The King’s Witch casts a mesmerizing spell

I love anything historical and witchy—particularly when it can be tied to New England’s (most especially Connecticut’s) witch trials, as Tracy Borman’s The King’s Witch can.

Released earlier this week in paperback, The King’s Witch tells the story of Frances Gorges, a young courtier first to the dying Queen Elizabeth, and then to the precocious daughter of Elizabeth’s successor, King James. Living at the royal palace by force, rather than by choice, Frances becomes the target of the scheming Lord Cecil, as well as at first unknowingly involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605—finding love, but putting her and her parents’ lives in danger. Surrounding these events is King James’ obsession with hunting and burning witches—which thanks to Lord Cecil, potentially includes Frances.

In real-life England, as Borman so effectively portrays in The King’s Witch, King James’ paranoia and fear about witches affected all of England during his reign, which spanned from 1603-1625. Among many, his actions created the belief that hunting down witches, and killing them, was as necessary as going to church on Sundays.

That mindset was brought to the New England colonies during the “Great Migration” of the early 1600s, influencing Connecticut’s witch trials, Massachusetts’ witch trials, and the many others that took place throughout young America.

The King’s Witch is a must-read for historical fiction and witch lovers. And now’s the perfect time to read it. Just released this week in paperback, you can throw the softcover in your bag and easily take it anywhere. (Though I don’t recommend pulling it out at stoplights. You’ll get too engrossed and miss when the light turns green.)

An even better reason to read The King’s Witch now is that its sequel, book 2 of Borman’s Frances Georges trilogy, will be released on September 3. It’s title: The Devil’s Slave—and no one is more excited than me to have an advance copy!

For many, The Devil’s Slave will be a perfect book to sink into at the start of fall. And good news for those who haven’t yet read The King’s Witch. If you start it now—which you absolutely should! So good!—you won’t have to wait as long as the rest of us to read its continuation!

Before We Were Yours + The Hellfire Club: New paperbacks with New England connections

Among the books with a New England connection out in paperback this week that I’m particularly excited about are one I’ve read and loved, and one that’s getting closer to the top of my #TBR list: Lisa Wingate’s wonderful Before We Were Yours, which I gave five stars on Goodreads, and Jake Tapper’s The Hellfire Club.

Went to college in New Hampshire

I’ll admit that if not written by Tapper—one of my favorite CNN reporters—The Hellfire Club would probably not be a book I’d be excited about right now. A news and political junkie, I find my brain going into overload these days when it comes to Washington lies, scandals and wrongdoings. Whereas I used to binge watch CNN for hours a day, I now take it smaller bites. So the idea of plunging into a lies-full, White House-related political thriller set in Washington, DC—the center of my current daily angst—does not necessarily appeal.That said, I love Jake Tapper and the thoughtful, straight-forward reporting and commentary he brings to CNN and his weekday and Sunday morning shows. A huge historical fiction fan, my interest is also piqued to see how he brings 1950s DC to life as he tells the story of Charlie Marder—an unlikely Congressman who discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance. So I’m giving it a go.

Tapper’s New England connection? He earned his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth in New Hampshire, graduating with a BA in history in 1991.

Like The Hellfire Club, Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours is historical fiction. Alternating between 1930s Tennessee and present-day South Carolina, it flips between the story of five siblings taken from the shanty boat their family lives on and put into an orphanage, and the journey of a Congressman’s daughter to discover her family’s history while nursing her father back to health. (There’s also some political grooming involved.)

Went to elementary school in Massachusetts

I read Before We Were Yours in hardcover. And now that it’s out in paperback, I just might read it again. You should too. Based on a real-life orphanage director who stole poor children and then placed them for adoption with wealthy clients, it’s engaging and compelling from page 1. I’d actually rate Before We Were Yours as one of the most-memorable novels I’ve read in the past few years.

Wingate, who now lives in Texas, spent several years growing up in Massachusetts. She credits her first-grade teacher Mrs. Krackhardt at Peasley School in Northboro with giving her the confidence she needed to eventually pursue a writing career. Said Wingate: “Mrs. Krackhardt wrote on my report card that she expected to see my name in the pages of a magazine one day, and I suddenly felt incredibly special. She started reading my stories to the class, and I was hooked. I quickly discovered the joy of having an audience, and set out on many, many writing projects.”

Mrs. Krackhardt deserves our thanks!

Q&A with Nick Trout, author of The Wonder of Lost Causes

WonderofLostCauses_PBThis week saw the release of The Wonder of Lost Causes—the sixth book written by Massachusetts veterinary surgeon Nick Trout.

And doggone, aren’t we excited!

A novel, The Wonder of Lost Causes tells the story of single mother Dr. Kate Blunt, her son Jasper who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and a disfigured, abandoned dog named Whistler. Too old and too ugly to be adopted, the dog forms an instantaneous, almost magical connection with Jasper. Whistler does not bark, but he speaks to Jasper in a myriad of mysterious ways. With the clock ticking, the dog’s future hangs in the balance. Jasper would do anything to find him a home, but Whistler has chosen them for a reason that Kate, Jasper and readers will discover together. And according to early reviews, all of us will be inspired.

Eager to learn more and help celebrate The Wonder of Lost Causes publication, Literary New England’s Cindy Wolfe Boynton spoke with Nick Trout:

LNE: You’ve shared that like Jasper, the son in The Wonder of Lost Causes, your daughter Emily has cystic fibrosis (CF). As a former medical writer, I believe CF is a very misunderstood disease. Is awareness about CF one of the reasons you wrote this book?

NT: Absolutely.  I want people to see an honest account of CF, up close and personal, an account that explores the challenges for the child with the disease, and the primary care giver battling with every fiber of their being to keep that child in the fight. But I also wanted to pay homage to care givers of those with any number of chronic diseases, in a broader sense. It doesn’t have to be CF. It could be PTSD, autism, diabetes, opioid addiction. The list goes on and on. The kind of daily fights, frustrations, and struggle to find a path forward for CF can apply far more universally than this one disease.

LNE: I’m wondering about your daughter’s reaction to the book and whether she–as well as your own experiences with CF–are why The Wonder of Lost Causes feels like such a personal story.

Nick Trout author photoNT: I couldn’t have written this book without, to some extent, living it.  I hope the reader will sense the authenticity my experiences bring to the novel.  Sometimes it has felt like I have an obligation to share these experiences, and, if possible, try to parse it into something positive and helpful.

LNE: The Wonder of Lost Causes is your sixth book. And like the previous five, it features an irresistible dog on the cover. You know that any book or magazine with an adorable dog on the cover is always going to be a best-seller, right? Pet lovers can’t resist!

NT: Oh, how I wish it were that simple.  As far as I can tell, the potential to write a bestseller depends largely on whether a receptive audience even knows that this book exists.  It’s exactly this kind of experience, answering thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, that gives me a chance to reach a broader audience, and for that I’m extremely grateful.  Writing something that entertains and resonates helps and, yes, as you rightly point out, adorable dog covers can’t hurt. However, it has to be the right cover.  It’s all about the eyes.  Definitely forward facing, definitely out to make direct contact and, ideally, capable of reaching your soul!

LNE: Where does a full-time veterinary surgeon who also has busy family rsponsibilities find time to write?

NT: It’s hard and getting harder with every book I write.  Perhaps my best opportunity to write comes from the hour-long drive to work and home every day.  Especially early in the morning, I’m at my most creative, and I’ll often dictate ideas, dialogue, character development, into my phone as I drive. Hey, this is Boston.  My quality of driving blends right in.

Patron saint of lost dogsLNE: How did writing The Wonder of Lost Causes compare to writing your previous books? It’s been–what?–five years since the publication of your last novel, The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs? Would love to hear about your process.

NT: This was trickier, but I also wanted to take my time and feel as though I had it right.  After my last book, I wrote an entire book proposal about a heroic WW2 dog named Judy, a remarkable animal with a story not dissimilar to the book Unbroken. The week before hitting up editors, another author signed a deal to write his version of the story, a story that had been sitting there for seventy years!  What were the chances?  This knocked me back, and made me want to focus on fiction, and for me, writing fiction is much more challenging and time consuming than my version of non-fiction.  I also have an excellent agent, Jeff Kleinman, without whom my creative process could not happen. Jeff is tough for all the right reasons, so to satisfy him takes time and effort.

LNE: You’ve said that dogs want to take every bite they can out of life and, unlike people, have learned to live their lives without regret. Is this you, too?

NT: I can definitely claim to be ‘trying’ to live every minute of every hour of every day in that I feel as if I am constantly busting my chops to squeeze in every commitment I take on, both personally and professionally.  But, unlike dogs, being human leaves me flawed.  Like I’ve said before, mistakes are inevitable, but what is not, and what will set you apart, is what you learn from them.

LNE: On your website, you talk about how fortunate you feel to have a job that provides you with material for “heart-warming stories [that] quite literally walk, hop and slither through [your] hospital doors. Is this a hint that rabbits and snakes might find their way onto the covers of your novels? I’m sorry to say that if you write a book about a boy and his snake, I’m going to have to pass.

NT: Have no fears, I will not be writing about a snake as a central character in a book.  Then again . . .

LNE: What do you hope people will experience, or take away, from reading The Wonder of Lost Causes?

NT: Where to begin.  A better understanding of cystic fibrosis. An awareness of how hard it is to parent a chronically ill child, no matter what the underlying disease or disorder.  A recognition of how a dog, any dog, can brighten your days, change your outlook, give you purpose and make you want to live.  Like most authors, I’m hoping to entertain my reader, but if I can leave him or her changed in some small, sensitive, even miniscule way, I will have succeeded.  It’s a book about the quest for hope and how a creature as unlikely as a dog might just be what you need to get through and lead you to a brighter side.

Literary New England interview with ‘The Age of Light’ author Whitney Scharer

“… You should own your creativity. You should own your art, and call yourself an artist, or writer, if that’s what you are. And so I hope that people read this book [and], if they are creative people, they take away this lesson from the story.”

Those are the words of author Whitney Scharer on Lee Miller, the protagonist in Scharer’s debut and much-buzzed-about novel, The Age of Light.

Literary New England’s Cindy Wolfe Boynton interviewed Scharer yesterday, just hours before she flew from her Massachusetts home to the United Kingdom for several book events. Scharer will be back in the U.S. by early March for a cross-country book tour, including several stops in New England.