Lois Leveen, author of "The Secrets of Mary Bowser" and the upcoming "Juliet's Nurse" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
Oh, but I *do* go back in time. This is why I write first-person historical fiction, so that I can 'become' someone else. Thus far, that's led me to be slave-turned-Civil War-spy Mary Bowser (in "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"), and a grieving woman who becomes a wet-nurse and surrogate mother to the most famous daughter in all of literature (in Juliet's Nurse).
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
Although I would love to visit many specific times in history, in terms of living my whole life, actually I would choose right now. Let's face it, for most of history, most people's lives were pretty miserable. For women, especially--from lack of education, to lack of say regarding to whom you were married (or just given, without marriage!), to having no way to determine how many children you would have and at what age you would have them . . . Why would I want that?
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
- Louisa May Alcott, to thank her, because "Little Women" has given me more pleasure than any other book.
- Adrienne Rich, to toast her because her poems and essays have inspired me at many challenging times in my life.
- The real Mary Bowser, who was amazing and heroic but who lied about herself so much, I've never been able to learn enough about her. I definitely would try to pin her down on the details.
- Robert E. Lee, who felt compelled to take command of the Army of Virginia as a matter of honor; I want to ask him whether, knowing how bloody and devastating the war turned out to be, he might instead go back and choose personal dishonor of NOT fighting for the Confederacy and thus having the war end sooner, with fewer lives lost.
- William Shakespeare, so I can ask the greatest plagiarizer in English literature how he feels about me plagiarizing HIM.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
I dream of living in Italy, so any ol' extremely fancy Renaissance palazzo will do. As long as it has updated heat and plumbing!
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
Geraldine Brooks and Tracey Chevalier -- both so smart and wide-ranging in their interests, we'd never run out of things to talk about.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
Have you seen portraits of these guys? The actual guys, not the actors who've played them? Let's just say I would be scrolling past BOTH their profiles if we were all on a dating website.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
Either Catherine of Aragon, for the "first wive's club" angle, or Katherine Parr, just to sing "I Will Survive" after I outlived the king.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
Sorry, I'm a woman of the people. No monarchy for me! Unless Kate and William are thinking about dinner guests for this coming weekend, in which case English, definitely English.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
"Little Women", "The Blue Flower", and for #3 I'll choose a short story, "Sonny's Blues"
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
No caffeine for me. It's water or herbal tea -- but I use the loose-leaf tea, it really is so much better. And always, a cat on my lap.
Lois Leveen's official website: