Tag Archives: debut historical writers

A White Room, debut historical novel by Stephanie Carroll, Takes on Secrets, Madness, Gender, and Human Rights in 1900s America

Oh, for the Hook of a Book! is pleased to review A White Room by Stephanie Carroll today as the launching point on the start of her summer virtual tour!  After the review and details, please take part in a chance to win her debut novel as well as check out all the other tour dates in which she’ll be interviewed and also have some interesting guest articles. And if you’d comment at the end of the post by clicking “comment” by the bottom footer, Stephanie will be availabe to answer any questions or comments you have! Enjoy!

A White Room 350x525Emma is terrified of her house. It moves, creaks, and seems alive. Is the terror truly there or is it in her own head? Is her isolation driving her mad or is her madness making her isolated?

A White Room by Stephanie Carroll is a historical novel showcasing the plight of women in the early 20th Century, where desperation for women with dreams and desires outside of working in the home could blur the lines between sanity and insanity.  Where men ruled the towns, the families, and the plight of every woman. Where high society women betrayed, humiliated, and bullied other women for wanting more than to launder, cook, and clean.

Emeline (Emma) Evans’ beloved father, who encouraged her dreams of helping people through nursing and had the funds to send her for an education, dies leaving her mother, her siblings, and her in sudden poverty.  Not knowing how else to help her family, she pleads to a family once helped by her father to let her marry their son. Once they agree, she is thrown into an undesirable situation by the new husband, John Dorr, who moves her far away from any family to start a new isolated life in a gothic home that reeks of sorrow and desires unmet.

Coupled with the fact that the only human contact, besides their a few-days-a-week maid who helped her with the incessant chores, were the high society women in the church who ran committees for profit or invited her low rung young husband lawyer to dine at their homes where she inevitably made mistakes.

Society in the early 1900s didn’t approve of women working outside of the home…their duty was to lug and hand wash dishes, launder clothing by hand, starch, iron, cook, scrub floors on hands and knees, be a dutiful wife and have sons…even if they had an education.  Emma knows some of these chores are important for daily life, but yet it seems she cleans for them to be dirty again, cooks what is consumed, and none feel meaningful and have a lasting effect on change or the world or community. She wants to do something important.

And here is where her dedication to herself, her desire to assist those in need, her intelligence and independence, almost drive her mad. Her intimidating eerie home starts messing with her mind. The furniture moves, reflections are odd, yellow eyes glow from the bushes. All this leads to her getting a straight ticket to a diagnosis of hysteria, which means she is confined even further to a bedroom with stark white walls in contrast to the dreary decor of the rest of the house. As the terrors of the home and her thoughts bring her to more paranoia, she flees the home and begins to defy her plight. She starts practicing her nursing, unlicensed and in secret, even as her husband’s law firm boss is hunting down these types of medical practitioners.

Will Emma’s rebellion cause her more pain and confine her further or redeem her from her life of madness and isolation? I highly recommend you read this book to find out. It’s an amazing story of a woman’s determination to use her intelligence and heart to help others, even at cost or danger to herself.

Carroll does a superb job of pulling the reader in from the start. We feel as if we are Emma, her thoughts and actions and worries so pervasive to our own minds.  Just as the house seeps in to our bones and we feel it closing around us as Emma does, as we feel the creepiness making the hair on our arms raise, just as we ourselves might go mad out of anger for Emma’s life, a redeeming break happens. The light enters in and Emma shines.

I totally loved this book. It’s been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (where a woman becomes obsessed with the wallpaper bedroom), Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (he and I are descended from the same family tree and his work is a favorite of mine) and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier’s works.

If you have an open mind, or want your eyes to be opened, especially in terms of women’s servitude of the mind that has been happening for ages, this book is a must read. Women’s rights activists like me will highly covet this book as it brings about the secrets of the Gilded Age and also shows how it still transcends into society today.

The content and intricacies of this book are excellent.  I can’t give this book enough great accolades, so don’t hesitate, just read it! If you’re a fan of 20th Century culture, women’s issues, or eerie, haunting work, add this one to your list. Carroll is definitely an author not to be missed and I look forward to more permeating work from her in the future.

A White Room, Synopsis~

A White Room 350x525At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.



Want a chance to WIN a copy of Stephanie Carroll’s A White Room? Sign-up for her Rafflecopter giveaway for an e-book version of this exceptional book! Good luck!

Win a copy of A White Room! Click Link Below~

A Rafflecopter giveaway


Stephanie Carroll, Biography~

Author Photo at Irwin Street Inn - CopyAs a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.

Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman (The Yellow Wallpaper), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights). A White Room is her debut novel.

Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.

Connect with Stephanie Carroll~



“A novel of grit, independence, and determination … An intelligent story, well told.”

—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine

“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper … the thoughtful, intricate story Carroll relates is absolutely mesmerizing.”

—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

A White Room, Details~

A White Room 350x525

by Stephanie Carroll

June 2013

408 Pages

Soft Cover: $14.99

eBook: $3.99

Publisher: Unhinged Books

ISBN: 978-0-9888674-0-6

eBook ISBN:


LCCN: 2013930913

The author photo was taken by Corey Ralston Photography and the cover was designed by Jenny Q of Historical Editorial and the original painting is Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent, 1909.

Available in Print and eBook

AmazonBarnes & NobleSonyKoboInkteraSmashwords

Soon to be available on Apple’s iBooks and Baker & Taylor’s Blio

A White Room Blog Tour Dates

A White Room 350x525Weds, June 19 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Tour Kick-off!!  Book Review and Giveaway

Thurs, June 20 – Hazel the Witch:  Interview

Sat, June 22 – Reading in Ecuador:  

Guest Post: How to Write Characters You Hate and Characters You Love to Hate

Mon, June 24 – The Bookish Dame:  Interview

Thurs, June 27 – Momma Bears Book Blog:  

Guest Post: The Story Behind Emeline’s Mental Distress

Tues, July 2 – I am Indeed:  Guest Post: Historical Accuracy in Historical Fiction

Mon, July 8 – Bookfari:  Interview and Giveaway

Tues, July 9 – Hazel the Witch

Guest Post – How to Write the Inner Thoughts of a Crazy Person – Finding Meaning in Insanity?

Weds, July 10 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: Review 

Fri, July 12 – Lost to Books:  Guest Post TBA and Giveaway

Mon, July 15 – A Writer of History:  Guest Post: Writing an Era – Where to Begin?

Weds, July 17 – Michelle’s Romantic Tangle:  Interview

Thurs, July 18 – Oh, For the Hook of a Book:  Interview

Tues, July 23 – Unabridged Chick:  Review and Giveaway

Thurs July 25 – Ravings and Ramblings:  Review and Interview

Tues July 30 – Reading the Past:  Giveaway and Guest Post:

Writing and Historical Thought – They Didn’t Think Like We Did 100 Years Ago

 Sat, Aug. 3 – History and Women:  Guest Post: Victorian Women and the Mystery of Sex 

Be sure to check out all her interviews and guest articles throughout the summer. And stop back by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! for our interview with Stephanie!



Filed under Book Reviews

Interview with Susanna Calkins, Author of Historical Mystery A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

Hi Susie! I’m thrilled to have you stop by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today to talk about your upcoming April 23 release, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s Press). As well, I hope you’ll be sharing a little more about yourself so everyone can get a glimpse into your world! How are things going for you?

Susanna:  I’m doing well, thanks for hosting me today! 

Erin:  Delighted to! Let’s have a steaming cup of tea and start our conversation!

Susanna:  Sounds good; you don’t mind if I’m drinking coffee, right? 🙂

Erin: Absolutely, actually it’s what I’m drinking too! I’ll feature the cover and synopsis first to tantalize readers….really beautiful cover.

Murder at..

Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~
Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)
When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…

Q:  I believe A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is your debut novel, correct? When did you start writing and how long did it take this novel to come to fruition?

A: Yes, ROSAMUND is my debut novel and is also the first novel that I finished. I got the idea years ago, when I was a graduate student in history, and then I began to work on different scenes in a very haphazard way for the next few weeks.  Finally around 2009, with about 150 pages written, I sat down and took it seriously, giving myself space and time to complete the first draft in 2010.

Q: Since I’ve not reviewed your book yet, tell us some about your book and the inspiration behind it….

A: My book was inspired by some 17th century murder ballads I’d come across in my research on domestic homicide for a paper I was writing in grad school.  They were often romanticized versions of “true accounts” detailing how murderers lured their victims to their deaths; very often, the corpse seems to have been found with a letter in her pocket, signed by her murderer.  I had so many questions, beginning with ‘why would the murderer have left a note?” and “Why weren’t the victims more suspicious?” My novel was an attempt to answer some of these questions.

Erin Comments: I love that! Notes seemed to be a common theme in that time period, for everything! I like the questions your posing, can’t wait to see how your novel answers them.

Q:  What are your personal favorite books in the mystery novel genre?

A: When I was younger, I loved Agatha Christie. Now, I love everything by Patricia Cornwell and Anne Perry, and other writers of historical mysteries, including Charles Todd, Jacqueline Winspeare and Rhys Bowen.

Erin Comments: Me too, great list.

Q:  Is your book’s setting in Restoration England (or 17th Century) your favorite historical time period? If so why?

A:  I really enjoy this time period, especially in the mid 1660s.  The Plague, followed by the Great Fire of London, make for an exciting backdrop!

Q:  What are some of your other favorite historical time periods and why?

A: I have a fondness for the middle ages, especially with the emergence of the universities and guilds. I’m also fascinated by nineteenth century France.

Q: If you could write about a woman from history, who would it be? Why?

A:  Great question.  I’ve always focused on women’s and gender history, so I’ve always been interested in the everyday lives of ordinary women. I went through a phase when I was enamored of some of the great queens, like Elizabeth I of England and Queen Isabella of Spain, because I admired their strength of character and the liveliness of their minds.  I’ve written about many seventeenth century Quaker women, including one of the founders, Margaret Fell Fox.  I’ve also written about the nineteenth century Quaker reformer, Elizabeth Frye.  You can see I’m interested in Quakers! And they do feature in ROSAMUND!

Erin Comments: Sounds like a book featuring Fox or Frye and the Quakers would be a great one to read! Have you considered?

Q:  How much research is involved when writing a mystery that is thick with plot, but also takes place during an historical time period rich with detail? Can you explain your research or any interesting tidbits you collected along the way?

A:  Well, in some ways I did years of research before I started writing one word of ROSAMUND. In addition to reading a lot of scholarly works, I spent a lot of time reading the cheap print (ballads, chapbooks, pamphlets and other penny pieces) from the era, to get a feel for the language and customs of the time. I really enjoyed reading the work of Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of the time. 

Q: How do you develop your characters, both the leading and the supporting, to ensure not only their historical accuracy, but also emotionally in order for them to connect to the reader?

A: Even though Lucy was “just” a chambermaid—and an uneducated one at that—I wanted to believe that a servant could have had a lively inquiring mind and that, when push came to shove, she would do anything for her friends and family (Pursuing the murderer of one friend, and seeking to save someone else from being hanged). Even though households were structured somewhat differently back then, I believe that people who care about each other will still try to do what’s right, even if they end up defying some conventions of the time, like Lucy did.

Q:  Do you feel it’s important for women as writers to “schedule” writing time in order to complete and pursue their dreams? What advice do you have for other women writers about fitting it all in?

A: Oh my goodness! I get this question all the time, and I don’t know if I have an answer that will work for other people. I do have a lot of commitments (full time job, additional adjunct teaching, wife and mother of two young children), so I’m pretty busy. But I’m also fortunate to have a supportive spouse who takes on many of the family and childrearing responsibilities.  More importantly, I don’t try to write in luxurious three hour blocks, I always just think, ‘okay, I’ve got 20 or 30 minutes, what can I work on?” So maybe I write a scene. Or I look up a historical detail on the internet.   

I also don’t heed most of the writing advice I hear, especially those who insist that writers should ‘write first thing in the morning’ (I hate writing in the morning), or ‘Write every day.’ You know what, sometimes you can’t write everyday, and that’s okay.  But I do usually think about something related to writing every day, and at the very least, I lay in bed dreaming out a favorite scene. When I tell myself the scene enough, I’ts pretty easy to write down when I get a chance.

Erin Comments: I ask this one of most women authors to see the differences or advice, for myself as well as other aspiring women authors. This is one of the best answers by far and pretty much sums me up. I am not a morning person. 🙂 Thank you!

Q:  What has been the most challenging aspect for you in becoming a published author? What has been the most positive? 

A:  I think I have had to develop a thicker skin when it comes to what readers/reviewers will say about my book.  I’ve learned to say, ‘Well, my book wasn’t for that reader,” but mean comments can still hurt. On the flip side, I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet readers, librarians, reviewers, publishing people and other writers. I wrote so much in isolation, I do enjoy talking about reading and writing with other people.

Q:  What other things do you enjoy beyond writing and reading?

A: I enjoy playing games with my children (ages 9 and 6); I really like teaching (grading, not so much), and I love my full-time job, which is to help faculty improve their teaching.  I also love traveling, any new place is a great place to be!

Erin Comments: Two of my three children are 9 and 5 (6 in May)! We also play a lot of games too, especially in the winter.

Q:  What things do you have planned for your upcoming launch date?

A: Ha! I actually scheduled my students’ first paper assignment on my release date (April 23), so I know I’ll be doing some grading! But in relation to the actual book launch, I’ll be doing some talks at my local library in Highland Park, Illinois (April 25) and at the Barnes and Noble in Skokie, Illinois on April 26. Why don’t you come on by?

Erin Comments: I would love to! I’m in Ohio and Tim’s family is from Illinois, but it’s probably too far a drive for this week. 🙂 I hope any readers in the area will come by though. I know you also have a lot of stops on a book tour too, and readers can find those stops on your website (link below).

Q: Is there another novel in the works for you? What other writing are you doing or plan to do in the future?

A: Yes, the second Lucy Campion mystery (tentatively titled “From the Charred Remains”) will come out next April. I am also working on a Young Adult novel about a gang of teenage thieves living in late nineteenth century Paris.

Erin comments: All sounds wonderful!

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A:  Readers can check out my website at www.susannacalkins.com, email me at s.calkins.nu@gmail.com, or tweet to me @scalkins3. I’d love to hear from you!

Erin:  Thank you so much, Susie, for joining us today. I can’t wait to finish up your historical mystery! I wish you the best of luck with all your pursuits! Keep in touch!

Susanna:  Thank you so much! This was a lot of fun! I’ll stop back by to answer any questions!

And stay tuned readers for a review coming up next week of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate and a giveaway!

Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsSusanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.  See more at www.susannacalkins.com.


Filed under Q and A with Authors