War, betrayal, tragedy and long-buried secrets — these are just some of the issues at the heart of Laura Kamoie’s novels. Get to know the Annapolis writer, who will visit Severna Park Library on Wednesday, November 14, at 6:30pm.
Q: Your love of storytelling started with family lore involving angels, ghosts and evil-eye curses. Can you recall any of those memories and how they developed your curiosity for storytelling?
A: Growing up, Friday nights were spent around my grandmother's kitchen table with everyone in the family sharing stories of whatever odd occurrences had happened in their homes recently. My grandmother believed she'd once received an evil-eye curse and seen an angel, so most of my family believed in the supernatural. From as early as I can remember, I read stories of ghosts and hauntings, and my first love as a teenage reader was books by Stephen King and Anne Rice. So it was natural that my earliest interests in storytelling would involve the supernatural as well.
Q: You have a background teaching history, but you have also published more than 20 romance novels. Do you find that writing in both of those genres is rewarding for different reasons?
A: I began my fiction-writing career in the romance and suspense genres because, at the time, I was still working as an associate professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy. Writing genre fiction was fun and different from my day job. But some context is useful here, too — I began writing fiction after suffering a mild traumatic brain injury in 2008, and as I healed, I had a very strong and new creative urge. I started taking guitar lessons and writing my first novel, a love story between a vampire and a woman, unsurprising since stories about the supernatural were what I loved to read.
After I wrote that first book, I was hooked. I began taking writing courses, joining writers' organizations and writing new pieces. Once my writing career took off enough that I had to choose between remaining a professor and attempting a full-time writing career, I was thrilled to write historical novels so that I could keep my life-long love of history as a part of my life. The idea for my first historical novel, “America's First Daughter,” originated from two small senior seminars on Thomas Jefferson that I taught at the Naval Academy the last semester I taught.
I find both romance and historical fiction rewarding. They exercise different parts of my writing brain, allow me to tell different kinds of stories to different audiences, and allow me to be able to say the things I want to say about life, love and the world in which we live.
Q: Your last two historical novels were heavily researched and co-written with Stephanie Dray. What was most appealing about reviving Patsy Jefferson and Eliza Schuyler Hamilton on the page?
A: What most drew us to write about the Founding Mothers was a desire to show just how significantly women contributed to the Revolutionary War and the founding of our nation. We like to say that much of what we know about Thomas Jefferson is what Patsy allowed us to know. Since she edited — and likely destroyed some of — his papers after he died, there's truth to that. Eliza Hamilton is responsible for making sure we know as much as we do about Alexander Hamilton, since both his political foes and friends tried to erase his contributions from the record. And in the process, Eliza created a legacy of her own — one that wasn't just about remembering Alexander, but that was also about taking care of women and children, building educational opportunities, and other social causes. Those are great untold American stories we felt strongly needed to be known.
Q: Now you’re working on “Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution” along with five other authors. What can you share about your story within that collection?
A: “Ribbons of Scarlet” tells the whole chronology of the French Revolution from the perspective of six real, historical figures based heavily on their own words and real experiences during the French Revolution, and each figure's perspective was written by one of six participating authors. My heroine was Emilie de St. Amaranthe, the daughter of a courtesan and renowned to be the most beautiful girl in Paris. With her mother, Emilie ran the most elite gaming parlor in Paris attended by aristocrats and royalty alike, and therefore, they were royalist in their sympathies — sympathies that forced them to flee the city as the radicals took over and the Reign of Terror began, which killed 40,000 people. Ultimately, Emilie's fate helped bring an end to the Reign of Terror and created subversive fashion trends that women prized after the war for decades.
Q: What topics do you plan to cover during the Q&A at Severna Park Library?
A: I will discuss the research, writing and history behind my novel, “My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.” Eliza was a patriot, a wife, a widow, and a warrior in her husband's quest to form a more perfect union. Q&A and book sale and signing will follow.
Visit www.laurakamoie.com to learn more.