Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Interview with debut novelist, Jo Ann Butler, author of Rebel Puritan.

This weeks featured author is Jo Ann Butler who’s book Rebel Puritan follows the life of her own ancestor, Herodias Long, beginning in 17th century London, England and ending in New England.

Hi Jo Ann, Thank you for joining me on my blog today, it’s good of you to come.  I am really fascinated by the main protagonist in your novel Rebel Puritan.  She is an ancestor of yours, is that right?

Jo Ann:  My grandparents were surnamed Gardner, so when I started researching my genealogy in the late 1970s, I began with them.  The first line I found led back to my 8th-great grandmother Herodias Long, via her liaison with George Gardner. 

What made you decide to turn Herodias’ story into a novel?

Jo Ann:  Herodias led an amazingly modern life for a 17th-century woman, but with two separations from unsuitable husbands, she was considered quite scandalous in her day.  In 1658 she protested against the Puritans’ abuse of Quakers, and that led to her own whipping.  That bold act made Herodias’ story irresistible, so I wrote the novel about her that I wanted to read!
I suppose, as a genealogist, researching for Rebel Puritan came quite naturally but how difficult, as a first time author, did you find it to turn the bland facts of her life into a flesh and blood personality?

Jo Ann:   Herodias laid out her life in petitions for divorce, so research was easy.  However, I studied archaeology in college, not creative writing, and Rebel Puritan was the first project I undertook.  There’s nothing like starting big!  I’d write a chapter, let my friends and family comment on it, and then rewrite.  By the time I finished the mss, I had sold several magazine articles, so I learned as I went.

Fellow writers are immensely important. I know from experience just how very difficult it is as a self-published, unknown author to get noticed. What marketing strategies do you employ to promote Rebel Puritan?

Jo Ann:  After Rebel Puritan was published, I asked readers to post reviews on GoodReads, and it’s still thrilling to see reviews pop up there and on Amazon.  Word-of-mouth on Facebook has been invaluable, and so have reviewers and bloggers like you.  I’m still seeking reviews from historical fiction readers, historians, and genealogists.  If anyone would like a review copy, please contact me at joann(at)rebelpuritan(dot)com.

Writing a historical novel is like painting a country you have never visited and can never visit. Rebel Puritan spans a number of years and two different countries.  How did you go about researching 17th century London and New England?

Jo Ann and Richard at the LDS Genealogy library
where they met  tewnety-five years ago.
Jo Ann:  New England was easy, because I live in upstate New York.  My mother, uncle, and I must have spent several months in archives and genealogy libraries.  We also visited museums and ancestors’ homes, where I picked up that 17th-century flavour.  I got most of my English information at the Mormon Church’s genealogy library in Salt Lake City, which has a superb book collection and over two million rolls of microfilm.  As a bonus, I met my partner compiling his genealogy in the Mormon library, and after twenty-five years we are still together.

A love story! How wonderful! I’ve never met any likely partners in a library. I must have been doing something wrong.  And Rebel Puritan has won the IndieBRAG medallion? Can you tell us what that is and what it means for your book?

Jo Ann: IndieBRAG is a group of American, European, and Canadian readers promoting high-quality independently-published books – the sort you would recommend to your best friend.  Helen Hollick mentioned the group on her Facebook, so I asked them to review Rebel Puritan.  IndieBRAG promotes winners of their Medallion at book expositions and online, and I’m delighted to talk about the group and their Medallion award to Rebel Puritan.  We’ll scratch each other’s backs!

Have you caught the historical novel writing bug now? Will there be any more?

Jo Ann:   The writing bug caught me!  I’m preparing to publish The Reputed Wife this fall, the sequel to Rebel Puritan, and there’s at least one more book in the series.  Another of my ancestors was a doctor on the upstate New York frontier in 1803, and she is whispering in my ear.

Well, that is good to hear. Give me a shout when The Reputed Wife is released and I will share the word. Online presence is invaluable for an author these days. Do you have a blog or a webpage that readers can visit?

Jo Ann:  My Rebel Puritan website is at and I have a blog at , and I even have a public figure page for Herodias Long on Facebook!

That’s wonderful. Brace yourself for an onslaught of visitors. Thank you so much for giving us your time. Good luck with Rebel Puritan, I hope it does very well.

Thank you for hosting me, Judith.  It’s been my pleasure!

Rebel Puritan is available as a paperback and as a Kindle on Amazon and other leading bookstores.
US readers click here..
UK readers click here.

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