Skip to main content

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Bestselling and award-winning author Stephanie Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels and how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies.

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today bestselling author of historical women's fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages. She lives in Maryland with her husband, cats, and history books.

Find her online at www.stephaniedray.com, Instagram @stephanie.dray, and Facebook.com/stephaniedrayauthor.

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray

In this post, Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels, how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies, and more!

****

Build Your Novel Scene by Scene

If you want to learn how to write a story, but aren’t quite ready yet to hunker down and write 10,000 words or so a week, this is the course for you. Build Your Novel Scene by Scene will offer you the impetus, the guidance, the support, and the deadline you need to finally stop talking, start writing, and, ultimately, complete that novel you always said you wanted to write.

Click to continue.
****

Name: Stephanie Dray
Literary agent: Kevan Lyon
Title: The Women of Chateau Lafayette
Publisher: Berkely
Release date: March 30, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.
Previous titles by the author: My Dear Hamilton, America’s First Daughter, Daughters of the Nile, Song of the Nile, Lily of the Nile, Ribbons of Scarlet, A Year of Ravens, and A Day of Fire

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book? 

After writing novels about Patsy Jefferson in America’s First Daughter, and Betsy Schuyler in My Dear Hamilton, I couldn’t wait to introduce readers to America’s French Founding Mother, Adrienne Lafayette, wife of America’s “favorite fighting Frenchman.”

(Writing in the Shadows: On Writing Better Historical Fiction)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

This book has been a long time in coming; more than seven years, all told. As I said, I set out to tell the story of Adrienne Lafayette, but I soon made the moving discovery that Lafayette’s birthplace had served as a sanctuary for hidden Jewish children during the Holocaust. I had to know how on earth that happened. What I learned is that the castle had been purchased and renovated by an American woman during the First World War to serve as an orphanage and medical facility for displaced and refugee children. That woman was Beatrice Chanler, an American starlet, sculptress, and socialite with a secret, who became a decorated war heroine.

It was then that I realized the real story was about how Lafayette’s legacy endured generation after generation, and how his castle served as a beacon of hope in three of history’s darkest hours.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

This is my first hardcover, and not being super familiar with the process has been a learning experience. I am probably driving my poor publisher crazy with questions.

(How to Write Historical Fiction: 7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

The biggest surprise in writing this book came during a research trip to the New-York Historical Society, during which I was looking at Beatrice Chanler’s papers and found a cache of love letters. I realized that I’d likely tripped over a 100-year-old secret love affair. Fun thing to tell the family!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I really hope readers will be inspired by the women in this novel—who lived through unprecedented times. I hope readers will see how ordinary people can make a big impact.

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to throw everything out and start again; the priority is the story, not the words. So if you find a new and better way of telling that story, embrace it, even if it means more work!

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Benjamin Myers: On Fleeting Moments Becoming Finished Novels

Award-winning author and journalist Benjamin Myers discusses the out-of-body experience of having the idea for his new novel, The Perfect Golden Circle.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: 7 WDU Courses, a Chat With Ran Walker, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce even WDU courses, a chat about flash fiction with Ran Walker, and more!

Christopher Stollar | How to Crowdfund Your Book

How to Crowdfund Your Book

Crowdfunding in publishing has received a lot of attention in recent months. Successful crowd-funder and author Chris Stollar shares his tips for realistic and practical tips to make crowdfunding work for you.

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

12 Dos and Don’ts of Revealing Critical Backstory in a Novel

How much backstory is too much backstory, and how do we know when we haven’t given enough? Here, bestselling author Jenna Kernan offers six dos and six don’ts of revealing critical backstory in a novel.

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

How and Why To Turn Your Play Into a Novel

Award-winning novelist and playwright Lynne Kaufman discusses the differences, similarities, and benefits of turning your play into a novel.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Thinking There’s Not Enough Room for Your Story

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is thinking there's not enough room for your story.

The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

The Head and the Heart: 5-Minute Memoir

In this article from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest, Lauryne Wright writes about rejection, rumination, and staying true to the creative voice inside ourselves.

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Sophie Irwin: On Connecting With Readers

Author Sophie Irwin discusses her pipe-dream-turned-reality of writing her historical fiction rom-com, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting.

Getting Started Writing a Beach Book

Getting Started Writing a Beach Book

Sun, sand, and surf are only a fraction of what a beachside setting can bring to your stories. Here, bestselling author Amy Clipston helps us get started writing a beach book.