Bestselling Author


The Thread Collectors by Alyson Richman and Shaunna Edwards

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us. Loosely inspired by the authors’ family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.

Alyson Richman

Alyson Richman is the USA Today bestselling and #1 international bestselling author of several historical novels including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture.  Alyson graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history and Japanese studies.  She herself is an accomplished painter and her novels combine her deep love of art, historical research, and travel.  Alyson’s novels have been published in twenty-five languages and have reached the bestseller lists both in the United States and abroad. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two children, where she is currently at work on her next novel. 

Shaunna Edwards

Shaunna J. Edwards has a BA in literature from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. A former corporate lawyer, she now works in diversity, equity and inclusion. She is a native Louisianian, raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Harlem with her husband.

“The Thread Collectors” by Alyson Richman and Shaunna Edwards is set during the Civil War, focusing on Stella, an enslaved young black woman in New Orleans, and Lily, a Jewish woman from New York City. Both women, along with the men they love, William and Jacob, navigate love and freedom amidst the turmoil of war. The novel intertwines their stories, highlighting underrepresented perspectives and the power of sewing as an act of love and resistance. The narrative also delves into the authors’ own histories, enriching the story with personal connections to the era.

Bulleted Timestamp List:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction to “The Thread Collectors” and authors Alyson Richman and Shaunna Edwards.
  • [00:01:47] Origin of the novel and friendship between Richman and Edwards.
  • [00:04:25] Incorporating family histories into the narrative.
  • [00:07:11] Sewing as a central theme connecting characters.
  • [00:13:48] The significance of sewing and family textiles in the story.
  • [00:18:21] Challenges of writing about the Civil War and underrepresented histories.
  • [00:24:51] Writing process and collaboration between Richman and Edwards.
  • [00:29:04] Advice for new writers from both authors.
  • [00:30:23] Future projects and possibility of a sequel.


[00:00:00] Jane: We’re here! Hello everyone, sorry we had some technical difficulties. I’m here with Alyson Richman and Shaunna Edwards, and I’m so thrilled to be kicking off Historical Happy Hours this fall with these wonderful authors and their book The Thread Collectors. It’s a Civil War novel, which I tell you is just amazing, and I’m so excited to talk about it tonight.

I’ve So many questions, we could be here for hours, but we’ll keep it to 45 like usual. I’m going to start by introducing the authors. Alyson Richmond is the number one internationally bestselling author of several historical novels, including The Velvet Hours, The Garden of Letters, and The Lost Wife, which is currently in development for a major motion picture.

Amazing. Her 25 languages. She’s a graduate of Wellesley College and lives on Long Island with her husband and two children. Shaunna J. Edwards has a BA in literature from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. A former corporate lawyer, she now works in diversity, equity, and inclusion. She’s a native Louisianan, raised in New Orleans, and currently lives in Harlem with her husband.

The Thread Collectors is her first novel. Congratulations. Welcome, ladies! The Thread Collectors is about Stella, a young black woman enslaved in New Orleans, and Lily, a Jewish woman from New York City who risked Who both risk everything for love and freedom during the Civil War. But I’ll tell you that doesn’t even begin to ascribe the story, because it’s also told from the perspectives of the men that they love William and Jacob.

So I’m going to dive in with questions and let you, you both talk about it. So you’ve been friends for over a decade, is that right? Or about a decade?

[00:01:44] Alyson: No, I think something like 13 years.

[00:01:47] Jane: Amazing. And that, so this is the, but this is the first time you’ve collaborated on a novel. So tell me about the origins of the novel and the spark that made you go from friends to co authors.

[00:01:58] Alyson: So who should go first? I shan’t know. Alyson, you go. Okay, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go first. Shaunna and I met of all places in Las Vegas. It’s actually even more funny if you knew me more intimately because I’m someone who usually goes to bed at 9 o’clock, is in my pajamas at 4 p. m., and has to have a meal of tea.

Not your typical Las Vegas girl.

[00:02:17] Shaunna: And as you can tell from my wine, I’m a Las Vegas girl. Ha,

[00:02:25] Alyson: So I am married to a corporate lawyer and Shauna is a former corporate lawyer herself at the time we met 13 years ago, though she was in the full swing of being an attorney. And I had just not just, but my daughter who’s now 16, she had just been potty trained and we were invited to this corporate lawyers conference in Las Vegas.

And I was so desperate to get out of the house and have some, alone time with my husband. I went to this conference and so I was at the conference and there was a big reception and I was standing in line at the bar wearing a pretty dress because I love dresses and I was letting every man cut in front of me.

And all of a sudden, this beautiful woman from the corner of the room comes storming over and says. Why are you letting every man cut in front of you at the bar? And by the way, I love your dress. And so she quickly navigated the crowd, got me a cocktail, and then started asking me questions. And the way, if Shauna were telling it, she would say, I didn’t think she was an attorney, but I didn’t want, I wasn’t sure.

So I asked Alison what she did. And I said that I was a writer. And Shauna’s eyes completely popped open. They just alighted with this, beautiful spark of energy. And she, started to tell me that she had majored in English literature in college, that she loved to read, that she always dreamt of being a novelist.

And right away, from that moment that we met in Las Vegas, our friendship was cemented on our mutual love of books. So over the course of a decade, before we even started dreaming of what would become The Thread Collectors, Every time I would see Shauna, we would talk about books. I, she’d ask me what I was writing.

She invited me to her book club. If I was sick, she sent me books. So it was something that, we can talk about how we came to write the novel in 2020. But from the moment we met, the foundation of our friendship. was books against the backdrop of Las Vegas, which is crazy. Luckily, as Shauna always says, this time, what happened in Vegas did not just stay in Vegas.


[00:04:25] Jane: Nice. And actually Shauna, if you want to elaborate because I was really fascinated by the fact that this story weaves in both of your family histories. Talk to me about how you both decided one day to, To weave these family histories into a novel.

[00:04:41] Shaunna: We did, but it wasn’t a one day decision, Jane.

It was on one of those times that Alyson and I were getting together. I think, once again, it was over drinks. In 2017, and I asked her what she was working on. She just mentioned, she mentioned she had just seen this documentary. And I’m sorry, I’m getting bad feedback. Hopefully it’s not. Me. Okay. She mentioned that she had just seen this documentary from the Civil War.

It’s called Death in the Civil War, I believe, by the fabulous documentarian Rick Berkman. And she had been fascinated to learn something that I think I had always known, that Black men in the Civil War were not immediately issued rifles and set off to fight for their freedom. They were often given pickaxes, hoes, shovels.

They were

And that same documentary also talks about the fact that because so many people died so quickly in the Civil War, bodies had to be buried very quickly. Usually that fell to the Black men to do. And comrades, they would write these small little rudimentary maps with the hope that they would give them to people’s loved ones so that they could go to these different battlefields and find their loved ones.

Find their loved ones. And Alyson, and she’ll tell you why maybe a little bit late, why she’s fascinated by the Civil War. She had this idea, and she was explaining it to me, maybe there was an unexplained friendship between a black soldier and a white soldier on a battlefield, and then the black soldier creates a map for the white widow to find.

And I said pretty immediately, because obviously I am keenly interested in seeing representation in literature and telling Black stories. Wouldn’t it be interesting if this Black soldier gave this map to his beloved? And she used needle and thread and created something permanent. And for me, I come from a family where We’re privileged enough to have clothes that have my grandmother’s dresses in it, my great grandmother’s dresses in it.

My grand, my, my parents grew up relatively poor, but in a family that was fully, both of the families that were full of resources, they didn’t throw things away, they used them. And so for me, that idea of taking something, a scrap, and making it something beautiful and more permanent. Was really resonant.

And also, who doesn’t love a good love story? I don’t know that I’ve ever really admitted this to Alyson I read bonus reference, right? You could clearly come into my apartment on a Saturday, and I’m reading Love in the Desert. I always love a good love story, too. That was going

on in my head.

[00:07:11] Alyson: I actually, you did confide in me with me about that but it’s funny, I guess when you’re collaborating on a book with someone right away, we were like, we’re going to have a closed door like attitude. Yeah.

[00:07:22] Shaunna: It’s so fancy. My tastes in fiction are much, much broader. So for me, the love story made a lot of sense, we didn’t start writing this book in 2017.

We didn’t start writing it until 2020, but that was the germ of the idea that we had always been exchanging ideas. And When Alison brought me her idea, then I layered on the top of what we could explore with black history. It had to sit there for a while.

[00:07:47] Jane: Shaunna, you told your part of the history of your family, and if you want to share, Alyson, your, how your history, your side of the history, which is so interesting as well.

[00:07:57] Alyson: Growing up from my grandmother, I had, I used to hear, my grandmother, first of all, was a wonderful storyteller and loved to talk about, her connection with her heirlooms and her family history.

I am 100 percent Jewish, but one of the things that’s a little bit unique about my family history is that on my mother’s side, her ancestors came over to America in the 1850s. And according to my grandmother, During the Civil War one of my great uncles went down to Mississippi to expand his mercantile business, while his younger brother, Jacob, remained in New York and enlisted in the Union Army as a musician.

But the one in Mississippi enlisted in the Confederacy. We have two brothers, basically, in our family tree that fought on opposite sides. It was always particularly interesting to me, not just the sense of this fraternal divide, because, according to my grandmother, it permanently divided our family forever.

We lost contact with the southern branch of the family because of this philosophical and moral divide. But also this, if you put it in context that they themselves were, immigrants first, in this case, first generations, the boys who were born in America and how they You know, how they aligned themselves on the sides of the Civil War.

One, fighting for freedom and the other one clearly not. I always wanted to put that in a book somehow. I didn’t, and I always tell Shaunna that I have tons of ideas in a book, for books in my head. I don’t drive on highways. I think it’s because my head is so crowded. I’ve now learned that Shaunna doesn’t either, so that obviously is a sign.

I think there are two signs to knowing you’re a natural novelist. You’re bad at technology. And

[00:09:35] Jane: you were meant to be frank, right?

[00:09:39] Alyson: I do

[00:09:42] Jane: drive on highway.

[00:09:48] Alyson: So I, but in order to sit down and write a novel, at least for me, you have to feel that it’s in your bones the right time. There’s something in the air that is making it so that this is the clear pathway that this is what you’re going to devote yourself. It’s a marathon. It’s completely all consuming.

And so everything in the air and that, and you’re, in your mind has to feel like. This is what I want to commit myself to. So even though Shaunna and I had this early conversation about possibly, about this documentary I saw that was very interesting, that I could see a possible Civil War book, and I also had this German idea of incorporating my family history, it did not seem like it was right, the right time for me to write it.

And I think it’s because I needed Shaunna. I feel like it, like, when You know, we can talk about this a little bit later, but in 2020, when the, the world reckons, was reckoning with the racial violence of, seeing the cold blooded murder of George Floyd on television and realizing that this was the time that we actually, no one could be silent at the outrage of this.

that I felt like this was something that I wanted to devote myself to, a book in which, we looked at the Civil War through two underrepresentative lenses, one Black, one Jewish, and tried to bring our hearts and our soul to writing this book. And so that’s when I reached out to Shauna, not knowing if, because Shauna has a full time job, would she even want to write a book?

But I knew also, That she had already contributed in some way to this idea with the maps and the textiles and bringing her family history when we were talking about it. And so I reached out to ask her if that might be something, and again we were in the throes of the pandemic, if it might be something that she wanted to embark on with me, together.

[00:11:33] Jane: And now, Shauna, were you immediately yes, absolutely, or did you have to think about it?

[00:11:37] Shaunna: As I said, imagine in 2020, if you’re sitting around and you’re a woman of color and your white girlfriend calls you and she says, do you want to write a book about race? I don’t know too many people who their first instinct is going to be absolutely yes.

So I had to think about it, even though I know that Alyson is wonderful and we have such a great relationship. I didn’t know if I could sit in the emotion of it because you’re living in a very divisive time racially from a social justice perspective and then you have to go. And we visit three research and first person accounts.

And in my case, standing on battlefields where black people died talking about the Civil War, so it was not an immediate yes for me. And I think even for the first, month or two of writing, I was still really tentative I was all into it intellectually but my heart. There was something in there I was waiting a little bit to be sure that I wouldn’t be hurt.

[00:12:34] Jane: Yeah, I understand that because it is. There are, and I have a question about this, we’ll get to later, but it was not, it’s not always an easy read. It’s war, right? And there’s a lot of heart wrenching scenes and and things that take place. The title of the novel is The Thread Collectors.

Both Stella and Lily, You sewing to aid the efforts in different the war efforts in different ways and but also I was really moved by the fact that hand sewn items were such a huge expression of love and this isn’t a spoiler scene because it happens pretty early on in the book, but Stella. Who was basically bought by a white man and put up in a cottage in New Orleans as a kept woman when she first moves into the cottage and she’s so nervous and she’s only 18 and she walks into the bedroom and there’s a quilt that was made by her mother and her sister and all the women in the community, I’m like getting a little choked up right now and it’s all pieces of materials from their dresses and from their lives and that, was something that they did to protect and love her.

And I just, that was really moving. And what is your, what is it in your family histories, and you mentioned it a little bit with the maps, that made you decide that sewing was going to be central to the story?

[00:13:48] Shaunna: So I think originally that just the idea that there was a woman who was gifted with a needle and thread, we knew that we had to carry that through.

And we knew that William and Jacob share a really creative passion, right? They are both gifted musicians. And we had to connect Stella and Lily in some ways, even though, and I don’t think this is a spoiler, they don’t meet right away. And so sewing definitely seemed to be the case. And the cover clip that Stella gets, and Stella is named after my mother, Stella, all of the black women in the book are named after women in my family tree.

Nice. That is really reminiscent of all of the quilts and the textiles that my mother has salvaged from my family, right? Alyson’s been in my bathroom. Even here in Harlem, I live in a small little New York apartment. I don’t have a full quilt, but I have a piece of a quilt that hangs in my bathroom, and it is from my female ancestors dresses, and when I wake up in the morning and I’m putting on my armor for the day, I look at that, and I like, I see where I came from, and it’s just little strips.

You can tell that it was either like an off cut or something from a hymn, or they’re not even evenly done. It was true rhythm, but I feel so much closer to them. And we wanted Stella to have that feeling at a time of really Great hardship, thinking about what she’s walking into.

[00:15:13] Alyson: One thing. I want. I giggled when you asked about the sewing a little bit because I, Sean and I, because we approached this project tentatively and it was her 1st. Her first writing collaboration. Actually, it was one of my first collaborations, too.

We wrote 40 pages and sent it to my agent to see does this seem like something that, will be of interest, something that is sellable? Because I didn’t want Shauna to waste her time and write an entire manuscript and then it wasn’t going to sell. And in those 40 pages was that scene with the quilt that is sewn by all the women of Rampart Street.

And. It was, our agent and then also the editor who bought the book on those 40 pages who said, This is really interesting. This would be an interesting way to connect the two women. Because Sean and I very much so wanted to tell the story of the men. I love that when you were introducing us, you said it’s not just about the women.

It’s about the men. And Jane, you’re a historical fiction novelist. You know how much pressure we have as historical novelists. That we’re told by publishing houses. It’s the women who buy historical fiction. It’s the women’s stories that, the ones that sell. Even in a title, it’s a tremendous fight not to have women, girls, sisters, ladies

[00:16:30] Jane: Yeah, lives.

[00:16:31] Alyson: Yeah, and we had to navigate that because it was important to have, the men were the genesis of how we even came up with this idea. And so we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose the story of the men. But we also wanted to respect that women’s stories are important and bring their story, too.

So then it became a story not just of two people, but of four different perspectives. Which is, makes it incredibly ambitious to be able to read them all together. Very. That’s right. Cheers to you. We had two brains working on it. Obviously. Two husbands that were working over, reading all of our versions.

They’re very smart. So it worked out, but I would, I want to be, forthcoming and say that because I know you’re in the business and I think it’s something that readers sometimes don’t realize that we often want to write as men’s stories as well. But it’s, we have to push for that. And I love now reading on Goodreads and seeing This also gave the male perspective, like it is something unique, I think from other books that are out there.

[00:17:35] Jane: So this is the question that I had brought up earlier. So one of the things you say in the authors notes is we wanted to explore the Civil War experience through two underrepresented lenses and illuminate the important often overlooked tragedies of the era, like the auctioning off of light skinned black women, like the massacre.

I, At Port, I just blanked on it. Port Hudson. Yeah, Port Hudson. And and I have to tell you those, there were those scenes, they were very difficult to re, read. And, but so important to the story and so important to illuminate, like you said. So did you have a difficult time writing them?

Sometimes, did you get really emotional writing them? Because some, I could feel it, I could really feel the emotion in those scenes.

[00:18:21] Shaunna: Yes, and in Port Hudson in particular because it’s the height of the pandemic so a lot of the research we did, we had to do online, but because my family lives in New Orleans, I would go down and, go to places like the Historic New Orleans Collection.

I went to Port Hudson and I brought my husband. At the time, I don’t know that he was my husband. I’m surprised he didn’t run away. And we spent a day with a park ranger and we stood out and I thought about that, right? I thought about this having happened just an hour and a half from my home and me having had a good education and not knowing that hundreds of black men died there and to think that their bodies

it was incredibly difficult sometimes to read the history, the first person accounts. And there is one particular scene in the book I don’t want to give a spoiler, but I wanted to make sure that people understood that. The black experience at the time wasn’t singular, that there were free black people and what happens to the free black people in the book definitely gutted me, I, it took me time.

[00:19:28] Jane: Yeah. Yeah. I can understand why it was. Yeah. It was really heavy. But you handled it so beautifully, like it was written beautifully yeah, and I felt the emotion, like I said which actually brings me to the next questions, like there’s something, certain books, and this is one of them, it felt very cinematic, like sweeping and cinematic to me part of it was because I listened and read at the same time, because I wanted to get it done before the webinar and the narrator is excellent if you could give her a shout out, I’m blanking on her name right now.

[00:19:57] Alyson: Oh, her name is Robin Miles. We saw yesterday that she got a like a audio file award for her audio rendition. So she, everyone is happy with her performance. So that’s incredible.

[00:20:09] Jane: Yeah. I really enjoyed it. So I’ve, yeah, so it has this very movie like feel, and I’m just wondering, have you been approached for anything, if you can talk about it, about any sort of movie?

[00:20:20] Alyson: We do have a film agent. She literally just went out with it, maybe three days ago. Oh, exciting. So we will, keep our fingers crossed. We certainly didn’t write it sitting there we’re gonna make, make this now into a movie. But I think the style in which we write, it’s very visual.

I don’t know if I should jump ahead and say this, but people always want to know, did Sean and I Take chapters that we wrote, separately. Did she write the Black characters and I wrote the Jewish characters? And just, to answer that, absolutely no. We decided we were going to write this book with one seamless voice.

We brainstormed every chapter. I would take a first pass and kind of do broad strokes. And she would go in and, build with more strokes. And then I would go in. And it was like, we described it as If a sculptor’s had a wire armature that we were constantly putting layers of clay on the story.

And Shauna’s mother owns and founded a gallery in New Orleans called Stella Jones Gallery, which was, the first African American focused Am I saying this right? Gallery in New Orleans, correct?

[00:21:27] Shaunna: Fine art focused gallery.

[00:21:30] Alyson: So not only does her family have a very rich tradition in quilting and textiles, with art in general.

And so I think the way we see the world, the way we see those chapters unfurling are very visual. They’re very sensory rich because we both see the world that way. I’m the daughter of an abstract painter. I wanted to be a painter myself before I started writing. So though that visual lens that we tried to make you see everything, make you feel that you were walking in the footsteps of a soldier on Port Hudson, that you could smell everything.

You could feel the texture of the uniforms or the earth beneath their feet. That was very important to us. So I think that’s why it has a cinematic feel, perhaps more than other stories, which are just plot driven to tell you what’s happening. We wanted to bring the five senses into the writing.


[00:22:18] Jane: yeah, and you completely did. And that actually, I wanted to talk, a lot of, we have a lot of writers who listen in and watch. I wanted to talk about process, so you started to talk about it. Did you map this out? Are you po they would talk about plotters versus pantsers, but what was your process?

[00:22:36] Alyson: I just want to say because I don’t know if shauna understands the pantster. Oh, yeah

[00:22:40] Shaunna: Like seat of the pants and everything

[00:22:42] Alyson: is leading. Yeah We definitely are the type of and i’m this way with all my books and luckily shauna is aligned with this We never advanced to the next chapter till we were really satisfied with the chapter that we had just written.

So there was a constant refinement of going over and making sure it was perfect. And we, Shona, you can talk about how we plotted out, the other part of the book. So we would,

[00:23:05] Shaunna: When we sat down on that first writing day, in person, which actually was Juneteenth, we knew where we wanted the story to go.

We might not have known how all of the four characters would navigate the time in between, but we knew the broad strokes. And then we committed to every beginning, we would brainstorm the chapters, we would know what was going to happen. It really did feel like we were creating, we were building, and there would be points and times where, something unexpected, we would think about it.

In the beginning, I certainly gave my context, my cultural context, and then Alyson gave her cultural context. But the beauty, James, was, I would say, about a third of the way through we started to feel confident enough to suggest something from someone else’s message, right? At first, Alyson was very hesitant, completely understandable to do anything related to Southern dialect, particularly related to Black Southern dialect, right?

She would leave a little note. We worked on a Google box. And she would say, we need to have a conversation here. What do you think? And then I would say maybe we’re going to frame it out like this. And she laughed. She said, she’s I don’t want to touch anything dealing with Black people. Right?

But over time, as we shared more about ourselves and understood our characters more. We were able to be braver and just dive in. So there are some aspects that you might even see from the Jewish heritage that might come out of my brain. And the same thing with

[00:24:32] Jane: Alyson. Amazing. I, yeah, because I, when, I can’t And when I first read the book, and I was thinking that you divvied up chapters based on who was gonna, okay, you, you write William’s perspective, you write Lily’s perspective, and I find it amazing that you wrote it together that way.

That’s really interesting and impressive. I think it

[00:24:51] Alyson: would have been too disjointed if we had done it that way. Unless you had written it in first person and you had two distinct voices. Yeah. Third person, and had different. Perspectives writing it. It wouldn’t have worked in my gut. And this was actually wonderful because it brought Sean and I together that we needed to be one seamless voice one beating heart one mind and maybe two minds, but everyone were that merging of our friendship that bridge that we wanted to bring between.

William and, Jacob and Lily and Stella, it’s happening with us, too. Our friendship was deepening. And in the case with William and Jacob, music is that, thread that binds, that language that transcends race and religion. For us, it was the same with this book. The language of the storytelling was something that, connected us and brought us closer together.

[00:25:45] Jane: Wonderful. I’m going to ask a couple more questions and then If people have questions, you can put them in the chat and the Q& A and I’ll, I can, I’ll check both. What was the hardest part of this, of writing this book and what was the easiest part of writing this book, would you say?

[00:26:03] Alyson: So the hardest part for me was not I want to be really honest, so I’m going to say for me, it was really pushing to make sure that we could write a historical novel that did go dark, because there is this pressure to make a book and It is commercial and sellable, but we, the reason we came together was because we saw this as a legacy, project.

We wanted to leave something of substantial weight behind, that did illuminate those periods of history like Fort Hudson or the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum in New York, which no one knows about, these different episodes that we felt. And We want to sweep you away in a good story that you love our characters and you’re rooting for them.

But also when you finish the last page, you’ve learned something. And that also included using difficult language sometimes, and I think there is a tremendous fear in publishing that if you have too many triggers, it could affect the commercial appeal of a book. And so we had to weigh that and we had to listen to our editor and we understood her concerns, but we also felt a united front that we weren’t going to make, racist, people, whether they were in New York or in the South, talk like gentlemen, and we wanted to make this, historically factual and be something that we were really proud of.

[00:27:26] Shaunna: So for me, I think because this is my first time embarking on something of this length, knowing what to highlight in the research, I found so many fascinating things that I’d love to share with the world, but obviously it’s not a textbook, right? It’s a novel. So how do you choose back and forth when I wish everyone understood?

The breadth and depth of the Black experience, not only during the Civil War, but generally in America and the world beyond. So that was somewhat difficult, but Alyson is a wonderful guide, and it came to decisions. I would say the interesting thing is, I have a natural decision, and it was nice that translated as well.

One of the things Alyson The writer can be a very solitary process, right? You have people, your fellow writers, you can go to, you can be supportive, but at the day, you have to make a decision about what’s going to happen. And I find that, and Alison can tell me whether it’s true or not, I find that’s not that hard for me.

Alison would sometimes be musing on things and she would call me. She said that, yeah. And I’d be like in between meetings and I’d be like, I have three minutes, what’s up? And she would talk to me and I’d be like no. And so the ability to know that I have that map is very good.

[00:28:45] Jane: Excellent.

Oh, both great answers. And so again, there’s a lot of writers on here. What is the best advice you have for new writers? As a, Shaunna, your debut, Alyson, you’ve been at this for a while. What’s your best piece of advice for writers who are trying to break in, trying to get published? What would you say?

[00:29:04] Alyson: I would say You know, you have to be courageous and you have to stick to your dream. It does require a tremendous amount of dedication. I always tell budding writers, it’s not the quantity that you do every day, but it’s that you write every day. So even if you’re going to say to yourself, I’m going to write a paragraph every day, it will add up.

I tried to, with this book, try and write a thousand words a day. And so that, there would always be something in that wheel we were discussing, and I could write to Shauna and say, okay, in the Google Doc, there’s, three new pages. And she’d say, I’m going to get to it on Friday, and I’ll have it to you by Sunday.

And then on Sunday night, we would talk about what was happening next. And just keeping it moving, so it was never static. I think that would be my advice to budding writers.

[00:29:47] Jane: That’s really good advice. How are you, Shauna?

[00:29:51] Shaunna: Go to Vegas and make friends with people. I don’t know. You do. I am, one thing I think I should say, I approach this whole process and I approach what is happening now for us in the response.

Business evening with complete humility. This is operation love, but I also recognize that Alyson had to have tremendous faith in me to reach out and embark upon this project with me. And so I just want to be once again, completely honest, happy out.

[00:30:23] Jane: Excellent. So what are you working on next?

And are you working on a sequel? Because I read in an article that you might be working on a sequel to The Thread Collectors. Or can you not talk about it yet?

[00:30:36] Alyson: No, that’s our dream, to do this as a series. We, really want to take the characters and not only continue their story. We did not, for those of you who finished it, we don’t wrap everything up in a neat bow.

In general, I never do that with my books, not because I anticipate a series like I do with this one or wanting to do a series. But I also love the fact that it makes an ending, not finite, that the reader can start to imagine what the next journey will be. It’s almost like you answer the immediate questions of what the book was about and have resolution, but there’s still, they’re at a portal where a new beginning is happening.

And so what Sean and I are hoping is that we can take the characters and bring them into reconstruction, and possibly the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights, their progeny. Continuing against different backdrops of history and using two underrepresented lenses to see that and also strengthening the friendships between these two families over the course of history.

And also the thread of music, that the talent will be passed down to, through their children and what happens with those musicians through history.

[00:31:41] Shaunna: Yeah, and also the joy. Of course, this is a very difficult time, but there is joy in our book. There is sisterly bondage. There is.

There is light, just as there is in all of our lives, even when things that we are living through happen to be difficult. I saw something in the chat is it very dark? I think it’s life, yeah, it’s war, yeah. If we were in a conflict against war, but there is certainly joy.

[00:32:08] Alyson: Absolutely. And love. There’s so much love. Yes. Yeah. And there’s, and you’re rooting for these characters to be able to love and to survive and to triumph. Yes. At the same time, it is against the backdrop of a very dark, one of the darkest periods of the United, American history.

And it would be wrong not to. To show that but again, light pierces through the darkness.

[00:32:31] Jane: I completely agree. I saw that question as well. I think that it is the civil war at there. But I think that you balance darkness with light and I feel like you. I felt hopeful throughout it, even in the darker parts of the story, so I think it’s a great book club pick.

And that, I’m gonna, this is my last question, and then I’m gonna take some questions that I see in the chat. What’s the best way for readers to keep in touch with you and find out about events and new projects? Do you do virtual book clubs? That’s, it’s two questions in one, but.

[00:33:03] Alyson: So we both have, we both are on social media though.

We’ve also, we’re going to be posting our in person events on social media in different sort of shareables. And then, also, our virtual events that came also will be. Doing that. So there’s lots of ways to communicate it, with us. And if your book club is interested in having a personal meeting, we’re hoping to be able to do that in 2023.

Our schedule right now is pretty Oh, yeah. Yeah, it looks pretty packed. We’re very grateful and obviously we’re going to do a lot of other virtual events that if you do read the book and you want to do, a different type of talk, there’ll be lots of things out there for sure.

[00:33:44] Jane: Excellent. So Christine Mott, who is, I don’t think she’s missed a webinar. She’s like the best person and fan and reader. And she asks that I, this is actually one of my, one of my backup questions. The cover is gorgeous. Love the cover. It’s so unique.

And did you have much input? Cause I know some publishers, they don’t, you don’t have a lot of input and others you do.

[00:34:07] Shaunna: We did, and it’s interesting though, originally, and I’m sorry, my feedback is so bad, but when Alyson mentioned we originally wanted the men to be really central, I always envisioned maybe not two men holding rifles, but something more artistic with two men and maybe facing each other and wearing caps, but it was decided that we needed to focus on the men.

And the way it turned out, I really love it. We gave them photographs. Stella’s wearing what is called a traditional tignon, which is something that in Louisiana, they use to cover their hair. We really focused on the colors. The one thing I did have, I don’t want to say back and forth about, but I was pretty adamant about it.

I did not want Stella to be So fair as to almost appear right because it’s important for me when I go into a bookstore like I buy from this about the story but I also buy on the cover and I want to see if I’m going to resonate with someone in there and I wanted black women and women of color to also feel like the story resonated.

[00:35:13] Jane: Yeah, and someone asked could you hold up the cover up close so you can get a better look at it.

[00:35:18] Alyson: So they also, they surprised us because they made the letters in high relief in silver foil and then they put gloss of the lace over the women’s dresses. So they did such a wonderful job doing that. And when they told us they were having actresses in the historical dress, I think Sean and I were like, Oh my God, is this going to become like, not look elegant, but they did such a wonderful job.

We even said originally Lily’s dress was green. It was like a bright And we showed them, right away, both of us showed the image to our mothers, who are artistic. And both of our mothers love the green. But I felt, Lillian, and I think Shaunna, too, that it should be blue. There’s a lot of blue in our book.

Yeah. And we wanted her dress to be blue. And so they worked with us to get just the right, it’s almost like a teal. And so it would pop. So we’re really thrilled how it came out.

[00:36:16] Jane: Oh, beautiful. Yeah, I just loved it, and I’m obsessed with covers because I’m in this business, and I’m like, and it’s unique, too, which sometimes, there’s a lot of the same up here.

They did a really good job. Okay, so last question, I’ll wrap it up because a couple people asked this, was The Thread Collectors the original title of the book? No! Do you want to, can you share what it was?

[00:36:40] Alyson: It was called the blue, the proposal we sold the book on was the blue chords because we thought we were so clever with the chords of music and then the chords of the yeah, but you’ve been in the business long enough to know it.

That wasn’t going to be the title.

[00:36:52] Jane: That just happened to me too. They’re like, yeah, here’s some other titles that we like better.

[00:37:00] Alyson: We did not. Come up with the title until the book was finished.

[00:37:04] Jane: It was finished. We went through hundreds of times.

[00:37:08] Alyson: Oh, wow. But I’m glad that our publisher pushed for us to find something that we were all happy.

That they felt happy. That we felt happy. We, we did come to, a moment where we were like, ah, the thread collectors. That’s good. Because it doesn’t just, Connect with the women but you can think of the threads of the men’s uniforms, you know that they you know proud to be wearing this blue and and the threads that bind us as humans in between the men like it was a a title that I think we all are proud of

[00:37:37] Jane: Yeah, and has multi layers, like you said, yeah, it works.

[00:37:41] Alyson: Because the book does deal with the men, so to have something with women, sisters, girls, and wives, I have books myself that have those titles. It would have diminished the men’s parts and their spirits in the book, and so we’re glad that everyone, came to see that being important to us.

[00:37:57] Jane: Yeah, completely agree. This was delightful. I was feeling nice. Yeah so great. Everyone, The Thread Collectors, I highly recommend on audio or or print or Kindle, wherever books are sold and and best of luck and keep us posted about new projects. I’d love to have you on again.

Oh, thank you. All right. Good night, everyone. Take care. Bye bye.


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

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