Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interview with novelist Karen J. Hicks

I have Karen J. Hicks here today to talk about her new novel The Coming Woman

The Coming Woman is a novel based on the life of feminist Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, 50 years before women could even vote!

Karen J. Hicks is retired and lives in Henderson, Nevada. She recently published her second novel, The Coming Woman, based on the life of the infamous feminist Victoria C. Woodhull, who was the first woman to run for U.S. President. Her first book was a self-help book titled The Tao of an Uncluttered Life. Karen served as in-house editor for author Steve Allen and has written several screenplays, as well as poetry, short stories, and essays. To learn more, go to

Welcome, Karen. Please tell us about your current release.
The Coming Woman is a novel based on the life of Victoria C. Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, 50 years before women could even vote! Victoria was also the first woman to own a successful Wall Street brokerage firm, the first to publish a successful national newspaper, the first to head the two-million-member Spiritualist Association, and the first to petition the Senate Judiciary Committee, advocating for woman’s suffrage. Daring to take on society and religion and fight hypocrisy, Victoria exposed the extramarital affairs of the most popular religious figure of the day (Henry Ward Beecher), which led to the longest, most infamous trial of the 19th century and her own imprisonment and persecution for exercising her First Amendment rights. But she would not be defeated and continued to fight for equal rights for all until her death of old age.

What inspired you to write this book? 
My friend Twyla first shared Victoria’s story with me back in the 1980s. She had written a college paper on her, and I was fascinated from the first word. I was never an avid student of history, but when I began reading more and researching Victoria’s life and times, my fascination grew—to full-blown obsession. Over the years I penned her story in several different formats, the hardest task being to whittle all the incredible material down to a manageable size. Feeling most of the books I read about Victoria were geared toward readers who loved history and/or biographies, I wanted to tell the story in a way that attracted those who prefer a good novel. So that’s what I did.

Excerpt from The Coming Woman:
The early spring drizzle on Great Jones Street doesn’t deter newsboys from hawking the April 2, 1870 headlines up and down the thoroughfare between the beer gardens and dance halls of the Bowery and the opulent emporiums of Broadway.
“Petticoat Politician Victoria C. Woodhull to run for President!”
“Indian raids in Wyoming!”
“Sergeant Patrick Gass of Lewis and Clark expedition dies at ninety-eight!”
The heavy, mahogany front door at No. 17 flies open. Victoria Woodhull, lithe and fair at thirty, skips lightly down the steps of the elegant four-story brownstone. Her bobbed and curled brown hair bounces gently against her high forehead. A diamond ring glitters on her right thumb.
“Queen of Finance takes on Government!” yells a newsboy.
Victoria smiles as she hails him. He hands her a New York Herald.
“So Mrs. Woodhull is to run for President, is she?” she asks. “What do you think of that?”
“No offense or nuthin’ to you as a woman, Ma’am, but it’s plum crazy.” The boy looks down and shuffles his feet.
Another newsboy waves and calls out, “Mornin’, Mrs. Woodhull! You’re stirrin’ things up for sure today!” He runs on yelling: “Bewitching Broker in dash to the White House!”
The mortified boy on the steps turns as red as the fresh rose pinned to the black velvet band at Victoria’s throat. She pats his cheek; her laughter is soft and melodic.
“Don’t be embarrassed, son. I’m sure you won’t be the only one of your opinion. And I shouldn’t have tricked you. Here’s an extra penny to apologize.”
“Thank you, Ma’am!” The boy scoots away, calling out: “Asa Brainard pitches fifteenth straight win for Cincinnati Red Stockings! New York Knickerbockers can’t stop ‘em!”
Victoria skips back up the steps, flipping through the newspaper. Glancing up as she opens the door, she spies tall, scarecrow-looking Stephen Pearl Andrews skirting puddles, hurrying toward her. His bony nose, bushy gray hair, and grizzled beard glisten with droplets of rain. His calf-length black coat flaps wildly in the breeze.  Victoria grins and goes to meet him, blue eyes sparkling like sunlit waves. She takes his arm and Andrews’ wildness softens at her touch. He pats her hand.
“So did the Herald print your announcement?” he asks.
“The entire thing!  And Ashley Cole wrote the perfect headline and introduction!”
“You are on your way to your destiny, la mia stella.”
Inside the house, Victoria walks past tall vases of fragrant flowers and a staircase that curls upward to the second floor.  She stops at a marble statue of the famous Greek orator Demosthenes—classic tunic, laced sandals, laurel wreath on his head. 
“Demosthenes’ promise to me as a child—that I would live in a mansion in a city surrounded by ships and rule my people—It’s all coming true! How do you say thank you in Greek, Pearl?”
“Efharisto, Demosthenes! I will fight for freedom for our people as you did for the Greeks.” She pecks Andrews on the cheek. “Demosthenes’ prophecy has driven my entire life, Pearl, but you are his corporeal representation and have given me the courage to act on it. So thank you, too.”
“Yes, yes. Let’s look at this announcement now.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have a first draft completed on a short novel titled Crystal Dreams. It is a romance that calls on my background in the advertising and entertainment industries of Nashville and Hollywood for its setting. Add my interest and respect for spiritual practices and my deep respect for the American Indian culture, and you have what I consider to be a funny, poignant, and sexy story. This is my first book written out of whole fantasy and I must say I love the freedom of that.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Since early childhood it has always been my dream to write, and I have dabbled with poetry, short stories and the like since an early age. But it wasn’t until my son graduated from high school that I began calling myself a writer—and thereafter actually published my first book.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am retired so I have as much time as I want to write now. When I was a single parent and holding a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, I would get up in the wee hours of the morning and write before going off to the office. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I am still fond of the early morning. I confess I have a very casual attitude toward writing and sit down to it only when I feel I can channel the Universe through my fingers onto the keyboard. This comes from my belief that it is not me or any particular talent of mine that makes me a writer, but rather an openness to be a conduit for the Higher Power.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I think I am a better editor than writer so I always make many passes through a draft before I am satisfied.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, as a very young gal, I wanted to be Annie Oakley and live on a horse ranch in Texas. When I was older I thought about being an English teacher. But I always knew, no matter what else I did, I would always write, even if it was only in my journal. I still keep one of those and write in it daily. My mother died when I was four and some years ago her sister, my Aunt Fran, gave me copies of letters my mother had written over the two years she had battled cancer. That peek into my early years is absolutely priceless, so I also keep a separate journal about my granddaughter Sophie’s life so when she grows up she will have a similar treasure. 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope you enjoy my book and if you have a dream, never give up on it. It took almost 30 years for this book to become a reality and many times it ended up on a back shelf, but if you visualize, keep the faith, and do your part, I believe your dream can be realized. Namaste.

The Coming Woman was published by Sartoris Literary Group in August 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Thanks for being here today, Karen.

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