an admission that she had “stooped” to cooking. Gazing into those smug, smooth, carefully made-up faces, she was ready to give them something to gossip about—these foolish women, too proud to enter their kitchens.
A man’s arm slipped beneath hers, interrupting.
“Ladies!” Alexander saluted Betsy’s companions, bowing gracefully. Both women returned his greeting with the responsiveness that Betsy knew usually welcomes a man who is both good looking and powerful.
“I overheard you ladies discussing our chef.” His glorious blue eyes flashed at Mrs. Bingham. The reigning beauty’s color rose beneath her rouge.
The secret of his power over all of us, Betsy thought with a deal of irritation, is that he acts as if he’s not only been in our bed before, but that he’s eager to get back in!
“Actually, a mere cook, ladies.” Alexander began smoothly, sending the merest flicker of a wink to his wife. “She is a marvelous Dutch woman from Albany, sent to us by Mrs. Major General Schuyler. If you can believe it, she speaks not a word of English. My wife is the only one who can communicate with her.”
While Mrs. Bingham and Mrs. Willing were mulling this astonishing fiction, he added, “Plain fare it is, but, I must confess, ’tis quite rich enough for a man with a delicate constitution.”
“You, Mr. Secretary?”
“Ah, yes, unfortunately so. Please excuse me, my dear.” He set Betsy’s arm free. “It is imperative that the ladies taste the pigeon pie.”
Collecting them, one gorgeous belle on each arm, Hamilton began to steer them along the length of the table to where the pigeon pie sat in state, rich brown gravy flowing from a generous cut where the Knoxes had already assailed it. Davie, helpfully attentive, picked up a plate and a server, ready to offer whatever the ladies fancied.
“I confide, of course.” Hamilton spoke in lowered tones. “Trusting implicitly in your discretion.”
The ladies nodded, curls dripping from their towering hairpieces, eager to have his attention.
“Did I hear you say something about a delicate constitution?” asked Mrs. Bingham. “That you should have any weaknesses at all, Mr. Secretary, is an astonishing notion.”
“Ah, Madam, if only I had none. In fact, I have several. A Spartan diet takes care of one.” Here he paused, blue eyes tantalizing them. “Marriage, I confess, assuages the other.”
The buxom Mrs. Willing leaned closer and tapped his chest with her fan. “But, surely, if the weakness is still with you, you must occasionally experiment with other cures...”