Please Sir, Can I Have Some MORE Historical Fiction?

Having been neck-deep in all the historical research and hundreds of old black-and-white photographs I needed to write my book over the past eight months, my love of history has been refreshed. I’m now constantly craving good old TCM films; episode marathons of Downton Abbey, Vegas, and American Pickers; and as much historical fiction as I can get my hands on. I’ve become obsessed with some other history-related things, including Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks, a blog about historical fiction writing by a team of YA historical fiction authors (I look forward to their posts every Monday and Wednesday!) and Stuff You Missed in History Class, a podcast from the How Stuff Works website that is chock-full of interesting and obscure stories, legends, and shipwrecks, perfect for the daily commute. (I’ve blown through more than 100 podcasts in the past two months. They’re so good!)

If you’re into historical fiction too, I’d definitely recommend some of the ones I’ve read most recently:

5. The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe. Titanic, Boston, WWI, 1800s Shanghai, Spiritualism, opium, and crystal balls. What more could you ask for??

4. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. An alternative history, so not for the historical fiction purist, but an authentic Puritan New England feel, complete with magic and witch hunts.

3. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. This is the first in a trilogy (the second one is really good too!) set in contemporary London with a heavy bit of time travel to the eighteen century. Awesome attention to the detail of period clothes, too!

2. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. Set in 1950s Communist China. Starvation, propaganda, and a few love story plot lines–you’ll never look at a grain of rice the same way again.

1. Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers. Set in 1485 Brittany, this is historical fantasy at its best, complete with a convent of assassin nuns, political betrayals, a love story, and some Middle Age mysticism.

Do you have any other favorite historical fiction books to recommend?

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Cover Reveal!

I’m still, technically, burrowing to finish up this book. But my editor sent me the cover last week and I just couldn’t resist sharing it.

Images of America, Hannah Karena Jones

I was able to recommend which photograph would be used for the cover and as I was sifting through the hundreds of Byberry photographs I’ve collected, trying to decide, I knew this was the one. I wanted to avoid an exterior building photograph, because even though most locals would recognize the distinctive hospital brick design, it wouldn’t be all that attractive or intriguing. And I wanted to avoid graphic photographs that depicted how terrible conditions were there, on occasion, because it wouldn’t have fairly represented the book (of course these photographs are inside, to provide a complete history, but I didn’t want them being the iconic cover). I didn’t want to misrepresent the history. Even though Byberry’s remembered for the exposes of poor conditions, there were huge expanses of time where the patients were clean and well cared for, where the buildings were new and the budget was sufficient; also, fun fact, Byberry used to be a working farm!

This photo was exactly the feel I was going for. It’s a little mysterious in that it draws your attention. You look at it, and you want to know more. Also, it gives a tantalizing glimpse inside, giving a look at what night shift on a women’s ward looked like. Calm, isn’t it? And I really liked how the angle of it makes you want to walk down that row; it’s almost like a “Welcome, come in! Open the book!”

Currently, the cover is my laptop’s background. Every time I glimpse at it, it motivates me to keep writing. And now, that’s what I’m off to do. The book’s almost done and the deadline is even closer, less than three weeks away!

Hope you all like the cover as much as I do :]

(Cover Image Courtesy of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.)

How I Got a Book Deal from My Blog!

Yes, you read that right. Officially, I, Hannah Karena Jones, am going to be a published author.

It’s not a blog to book deal in the traditional sense, like the way Postsecret, Julie & Julia, and Awkward Family Photos content became so popular a publisher begged the bloggers to put it in book form. No, The (Writer’s) Waiting Room will not be available on bookshelves near you any time soon.

Do you remember a few weeks back when I was encouraging readers to read local? I mentioned how I love locally-set history and fiction books in general and the Images of America series specifically, mostly because I found a picture of my dad in the Yardley, Pennsylvania book at Barnes & Nobles a few years after he died. You might have glossed over it, but I also mentioned that I think Byberry State Hospital–an abandoned institution near my childhood home, which has always piqued my curiosity–deserves its own book.

Well, an editor at Arcadia Publishing agreed. She happened to read that post and emailed me asking if I would be interested in submitting an official book proposal. Of course I was!

After I submitted the proposal, I was ready to wait a good long time to hear back–I’ve waited over a year just to get a rejection from small literary journals–but they approved it within a week! Byberry State Hospital (release date to be announced) will be a pictorial history and part of the ever popular Images of America series. I signed and mailed the contract a few days ago and now I have a deadline.

My entire book is due in November.
Yikes! [deep breath] I’m terrified not by the deadline, per se, but what that deadline means. In eight months, my huge lifelong dream of being published will come true (or, at least, will be closer to coming true. The book won’t appear on the shelves as soon as I turn in the materials, obviously).

This is where you all come in. I know a lot of you readers are from the Pennsylvania and local New Jersey area. If you have any family stories or photographs of Byberry buildings or Byberry staff in uniform up until it was closed in 1987, or know somebody who does (do you have a family member who was a nurse there? A doctor? A contentious objector? Did you grow up across the highway from the hospital?), I’d love for you to contact me! Feel free to send me an email at HannahKJones10@yahoo.com

This book will have a minimum of 180 photographs and I want to collect the greatest variety and most representative photographs I can. If you have a photograph you’d be willing to share (I would just need a scan of it, I wouldn’t keep the original print), you will, of course, get full credit in the published book.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!