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#HistFicThursdays - Things to Inspire - Books

There is a line in the remake of The Parent Trap  when the man (who owns a vineyard) is showing his former wife his collection of special wines: "I'm a man of limited interests". That is sort of like me with books! I have accumulated quite a few old books and it's not just because I love books. Our oldest complete book is the one above. It predates most of the settings for my books, the Jacobites, and the Great Fire of London. There is something very exciting about thinking about the different people who have read it over the years! I got it because it links in with one of our family's favourite books, The Children of Green Knowe . And then there are books which directly impact on my own writing. My sister bought me a first edition of Walter Scott's Ballads and Lyrical Pieces , a book which is gifted in my own story Day's Dying Glory . It is amazing to be able to hold the book, getting an idea of things beyond the words: the weight of the paper; the size o

Masterworks: Legacy - Samantha Wilcoxson - Interview

  Today is the last of a series on nine interviews I'm sharing on the Crowvus Book Blog. These are from the authors of the short stories included in the Masterworks anthology by the Historical Writers Forum. We're running through chronologically, some are video interviews, others are written.

I am delighted to welcome the fantastic Samantha Wilcoxson, who is sharing the artist inspiration for her short story Legacy, as well as the appeal of James A. Hamilton, and the delights of researching.

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you write (besides Masterworks!), and what inspired you to begin writing.

I was inspired to write by my love of reading. After watching me read, write reviews, and keep journals for twenty years, my husband asked me why I didn’t try writing, so I did! Without really planning on it, I ended up writing historical biographical fiction. I’m drawn to a tragic tale but also to lesser known historical figures with emotive stories to tell. Therefore, I have written about Elizabeth of York and Mary I, rather than any of Henry VIII’s wives. More recently, I’ve written about the radium girls of Ottawa, Illinois, and Nathan Hale during the American Revolution.


Introduce us to your chosen artwork

The artwork I chose for my Masterworks story is a marble statue of Alexander Hamilton that was sculpted by Robert Ball Hughes in 1835. This statue captures Alexander as most of us envision him, in the prime of his life, handsome, and ready to take on the world – or at least Thomas Jefferson. This statue was destroyed in New York’s Great Fire of 1835 less than a year after its installation and after James, Alexander’s son, failed in his efforts to save it.


Legacy puts the reader directly into the mind of James Alexander Hamilton. How difficult was it to research to such an extent that you were able to tell the story of a real person in this way? Did you discover any research gems?

James A Hamilton’s story is filled with research gems! One of my favorites is a letter he wrote to General Winfield Scott at the beginning of the Civil War offering his military service. ‘Permit me to ask if a hale man, of seventy-three years of age, can be useful in any way, that you will command my services? To cut off the remnant of an inglorious life by a glorious death in the service of our country to which my ancestors of two generations devoted their best services, ought not be considered as an event to be avoided.’ James was born in 1788, and in the late 1860s he wrote his Reminiscences. It’s not exactly a memoir, but a collection of letters, essays, and thoughts regarding the historic era he had lived through. Reading this and many of his personal letters helped me imagine what must have been going through his mind as some of these events happened. 


This story explores how one man felt in relation to his father. What would you say were the greatest similarities and differences were between the two generations of Hamiltons?

James clearly shared his father’s intellect and passion for law and finance. His Reminiscences include pages of economic and banking advice sent to presidents and other government officials. He was a quieter man than his father, only serving as temporary Secretary of State and never grasping at a permanent cabinet position. James also was much more diplomatic. Alexander Hamilton famously said too much with excessive candor. James made friends among people with diverse political beliefs and explored Europe making favorable connections everywhere he went. Though not an official ambassador, he frequently spoke on behalf of the United States and was known for his integrity.


As someone who writes about historical figures, how important do you think it is to have something in common with the people you write about?

I don’t always have a lot in common with the people I write about, but I do need to be compelled by their story and feel like it’s something readers should know more about. I also tend to select historical figures who share my Christian faith.


Your story is written as a memoir. What are the biggest pros and cons for writing this genre?

While I chose this writing style specifically to deeply connect with one historical figure, it does limit me to a single point of view.


Have you got a favourite line from Legacy of which you felt particularly proud?

Most of my favorite lines, such as, ‘Can freedom loving Americans stand before the world as a great republic that holds people in fetters while tyrants free their slaves?’ are taken from James’s own writing, so I can’t really take credit for them. I did like to ponder what it must have been like to grow up in the shadow of such a great, though controversial, man by having James ponder, ‘The lesson to admit when I am wrong and fight for what is right is one that I learned on my own. Was it because my father was never wrong, or did he simply not live long enough to see himself proven so?’


What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

I hope they will form an attachment for dear James, of course, but I also hope the focus on the era between the American Revolution and Civil War causes readers to contemplate how much more complicated of a task it was to form a new nation and compromise on laws and issues that seem non-negotiable to us. As James thinks to himself in my story, ‘It had seemed reasonable to them to leave some problems for their sons to solve. And so here I am.’ Instead of accusing historical figures of failing, perhaps we should be more willing to do our own part in the present.


If time travel were possible (perhaps it’s only a matter of time!) would you choose to go back to 1862 or another year? Why?

As much as I enjoy history, time travel is entirely unfathomable to me! Just considering it brings to mind the many ways I would have met my demise before now if I were living in another era. But if I could spend an evening listening to James talk about his long and interesting life? Yes, absolutely I would.


What’s next for your writing? Any projects in the pipeline?

I am currently writing a biography of James A Hamilton for Pen & Sword, which is scheduled for publication in January 2025. Through his story, I am able to explore the early history of our nation and loads of interesting people and events. Besides relationships with men like Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Martin Van Buren, James participated in the first America’s Cup, New York’s Crystal Palace, and has left us priceless observations on early republic politics.

You can find Legacy in the Masterworks anthology, which is available on #KindleUnlimited HERE!

Now, let's meet the author!

Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of historical fiction and nonfiction, an administrator for the Historical Writers Forum, and history blogger.

She lives in Michigan with her husband of twenty-eight years and is the mom of three amazing young adults. Samantha loves exploring the emotional side of history and visiting historic places to feel closer to the past.


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