The Secrets of J.P. Morgan’s Private Library

By Nancy Bilyeau

On March 27, 1902, leading architect Charles McKim had an appointment to see John Pierpont Morgan in Manhattan. Any time J.P. Morgan beckoned, people came running. He was the most powerful banker in America, the financier of railroads and the U.S. Steel purchase. That day McKim was astounded—and excited—to learn that Morgan wanted him to design a new building but not an office or bank. It was to be a private library to hold the banker’s overflowing collection of rare books, ancient treasures, sculptures, and paintings.

The library was planned for next door to Morgan’s house on Madison Avenue and 36th Street, McKim learned. As for its design, this was to be no simple collection of rooms to house books and other valuables. In his voracious collecting of valuables, Morgan seems to have seen himself as a Medici prince. So his library reflected that: McKim was hired to design an Italian Renaissance wonder built with Italianate marble, its rotunda boasting ceiling frescoes painted by Harry Siddons Mowbray that were fit for a cathedral.

1. Pierpont Morgan's StudyMorgan had so much to house there. He collected Old Masters paintings and sculptures, tapestries, Regency furniture, bronzes, jewelry, armor, metalwork, illuminated manuscripts, Gutenberg bibles, ancient Babylonian cylinder seals, and medieval metalwork with gold.

And then there were the books. He bought Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, with the author’s revision notes in the margin. Morgan owned the sole surviving manuscript of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Henry David Thoreau’s journals, Thomas Jefferson’s letters to his daughter Martha, and rare letters to Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

One of his most cherished acquisitions was the Lindau Gospels. Its importance was suggested by the designation it held: M1.  The gospels were written by monks in the 9th century and the jeweled covers were considered the finest treasures of the Carolingian age. The way Morgan acquired it was significant. His scholarly nephew, Junius Spencer Morgan, sent a telegram in code to him in July 1899 saying that the Lindau Gospels, in the possession of the Earl of Ashburnham, could be purchased, and the British Museum could not meet the asking price. “Morgan could: he paid 10,000—nearly $50,000—for something that would be valued at millions if it came on the market a century later,” wrote Jean Strouse in Morgan: American Financier.

6-Pierpont-Morgans-LibraryJunius Spencer was also the person who told the banker about a prospective librarian: a young brilliant woman named Belle da Costa Greene, who was then working at the Princeton University library. Once she came to work for Morgan at his library in 1906, she took charge and not only cataloged his acquisitions but helped him pursue new purchases.

Morgan loved his private library so much that he spent most of his time there instead of the bank office at 23 Wall Street. He worked out of his study, also known as the West Room. As Herbert Satterlee, Morgan’s son-in-law and first biographer, later recalled, “No one could really know Mr. Morgan at all unless he had seen him in the West Room. This was because the room expressed his conception of beauty and color in varied and wonderful forms.” The study had an antique wooden ceiling, stained glass windows, and red damask silk covering the walls.

Much of Morgan’s collection of books was stored in the main library room. The walls, reaching to a height of thirty feet, were lined floor to ceiling with triple tiers of bookcases fashioned of bronze and inlaid Circassian walnut. Above were ceiling frescoes, many of them showing astrological figures. Morgan was a member of the mysterious Zodiac Club in New York, which never had more or less than twelve members. Morgan is believed to have met with astrologers as well as psychics.

Another remarkable feature of the main room was two secret winding staircases that allowed people to move between the levels of bookshelves and balconies. Two staircases, concealed behind bookcases at the corners of the room, could only be revealed by pulling a certain lever.

And this was but one of the secrets contained in J.P. Morgan’s sumptuous, magical private library…

Article written by Author and Editor Nancy Bilyeau

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Nancy BNancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers “The Blue” and “Dreamland” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In “The Blue,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to “Town & Country” and “Mystery Scene Magazine.”

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

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The Ghost of Madison Avenue 4 F3From the author of The Blue and the Joanna Stafford trilogy—a compelling mystery set in the faded glory of New York’s Gilded Age.

In this unforgettable story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to J. P. Morgan’s private library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

Helen soon discovers the Morgan Library is a place like no other, with its secret staircases, magical manuscripts, and mysterious murals. But that’s nothing compared to a person Helen alone sees: a young woman standing on Madison Avenue, looking as if she were keeping watch. In learning the woman’s true link to the Morgan, Helen must face the pain of her own past. She finds herself with a second chance at happiness—if she has the courage.

From the author of The Blue, the Joanna Stafford trilogy, and the soon-to-be published Dreamland, set in 1911 Coney Island, comes The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a story both thrilling and moving.

Praise for Nancy Bilyeau’s Fiction

“Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books”
—Alison Weir, bestselling historian and novelist

On The Ghost of Madison Avenue:

“The Gilded Age splendors of the Morgan Library come to life in this wonderful, warm-hearted tale of Christmases past, present, and future. Bilyeau weaves a wealth of gorgeous period detail into her ghost story of old New York, delivering genuine chills, family drama, and poignant romance with equal skill. A gorgeous holiday treat!”
—Mariah Fredericks, author of Death of a New American

On Dreamland:

“This fast-paced, engrossing novel from Bilyeau … gives readers an up-close and personal view of New York’s Gilded Age”
Library Journal, starred review

“Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Dreamland is a rollicking ride.”
—Fiona Davis, author of The Chelsea Girls

“A marvelous book!”
—Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of What She Left Behind

On The Blue:

“Definitely a winner!”
—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

“Fascinating”
—Ian Rankin, international bestseller

On the Joanna Stafford Trilogy:

“All the ingredients of the best historical fiction … will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans.”
—Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches

“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy and betrayal.”
Oprah Magazine

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Q&A With Janet R. Stafford

I’d like to welcome Author Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her stories. Janet, thank you for talking with me today. Please tell me about your, “Maggie Series”.

Saint Maggie

Thanks for interviewing me, Stephanie! I’m delighted to be working with you and LAP It Marketing.

The Saint Maggie Series happened accidentally. When I wrote Saint Maggie, the first novel, I saw it as a single entity. But after visiting a few book clubs, I kept hearing the question, “What happens next?” People liked the characters and wanted more. So, I started to think about a follow up book… and the next thing I knew I was writing a series.

Essentially, the Saint Maggie Series takes an unconventional New Jersey family through the turbulent years of the American Civil War. Maggie’s family is unconventional in a few ways. Her boarding house is made up of men who can barely pay the rent but with whom she has developed familial relationships: a failed author, an old Irish immigrant (called Grandpa), a struggling young lawyer, and an undertaker’s apprentice. Maggie’s daughters are trending toward lifestyles outside a woman’s sphere: her youngest daughter, outspoken Frankie, has a growing interested in theology and ministry; and her older daughter, Lydia, is the family nurse – but, as the town doctor discovers, also has a gift for medicine. Maggie’s friendship with and eventual marriage to Eli Smith also causes consternation in the town. Eli publishes a penny weekly newspaper called the Gazette and is an abolitionist and a freethinker. Everybody readily knows his opinions. Finally, there is Maggie’s friendship with Emily and Nate Johnson. Nate owns a carpentry shop, while Emily works primarily as the cook at the boarding house. All that would be fine were it not for the fact that Nate and Emily are black, and Maggie is white, and Emily is not simply an employee, but has become Maggie’s closest friend. And then there are rumors about Maggie, Eli, and the Johnsons’ involvement in the Underground Railroad.

The series follows Maggie and the boarding house family through life during the American Civil War. They are subject to the war and its violence, the attendant anger and hatred, daily uncertainty, emerging societal changes, and more. The first book, set in the year before the war, focuses on a town scandal and forgiveness is a major theme. The second takes the family to Gettysburg. As Confederate troops invade the town, Maggie and family must answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” In the third book, the family remains in the Gettysburg area as they struggle to recover, forgive, and hold on to their values of mercy and compassion. And in the fourth novel, they return home to Blaineton to find that their town is changing: there is a woolen mill and uniform factory owned by a wealthy industrialist to its south, and to the north a hospital for the insane run by a compassionate superintendent. How “the least of these” are perceived and treated in the two settings are part of the story, as is Eli’s struggle with the trauma he suffered while serving as a news correspondent in Virginia.

Please tell me about your short stories?

The Christmas Eve Visitor

Both “The Christmas Eve Visitor” and “The Dundee Cake” are Christmas stories. Set in 1863, “The Christmas Eve Visitor” starts with the family exhausted from their experience in Gettysburg, struggling with economics, and burdened with a mysterious fever that has stricken the young children in the family. Things are about as dark as an early winter night until a mysterious little peddler shows up at their door. Maggie invites him in from the cold and feeds him a bowl of soup. In gratitude, the stranger proceeds to give members of the family an array of odd gifts.

 

“The Dundee Cake,” set in December of 1852, finds a grieving widow Maggie struggling to pay bills and facing a bleak Christmas. The story recounts how Maggie and Emily become friends, and how Maggie moves beyond her sorrow and into joy.

“The Enlistment” is a novella that puts Frankie Blaine center stage. It is August of 1862 and Frankie’s beau Patrick (the undertaker’s assistant) has enlisted in the army. Frankie is afraid for Patrick (and her own heart) should he be injured or killed in battle, and wonders why only men can do the fighting. She wants to participate, not sit at home and sedately roll bandages. So, Frankie concocts a scheme to disguise herself as a boy and enlist in Patrick’s regiment. (Historical note: quite a few women actually “passed” as men and served as soldiers in both armies during the Civil War.) However, Frankie discovers she doesn’t have a Plan B when things don’t go as she expects. What to do next?

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m working on the fifth book in the series. It is set in 1864 and tentatively titled “The Good Community.” The title comes from a class I took at the Theological School at Drew University (Madison, NJ). The Professor was the late Dr. David Graybeal and together we explored what it meant for a community to be “good,” and looked at different models of living communally. It came to me recently that the Saint Maggie Series is very much my own search for the good community and I wanted to honor Dr. Graybeal somehow. Even if the title of the novel changes, the spirit of his class is very much in the series – not to mention in the name of the house Maggie and family now live in (although spelled a bit differently): Greybeal House. The plot is still in the works.

Tell me a little about Maggie Blaine in your story, “Saint Maggie.”

Oh, my gosh, Maggie Blaine! I love the woman. I think she is what I aspire to be in my own time. Maggie is a nineteenth-century Methodist, and like many evangelical women of the 1800s she keeps a journal. She is serious about practicing what she believes and earnest, yet not so earnest that she has no sense of humor and does not enjoy life. In the first book, she experiences an overwhelming sense that she is an “outsider” not only to her community but also to her brother, from whom she is all but estranged. But one day at camp meeting (which is a religious camping experience lasting one or two weeks), Maggie has an epiphany. I’ll let her explain it: “I knew in my heart – and not merely in my head – that I was free and that the only one to whom I was accountable was God. I resolved then and there to live a life of love without regret and never mind what anyone said.” It is not an easy path to take; but Maggie is determined to follow it. She is balanced by husband Eli, is a lapsed Quaker who is full of doubts and questions, but who shares common values with Maggie: respect for all people, mercy, compassion, and a hunger for justice and truth. Thus, while I would like to be more like Maggie, I find that I often have more in common with Eli.

Why did you choose the 1860 period for your story and please share a little about the research that went in to that exploration.

The germ for the first novel came from a research paper I wrote while pursuing a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture (Drew University, again). My essay involved a young Methodist minister by the name of Jacob Harden who was appointed to a church in Warren County, New Jersey in 1856. He reportedly was handsome, charismatic, and a fine preacher. He also liked the ladies. However, when one of the local families invited him to spend New Year’s Eve at their house, they all vanished upstairs and went to bed, leaving him alone with their eligible daughter, Louisa. For a man and a woman to be left unchaperoned was a huge no-no, especially if that man was a clergyman. Long story short, Harden ended up in an unhappy shotgun marriage. Sadly, the Rev. Harden responded in a manner that was more than a bit inappropriate. In fact, it was so inappropriate that he was arrested, put on trial, and hanged in 1860.

As I worked on the first novel and learned more about the period of 1860-1861, I began to see connections between the Civil War era and our own point in time. There was a great deal of divisiveness in the antebellum years. It carried over everywhere, even into the churches. For instance, the issue of slavery divided the Methodist Church in 1844, and the Baptist Church split over it in 1845. Abolition and slavery were the “hot button” topics of the day. While many Northerners pointed their finger at the institution of slavery in the South, they turned a blind eye to the fact that until the early 1800s slavery was also legal in the North. Black people living in the North were not treated as equals, either. Many areas of New Jersey, including Hunterdon and Warren Counties, were “copperhead” strongholds – that is the majority were anti-war and anti-abolition. When the nation was physically divided in 1861, in addition to being emotionally and intellectually divided, the fighting began.

The divisiveness of the era, the “hot button” topics, the disjuncture between what was believed or said and what was done, and the difficulty in navigating such an environment resonates with my experience of living in late- 20th and early-21st century America. In addition, I am intrigued by the other challenges of the 1800s: women’s rights, race relations, industrialization, urbanization, technological revolutions, advances in medicine, and traces of the emerging the Gilded Age. It’s fascinating. While the 1800s does not line up exactly with our currently situation, its echoes are eerily similar. Perhaps that is because as a nation we have not come to terms with the 1800s generally and with the Civil War particularly. Or maybe it’s just my way of trying to process life now by exploring life in another century.

Will there be more stories in this series?

There probably will be a few more. I’ve been thinking of ending the Saint Maggie series after 1865. Some readers have indicated that they would like me to “spin off” a couple of the other characters, particularly Frankie and Lydia. In fact, I wrote “The Enlistment” to see if Frankie could carry a complete story, which she can. I feel the same way about Lydia. They are both strong characters. In addition, Frankie’s desire to serve as a pastor and Lydia’s growing competence as a physician presage the movement of women into these fields in the later 19th and 20th centuries.

I love the title for your book “Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll: A Mid-Life Love Story. I’m sure you had lots of fun writing it. What are some of your readers saying about this story and is there a message you would like your readers to grasp?

Heart Soul & Rock 'N' Roll A Mid-Life Love StoryThat was a fun book to write. I mean, the band in the story is seriously goofy most of the time. But the book also takes a serious turn about half way in.

I started Heart Soul to give myself a break from the nineteenth century. My central character, Lins Mitchell, is an assistant minister in a central New Jersey church. As a college student she fronted a rock band, but gave it up when she was called into ministry. Now, at the age of 40, she is having a mid-life crisis and wonders if she’s not being called to something new. I drew her environment directly from my experience as an assistant minister in the United Methodist Church. And, yes, I really do serve a church in central New Jersey, but no, I am way beyond the age of 40 and never have fronted a rock band in my life – although I did go through a singer/song writer phase in my 20s, and I do love rock, the harder the better! In the story Lins’ good friend Patti invites her to Point Pleasant Beach for a vacation to clear her mind. At the Shore, Lins meets Neil, front man for a bar band called the Grim Reapers. Neil is a divorced dad who lives in a studio apartment over the music store that he manages. He comes with a load of baggage, the least of which is his agnosticism and antagonism toward the church.

I’ve had some interesting comments from readers and prospective readers. Strangely enough, I’ve had two men tell me that they loved it, which to me is kind of strange since the book is a romance and men are supposed to run screaming away from romance novels. Both the guys said it made them cry. Without giving too much of the plot away, Neil has a troubled sister and feels pulled between his sister’s issues and his ability to have a sustainable relationship. Maybe the fact Lins is the strong one and Neil is the vulnerable one touched a chord with my male readers. I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask, “Okay, precisely what did you like so much? What made you cry?” I didn’t, though. My loss!

In addition, I had one prospective reader buy the book because she was in seminary and her husband was in a rock band, and another bought it because although she attended a church, her husband was an agnostic. They saw my art as imitating their lives!

As for a message, Christians are perceived negatively these days. However, the circles in which I travel are far from the bigoted, tribal, intolerant stereotypes out there. The church people in the book are like the people I know. They care, they listen, they try to help. But they don’t walk around with halos over their heads, much less pretend even to have halos! So, it’s no surprise I made Lins like that, too. She looks for the good in people, she listens, she cares. She finds another community in the band, but it pulls her out of her comfort zone. And maybe that’s a message in the book – we are invited to leave our comfort zones. When we do, we encounter challenges, but also encounter God and one another in a deeper way than imagined.

What is your writing process and where in your home do you write?

My writing process… do I have one? Just kidding. To start with, for the Saint Maggie series, I get a general idea for a story, which may or may not survive the writing process. I then will research an idea or issue. I wish I had the money and the time to install myself in an archival collection and research for a week, but that’s not possible. Instead, the internet has become my friend, as is any online place where I can purchase books for research.

Next, I write scenes in which my characters interact with one another. Sometimes they set the tone and help me find the storyline. After that I will write a broad outline, which can (and usually does) get jettisoned at any point during the writing!

Bit by bit the story grows until I have it where it should be. Although, when I was working on Seeing the Elephant, toward the end I had trouble figuring out just where the core of the story was. So, I closed my eyes and asked myself about it. In my imagination, up pops Eli, who grabs my shoulders and yells, “It’s my story, dammit!” The guy apparently had been hijacking the novel all along. But in all seriousness, it made complete sense. It was primarily Eli’s story.

There’s always LOTS if editing involved, but once I get to the point that I feel I’m shuffling words around, I know it’s time to let others read the book. I give or send drafts to three or four beta readers. They then invariably and lovingly let me know when a character is not acting as they should be acting, when something should be cut, when peaches are or are not in season in Gettysburg, etc. It’s a messy process, but it works for me.

I write in the family room. Usually, I have the TV or a movie on. If I really need to work out something difficult, I’ll write in silence. Sometimes, as in the case of Heart Soul, I might create a play list and listen to that as I write.

How has your journey been in the self-publishing industry and what advice could you give to others who are considering self-publishing?

I went from knowing nothing about self-publishing in 2011 to learning to use publishing platforms, running a small company, writing blurbs, designing covers, publicizing my work, and much more. I’m not great at everything, not by a long shot. Marketing and publicity have always been difficult because I’m not good at tooting my own horn. Also, I already have a career in the church, in addition to the writing – or is that the other way around? Using social media to market my work can be a whole other career! I discovered social media could cause me to lose hours of precious writing time. Since it is still impossible to clone oneself, I was relieved when you, Stephanie, created LAP It Marketing. It answered my need to get the word out. Next, I’d like to hire a good copy editor and proofer to go over my work after the beta readers are through. I need one more set of eyes to get things right.

So, the biggest thing I’ve learned in doing self-publishing is to identify the areas where I need help and to try to find that help. Amazing, isn’t it? It only took me six years to learn that!

To someone who is considering self-publishing, I’d say don’t expect to become a best seller. I’m not being Debbie Downer, but very few people get there. You’re writing because you have a story to tell. So, tell it. Then, if you cannot afford to hire an editor, find people to be beta readers who will tell you the truth. Learn to use social media until you can afford to get someone to help you with marketing. In old-time traditional publishing, the author had all sorts of help: editors, printers, developers, designers, you name it. But self-publishing puts all that on you. Learn where your strengths are and get help with the rest.

Now a little general advice. First, learn to write. That sounds obvious, but the drive to tell a story is one thing and the writing of it is another. Reading helps immensely. Although I have written all my life, I also was a voracious reader, especially when I was young. Reading teaches you how to write. Writing also teaches you how to write, as does having other people read and comment on what you have written. Second, collect stories. They’re everywhere. That’s why I love history. Once you get past the events and dates, it’s about people’s lives. Third, be observant. Become a people watcher. That will help you develop characters. Quirks and qualities are beautiful things. They are what set your characters apart from one another.

Where can readers buy your books?

I haven’t cracked the brick and mortar bookstores that I know of, so everything right now is online. You can find my novels at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format. My publishing/printing platforms (Lulu and Amazon) also distribute my books to other places, like Barnes and Noble online.

Finally, you can go to Squeaking Pigs , my micro-publishing company. Copies of all my novels are there as well as links to Amazon paperback, Kindle, and Lulu.

Thank you again, Stephanie, for all the great questions and the opportunity to introduce myself! I’m looking forward to working with you throughout 2018!

A pleasure, Janet and I look forward to working with you! Thank you!

About Author:

Janet R Stafford

Janet Stafford is a Jersey girl, book lover and lifelong scribbler. She readily confesses to being overly-educated, having received a B.A. in Asian Studies from Seton Hall University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. Having answered a call to vocational, but non-ordained ministry, Janet has served six United Methodist Churches, working in spiritual formation, communications, and ministries with children, youth, and families. She also was an adjunct professor for six years, teaching college classes in interdisciplinary studies and world history.

Writing, history, and religion came together for Janet when she authored Saint Maggie, an historical novel set in 1860-61 and based on a research paper written during her Ph.D. studies. She thought the book would be a single novel, but kept hearing readers ask, “What happens next?” In response, Janet created a series that follows the unconventional family from the first book through three other novels and three short stories, all set in the traumatic years of the American Civil War. Janet also ventured into the contemporary romance genre, going closer to home (the church) for her source material. Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll tells the story of 40-year-old Lindsay Mitchell, who led a rock band in college but for the past fifteen years has worked as an assistant minister. Besieged by mid-life crisis, Lins wonders if perhaps she isn’t called to something new. But could that “something new” be a relationship with Neil, a man with a messy life and a bar band called the Grim Reapers? 

Links:

Website

Amazon Profile Page  

Facebook

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

 

 

 

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Ginger Scott

GingerHeadshot-March-2013_crop

Ginger Scott is a writer and journalist from Peoria, Arizona. Her debut novel, “Waiting on the Sidelines,” is a coming-of-age love story that explores the real heartbreak we all feel as we become adults throughout our high school years. The story follows two characters, Nolan (a Tomboy with a boy’s name) and Reed (the quarterback she wishes would notice her) as they struggle with peer-pressure, underage drinking, bullying and finding a balance between what your heart wants and what society says you should want — even if you aren’t ready. The sequel, “Going Long,” follows these characters through their college years. You can buy both now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and more. Her newest novel, “Blindness,”is a new-adult romance that follows two broken souls who are barely living and dealing with tragedies of their own, until they meet and their hearts come alive. “Blindness” is also available on all platforms.

Scott has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns.

 When she’s not writing, the odds are high that she’s somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her 10-year-old field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork ’em, Devils).

Stephanie: Hello, Ginger! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Waiting on the Sidelines”. Please tell me about your book.

 Ginger: Thank you for hosting me! It’s an honor.

“Waiting on the Sidelines” is told through the eyes of an average teenage girl with a boy’s name. My protagonist, Nolan, is a tomboy who’s comfortable in her own skin until she enters high school. On her first day, she meets the boy—quarterback Reed Johnson—the one everyone, including herself, wants. But then she overhears him talking with some other girls, making fun of her, and suddenly she’s thrust into this awful adolescent rite of passage—where you no longer want to be yourself, but you’re mad at yourself for giving in. The book follows Nolan through her four years of high school, and readers get to feel everything right along with her—her first love, first kiss, her first heartbreak, the cruel things girls do to one another and her triumphs. Through it all, Nolan continues to listen to her heart, and a real, though not always easy, love begins to grow between her and Reed. The question in the end: Is true love enough?

Ginger Scott's book cover

Stephanie: What age group is your story written for and is there a message in your story you hope readers will grasp?

Ginger: I have heard from readers of all ages, and I think it’s a story that any woman, no matter her age, can identify with. I have heard from several mothers and daughters who have read it together, and hearing that is the greatest compliment. There are a lot of lessons to take away, but at it’s core, “Waiting” really highlights how girls treat one another, and I hope it tips the scales a little, encouraging us to support rather than tear down. It’s also one heck of an angst, swoon-worthy romance, so anyone who has ever sighed at a John Hughes movie should be pleased.

Stephanie: Being a teenager is tough. What are Nolan Lennox weaknesses and strengths and how does this affect her life?

Ginger: Being a teenager is tough. It’s a wonder we all survive! I think Nolan’s strength probably starts with her connection to her family. She has parents that are present in the book, and she talks to them—not always, but when it counts. She also has a backbone and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself. But as much as she puts on a strong face, underneath she still has doubts, and she battles anxiety and low self-esteem. I really wanted to make Nolan feel real and honest, so I focused on her flaws and her anxiety, because I think even the most popular girl in school gets her feelings hurt sometimes, and girls that read this need to see themselves and know it’s okay.

Stephanie: What is one of the examples in this story that explores, “young love to the fullest”?

Ginger: Your first love is a powerful one, and those feelings are so raw and new and uncharted. Because this story follows the main characters through four years, readers get a unique perspective on a real high school romance. It’s not an instant-love story, but one that starts with friendship and makes a stop at every emotion along the way—jealousy, rivalry, lust and adoration. There’s a scene where the main characters, Reed and Nolan, are a little bit older, but they still don’t know how to just say what they feel. So instead, Reed tries to evoke a reaction from Nolan, making her jealous by being affectionate with another girl in front of her. Of course Nolan reacts, and they yell and fight and say hurtful things to each other—but they also chip through that armor we all wear in high school, and this scene is the first time we see them start to be honest. It was one of my favorite to write.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and is this your first published work?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” was my debut, and it is the story I always wanted to write. I still remember the first time I read Judy Blume’s “Forever.” I had never read a book that felt exactly like me before—anxiety, shame, fear, desire. That book is probably the reason I wanted to be an author, but I took a detour through journalism to get here. After years of reporting real stories, I finally felt brave enough to get the one out of my head onto paper (e-book paper in some cases). I was inspired by my reaction to “Forever” many years ago, and I also was inspired by the young girls in my life, goddaughters, who have faced adversity in high school through bullying and broken hearts. I wanted to write a fairy tale that was also a tribute to their strength, and I think this is it.

Stephanie: What are the challenges to writing in this genre and with this particular content?

Ginger: I love romance, and I love coming-of-age stories, so I think for me, the biggest challenge was to add something I was truly proud of to a larger body of work I admire so very much. Personally, though, the biggest challenge was writing real. What I mean by that is that I didn’t want to tell a story that felt like it couldn’t really happen. I wanted readers to picture every feeling and detail, smell the same air and want to have the same friends. And I also wanted my characters to sound like real teenagers, which meant that sometimes Reed—my prince charming—was a real jerk. Sometimes the cute boy isn’t nice, because he’s still learning how to be a man, and it was a challenge to make Reed say and do some things that I made him do. But I’m glad I did, because he’s very real to me.
Stephanie: When did you first began to write?

Ginger: I know this isn’t a unique answer, but I really have been writing since I was a kid. I picked journalism as my course of study when I was maybe 10 or 11. I wanted to see my byline in a magazine and a newspaper, so I wrote fiction, poems and reported on real people every chance I got until someone started to pay me for it. I went to ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism, and I was a reporter for the Arizona Republic and several magazines and newspapers in Arizona. I think every story I ever wrote on a real person has helped me to better tell the make believe ones aching to get out of my head.

Stephanie: How has writing affect your life and what advice would you give to someone who is inspired to write their first story?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is my first of now three titles—one a follow up to “Waiting” called “Going Long” and the other a stand-alone romance called “Blindness.” I was always afraid to put myself out there—afraid no one would notice or care, and terrified of rejection. But finally doing it is one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I regret letting fear hold me back for so long. My advice is to not be afraid—write without abandon. Just write. Your heart will thank you later.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Ginger: I was looking for other independent reads to add to my reading list, and someone had posted a Medallion book on Twitter. I followed the links back to the indieBRAG site and was impressed with the list of titles. Then I saw a call for books for consideration, and I decided to send in “Waiting on the Sidelines” and try (again, a huge step for me as I fear rejection—seriously, it terrifies me). When I heard from indieBRAG that “Waiting” was a medallion honoree, I was thrilled. The honor is tremendous, and I’m so touched.

Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Ginger: Just, thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. I do not take the time you give to me, and my words, lightly, and I will always work my tail of to write heartfelt stories that make you feel something. And I hope you continue to like how my stories make you feel. Because writing for you is the greatest joy of my life…well, second greatest. Being the baseball mom is always number one.

Stephanie: Here can readers buy your book?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is available for Kindle and print on Amazon. It is also available as an e-book on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Sony and more.

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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Ginger Scott, who is the author of “Waiting on the Sidelines”, one of our medallion at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, “Waiting on the Sidelines” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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