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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Talking about Feather Schwartz Foster about Her New Book, The First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Mamie Eisenhower, An Intimate Portrait of the Women Who Shaped America

Feather Schwartz Foster spent more than 35 years in advertising and public relations.  She has also been an independent presidential historian for nearly four decades, with a personal library of more than 1,500 president and president-related volumes.

Her first book, LADIES: A Conjecture of Personalities was published in 2003, followed by Garfield’s Train, and a children’s book called T: An Auto-Biography.  She began lecturing about the “old” First Ladies at various venues in New Jersey, her native state, including historical societies, libraries, woman’s clubs and senior organizations.  She has made more than 300 personal appearances, including dozens of radio and television interviews.  Recently moved to Williamsburg, she now lectures about the “old” First Ladies at adult education venues associated with both the College of William and Mary’s Christopher Wren Society and Christopher Newport University.  The First Ladies, released in February, 2011, is her fourth book.

Tell us about the genre of your work.  Why did you choose this genre?

I write history because I love it, and it has been sadly neglected for quite some time.  Obviously I am not in it for the money.  If I wanted money, I would have been an orthodontist.  Some people write what they “feel” – I am not like that.  I prefer to write what I “know.” 

Can you tell us more about your books and where to find them?

LADIES: A Conjecture of Personalities – PublishAmerica, 2003, ISBN-13: 978-1592863617

Historical fiction.  The OLD First Ladies (Martha Washington thru Mamie Eisenhower) each write their own chapters, and everybody – including the moderns up to Mrs. Clinton – chimes in with commentary.  It’s an entertainment! As a young nation grew into its own, it was not just the presidents who led the way. The remarkable women of the White House, often neglected by history, had a heavy hand in the shaping of America. The earliest First Ladies of the United States left countless untold legacies behind after their role at the White House was over.

Decidedly different from their modern day counterparts, the nation's first presidential wives made their impact not in terms of political policy or broad social and civic service, but instead with unique, personal, and often long-lasting accomplishments.

Read the unforgettable stories of how:

Martha Washington set the tone for First Ladies and walked the fine line between royal pretention and republican accessibility.

Sarah Polk worked diligently, constantly giving the high office her utmost attention.

Julia Grant not only adapted to the ups and downs of her husband's political career, but flourished wherever she landed.

And it was Nellie Taft's ambition that ultimately led her husband to the presidency.

Garfield’s Train – PublishAmerica, 2005 - ISBN-13: 978-1413769159

Historical fiction.  The Garfield family interacts with fictional characters in Long Branch, NJ.

Garfield’s Train is a novel of the New Jersey Shore, when Long Branch was the “Gilded Strand” of the Gilded Age. The wealthiest families in the country built elaborate 30-room cottages along the seacoast, frequented the casinos and racetracks, and lived the good life. Then President James Garfield was shot by an assassin in 1881. He lingered in pain for three months, and was finally brought to Long Branch to die. The fictional Dunbar family interacts with a supporting cast of General Grant, Roscoe Conkling, James G. Blaine, Susan B. Anthony, and of course, the whole Garfield family, recreating the bygone era of Long Branch’s proudest hours.

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T: AN Auto-Biography (children’s book) – Red Engine Press, 2007, ISBN-13: 978-0978515836

            Black Beauty on wheels.  The story of an old car and its many evolutions and owners.

NEWEST!  The First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Mamie Eisenhower, An Intimate Portrait of the Women Who Shaped America – Sourcebooks – 2011 - ISBN-13: 978-1402242724

Real stuff.   Brief bios focusing on certain aspects of their lives, rather than just the same-old, same-old almanac facts.  Ladies: A Conjecture of Personalities is a book of voices. First Ladies between Martha Washington and Mamie Eisenhower tell their own stories—or, to be more exact, whatever they want—in their own words and in their own styles.

 Ladies: A Conjecture of Personalities crosses boundaries between fact, conjecture, and, most importantly, centuries. Through dialogue-boxes, the ladies talk to each other across eternity, where anything is possible. The modern First Ladies, from Mrs. Kennedy through Mrs. Clinton, participate in commentary. They talk to the reader and they talk amongst themselves. And they sympathize, empathize, and quarrel amongst themselves. They talk about their husbands, their children, the White House, and the times they lived in. And, of course, politics. It’s chatty. It’s catty. It’s fun. It’s informative. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in history.Show More
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

Real stuff.  I write either historical fiction – or totally non-fiction. 

Why and when did you begin writing?

Maybe ever.  Probably around age nine or ten. 

What is your writing schedule?

Schedule???  You must be kidding.  If I had a schedule I would have cranked out fifty books by now.  I have many virtues.  Strict discipline is not among them.

What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

Ah.  I have spent the better part of 18 months working on a book (non-fiction) about Mary Lincoln, Julia Grant and Varina Davis (the Confederate First Lady).  It is not going well.  I do not like Mary, Julia, alas, is boring, and Varina can’t quite make it on her own.  I have put it aside for now.

So I started another project about First Parents.  Not the parents OF our Presidents (that has been done before) – but about First Families AS parents.  It will be short and snappy.  I am not a psychiatrist.

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?

Learn to write well.  Don’t worry about being published.  Anybody can get published today.  It has become practically meaningless.  Writing well is something else.

Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?

Be literate.  Use good words and phrases.  Don’t be trite.  Pick good role models and examples to emulate.  And emulate, don’t copy.  Read a lot.

What do you do when you are not writing? 

I am in the retirement mode now.  We have a lovely life in Williamsburg, with lots of friends.  We drink a lot of wine.  I do a little theatre again (not acting – I am a writer!).  I teach at some adult ed venues affiliated with William & Mary and Christopher Newport University.  Life is good.

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

Note from Sylvia: You can visit my other blog at: features a preview and a book trailer for my new book that was just released...., Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Feather; you have always been a perfect example of how one is born a teacher. I have proudly been your student for many years. I am so pleased to find your "retirement" has given you more time to keep busy so your wisdom and gifts will be shared through your written work for many generations. I am so proud of everything you have done and continue to do.
Dr. Nick