What inspired you both to write about Patsy Jefferson?
Laura: Thomas Jefferson is one of the most written about presidents in our history. Historians and politicians have examined him from a lot of different angles, but we wondered what he’d look like through his daughter’s eyes. We know what he was like as a Founding Father, but what was he like as an actual father?
Steph: That was our starting point. But once we started researching Patsy, we were fascinated by a woman who was so strong and admirably resilient, but who also shared her father’s moral failings. She is every bit as interesting and frustrating to grapple with as he is--a woman who shaped our history, and everything we believe about ourselves as a nation, from the shadows, often doing unsavory things.
What was it like to write with another author?
Laura: I hadn’t done any collaborative writing before this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Initially we decided to write alternating chapters and I worried that our voices wouldn’t blend well. But when we compared our chapters, we were astonished to find that we both sounded like Patsy--and that others who read our pages couldn’t tell who had written what!
Steph: Now, I have worked on a number of collaborative projects before this book, and each one has its own dynamic. This experience though, was magic. From day one, Laura and I always had the same vision. We knew where we wanted to go with the story. And on those occasions when we disagreed, we’d both explain why we felt the way we felt, and inevitably come up with a third solution that was better than either of us could have imagined on our own. That kind of thing is very special and I know we feel lucky to have found that in one another.
What is the strangest/ most interesting thing you both found in your research?
Laura: When we were first plotting out the book, and looking at the arc of this woman’s life, we thought, “Is it really possible that she had no other loves except her father and the troublesome man that she married?” We instinctively knew that something seemed wrong about that--both because of the way people’s lives tend to be shaped and because it was unsatisfying.
We decided from the start that there would have to be at least one person in Patsy’s life who knew her intimately, who was with her from the start, who might have offered her a different kind of life. And when we started imagining this person we both agreed that it would have to be a young man from Albemarle County, possibly one of her father’s young proteges. Someone whose life could intersect hers at important junctures. We had this whole character invented…
Steph: ...and then we discovered he was real. When our research turned up William Short, and we put his life onto the timeline alongside Patsy’s, we were shocked. Here was a man who we know she did have a romantic relationship with, and who was present for all the most tumultuous times. That kind of discovery lifts the hairs on your nape.
Who are both of your favorite characters in this book?
Steph: You know, I’m going to confess that Tom Randolph is one of my favorite characters in this book. Laura and I had to walk such a fine line with him. As Thomas Jefferson’s son-in-law, he was a deeply troubled man; he had a drinking problem and anger issues. As a contemporary once said, his people were mighty strange. And yet, neither Laura and I could bring ourselves to hate Tom no matter how much he made his wife suffer, because he was a human being who seemed to be trying to improve himself and do better to the end of his days. He just failed a lot.
Laura: Patsy, of course. She’s not always easy to love, but she never fails to inspire with her determination and grit. And who doesn’t love William Short???
If you both could choose any three historical figures to bring with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette. With their combined genius and bravery, we’d be in safe hands in getting off that island, and the arguments we’d get to hear in the meantime would be extremely educational and entertaining!
About America’s First Daughter:
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.
From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.
It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.
Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.
Advanced Praise for America’s First Daughter:
“America’s First Daughter brings a turbulent era to vivid life. All the conflicts and complexities of the Early Republic are mirrored in Patsy’s story. It’s breathlessly exciting and heartbreaking by turns-a personal and political page-turner.” (Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat)
“Painstakingly researched, beautifully hewn, compulsively readable -- this enlightening literary journey takes us from Monticello to revolutionary Paris to the Jefferson White House, revealing remarkable historical details, dark family secrets, and bringing to life the colorful cast of characters who conceived of our new nation. A must read.” (Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress)
About the Authors:
Stephanie Dray is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.Laura’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-Up
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