Monday, September 21, 2015

Author Interview: Juliet Waldron of "A Master Passion: The Story of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton" (HFVBT)

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I have an author interview for you today! Here's the goodreads summary of Juliet's book and then the interview:

THE MASTER PASSION is the story of the marriage - called by some a misalliance - of Alexander Hamilton, our First Secretary of the Treasury, and Betsy Schuyler. Although born poor and illegitimate, Hamilton courts the daughter of Major General Schuyler, an American princess.

Hamilton is one of a trinity of Founders who seem to have been created on purpose to invent our nation. Like all mission-driven men, he is preoccupied, often absent, and not the best provider. The trials of making ends meet and raising an ever growing troop of children are Betsy's. This woman-behind-the-man is barely known, but through war, Indian attacks, multiple births, epidemics, infidelity, unending politics and dire tragedy, Betsy is the force which holds the family together.

Conflict is built into this marriage. It does not simply spring from Alexander's childhood experience of bastardy, abuse and abandonment. 


Hello, Library Educated, and thanks for having me on to talk about A Master Passion, the story of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton. In the days before so much historical source material was scanned onto the ‘net, I couldn’t have written this book without access to The PA State Library and the Lebanon Valley College Library collections. (Libraries to the rescue!- W)

1. How did you hear about this extraordinary couple's story?
I’ve been a Hamiltonian since I was eleven—which sounds mad, but there it is. I actually visited Nevis, Hamilton’s remote West Indian birthplace, in 1957, thanks to a mother who fostered my historical fascinations. Only when I’d begun to work on A Master Passion in the early ‘90’s did I become more heavily involved with Betsy’s story. Like other 18th Century wives who wanted to preserve family privacy, (for instance, Martha Washington and Constanze Mozart) Betsy destroyed personal correspondence with her own “great man.” I had to sometimes make inferences about her take on events.  Betsy lived fifty years beyond her husband’s fatal duel, so her “American Experience” stretched almost to the Civil War. She never ceased to demand that ‘Justice shall be done to the memory of my Hamilton.’

2. What marriage advice to you think that Alexander and Elizabeth would give to couples today?

Manners and morals have changed, but I have a few ideas. Like many married couples then and now, the Hamiltons grew together as the years passed. Keeping the marriage going, the sometimes rocky “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, ‘till Death do us part”, was of prime importance to them, although they were sometimes tested. Elizabeth knew how to forgive; she also had to learn how to live with a preoccupied genius.  Hamilton loved, trusted and respected his wife—and 18th Century husbands did not necessarily work at those things. Those two parts put together created a working whole.

They might give advice about the importance of being attentive to children, too, because they were—again, particularly for this century--involved parents. This did not stop with their own children, for their house was often full of other people’s as well.  Many of Betsy’s nieces and nephews lived with them at various times, and they fostered an orphaned girl until she grew up and got married.  

3. Where there any unique challenges about writing this book that you didn't have in other books you've written?

The balance between the couple was often hard to maintain. I’ve a natural sympathy and interest in woman’s experience of life in the past, as well as in the complications that come along with a female body. This book is also the first of mine in which I’ve stayed, for long periods, in the POV of the male half of a relationship. Not so much the maleness, but the genius aspect was the intimidating part.
4. What kind of research did you have to do for this book?

Lots! However, total immersion is my chosen method when I’m writing what I like to think of as “bio-fic.” There is a great deal of primary and secondary source material on Hamilton, now far more easily accessible than when I began. And Betsy saved her husband’s correspondence. After his death, she hunted down letters sent to business and political associates, to friends, and, even those involving the government, which has continued growing since her death to 21 volume’s worth. These, as well as biographies, I took out, in heaps, from the PA State Library.  There was plenty to work with.
5. Do you have a special routine when you're writing a book? (Get up early, write by a window, etc?)

Morning is usually prime time for me, but because Hamilton has been in my imagination since I was a child, some scenes just leapt out of my brain, almost fully formed. Others only came only after a long immersion, rereading notes, papers, biographies and transcriptions I’d made. Messy, but, for me, effective, at least until one of the cats decides “enough is enough,” and jumps up to head butt while she braces herself atop my keyboard.  


Juliet Waldron has lived in many US states, in the UK and the West Indies. She earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after her sons left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine time travel experience for her readers. Juliet’s a grandmother, a cat person, and fascinated by reading history and archeology. Juliet spends a lot of time visiting other centuries, but she’s also certain she doesn’t want to live there.

Juliet gardens, bicycles and is involved in local advocacy groups. She and her husband of fifty years enjoy the winding backroads of PA aboard their Hayabusa superbike.

For more information visit Juliet Waldron’s website. Juliet also blogs at Possum Tracks and Crone Henge, and you can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Goodreads.

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1 comment:

Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!