Interview by Ava Soloff
1: All your other historical fiction books are about royalty. Why did you decide to write about Eliza?
A: I really like 18th century America, but it’s not a popular period for historical fiction in the publishing world. There’s been a perception for several years (since the Bicentennial ended!) that readers just weren’t interested in it. I've wanted to write this book for forever, and I first pitched the idea for a book about Eliza about eight years ago, but there was no interest. Then, when the musical came out and everything Hamilton-related became insanely popular, my editor contacted my agent and asked if I still had the proposal, and I finally got to write Eliza's story."
2: How long did it take you to write “I, Eliza Hamilton”, and what information was needed?
A: "I wrote this book really fast because they wanted to get it out fast. I wrote it in a little over a year. When writing historical fiction, you need to bring the past to life. You need the little details, and because I was very familiar with 18th century America, I didn't need to do as much research for the everyday facts, like clothing, food, and transportation. I did, however, need to learn much more about Eliza and Alexander Hamilton. I tried to use as many primary sources as I could, especially the original letters from Alexander and Eliza, and I visited most of the surviving places and sites that they would have known. Fortunately, I had the help of many wonderful archivists and historians who made my research much easier.
3: What was the most difficult scene/ event you had to write about and why was it so difficult?
A: "The Reynolds Pamphlet (a pamphlet that Hamilton himself wrote and published to explain his affair with Mariah Reynolds) because we have no idea today of how Eliza responded to learning about his infidelity. There are no surviving letters, journals, or diaries that document her reaction. All I could do was go by what other people at the time were writing. Although she didn’t leave Alexander, she must have been incredibly hurt - and angry - the moment those papers were spread to the public."
4: Did “Hamilton: An American Musical” inspire you at all while writing this?
A: "Surprisingly, no. I kept my distance from it while I was writing, because I didn't want to be influenced by Mr. Miranda's interpretation of Alexander and Eliza. I listened to the music because I couldn’t help that, and it was very cool to have a book as a soundtrack. But as soon as I turned the book in, I bought tickets, and yes, it's amazing.
5: What's the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?
A: "In most traditional history books - especially biographies of Alexander - Eliza is very much in the background. Some historians say she didn’t do much and was very quiet. So, for me, trying to find the real Eliza and to find out that she wasn't shy and that she spoke up. I don't think Hamilton would have accomplished nearly as much without her. I really think she helped him a lot, both as the sounding board for many of his most important papers and in life in general."
6: What opportunities have you had since writing this book?
A: "I, ELIZA is my fifty-fourth book, I have never had a book that has taken off like this one. This is a special book. Of course, I realize that it’s the musical that has made many readers pick it up. Usually, when you write a book, I do promotion on social media and book signings for a month, and then I start working on my next book. The interest in this book just keeps going, and now I’m forced to turn down opportunities to go places and speak because I must write. I will, however, be speaking about Eliza Hamilton, her clothes, and clothing worn by 18th century American women in an event at the Museum of the American Revolution in February. It’s part of the museum’s new “Hamilton Was Here” exhibition, opening in October through March 2019. A seamstress trained in historical dressmaking will be recreating two gowns that Eliza might have worn, and they’ll be shown complete with all the 18th century accessories. Should be fun!
7: What are the challenges you have with writing historical fiction?
A: "One of the biggest challenges comes with writing about historical figures – like Eliza – who have left few surviving letters, and there are big gaps in what they said or thought. As a fiction writer, I enjoy filling in those gaps, and see them as an opportunity to describe how the characters may have felt or how specific incidents affected their lives. Unlike a historian who can needs proof of everything they write, I can use my imagination to create the character’s world.
8: Why did you decide to start a blog?
A: "I have two blogs,
one with my friend and fellow-author Loretta Chase (www.twonerdyhistorygirls.com),
and the one on my website (http://susanhollowayscott.com/blog).
My blog with Loretta is about nine years old. Back then, blogging was still new, and our editors wanted us to blog to be closer to our readers. Loretta and I decided not to write one more blog about writing, but about the historical facts that we’d discovered in our research, things we found especially interesting. We were kind of shocked to see how many other people found them interesting, too, and we receive about 200,000-page views each month.
9: How did your degree in art history influence your writing?
A: "I’m a visual person. I like to look at things. Art history incorporates many aspects, including architecture, fashion, and material culture in general. It all helps me imagine the past, and how and where my characters lived. I also almost always sneak a scene into every book that features a character sitting for her or his portrait with a (usually) famous artist because I can't help myself.
10: What are some tips you have for aspiring authors?
A good tip is to look for the details. Remember that the character is telling the story and try to imagine everything through their eyes. You need to incorporate your research in an interesting way, especially when writing in first person as I do. Put yourself in their shoes.
This interview was published in Issue 14.
In October, these teens volunteered to help photographers
The Nomination: “This girl always has a smile on her face and truly wants everyone to be happy. She is a leader in the SLPT team at Jefferson, where she counsels and mentors other students and they talk about making positive decisions. They have made PSA in the community and around the school. She also does work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Monroe County Substance Abuse Coalition and is the SPLT president at my school and the youth rep for the Monroe County Substance Abuse Coalition.
She is part of my Rather B Photography model team, we not only take pictures, but we do service projects and try to be a positive influence in our community. We have done things such as awareness campaigns, donated time, and helped at our local homeless shelter, done drives for other local nonprofits.
She is really a great person.”
I am the President of the SPLT team at my school. SPLT stands for: Student Prevention Leadership Team. We stand against drugs and help prevent the use of them. We do campaigns throughout the middle school and the high school against marijuana, vaping, and drinking & driving.
and have a lot of fun in the process!
We currently have openings for writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers,
interviewers, youtubers, researchers, fashionistas, beauticians, models & more.
How can we help you be the best version of yourself?
Nomination & Photography by Jilli Worth of Pink Owl Photography
Interview by Lauren Michener | Submitted by Lauren Stone
What was your initial reaction to finding out about your disease?
It’s funny, as a 14-year-old girl, I remember immediately crying and wondering if I was ever going to cheer again. Thankfully, those worries were quickly put to rest by the doctors. After my discharge, I worked very hard with a diabetes educator specializing in athletic children. She worked with me and my parents virtually each week for two months to get my blood sugar regulated to compete and tumble again. That all-star season I traveled to various venues including Atlanta and The Summit All Star Cheerleading Championship in Walt Disney World. Since that time, I have transitioned to cheering for my high school. I am on the sidelines for both football and basketball seasons, and my high school team will compete again this year for the third consecutive year at the National High School Cheer Championships in Walt Disney World. Also, I am currently attending college prep clinics to possibly pursue cheerleading beyond high school.
Do you feel people treated you differently after they found out you had diabetes?
My friends, teachers, coaches, and teammates have all been amazing! I have been so blessed by their never-ending support and big hearts. They have never treated me differently for one second. Next to my family, they have been some of my biggest supporters! As an example, one of my best friends asked for donations to JDRF in lieu of birthday gifts for her 16th Birthday. She raised over $500 for my JDRF One Walk team. I feel the support from my friends and family definitely helped with my transition early on… and I am forever humbled and grateful for their love.
How has being diagnosed with diabetes affected your view on life?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2015, just a few weeks into my Freshman year of high school. While I was in the hospital, I was assured that there were essentially no limitations for a well-managed Type 1 Diabetic which was extremely reassuring. Since then, I have taken this philosophy to heart and continue to be active and involved in my school and my community. I am forever grateful for the advancing technology that allows me to manage my blood sugar and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What inspired you to start educating others about diabetes?
Interestingly, I never set out to actually “educate” people about diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is very strange diagnosis. There is a lot of personal education that takes part in the beginning. You have to understand how exercise; food and your specific body all react together as you process every piece of food you intake. I think that educating others came more from my personality. It really has developed more out of the openness I have about my situation. When I was in the hospital, my Diabetes Educator told me I could be as public or private about my new diagnosis as I wanted to be. She indicated that some people opt to keep it a very private thing.... I smiled and let her know I had already announced to my friends on Instagram what was wrong with me! I think from that point forward, I’ve been an open book. It’s now part of who I am. I’m never ashamed to answer questions, stop and explain my insulin pump/CGM or help others learn more about T1D. I’m confident about wearing my pump on my arms and legs and happy to show others it’s just part of who I am! Because of that, I have been asked to share my story on several occasions.
What message would you like people to know about diabetes?
There are probably three things that I would love to tell others.
First, Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease. This makes it quite different than Type 2 with which most people are familiar. Type 1 occurs when a person’s pancreas completely stops producing insulin which regulates our blood sugar levels. Therefore, a person becomes insulin dependent and must take insulin injections or wear an insulin pump to survive. At this time there is no known cause for T1D and no known cure.
Second, T1D is very easy to diagnosis, but initial symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed. Type 1 is often confused or mistaken for the flu; someone may feel tired, have extreme thirst, make frequent bathroom trips, have an increased appetite, notice sudden weight loss, or experience vision changes. A simple finger stick with a glucose test will often give doctors an easy tip if they’re looking at a newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic.
Third, there is virtually nothing a Type 1 Diabetic can’t do!
To learn more or donate to JDRF, visit www2.jdrf.org
Image by Pink Owl Photography
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