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Words with a Wordsmith: Jean M. Roberts

By Rebecca D’Harlingue
March 25, 2022

Jean M. Roberts: author of distinctive historical fiction

What period of history do you wish you knew more about? 

 My favorite time period is early Colonial America. As much as I adore Tudor and Medieval England, I really enjoy the time from 1630 to 1800. It’s a fascinating period of settlement and change. The American identity and the American Revolution didn’t come out of a vacuum. Rather, it evolved over a period of a century and a half. The transition was gradual, and it’s an interesting process to study and write about. Of course, there is some ugliness that needs to be acknowledged and spoken about. I think this time period is underrepresented in historical fiction. There is so much to know and learn about early American history.

What’s the best compliment a reader has ever given you?

 In my first three books, all historical fiction, I included many real people. My second book, Blood in the Valley, is based on the lives of my own ancestors and their experiences before and during the American Revolution. The Heron also includes some of my ancestors and many of their neighbors who lived along Oyster Creek in New Hampshire in the 1690s. Multiple readers, who are descended from the characters in my books have reached out to me via mail, email, social media and I have spoken to a few over the phone. In each instance, they have expressed their excitement about seeing their ancestors ‘come to life’ on the pages of my story.

Hearing from these readers, some who are distant cousins, has been amazing. Some have sent me photos of graves, family homesteads and other locations mentioned in my books. To have a reader tell me that my books really moved them and inspired them to find out more about their family is really the best compliment I could get.

Where is your next vacation planned? Where do you WISH your next vacation would be instead?

 I left work to write full time in January 2020 and to celebrate, my husband and I had a vacation booked for May to travel to Prague. I was so excited about it. We had several day trips planned as well to visit towns in Germany. Of course, that was all scrapped, but I’d love to reschedule that visit someday.

My next trip will be book related. I’ve written a dual time line story set during the Texas Revolution of 1836. I have a road trip planned to visit many of the historical sites mentioned in my book which will give me an opportunity to correct any mistakes I’ve made! It should be tons of fun. Some stops will be along the Gulf Coast, so lots of seafood and maybe a day at the beach. I hope to go during wild flower season when the edges of Texas highways and open fields are painted with our amazing wild flowers.

What do you worry about in your work?

 Well, to be honest, my biggest worry is that no one other than my mother will read it! My first two books, Weave a Web of Witchcraft and Blood in the Valley are pure historical fiction, the third, The Heron is a dual time line with a paranormal thread and the Frowning Madonna is historical fiction fantasy (but heavy on historical fiction). My concern is that readers who enjoy one may not like the others as they are pretty different, even though my writing style remains the same. I have just started writing a cozy murder mystery and am toying with the idea of using a pen name or variation of my current author name.

What was the inspiration for your most recent book?

 I began planning the plot for The Frowning Madonna in late 2019. I had been watching a series of YouTube videos by London Mudlarker Lara Maiklem and was fascinated by the object she found in the mud along the River Thames. It got me thinking about the people who’d lost or thrown those items in the river so long ago. When COVID struck in 2020 and I was, like the rest of the world, stuck in the house. I pulled out all my history books, including a history of London, and wrote a tale that encompassed the history of the river, the city, and the country from Roman to modern time. I blended mythology throughout the story to create a unique quest story of courage, friendship, loyalty and love with English history as its backdrop.

Jean M. Roberts graduated from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. She is a former Air Force Nurse and Administrator for a Nonprofit. When not writing novels, she writes and maintains three blogs on genealogy, family history and books/writing. She lives with her husband in Houston, Texas. 

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Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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