08 August 2010

Guest Author: Frances Hunter

This week on Unusual Historicals we're featuring Frances Hunter and the release of THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE, a historical thriller set in the danger and squalor of the eighteenth-century American frontier. This gritty tale of intrigue, betrayal, and the birth of a legendary American friendship is the prequel to the highly-acclaimed TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: THE LAST JOURNEY OF LEWIS & CLARK. Historical Novels Review praised the new release as "a well-researched, fast-paced, and incredibly lively novel of frontier war and intrigue...urgently, whole-heartedly recommended."


La Louisiane--a land of riches beyond imagining. Whoever controls the vast domain along the Mississippi River will decide the fate of the North American continent. When young French diplomat Citizen Genet arrives in America, he's determined to wrest Louisiana away from Spain and win it back for France--even if it means global war.

Caught up this astonishing scheme are George Rogers Clark, the washed-up hero of the Revolution and unlikely commander of Genet's renegade force; his beautiful sister Fanny, who risks her own sanity to save her brother's soul; General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, who never imagined he'd find the country's deadliest enemy inside his own army; and two young soldiers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who dream of claiming the Western territory in the name of the United States--only to become the pawns of those who seek to destroy it.

From the frontier forts of Ohio to the elegant halls of Philadelphia, the virgin forests of Kentucky to the mansions of Natchez, Frances Hunter has written a page-turning tale of ambition, intrigue, and the birth of a legendary American friendship--in a time when America was fighting to survive.

"Hunter brings to life a scrappy young nation populated by full-blooded individuals chomping at the bit to explore, settle, defend, and expand the borders of their homeland. Invigorating." ~ Reading the Past (Booklist's Sarah Johnson)

"A wonderfully exciting adventure...Keeps you on the edge of your seat." ~ Book Pleasures

"I confess that I developed a little crush on Lewis. I got misty-eyed, I chuckled, and I even held my breath. Oh my gosh, that ending!" ~ Musings of a Bookish Kitty Reviews

"The characterizations of the historical figures are so vivid, so richly layered, that they literally leap off the pages. It's been a long time since I've been quite this dazzled by historical fiction. Highly, highly recommended." ~ Under a Blood Red Sky

"A fine work of historical fiction that makes for a highly exciting read." ~ Midwest Book Review


So tell us a little bit about your heroes. Who were Lewis & Clark, really?

These days, most people know Lewis & Clark as the two dudes who accompanied Sacagawea to the Pacific Ocean. Those with a little more knowledge know that the two men were Army officers who mounted and led one of the great adventures of the age of discovery, the first exploration of the western United States. But they were a lot more than just cardboard heroes from fourth-grade history. In real life, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were flesh and blood young men with a lot of problems.

As you might expect from two guys who trekked 8,000 miles into a completely unknown wilderness, they were both hunks, physically. But in personality, they were total opposites. Lewis [below] was the moody, intense, quick-witted, and volatile one, a loner who had a hard time connecting to other people. Clark [right], on the other hand, was a natural leader and a take-charge guy--outgoing, focused, and optimistic. There's a wonderful physical contrast between Lewis and Clark also. Lewis was tall and dark, bow-legged, a snappy dresser, and had grey eyes and long eyelashes to die for. Clark was a rugged, muscular red-head with a knee-buckling steady blue-eyed gaze.

More than just about any historical figure I can think of, Meriwether Lewis was a study in contradictions. He swung wildly between great activity and enthusiasm and self-abnegation, despair, and a painful belief that he hadn't earned any of his acclaim or fame. As for Clark, he has been called "the steel in Lewis's spine." But he also had his faults. Namely, Clark was an enabler, susceptible to tactics like rage, pleading, and emotional blackmail. This tendency haunted Clark's relationships all his life.

Behind the history and the adventure, these two young men discovered that they complemented each other's strengths and made up for each other's weaknesses. Quite simply, they found out they were stronger and smarter together.

THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE is billed as a gritty historical thriller. But you make it sound like a love story--between two men! Do you think Lewis & Clark loved each other?

Well, yes, though not necessarily in a sexual way. Historically, Lewis & Clark offer us a view into a lost world of male friendship. Two hundred years ago, men formed extremely deep bonds which have been denied to several generations worried about being labeled as gay. In Clark, Lewis found a friend tolerant enough to accept his flaws and overlook his mistakes, and who (to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg), "can see you, what you wanted to be among the bastards out there." In THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE, Clark seems to see (where no one else does) what Lewis could be.

For his part, it's clear that Clark thinks Lewis is hilarious, brave, ambitious, and smart. Over time, Lewis becomes his alter ego who grounds him, helps him think, and fights by his side when hope is all but lost.

The details are everything when it comes to believable fiction. When did you know that you'd gotten it right?

There's a scene in our first book, TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, in which Clark has to go into a low roadside groggery to look for Lewis. We wrote:
The thugs hanging around the door looked at him with interest, at least those who weren't too corned out of their skulls to open their eyes. Clark felt his pulse quicken. He adjusted his stance and his facial expression to send them a message: he was strong, he was mean, and he wouldn't hesitate to kill.
A male reader asked me, "How did you know men did that--try to make ourselves bigger when we're afraid?" We didn't know--we just tried to imagine what it was like to be William Clark at that moment. It was a great feeling to know that we'd succeeded in putting ourselves in his skull to that degree.

What kind of readers would your book appeal to? Can you offer any recommendations for books similar to THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE that your readers would enjoy?

There's a great deal of exciting adventure in our book, as well as political and military intrigue. There was a real-life international conspiracy that almost tore America apart in the early years of the Republic, and Lewis & Clark were right in the middle of it. We've been blessed in that we've gotten good feedback about our books from both men and women. Our books seem to appeal a lot to readers of Patrick O'Brian's seagoing series, with its themes of military life and male friendship, and also lovers of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series.

As for recommendations, wow, there are so many great books out there! What we hope is that historical fiction fans will start to think outside the box and check out some titles that may appear to be a new or different time period, but have a lot of the same qualities of capturing time, place, and character that we all love. Like a fine wine, THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE (and our first book TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH) will satisfy a lot of tastes!

For lovers of intricate plots and literary historical mysteries, try THE FAIREST PORTION OF THE GLOBE with THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN by Kate Morton, set in Australia in the early nineteen-teens. For lovers of historical frontier sagas, pair TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH with THE MOONFLOWER VINE by Jetta Carlson, a brilliant book about a struggling family on the Missouri frontier a century ago. For lovers of political intrigue and dirty dealings, read both our books with 31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan, a really captivating tale of political and criminal dealings in New York in the 1850s.

Thanks so much to Unusual Historicals for this chance to visit with your readers! We love to be friends with readers. Please check out our website or become a friend on Facebook and on Twitter!

Thanks for stopping by! This dynamic writing duo is offering a prize set of BOTH their fabulous novels. Just leave a comment or answer this question: Do you think you would like to be on "Team Lewis" or "Team Clark" and why? I'll draw the winner next Sunday at random. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!