I have had the pleasure of recently reading Susan Albert’s new book, Loving Eleanor, which is a historical novel about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist, Lorena Hickok. This is a wonderful book that explores the many levels of friendship as well as the difficulty national figures face when trying to maintain a sense of privacy when living such a public life. The book also provides a fascinating look at history spanning from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, which helped me to realize how profoundly difficult those years were for our country and the world. I highly recommend this book. Not only is it beautifully written but also impeccably researched. I came away with a deeper understanding of these two women and the world in which they lived. This is a definite must-read!
Below is an interview with Susan Albert, who is not only a New York Times best-selling author, but also the founder of Story Circle Network. SCN is dedicated to women telling their stories and I am privileged to teach online classes for them as well as serve as an active member. I am deeply grateful to Susan for taking the time to answer my questions on the book.
1) What theme(s) can be found in the book?
Friendship, in all its many and changing forms; living with political realities in a difficult (the Great Depression, World War 2); the hidden lives of well-known people
2) How do you work as a writer? Every day? More sporadically? Word count, page count, or timed writing? On a computer or longhand? Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?
When I’m working on a project, I write every day (I need the continuity). When I’m writing genre fiction, I aim for 1200-1500 words a day (“good words,” as I like to think of them, keepers, not “junk words” that will get thrown out the next day). When I’m writing historical fiction, I’m much slower, around 800-1000 words a day—because I work from many original and secondary sources and need to do a great deal of fact-checking. I work on my computer, in Word. I’m a “trust-the-story” writer. When I’m writing genre fiction (mostly mysteries) I do a bit of outlining and then let the story take me where it wants me to go. In historical/biographical fiction, the story is already there: it’s a matter of discovering it and exploring all its nuances.
3) What was a particular challenge you faced writing this book?
The story is deeply personal to Lorena Hickok, the point-of-view character and a real person—a groundbreaking journalist. When she’s been written about, she’s portrayed as fat, awkward, aggressive, dislikeable. She was none of these things. De-mythologizing her was important to me. It was a challenge to do justice to all of her achievements.
4) What do you hope people will take away after reading this book?
I’d like people to understand that the people (especially the women!) who have been presented to us by “history” and historians are not always what they seem. Every woman has a secret story.
5) How are you publishing this book and why?
(*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)
I’m publishing this book originally under my own imprint, Persevero Press. Several editors were interested in it, but they wanted significant changes in the story, and I was unwilling to make those changes. Author-publication may limit the book’s distribution, but it has expanded the range of my freedom as an author, to tell the story the way I felt it had to be told.
6) Please give us a favorite snippet of your book.
You can read an excerpt (and much more about the book) here: http://www.lovingeleanor.com/index.php
7) How can readers discover more about you and you work? My website: http://www.susanalbert.com