Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Meet Historical MG/YA Author Laurel A. Rockefeller

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes MG/YA historical author Laurel A. Rockefeller. She is the author of numerous stories about the fascinating women in history.

First, a bit about Laurel:

Born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska USA, author-historian Laurel A. Rockefeller educates while she entertains, encouraging readers to think about current events and history in a completely new way. Using exhaustive and comprehensive research across dozens of academic disciplines, Laurel's stories come alive so vividly it is easy to forget you are learning something new.

Why did you pick to write books for MG/YA?

I never actually set out to write for MG/YA per se, actually, but more for a general audience where everyone in the family can enjoy a book or film. When I was a child, the first movie I ever watched in a theatre was watched with three generations of my family. Likewise, for a couple years when I was young, our entire family sat around the tree and read A Christmas Carol aloud together. That experience really imprinted on me the value of creative works that people can enjoy together.  Especially in today’s world where everything is so sliced up and niched, and where we are usually alone in a crowd, I feel it is important to restore the social aspect of enjoying a great book or film, of doing things together again. 

My work reflects that, especially with the Legendary Women of World History Series of biographies for young readers. The audio editions—narrated by British voice artist Richard Mann—allow children as young as four to enjoy these inspiring stories, are written to about the second or third grade reading level, and yet are so rich in detail and information that most adults are shocked at how much they are learning from these compelling creative non-fiction true stories. And this is how it should be. Instead of telling our children fairy tales, I feel we should be inspiring our children (and ourselves) with true stories about people who really made a difference.

What types of books do you like to read?

I generally prefer non-fiction, especially science, history, and politics.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

Believe it or not, I really do love working and researching for my books. History is a lifelong passion of mine since I was very young, and I love reading historical research and watching documentaries and historical films. Love biographical motion pictures, especially those by the BBC. The Imitation Game is my latest obsession. I also love sharing what I learn with people. I write the Legendary Women of World History Series out of a genuine passion for these stories.

Beyond history, I enjoy English country dancing, attending live theatre and concerts, singing and writing music, and spending time with friends. When I’m in a crafty mood, I spin with a drop spindle, something I learned to do in the twenty some years I spent in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I tried archery once and really do want to pursue that again.

I also spend a lot of time on social media. I love talking to people and being social. I am probably one of the most easy to reach authors online and will spend hours talking to a single reader about really anything and everything (within certain limits of privacy). I love reaching out to people and hearing their stories as well.

Tell us about Catherine de Valois and how the story came to be.

I am a huge Shakespeare fan. Shakespeare, Arthurian legends, and tales of Robin Hood made me fall in love with England. One of my favourite plays is Henry V, especially the Kenneth Branagh adaptation. Shakespeare takes King Henry’s side in his storytelling, but I was always fascinated by Princess Catherine. 

After launching The Legendary Women of World History Series with Boudicca:  Britain’s Queen of the Iceni in March 2014, it seemed only logical to tell Catherine’s story as the second book. What I discovered along the way was that Shakespeare’s depiction of Catherine as this giddy romantic who could not wait to marry Henry could not have been further from the truth. Henry, like Richard the Lionheart, was a soldier who loved killing and glorified war and slaughter. His marriage with Catherine was likely very unhappy. Fortunately for Catherine, Henry’s refusal to honour the Treaty of Troyes led to his early death after only two years of marriage. What happened next launched the most famous dynasty in history: the Tudors.

Here's a peek at Catherine de Valois:

“Must we do this, Mother?” asked Catherine, pacing furiously.

“What choice do we have, Catherine? The blood of the women and children of Rouen cry out for action. We must meet with King Henry this day or risk further slaughter,” conceded Queen Isabeau, her heart equally furious and grieved at the same time at Henry’s atrocities in Rouen.

“I do not want to meet him! I hate him! I have never heard of any living man being so vile and disgusting to me!”

“It is said that he is otherwise to his own English people, that he governs them kindly and with great skill.”

“But what about the Welsh, Mother? Was he kind to them when he slaughtered them while his father reigned?” countered Catherine. “I know it is my duty as your daughter – but you know how I hate violence, especially against the innocent. How are the Welsh any different than us? All they wanted was to not be slaves to this conqueror. We of all people understand this!”

Before Isabeau could respond, the door opened. Jacques de Heilly entered with a bow, “Your Majesty, Your Highness may I introduce you to Henry, by God’s grace King of England.”

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Catherine de Valois is one of twenty books, novellas, and flash fiction stories I’ve published since August, 2012. Joining Catherine and Boudicca in 2015 were Mary Queen of the Scots and Queen Elizabeth I of England in Journey to Gloriana

American Stories
has two books: the flash fiction A New Start in the Niobrara for Mr. and Mrs. O’Malley about Irish immigration to Nebraska and the 70 page non-fiction American Poverty: Why America’s Treatment of the Poor Undermines Its Authority As a World Power which is a thoughtful comparative analysis looking at the real face of poverty in the USA, how poverty here differs from poverty among our closest allies, and what each of us can do to make life in America truly great again.

The Peers of Beinan Series is a six volume (one flash fiction, two novellas, and a completed novel trilogy) social science fiction series exploring a medieval monarchy in another galaxy. The books are: The First King (free flash fiction), Good-bye A672E92 Quintus, The Poisoned Ground, and the Legacy of Princess Anlei Trilogy: The Great Succession Crisis, The Ghosts of the Past, and Princess Anyu Returns. I offer a proper introduction to the series on YouTube.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Yes! I continue to work on additional LWWH biographies. The first of these for 2016 will be Empress Wu Zetian. Empress Wu is probably the most demonized woman in world politics, yet her wise rule led to some of the most important social and technological advancements in history. The prologue and epilogue are set in 1861 Beijing for a look at the Victorian Era from the Chinese point of view.

Joining her will be the Empress Matilda of England. Born 7th February 1102, Matilda was the daughter of Henry I and his only surviving heir after a shipwreck on the English channel killed her brothers. As the rightful heir to the throne, she journeyed to London for her coronation only to be driven out of the city and denied the throne in favour of her cousin Stephen. It is a fascinating story I can't wait to tell you!

What advice do you have for other authors?

Talk to people not at them. Readers are really good at ignoring sales pitches. Stop trying to sell and spend more time interacting with people. Remember that people buy from people, not companies.

Anything else you want readers to know?

My blog regularly runs a character profile column on Thursdays featuring books by largely undiscovered independent authors. Please take a look!

If you are an author with a children’s to young adult book, please apply for a character profile

It has been wonderful talking to you today!  I cannot wait to hear from each and every one of you reading this!

Where can readers find you and your books?

My office door is always open!

Connect with me on Twitter  and on Pinterest.
My blog is very active and full of great information about a wide range of topics.
Follow my YouTube channel.
If you ask me a question on social media or comment on any of my pins, videos, tweets, or blog posts, there is an excellent chance I will respond. Let’s have a conversation!

You can find my books:

Barnes and Noble


  1. What an interesting interview! I agree with you that researching for books is actually fun . . . Catherine de Valois sounds like a must-read. Thanks!

    1. I look forward to your review! If you haven't heard the audio yet, you absolutely should take a listen on Audible. Richard Mann does a fantastic job!

  2. I enjoy reading anything history related. I'll have to look into your books. Great interview.

    1. Fantastic! Thank you Gregory! Please share broadly. I'm a firm believer that each of us can change the world. All it takes really is sharing great true stories like these! There's so much we can learn from the past!

      Plus I always find that true stories are the best kind!

  3. Seems like a book series that would be inspirational for young girls. Love the idea behind the books. Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :-)

    1. Renee, you hit upon an important reason why I write these. So much of our attention is on "reality" television where people behave really badly. I prefer to focus on the positive, to look to those who made and make a difference and learn from them.

      We are capable of so many wonderful things. We just need to believe we can make a difference. These women did.