A White Room Blog Tour: Interview and Giveaway

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A White Room by Stephanie Carroll


At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family.

John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind.

Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled.

A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free.

About the Author:

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As a reporter and community editor, Stephanie Carroll earned first place awards from the National Newspaper Association and from the Nevada Press Association. Stephanie holds     degrees in history and social science. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno.
Her dark and magical writing is inspired by the classic authors Charlotte Perkins Gilman ("The Yellow Wallpaper"), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden), and Emily Bronte     (Wuthering Heights).
Stephanie blogs and writes fiction in California, where her husband is stationed with the U.S. Navy. Her website is www.stephaniecarroll.net.    
A White Room is her debut novel.

Interview:

1) Hello Stephanie, thank you for joining us today. Could you please introduce yourself? 

Hello, my name is Stephanie Carroll, and I am the author of A White Room. I am 28, and I live in California with my husband who is stationed here with the U.S. Navy. We don’t have children yet but two cats and two Chihuahuas who are my babies. I’ve been writing my entire life but didn’t start pursuing fiction professionally until I graduated college in 2008 and started working as a reporter. I had wanted to write a novel since I was little, and I finally had the time and the discipline to do so. Once I started, I realized it was all I wanted to do.

2) What is your debut novel A White Room about?

I wanted to tell the story of a woman who tries to do what she is supposed to do even though it isn’t what she wants. Her attempts to fulfill unwanted obligations pushes her so far that she loses her mind, but when she loses her sanity, she gains freedom because she no longer cares about what is expected of her. 

Official back copy: 
At the close of the Victorian Era, society still expected middle-class women to be “the angels of the house,” even as a select few strived to become something more. In this time of change, Emeline Evans dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when her father dies unexpectedly, Emeline sacrifices her ambitions and rescues her family from destitution by marrying John Dorr, a reserved lawyer who can provide for her family. John moves Emeline to the remote Missouri town of Labellum and into an unusual house where her sorrow and uneasiness edge toward madness. Furniture twists and turns before her eyes, people stare out at her from empty rooms, and the house itself conspires against her. The doctor diagnoses hysteria, but the treatment merely reinforces the house’s grip on her mind. Emeline only finds solace after pursuing an opportunity to serve the poor as an unlicensed nurse. Yet in order to bring comfort to the needy she must secretly defy her husband, whose employer viciously hunts down and prosecutes unlicensed practitioners. Although women are no longer burned at the stake in 1900, disobedience is a symptom of psychological defect, and hysterical women must be controlled. A novel of madness and secrets, A White Room presents a fantastical glimpse into the forgotten cult of domesticity, where one’s own home could become a prison and a woman has to be willing to risk everything to be free. 

 3) Why did you choose this specific time in history? 


I chose this time period for two reasons. My initial inspiration for the novel came from this free-write I did about a woman trapped in a white room. I imagined her in a dress that looked historical. When I decided to turn it into a story, I knew I needed to place the story in history because I wanted her to be truly isolated, as in no email, texting, or cell phones. I didn’t want her to have access to easy travel or speedy mail. Still, I didn’t know the exact time. I had studied women’s history in college but never focused on a specific period. I remembered the dress I had imagined and went to this silhouette timeline I had from my college fashion history course and saw the dress I imagined matched the S-Curve of the turn of the century. Too much farther back into the 1890s would change the silhouette. Any farther in the twentieth century would mean telephones were accessible, so I chose the turn of the century. The year 1901 is the last year of the Victorian Age, and it was perfect because it was a period of transition in the United States. Women were still expected by their families to adhere to Victorian values, but many young women were beginning to force their way into professional fields. This provided the perfect amount of expectation and desire for a young woman. 

4) Do you think of yourself as a feminist? 

I do but not in the definition that many people think. A true feminist is simply someone who believes in and supports the rights and equality of women. Many believe a feminist is an angry woman shouting in the streets, but we can be much more subtle. My goal with women’s issues in A White Room was to show how different women came to different decisions and actions in response to the obligations of their sex at this time. Also, to show how emotionally women still experience similar situations. 

5) What are you reading right now? 

I am always in the midst of several books both fiction and nonfiction, some of which I will finish and others that I will not. I’m always requesting several books from the library, and I always have a huge stack near my bed. Even if I don’t finish them, I enjoy getting a taste. It’s like a wine tasting – I don’t have a full glass, but I get to enjoy so many more flavors than if I only had one. Here is what is at the top of my current stack:

The Spiritualist by Megan Chance 
Permission Marketing by Seth Godin 
How to Read Literature like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster 
The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani 
Bring up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel 

6) Who are your favourite writers and what are your favourite books? 

I have many favorites but by far White Oleander by Janet Fitch and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Those are the two I’ve read several times. I’m also smitten with The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonold, The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, and An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance. 

7) What is your favorite place in the world? 

 I have not yet had the opportunity to travel much. So far I would say my favorite place is Morro Bay beach in California, but I think if I could travel, I would have a dramatic and romantic affair with the moors of England. If I could, I would rent a cottage or stay in an old abandoned house on the moor and just write. 


8) What is your favorite myth/folk-tale? 

I am fascinated by creation stories – so many are so similar, and it inspires so many ideas about the mysteries of the beginning and how it really played out. I’m talking about both mythical and scientific. I love comparing scientific theory to creation stories. 

9) What are you planning to write next? 

My next novel is titled The Binding of Saint Barbara, and it is partially about the true story of the first death by electrocution at Auburn Prison in 1890 Auburn, NY. It focuses mostly on the warden and his family who lived in the prison at the time. I say the book is partially based on truth because I combined very factual events and historical people with completely fictional events and characters, specifically a made up warden’s daughter who speaks with the patron saint of lightning, Saint Barbara. I’ve also begun work on a third novel about four generations of women and a curse that makes those women fail as mothers. This one will involve turn of the century spiritualism and séances and the development of speaking to the dead over time. I’m going to be moving in the direction of magical realism in fiction, which is magic treated as reality. It’s not like fantasy. It combines reality and magic so seamlessly that you forget what is and isn’t real. Some books that have magical realism are The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey, and House of Spirits by Isabel Allende. 

10) Anything you'd like to add? 

A White Room is not based on true people or events, but is based on a variety of historical trends, common experiences, and especially the female experience at the turn of the century. The house itself is based on the Doyle-Mounce House in Hannibal, Missouri. The furniture is all described from real pieces of Art Nouveau furniture from the time.

Further, society’s obsession with hysteria, the professionalization of medicine, the eradication of midwifery, and the illegalization of abortion are all based in historical fact. Even the brutal methods of interrogation in the book were inspired by actual investigative procedures, including the disturbing use of the ‘dying confession.’

My biggest fear with A White Room is that people will say that it reads too modern. I modeled the language off of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a classic short story written in the late 1800s. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is about a woman diagnosed with hysteria and secluded to her room as a form of treatment. She both despises and becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the room, and ultimately, it drives her insane. If you read the short story, you will see it reads very modern, not as ornately Victorian as you’d think. It’s nothing like Wuthering Heights or Dickens, which are from much earlier in the nineteenth century. That simple and readable language of the later nineteenth century was what I wanted to use for A White Room

Quick questions: 

Tea or coffee? 

I drink both but much more coffee than tea. I admit I can be a bit high-strung at times, unable to relax and let go. Perhaps, I should drink more tea. 

Autumn or spring? 

Definitely autumn. I actually get depressed in the summer. My favorite is cold, rainy days. 

Harry Potter of LOTR? 

Oh wow….that’s so hard. I’m going to have to go with Harry. Harry Potter just feels more lighthearted and fun. 

City or country? 

I’ve always wanted to stay in the city for a time, for the experience, live in one of those old office buildings from the 1930s that have been turned into apartments. Yet, I have always lived in small towns and think I prefer them, especially after driving in San Francisco brought me to tears. My husband and I live in an old country house surrounded by vineyards in California’s Central Valley. Wow, I never realized how romantic that sounds until I just wrote it. 

Wine or beer? 

My husband and I actually like to do both beer and wine tasting, but I usually go for wine, sweet sparkly wine, like a Muscat or a Riesling.


Giveaway:

The giveaway is US only, one winner will get a signed copy of A White Room. It ends on July 11. Good luck. :) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
And there is also international giveaway for an e-book! :) a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 comments:

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thank you Petra for having me on your blog and for taking the time to interview me. I hope your readers enjoy it as much as I did.

I'm also really excited to hear from your readers and answer any questions they might have regarding "A White Room."

Sincerely,
Stephanie Carroll
www.stephaniecarroll.net

Sarah P said...

This book looks great, I can't wait to read it! And I'm with you on the loving cold rainy days thing haha. Best time for reading! Thanks for the giveaway :)

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thanks Sarah! I'm so glad you think the book looks interesting. And oh yes rainy days are the best for reading.

I'm glad you entered the giveaway - having my very first giveaways going on as we speak or type and read, I've been thinking a lot about how people find giveaways and decide to enter. Do you only enter when it's for an interesting book? Or is more the fun of the giveaway itself?

Thanks again for commenting that you think the book looks itneresting. That always puts a smile on my face! =)

Sincerely,
Stephanie Carroll

Diamond Cronen said...

This book looks really good, interesting...and unique! I love historical fiction novels, and I like that this is later 19th century. I find the subject of hysteria and women back then really intriguing. I'd love to read your book!

Great interview Petra, I haven't been on your blog in a bit. Hope you're well?

Hugs!
Dee @ Dee's Reads

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thanks Diamond! I hope you enjoy it. Hysteria is such an interesting subject. Have you read any other books that involve hysteria? If you enjoy my book, I think you would really enjoy Megan Chance's An Inconvenient Wife too.

DMS said...

This book sounds fascinating. I love the cover and I enjoyed reading the back cover. I am definitely intrigued and would love to read it.

The author interview was excellent. I have read the first two books she mentioned as favorites of hers and loved them- and I have had Fall on Your Knees on my list for about 8 years. I will have to get it and read it this summer. :)
~Jess

DMS said...

Oh- and thanks for the giveaways! WOW! :)
~Jess

Meghan said...

Wow… Totally can't wait to read this! Adding it to my TBR list... Beautiful cover, too! ; ) I love this genre and I always wonder what made the author choose to write in this kind of genre? Thanks for sharing with us and Thanks for the giveaway!
mestith at gmail dot com

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thanks Meghan and Jess. I'm so glad you both think the book sounds interesting and that you like the cover.

It's actually designed off of a 1909 John Singer Sargent painting of Lady Astor.

My cover designer Jenny Q of Historical Editorial is amazing. She did a blog post about the process of designing it if you are interested http://historicaleditorial.blogspot.com/2013/06/new-cover-design-white-room.html

Thanks for commenting and I hope you enjoy the book. =)

PS Jess - you will love Fall on Your Knees ... I had to push through the beginning a little but then you'll be hooked. =)

Barbara Mathews said...

I'm so glad it's been printed and I'm looking forward to seeing you again, Stephanie. I'll be at your Fallon reading!

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thank you Barbara! I appreciate that =) And I look forward to seeing you in Fallon!

cyn209 said...

A White Room sounds like a book i would enjoy!!
thank you for the giveaway!!!

Stephanie Carroll said...

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaways and Congratulations to Holly & Shamara!

If you are interested in entering a different giveaway, check out the other blog tour stops or my Facebook pages - there's plenty of opportunities to win a copy of "A White Room."

Happy reading! and Beware the chair!

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