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Author Interview - Stephanie Kate Strohm

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing with Stephanie Kate Strohm, author of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink. You can read my review of the book here.

About the author
Stephanie Kate Strohm grew up on the Connecticut coast, where a steady diet of Little House on the Prairie turned her into a history nerd at an early age. She spent much of her childhood dressing up in bonnets. While attending Middlebury College in Vermont, she blossomed into a full-fledged Civil War buff and was voted Winter Carnival Queen. After graduating with a joint major in theater and history, she acted her way around the country, performing in more than 25 states, primarily in shows where she got to wear corsets.

Currently she lives in New York City, where her closet is almost big enough to hold all of her shoes. When she’s not writing, she loves baking, shopping, cuddling her dog Lorelei, and dragging her boyfriend to chick flicks.

Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink is her first novel.

Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter

I saw on your website that you majored in theater and history. How did your prior experiences in these fields influence the writing of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink?
Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink would not exist without my history major. Not only did I learn most of the facts included in Pilgrims (others just came from casual history nerdiness), but it taught me how to write. The longest thing I wrote before Pilgrims was my 100 page senior history thesis, and it was my history professors who taught me structure and how to (attempt to) write cleanly and clearly. They DID always say my writing was "too commercial" and not academic enough, so I guess they were on to something!

The theater major is less obvious, but I feel like performing so many plays (and reading them for class) was immeasurably helpful in learning to write dialogue - I have a good feel for where the "laugh line" would go. I read out loud/act out dialogue while I'm writing, too. Plus I always did ridiculous amounts of character research for each role I played - creating bios, that sort of thing - which helped me learn about creating characters for novels.

It's really interesting how your majors influenced your writing. The history impact is clear in the story, and the theater is aparent in the brilliant cast of characters. What inspired you to write Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink?
I interned at a living history museum one summer, and there was a rumor that one of the boats was haunted. I thought that was a really cool jumping off point for a book – kind of a “What Would Nancy Drew Do?” moment. (Helpful tip: do NOT try to pick the lock on your parents’ Volvo with a bobby pin. I don’t know how Nancy was always picking locks with bobby pins, but it does NOT WORK.) More importantly, I wanted to write a YA book featuring a protagonist who thought history was cool.

What are your favorite Jane Austen books?
Emma was my first favorite, then Northanger Abbey during college (which is why it plays such a prominent role in Pilgrims), and then it went back to Emma. I have a complicated relationship with Sense and Sensibility, because I see so much of myself in Marianne. I can't read it without cringing!

I love Emma myself. It was one of the first classics I read during my classics marathon in middle school. If you could travel back in time, what time period would you visit and where would you go?
This is a game my family and I play all the time, so I’ve considered this a lot! Ideally I would want to organize a kind of grand tour, but if I had to pick one spot, I would head straight to Deadwood, South Dakota in 1881 to do cartwheels across the stage of the Gem Theater. Although I feel like when I got there I’d be kind of grossed out by the realities of frontier life, and would probably hightail it to the ballet in Paris to pose for Degas and get some awesome tutus.

I've always been fascinated by the frontier. It does seem romantic when you read about it. I'd probably get grossed out by the realities too if I visited, but I can't help wanting to go either! If you could bring back fashion from some historical time period, which one would it be and why?
Hoop skirts! Definitely hoop skirts. I know they are terribly impractical, and only look good with a corset (and I’ve passed out in dressing rooms too many times to wish that on anyone), but I love the silhouette they create.

They do sound impractical. I'm more of a practical-wear kind of person until I feel the sopntaneous desire to dress myself up. Ballroom dance gives me the chance to go all out. How many books do you have planned for the Pilgrims series? What other time periods do you plan on introducing to Libby?
It's kind of open-ended right now. At least three, for sure. Libby needs to experience the frontier!

That I have to read. After Pilgrims, do you have any plans on writing in another genre?
I really love writing YA, so I wanna stay there for the foreseeable future. One day I might like to write historical fiction. I wrote my thesis on burlesque dancers in late nineteenth-century New York, and believe me, there is a lot of material there!

I love historical fiction and would be up to reading some by you! I haven't heard about burlesque dancers before, but they sound intriguing. What books are in your TBR pile?
Honestly, I tend to be a big impulse book buyer – I don’t plan very far ahead, and I always get lured by shiny covers or go on late night kindle book buying binges. I just started The Red Book, which had been on my pile for a while. I definitely want to read the new Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner novels, The Innocents (based on some Edith Wharton? Yes please), The Chaperone, and I am counting down the days ‘til Fables Volume 17. (Graphic novels count, right?)

Of course graphic novels count. I read them myself! Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that I hope that anyone who reads Pilgrims or this interview tries to plan a trip to a living history museum this summer! They really bring the past to life, and are a great way to get kids (or reluctant adults) interested in history. Check out http://alhfam.org/ to find one near you.

Thanks for interviewing with me, Stephanie!

Stephanie has offered a copy of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink and a Pilgrims t-shirt for one US/Canada winner. Please check back in at 12:00 p.m. EST for the giveaway post if you're interested!
16 comments on "Author Interview - Stephanie Kate Strohm"
  1. I'm really interested in the connection between your history major and writing. I'm in education with a history emphasis and I see the connections more with every history class. There are things I can pull in to my writing that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

    Also, I'm a huge impulse book buyer!! More power to us!

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  2. I love how an author's education and background affects and influences their later books, even if at the time they didn't know they'd become a writer:

    I too love Austen, and it will be cool to read about a main character who loves history:) I love that kind of geekiness:)

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    1. Libby's history interest was the highlight of PILGRIMS DON'T WEAR PINK for me!

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  3. I absolutely LOVE reading author's interviews because it always give me an insight into what they are thinking. Thanks for sharing :)

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  4. I love Northanger Abbey! I also saw the movie, and fell in love with it even more:) Very Gothic:)

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  5. Very good interview, I liked the questions. They don't seem like ones I normally see like whats your favorite color and ice cream and such. Very imformative.

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  6. Great interview (even though the book isn't the type I liked to read), loved how she went into her education and what influenced her

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  7. I liked how your major influenced your writing. I also love Northanger Abbey.

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  8. Great interview. Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink sounds like my kind of read. I love a strong female MC.

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  9. I loved the interview. Stephanie is darling! (and especially in pink) The book sounds cute and I love that she wants to stay writing YA. It's great when we have writers that want to write for our kids:)

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  10. I love Emily Giffin also! I have read 4 of her books :)

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  11. How fantastic that the author was able to take her love of writing and her love of history and weave the two together so well. Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink sounds like a fun summer read.

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  12. I have yet to read a book by this author, however I will definitely check her out.

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  13. I love hoop skirts too!!! This author sounds like she has so many of my same interests!

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  14. I have never visited a living history museum before but they do sound interesting. I'm going to have to locate one.

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