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.
Poem, Article by Ava Soloff, Image by Danielle Soloff
I am a swimmer, one with the water.
I wonder if I will journey to the Olympics
I hear the sound of my hands and feet crashing against
I see the other swimmers start to trail behind me
I yearn to make it to the finals
I am a swimmer, one with the water
I imagine the announcer claiming me as first place
I feel confident that I will speed ahead
I touch the scaly wall
I worry I didn’t make it
I cry tears of joy when I win
I am a swimmer, one with the water
I understand I must be a good sport
I congratulate the girls next to me
I try to get past the clusters of people cheering
on the swimmers in the transparent water
I dream I will win my next race
I hope someday I make my mark
Why Swimming is Great for Your Mind and Body
Many people say that swimming is a very physical sport. While it is, there is another aspect which is mental. The physical part comes in during countless hours of drylands, practice, and meets. You work your hardest to get through tough sets and events. That really comes in handy in my everyday life because it helps me with other sports and it is great for your health. The mental part comes in when you get tired and you need to learn to push yourself or when you have to overcome nerves before races.
Swimming also helps me prioritize my weekly schedule because it is a sport that requires daily commitment. Not only that, but it teaches you self-discipline. For example, meets are pretty much always early in the morning so I know the night before to go to bed early, eat a healthy dinner and breakfast, to drink lots of water, and to relax. Another great thing about swimming is that when I'm stressed, it really helps me to calm down.
By Ava Soloff
Supplies You Will Need
ü Polish Colors: White, Neon Pink, Neon Orange and Black
ü Triangular Makeup Sponge
ü Toothpick or Wooden Cuticle Pusher
ü Clear Silver Glitter Polish
ü Glossy Top Coat
ü Nail Polish Remover
Step One: Base Paint
Paint all of your nails with a thin layer of white polish. Allow it to dry.
Step Two: Prepare Sponge
Paint one thin strip of neon pink and one strip of neon orange onto the triangular makeup sponge. Make sure they slightly overlap in the middle.
Step Three: Create an Ombre Effect
Dab the sponge on all nails. This will create an ombre effect. You may have to do more than one layer. Also, you will have to keep applying the strips of polish on the sponge as you paint. Let it dry.
*Note: Before you allow the paint to dry, you may want to use some polish remover to remove any paint that may have gotten on your fingers. Be careful not to allow it to get on the nail. You can dip a wooden cuticle tool into the remover and use that below the cuticle to remove any polish that may have ended up there.
Step Four: Glitter
Apply a thin layer of silver glitter polish. Let dry.
Step Five: Add a Palm Tree
This is an optional step. Dip a toothpick in black polish. Then, draw a line stemming up from the cuticle. Next, draw 4-6 lines coming out of the top of the line. This will create a simple palm tree. Allow it to dry.
Step Six: Finish With a Top Coat
Even if you skipped step five, it is always important to seal the deal with a clear, glossy top coat. Let it dry and you are done!
This is a fun and simple nail tutorial to get you in the mood for summer. Feel free to get creative and mix it up. Use different tropical colors for your ombre step or a clear glitter with green sparkles. Paint your palm tree with dark green polish. The possibilities are endless!
By Ava Soloff
Photo: Le Champs-Elysee (1998) taken by my dad, Matt Soloff,
when he traveled to France while studying abroad in Israel.
Q: What country did you travel to?
Q: Do they speak a different language there? If so, what language?
A: Yes, French
Q: What was your experience communicating with the people there?
A: The French people were not so nice, especially if you didn't speak French. If you
did speak French, they were nicer, but they were cold to English speakers.
Q: What was your favorite landmark or attraction? Why?
A: Le Champs-Elysee in Paris because I like shopping.
Q: Explain some of the cultural differences or traditions that you enjoyed or thought
were interesting during your time there.
A: Meal time in France takes a lot longer. You eat for 20 minutes and then sit and
talk for 45. It's a lot more community bonding. People at the beaches are not
wearing clothes and that was just normal there.
Q: Did this trip inspire you to want to travel to another country? If so, where would
you like to go and why?
A: Yes! I want to go to Sweden, Turkey, Columbia, and back to France. I have family
in Sweden I’d like to visit. I want to see the architecture in Turkey. I know lots of
people from Columbia and I enjoy the culture.
Q: Do you feel traveling abroad is something that all teens should experience? Why
or why not?
A: Yes, because it opens them to new cultures and helps them understand how the
world works outside of the little bubble of their own country.
Since I haven’t traveled abroad and because I am very eager to, I decided to interview a local teen that has. I was excited when I learned that Mark has traveled to France. I am taking French this semester and I am very interested in the language and culture. We’ve learned about Paris and Le Champs-Elysee in class, so it was awesome to be able to hear from someone who’d actually been there. Mark was very fortunate to have been able to visit France. I agree that teens should have an opportunity to travel to another country. I love learning about history and different cultures and can’t wait for my chance to visit another country. I’m glad I had the chance to interview Mark. He inspired me to travel even more! I’d even like to study abroad someday like my dad did in college. Until then, au revoir!
An American Musical: A Unique History Lesson by Ava Soloff
Submitted by our members as well as teens across the world.