Bestselling Author



Finding Margaret Fuller by Allison Pataki

New York Times bestselling author of The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, Allison Pataki, is our guest! Join us to discuss her new novel, Finding Margaret Fuller. This is an epic reimagining of the life of Margaret Fuller—America’s forgotten leading lady and the central figure of a movement that defined a nation.

Allison Pataki

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sisi, The Queen’s Fortune, and The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, as well as the nonfiction memoir Beauty in the Broken Places and two childrens’ books (with Marya Myers), Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris. Allison’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages. A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for The New York Times, USA Today, and other outlets. She has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, and Morning Joe. Allison graduated cum laude from Yale University and lives in New York with her husband and family.

In this episode of Historical Happy Hour, Jane Healey hosts Allison Pataki, the acclaimed author of “Finding Margaret Fuller.” Celebrating Women’s History Month, they dive deep into the life of Margaret Fuller, a pivotal but lesser-known figure in American literature and the transcendentalist movement. Pataki, renowned for her meticulous research and captivating storytelling, shares insights into Fuller’s remarkable life, her interactions with literary giants of her time, and her groundbreaking contributions to feminism and literature. The discussion spans from Fuller’s genius and her dynamic role among her contemporaries in Concord, Massachusetts, to her adventurous life in Europe, offering listeners a comprehensive look at this inspiring historical figure.

Here’s what we covered:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction to the episode and Allison Pataki.
  • [00:01:17] Allison Pataki’s background and her interest in Margaret Fuller.
  • [00:03:13] The significance of Margaret Fuller in the transcendentalist movement.
  • [00:07:57] Explaining the transcendentalist movement and Fuller’s role in it.
  • [00:11:13] Concord, Massachusetts, as a character in the story and its historical significance.
  • [00:16:03] The mystery of why Margaret Fuller’s legacy has been overshadowed.
  • [00:19:12] Margaret Fuller’s influence on the American feminist movement.
  • [00:22:58] The intriguing relationship between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller.
  • [00:25:32] Potential casting choices if the novel were adapted into a movie.
  • [00:26:45] Balancing historical accuracy with fiction in storytelling.
  • [00:30:12] Advice for aspiring authors on writing and publishing.


[00:00:00] Jane: Welcome to Historical Happy Hour, the podcast that explores new and exciting historical fiction novels. I’m your host, Jane Healey. Today’s episode, we are kicking off Women’s History Month with bestselling author Allison Pataki to talk about her terrific new novel, Finding Margaret Fuller, which releases March 19th.

Welcome, Allison. Thank you for your patience.

[00:00:25] Allison: Thank you. Oh my goodness. Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

[00:00:29] Jane: Thank you Allison, you’re another author. I feel like you don’t need an introduction, but I’m going to give you a short one and we’re going to dive right into questions. Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Trader’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sissy, The Queen’s Fortune, and The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post, as well as the nonfiction memoir, Beauty in the Broken Places, and two children’s books, Nellie Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris.

Allison’s novels have 20 languages. A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for the New York Times, USA Today, and other outlets. She has appeared on Today, Good morning, America, and morning, Joe. Allison graduated from Yale and lives in New York with her family. Thank you again, and congratulations on your latest.

[00:01:14] Allison: Thanks for having me. You didn’t shorten that enough.

[00:01:17] Jane: No, that’s great. And I want to dive right into questions since we’re running a little late. This is a story about a brilliant and inspiring woman in history who’s really not. As well known as she should be, right? I’m going to hold up the beautiful cover, too.

Tell us about Margaret Fuller and why you chose to write a novel based on her life.

[00:01:37] Allison: Absolutely. Margaret Fuller was the leading lady of this genius cluster, and I guarantee you when I say these names out loud, you’re going to know these names. All of Margaret’s friends. There was this click of great thinkers and writers in Concord, Massachusetts in the 19th century.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Margaret Fuller. was there with them. She was, as Ralph Waldo Emerson described, the radiant genius and fiery heart at the center of their circle. And so what a lot of people know, we grow up reading their work, we study their work in school, we know the names, we might even be a little bit familiar with some of their personal backstories.

But I was reading this biography about the group and first of all, I was like, I don’t know if people realize how juicy it was in Concord, Massachusetts at the time that they were all living together and flirting together, competing with one another, inspiring one another. And then there was this woman in the center of it all named Margaret Fuller who just jumped off the page for me when I read this biography.

And I thought, how is it that I know all of their names except for Margaret’s? And how is it that I don’t know her story? She was the most fascinating one of all to me. So I became obsessed with digging into Margaret Fuller’s story, pulling her from the footnotes or the shadows, if you will, and putting her center stage in this story where her life really gives us all the raw material for these deep stories.

dramatic historical moments that, forms this historical fiction novel.

[00:03:13] Jane: It is really crazy, and I have so many questions, we’re going to take questions for the second half, I’m not sure I’ll get through all of them, because I have, it was just a fascinating story, every other chapter I was like, I can’t believe I didn’t know this, like, all, So I want to start with these epigraphs you had at the beginning.

I love epigraphs and I love these two. They’re so perfect. So the first one is by Edgar Allan Poe. Humanity is divided into men, women, and Margaret Fuller, which I love. And then the other one was from a letter from Sam Ward to Ralph Waldo Emerson. How can you describe a force? How can you write a life of Margaret?

And I’m, you’re known for your meticulous research. Talk to me about the research for this was unbelievable and don’t frankly daunting like I can’t imagine how you even began. So talk to me about your sources and was there anything that surprised you along the way? I’m sure there was because there’s like you said, so many juicy, salacious details in here.

So share some of your research with us.

[00:04:10] Allison: Yeah, so the Poe quote, I love it. If I’m going to say something that surprised me along the way, it was this, yeah, relationship that Margaret and Poe had. And Poe was fresh off his success of The Raven when he was living and working side by side with Margaret Fuller.

They had this weird competitive sort of rivalry. Margaret called him on his stuff. He was a really prickly character. And I love that quote. That was surprising to me. One of the biggest shocks for me was that she was the inspiration for Hester Prynne, that she was Nathaniel Mawthorne’s model in some ways, that she was the muse to Emerson, that Emerson, to hear his friends say it, thought she was the one woman worth considering in, in all of history, modern times or antiquity.

That she was walking. The shores of Walden Pond with Thoreau when Thoreau was moving out to go live in the wilderness, all of these pieces of her life that made this really fascinating life story. But for me, where the research began was going to Concord and immersing myself into the history, the context somebody on here in the.

In the chat, Courtney said, I love the Concord area of Massachusetts. I would have to agree because it is an area that just really honors and preserves its history. And a huge piece of that history is that they had this great decade of this cultural awakening when you had the transcendentalists all thinking and living and writing there together.

And they really have honored that piece of their history. And so to go back there and see. This was where Margaret lived in Emerson’s home where she caused all sorts of awkwardness and tension between Emerson and his wife. Or this is where Thoreau slept at the top of the stairs when he was the Emerson’s handyman.

Or this was where Louisa May Alcott lived when she was just up the lane and saw Margaret Fuller as a mentor, as a great woman, female thinker. So it really all started there. And then. And then the next step was to immerse myself in Margaret’s own words. So she was a prolific letter writer. She was an editor for the dial.

She also wrote a ton of over the course of her life, essays, reviews, books, so really immersing myself in her words to try and get a sense of her voice and her spirit, and then just reading as much nonfiction as I could There are fabulous biographies about Margaret Fuller out there, Pulitzer Prize winning biographies.

So then what I loved was that I got to tell the story as a novel, as through historical fiction, which my hope is that I can provide something that is educational, where you might learn a thing or two, but also entertaining. So where the history really is. Can come to life and form a narrative and an immersive reading experience.

So at a certain point in the process of research, once I’ve put enough data in, and I feel like I have the bones of the story laid out, the real historical figures, dates, locations, Then what I get to do is, at a certain point, Margaret comes to life for me, and I begin to hear her voice, and she begins to guide me into the storytelling process, and that’s when I really go in and I begin to write, and I go and put the flesh on top of the bones of the history.

[00:07:33] Jane: Excellent. I get that like you have this base level of knowledge about the time and place and people and then you can work from there. Totally.

[00:07:40] Allison: You know you’re ready to start writing.

[00:07:43] Jane: Yeah, exactly. You get itchy for it, I think. Exactly. Yeah. So explain a little bit about the transcendentalist movement, because that was something like I vaguely, knew about, but hadn’t read about in a while.

So I like brushed up, but explain to people what that was. Yeah, yeah.

[00:07:57] Allison: So in, in Europe, you have the contemporary of like in Germany or England, we would know them as the romantics, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, the American sort of counterpart to that was the transcendentalists. And what But what the circumstances were, we were a relatively new American Republic.

If we had just gotten our freedom, in the 1770s, 1780s, now we’re coming to Concord in Massachusetts in the 1830s, 1820s, this decade. So there is this opportunity to establish what the cultural and artistic life and contribution of this new democracy, this new Republic is going to be breaking away from the European mold.

So you have these great thinkers like Emerson and Hawthorne didn’t really ever fully identify as a transcendentalist. He was friends with them, but he wasn’t as much part of the philosophy, but you had Emerson, you had Thoreau you had Louisa May Alcott and, What they were looking for was a break from the rules and the dogma of European scholastic studies.

So they were looking for transcendental experiences. Experiences that spoke to the soul, in addition to the brain and the mind. A huge place where they found these moving transcendental experiences were in nature, like the romantics that you had in Europe. So they were looking for sort of these rapturous experiences.

They were like the romantics. They were looking for out of body larger than life experiences. And you have Emerson writing about self reliance and the American scholar sort of breaking away from the universities of Europe. You have Thoreau obviously writing about living in nature and leaving society behind.

So Margaret Fuller for a time really fell in with them and espoused that the soul is stirred or spoken to by God more in nature than in a cold hard church pew or a dry classroom of just the Memorizing rote memorization. So they were free thinkers. You could maybe say they were hipsters or hippies.

They were radical, they were perceived as radical and a little bit threatening for Margaret to be a woman writing and giving lectures and holding literary salons. That was all very trailblazing and ahead of her time. She was almost a century ahead of her time. So Margaret really was a trailblazer and an iconoclast in those ways.

[00:10:28] Jane: I know when I was reading I kept thinking like this is still the 1800s, not the 1900s yet. I had to keep reminding myself because she was so ahead of her time in that way. I want to talk, I know you talked about Concord. You do a beautiful job with settings in this book and I feel like Concord And Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house and the Alcott’s house, like they almost feel like other characters in the story.

And how much time did you spend there? And what did you do when you were there? And talk a little bit about that. I know there’s some, your notes, your author’s notes are great as are your acknowledgments. If people ever want to take a trip to Concord, I highly recommend it. I grew up two towns over, so yeah.

In Arlington. So So yeah, it like brought me back because, and I was actually, I had lunch at the Concord Inn a couple weeks ago and I’m like, Oh, it’s just so lovely. It’s so lovely there.

[00:11:13] Allison: I tell my husband, if I was told, I don’t know in what world this would happen, I’m only allowed to live in one town for the rest of my life, I think I would make a really strong case for Concord, because it’s beautiful, the shot around the world, Minutemen National Park, the battles of Lexington and Concord, that was a term coined by Emerson, by the way After the fact while Margaret was living there.

But yeah, it’s a town that really acknowledges and preserves and recognizes its history. And so for me, when I went back and I went to the Emerson home, it is as it was when the Emersons lived there, except for Margaret’s room. Margaret’s room is the gift shop. The Emerson descendants do not love what happened, with Margaret Fuller when she came to town.

You read the book, you’ll see why. But it’s like all those awkward tense moments at the dinner table or in Lydian’s bedroom. Those are all taken directly from the historical record. And yeah, it really, it was almost a character. And when Margaret accepted, The invitation by Emerson to go and stay with him and begin really her career as a public figure and thinker.

That was a real turning point in her life. That was the first time she fell in with a group of peers who were her intellectual equals, where she met people who were soulmates of hers, where she could spar with them intellectually and spiritually in a way she’d never had. And so it had to be a meaningful location.

Probably how strongly I felt about it came across because that was just my reaction, but when Margaret would roll up to Concord after however long she’d been away in New York or in teaching in various boarding schools, she would say that she would enter into a paradise of thought. She just Her soul could expand there when she got there and exhale a bit.

And so hopefully that, that does come across. And somebody asked in the chat, this is so interesting. They said, have you been to where was the question? It was in here. Have you been to Authors Ridge? I think was what the question was. At the cemetery in Concord. Absolutely I have, and I have family who live in and around Concord, and my best friend from growing up lives right near Concord, so I’ve been going my whole life.

But, as dorky as I am, and as much as I loved doing, the Minuteman walk and looking at all the statues and looking at all the historical markers and going into Orchard House, the Alcott home. Even in spite of that, I did not know about Margaret Fuller. And so I think that just goes to show that her name really has been lost.

When you’re in Concord, the bed and breakfast, the suites are named after all the authors. The streets are named after them, but nothing’s really named after Margaret Fuller. And when you go to Authors Ridge on this in the cemetery. They are all buried there together. They are lying there in perpetuity for all of eternity, next to one another, as they did in life.

And Margaret’s not there. And I won’t say why. You have to read the book and you have to find out. But I don’t want to give a spoiler. But I had the feeling over and over again Gangs all here, but Margaret was never fully part of the clique and she even knew that and when she left she said Concord was lacking in discord and she made that little quip, but what she wanted more ultimately than poetry and philosophy And gentle, beautiful walks in the woods.

She wanted to get her hands dirty with the real gritty work of life and humanity. And she moved to New York and she covered the writings of Frederick Douglass and Karl Marx and the music of Beethoven, and then she went to Europe and she took arms in the Roman revolution, she was living on a larger scale than just what one village could provide.

And so you see constantly Margaret’s new challenges, her desire to grow, to evolve, to adapt. And for me, that was one of the most compelling things about her is that her arc is like a rocket ship. There’s no slowing her down.

[00:15:18] Jane: She wanted a bigger life beyond that. Yeah, that was definitely felt.

I wanted so publishers weekly called the novel star studded and I love it in your author’s note you said you say you’d be hard pressed to find a high school English program that does not include the works of Hawthorne, Emerson, Ellicott, Poe, Thoreau, Melville and many more that she was contemporaries with and the rest of her friends and contemporaries and, we often talk about, especially as historical fiction authors, how, women’s stories are forgotten or lost in history.

In this case, it’s really stunning and we’ll get more into her other remarkable accomplishments. But do you want to talk a little bit about why you think she’s been left behind? Yeah, too much away.

[00:16:03] Allison: Yeah certainly a huge piece of it was that she was a woman when she started giving her lectures.

She called them conversations because women were not allowed to get paid for giving lectures back then, but she would run these conversation series with pupils like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary Greeley. And she could do that just as well as her buddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was making a killing getting paid to do it.

She couldn’t charge. She couldn’t make the money that Emerson could get paid. And so a huge piece of that was just the reality of the time for what a woman could do in society. Even a woman as bold and brazen as Margaret was. The other piece of that is her life. Is cut tragically short and without giving too much away, at the end of her life, a few horizons that are very promising for her.

She was asked to preside over The first national convention of the women’s rights movement in 1850, when the women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met in Worcester for the first time, Margaret didn’t make it, I won’t say why, but had she lived into the 50s and this great tumultuous decade of the abolitionist movement, the furthering of the women’s rights movement, We can only imagine, with a pang in our hearts, what she might have done and what her voice might have added to the debates and the conversations, but sadly we will not know.

And also the great work, what she said was her great work, what her peers said was her great work, perished with her. And so in terms of the written document of her legacy, Losing that was another huge blow. And and what she was the most known for in her life really was her her newspaper writing, her articles, and her reviews, but her speaking.

She was considered a better debater than a writer. So one of her peers said, I can read Hegel in the original German, Dante in the original Italian, but I’m still working on Margaret Fuller in the original English. Her writing could be clunky and cumbersome at times. Sadly, as history has gone along, The men and Louisa May Alcott, but the men really around her, their legacies have carried on where hers has not to the same extent.

Although, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, one of her major works, one of her big books is considered the founding document of the women’s rights movement in America. So people do refer for that.

[00:18:43] Jane: Yeah, and thank you for bringing that up because that was actually my next question. I, she’s, was really one of the pioneering American feminists, if not the pioneering American feminist, and that is considered one of the major historical documents in American feminism.

Talk to me about, she had influence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton, you mentioned, and and others. So talk to Susan B. Anthony, talk to me about that influence because that was definitely an aspect of her life I knew very little of.

[00:19:12] Allison: Yeah, so this was an era where women were, the best case scenario they could hope for was to get married.

At which point their property, their agency, their home, everything becomes the property of their husband. And that was the best case scenario. Those were the lucky ones. Women were not in large, large scales going to universities, going to colleges. Margaret Fuller would stand outside Harvard because she grew up in Cambridge and she had been really well educated just in her home by her father.

She would stand outside the gates of Harvard and Try and get the young Harvard lads to debate with her. She was just so thirsty for knowledge and for expanding her mind. And it really, so many of those door doors were shut to her. And so Margaret really takes. takes issue as she evolves with the idea that there are roles in society for women and roles in society for men.

There are proper ways to educate women and there are proper ways to educate men. And one of our most famous quotes in women in the 19th century is, let them be sea captains if that be their calling. She was saying that women, had brains, women had hearts, women had minds, just the same as men. And there should be no such thing as a woman’s job and a man’s job because that was shortchanging not only women, but men.

And so she was really trying to break down some of these really confining strictures that were holding women in place and that were really a disservice to women in terms of even being able to have access to free thinking and education. When she started her conversations with students like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she said, this is not going to be a lecture by me.

I know how to debate. I know how to read. I know how to form arguments. She said to the woman, I want you to make the arguments. I want you to form the thoughts. I want you to know. That it’s okay to disagree and that it’s okay to debate and you don’t always have to be the softer, gentler sex. That there was really no such thing as that, as what a woman’s role.

And so she was just trying to get women to embrace some of this boldness, some of this willingness to think outside of the really confining roles that had been a woman’s lot up until that point. She becomes the first woman. Granted permission to study at Harvard, which is a huge turning point in her life.

And so she just she breaks down barriers at every point in her life. She studies at Harvard. She becomes the first female editor of the Dial newspaper. She goes, accepts a job in New York City with Horace Greeley and becomes his first full time female correspondent. She covers the war in Rome. So she really, she thought beyond.

And I think that comes back to why Edgar Allan Poe said there are men, there are women, and there are Margaret Fuller. She was a singular individual, and she was a uniquely brilliant mind.

[00:22:12] Jane: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s so fascinating. I want to talk, you brought it up earlier but I had to bring this up because I loved a couple of the scenes with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

That salacious fact that she was the inspiration for Hester Prynne and the Scarlet Letter. I’m in, and there’s a scene where Ralph Waldo Emerson and and Margaret drive from Concord to Salem. And I was laughing because I’m like, that’s a whole different drive. I’m like, that’s like a whole day trip.

Yeah. Yeah. How long would

[00:22:41] Allison: it take on with horses?

[00:22:43] Jane: Yeah. And and Nathaniel Hawthorne came across as this kind of very handsome brooding, like he was

[00:22:49] Allison: had, yeah, there was

[00:22:51] Jane: Scallywag. So just talked a little bit about that. Cause I thought that was just such a fun, yeah,

[00:22:58] Allison: Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia Hawthorne are held up as one of the great artistic couples because she was very artistic and she was what they called a bed case.

She was weak. She was often she was often bedridden, but she was very artistic. And Nathaniel Hawthorne, obviously we all know as this genius writer. So they’re held up as this really romantic couple, but when Sophia Hawthorne read the finished manuscript of her husband’s book, The Scarlet Letter, she took to bed with a headache for the rest of the day, because she knew this book was not about her.

This book was about the beautiful, bold woman who had been living next door, and carrying on a mad something with her husband. I won’t go into it. But there was this really, they were transcendentalists. They were looking for transcendent rapturous experiences. They were romantic. They were in touch with their souls and their wilder sides.

And so that was all true. The tension with the Emersons was true. The fact that Louisa May Alcott had a mad crush on Thoreau was true. Thoreau might have had a crush on Emerson’s wife. So this was all like, these were great thinkers, but they were people. And I read a quote, the only thing more powerful than lust is lust denied.

So a lot of that was happening here too. It got juicy. How do you write something like Scarlet Letter without. thinking about these big, bold questions. And so Margaret Fuller, when she moves to Italy, she takes a Roman count As a lover.

[00:24:36] Jane: Of course she did, too. I was thinking, of course she does.

Like, why not?

[00:24:40] Allison: As a child, it was an international scandal. Elizabeth Barrett Browning told her when Margaret decamped to Florence and landed on the doorstep of the Brownings, Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, my dear, you’ve caused more of a, nobody’s caused this much of a scandal in Italy since the time I eloped with my Robert.

Cause the Brownings of course also had this epic Whirlwind scandalous relationship as well. So yeah, all these great people, Frederic Chopin, Georges Sand Wordsworth, they all, they’re all characters.

[00:25:12] Jane: Yeah. So I have some writing questions that I asked every author that comes on and then I want to Any, if you have questions, put them in the chat or in the q and a for Allison.

So if this novel were to be made into a movie who would you cast as? Margaret Fuller. Yes. As Margaret Fuller and as Ralph Waldo Emerson. Because I have thoughts. .

[00:25:32] Allison: So good. You’re the first person to ask me that. I wanna hear your thoughts. Okay. So I would love Natalie Portman. Oh, good one.

Also studied at Harvard. , or. Like a Rachel McAdams. I love her. Yeah, or an Ana de Armas. I love her as well. And then for Ralph Waldo Emerson, such a good question. He was quite a bit older than her. Yeah, active in a sort of elegant, distinguished way. Maybe like Bradley Cooper. Or is he old enough?

I don’t know.

[00:26:13] Jane: Because I was actually thinking Andrew Garfield, but then I’m like, Oh, he might be too young.

[00:26:17] Allison: Garfield could be Hawthorne then.

[00:26:19] Jane: Oh, that would be a good one. Yes. And for Margaret Fuller, I was thinking Emma Stone. Actually, I thought, even though she was Spider Man with Andrew Garfield already, but that’s

[00:26:29] Allison: okay.

You know what, if Emma Stone comes knocking, I’ll take her.

[00:26:33] Jane: Yeah. So first writing question, how do you strike a balance between fact and fiction in your storytelling, and are there any strict rules that you adhere to?

[00:26:45] Allison: That’s the dance, right? That’s the negotiation every time. And so Finding Margaret Fuller is my 10th book.

And I will say it’s different every time, really, because the history is really different. I’ve heard it explained like this, and I think this is a good analogy. You think of train tracks and one of the tracks is the just dry, straight timeline, what we know, what is documented. And then when you’re writing historical fiction, you’re writing parallel to that.

And sometimes the history brings you really close. And sometimes you veer off and the history takes you in a surprising direction. With this one, I really stuck to the history because why wouldn’t I? It’s so good. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. So then obviously when you’re writing historical fiction, you have the artistic prerogative and the privilege of writing fiction, but you can pull from the lore and the mythology as well.

I know that the Emersons, when Margaret was staying with them, had this terrible dinner. It’s documented, where Emerson’s wife asked Margaret if she would take a walk with her after the meal. And Margaret said, I’m sorry, I can’t. I already agreed to walk with Waldo, her husband. And Lydian burst into tears.

leaves the table and, collapses in her bed and it creates this incredible tension. This is just an example. This is true. So I know that happened because it’s documented, it’s written. What I get to do is I get to go in and create the scene and put the reader there at the table to not only know what happened, but to imagine how it felt and how it might have been to experience and inhabit this moment, these moments.

So with Margaret Fuller, with Marjorie Post, I just stuck to the history. Marjorie, especially Marjorie Post, it’s relatively recent history. Deena Merrill, her daughter, just passed away while I was working on the book. So it’s so well documented. Where I have more room to play and plug in holes are like, for instance, with The Queen’s Fortune, Desiree Clary, Napoleon’s first fiancee.

There were just gaping records, gaping holes in the historical record in moments of her life because it was hundreds of years ago and it was in a different continent. It was a different time. So that was where I got to fill out more. This is a pretty well documented piece. Margaret Fuller, her comings and goings, where she was living, what she was working on, who she was writing, who she was fighting with.

It’s all pretty well documented. So I stuck to that. The rule is that. I want people who know the history to read the book and for it to pass muster for them. I want it to be credible. I don’t want people to say, this is like some sci fi unicorn version of the real thing. I want it to be so that if a reader is intrigued and wants to go and Google it all, that they will see, okay, this is actually what happened.

The, there’s a quote, I’m just paraphrasing here, but the biographer will tell you what happened. The novelist or the writer of fiction will tell you how it felt, that’s E. L. Doctorow. That’s what I’m going, so I want what happened to still be there, I want that to be accurate. What I’m doing though is creating hopefully the narrative and the immersive experience.

[00:29:55] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. And you did an amazing job. So I know that book number 10. Amazing. Proven staying power in the industry for sure. And so I know we have aspiring authors in the audience. What is some advice you can give them about writing and about publishing, which are two very different things.

[00:30:12] Allison: Yes. So for writing, I would say you, you have to do it. If you feel this need to create really in any, whether that’s writing, whether that’s art, whether it’s dancing, cooking, whatever it is, if you feel the urge to do it, then that is meaningful and that is powerful. And that means you have to do it.

So find the time and write, do it at night, do it on the weekends, do it on your vacation. But start do it because a lot of people have stories and you have to tell your stories. In publishing, we, even in 10 years, it’s changed so much. There’s so much opportunity now to self publish.

Amazon’s doing short stories. You can go a traditional route. You can have, the traditional agent representation to the big houses. So I went the more traditional route where I have a literary agent and I’m publishing this book with one of the big, a random house. But so for publishing, I would say.

You’re gonna, when you start writing, it’s not going to be perfect the first time, second time, third time. So give yourself grace and be selective and choosy with who you let into your process. Don’t share a first draft with someone when it’s not ready. And who’s going to dash your dreams. I still remember the first piece of feedback I got on the first draft of my first book, which is horrible.

It’s sitting on my computer. Nothing ever happened with it. But the feedback that I got that encouraged me to keep going versus the feedback that very easily could have just quashed my dream and just served to reinforce all the imposter syndrome and the voices I was already having in my head telling me not to do it.

I could have just stopped. So be choosy and selective in who you invite into the sacred process of what you are doing. Honor yourself and honor that and protect that.

[00:32:06] Jane: That’s excellent advice. That’s really good. I completely agree. What it, so there’s some really great questions coming in and I want to make sure we get them and don’t keep you here for two hours.

What is the best way for readers to stay in touch with you?

[00:32:19] Allison: How do you like So the best way, my website, Allison Pataki. com has laid updates and info on the books. And some people are asking where they can get certain books. If you go to Allison Pataki. com, but then also on there’s all my social media.

So really I would say Instagram, Facebook, Allison Pataki, it’s just my name, A L I S O N P A T A K I. You can sign up for my newsletter. If you go to my website and I’ll also be sharing info about where I’ll be going this spring to meet with readers. Social media is great. It’s in this world. It’s a great way to connect with readers.

[00:32:53] Jane: Okay. And I know this hasn’t come out yet. It comes out March 19th. I want to just say it’s pre orders are huge for authors. So just keep that in mind everyone. Are you ready? Are you even thinking about the next project? Are you ready to talk about

[00:33:04] Allison: it or not? I am. Yeah. No I have my next lady. I know when I find my next lady and I say to my husband, I’m like, I’ve been bitten.

I just know I’m ready to give years of my life to this woman. And then hopefully talk about this woman for the rest of my life. If readers will have me. Yes, I have my next woman. It’s another American. It’s another young woman. Another scandal, you might say. I always find women where it’s just not easy for them.

There’s that friction and there’s that need for resilience and growth and adaptation women who are pushing against something.

[00:33:45] Jane: Exciting. Oh, I can’t wait to hear more. So questions, let me grab some of these. Sharon Person I just looked up how many pages were in the book. It’s a little over 400.

Did you have to cut some things out and what parts wouldn’t fit in that you want, would want to, would want it to have in there, want it to share?

[00:34:04] Allison: I always have to watch for what my editor calls the info dump. Sorry, that’s just because there’s so much good material and I’m such a history quirk that it’s all interesting to me.

And so I have to make sure that it’s also interesting to the reader. My editor said We think Margaret is taking too many walks in the woods. Because, and I love taking walks in the woods. So I probably loved being there for all of them. But, they were just, they were debating a lot. These characters, they were fighting a lot.

They were disagreeing. They were agreeing. They were pushing envelopes. And a lot of that just happened in and around. They were the transcendentalists. So we had to condense some walks or combine some walks and make it a little punchier. And then yeah the Italian revolution, the Roman revolution, man, we learn about that really quickly in school, but just, Italy was not a thing.

Italy was. City states and principalities and duchies, and it was carved up by other powers. And so for Margaret to find herself squarely in the middle of this revolution and to say, hey, we as Americans fought for our freedom. We should espouse this and champion this. And she was trying to bang the drum for why the Roman revolution mattered.

And That was another pivotal moment where I could have happily dwelt for longer, but I had to keep it going back.

[00:35:29] Jane: Yep, I get that. I’m Susan Seligman asks, I’m Allison, what is your favorite time in history to read research and write about how do you come find your protagonist for each book.

[00:35:40] Allison: Oh my gosh, that’s a good question.

And I don’t even know if I can answer it. So if you look at what I’ve written, I have probably given my agent whiplash because I’m going to start in the American Revolution. And then my publisher’s okay, great. Find another woman in the American Revolution. And I’m like now I’m going to go to Europe and the Habsburg empire and world war one and CC the Austro Hungarian empire.

And then we’re going to go to France and then we’re going to go to America. And I’m like jumping centuries, countries, continents. So as you can tell. I like a lot of different eras of anything in Paris, no matter what the date was, I will read it gladly. I love American history. I love the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, the start of the 20th century.

I love World War II. I really, I love the colonial era. I’m just a true history dork and I like it all. And I think history is the furthest thing from boring. I think it gives us all the raw material for the best stories. And Oh, I love the Gilded Age. I love Downton Abbey. I love his, but I love shows on.

Alexander the Great. Right now I’m watching the new look about French fashion, Christine Dior and Chanel after World War II. So I read about all eras and I clearly enjoy writing and researching all eras. My next book after Margaret Fuller will be coming back to the 20th century. Excellent.

[00:37:09] Jane: Excellent. Yeah. Yeah. Do you have any say, this is the last question because people always ask, do you have any say in the design of the cover?

[00:37:16] Allison: This is a beautiful cover I love this color and this cover, but the green was so perfect for them and for so many reasons. Yes. And it just looks like it could have been Margaret.

It looks like she’s staring off into some really tumultuous horizon. It looks windy, she’s always going against the wind. It’s gorgeous. She’s an explorer and an adventurer seeking new horizons. So I I think this was the most seamless one. Marjorie took us forever. I love Marjorie as well. But this was like many, it took us many tries to land on the right cover for Marjorie.

I think with Margaret Fuller, this was our first one. I think we looked at it and we were like, that’s it. We just knew. Yes, my editor is wonderful and really allows me to be a part of the process. But what took longer for us this time, which was more challenging was we couldn’t decide on the title. I, we settled on the right time.

We found the title. But we played with a lot of different themes and like some more abstract titles. And we didn’t want it to sound too much like Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. We got there, but it took some real thinking and soul searching. But I love the cover and I’m so thankful to the amazing art team at Random House.

[00:38:34] Jane: They really nailed it. Yeah, covers are hard. And I think it’s gorgeous. I love it. Really well done. Thank you so much for your time tonight. This was delightful. I’m so I’m sorry. I’m sweating at the beginning.

[00:38:47] Allison: No, it’s the blessing and the curse of technology. I get to do this with you.

[00:38:53] Jane: So yeah, this is amazing.

I feel like I we have a lot of mutual people we know in common. So it’s so lovely to actually chat with you finally. Yeah. Congratulations on all your success. Just reminding everyone it’s available for pre order launch day is March 19th. I will have this podcast posted by March 19th so I can, I’ll share it widely.

And then just for my sign off, thanks for listening to encircle happy hour on March 28th. We welcome Joe Piazza. She’ll discuss the true murder mystery based on her great grandmother in Sicily and it’s called the Sicilian inheritance is her novel based on that. So I’m sure to register for that.

Thank you again. This is so lovely, Allison. I really appreciate it.

[00:39:35] Allison: Thanks for having me. Happy Women’s History Month, everyone.

[00:39:38] Jane: Yes. Happy Women’s History Month. Thank you. Take care. Good night. Bye.

[00:39:42] Allison: Good night. Bye bye.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

Jane Healey

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