SELF-e Circs: The Top Ten Most Read Historical Titles in SELF-e Select

A Q&A with author Jane Davis, plus the top historical fiction novels being read through SELF-e Select, a subscription-based digital discovery platform that culls the best self-published submissions. To bring SELF-e to your library, visit the SELF-e website.

Historical Fiction

Clay, Verna. Abby: Mail Order Bride. M.O.I. (Unconventional, Bk. 1). 2014. 184p. ebk. ISBN 9781310614149.
Politis, Yael. The Way the World Is. CreateSpace: Amazon. (Olivia, Bk. 2). 2014. 370p. ebk. ISBN N/A.
Ridley, Erica. The Captain’s Bluestocking Mistress. CreateSpace: Amazon. (Dukes of War, Bk. 2). 2015. 164p. ebk. ISBN 9781939713308.
DeWees, Amanda. Nocturne for a Widow. Amanda DeWees. (Sybil Ingram, Bk. 1). 2014. 288p. ebk. ISBN N/A
Jewel, Carolyn. Scandal. Carolyn Jewel. 2014. 376p. ebk. ISBN 9781937823030.
Davis, Jane. I Stopped Time. Jane Davis. 2013. 384p. ebk. IBSN 9781301853465.
Jeane, Sheridan. Gambling on a Scoundrel. Flowers & Fullerton. 2014. 342p. ebk. ISBN N/A.
Owen, K.B. Dangerous and Unseemly. Dystel & Goderich. (Concordia Wells, Bk. 1). 2013. 354p. ebk. ISBN N/A
Quarles, Angela. Steam Me Up, Rawley. Unsealed Room. (Mint Julep & Monocle Chronicles, Bk. 1). 2015. 294p. ebk ISBN 9780990540038.
Collins, Ann. A Matter of Marriage. Compass Point. 2013. 308p. ebk. ISBN N/A.

Q&A: Jane Davis

Jane Davis’s novel I Stopped Time tells the story of Lottie Pye, who, upon her death at 108, leaves behind a lifetime’s worth of photographs for her estranged son. Moving through a century of personal history, the story reflects on the trials of family and the intricacies of being.

Photos obviously play a huge role in your book. Do you have an interest in photography? My passion for photography is one of the things that made I Stopped Time such a joy to write. I first joined a photography club back in middle school and loved the time I spent in the dark room. It felt like magic instead of chemistry.

Among my favorite pioneers of photography is Jacques Henri Lartigue. He was from a family of inventors, and his collection includes photos of early prototype motor cars and flying machines. But the joy (and the sadness) is that you’re looking at a family album. Babies arrive, older people disappear. Sometimes babies disappear. You can see so clearly the beginnings and ends of relationships.

Is the story’s mother-son dynamic something you deliberately set out to tackle? Early drafts of the novel only featured Lottie’s point of view. It’s been ten years since I first wrote the book, and if you asked me [then] what it was about, I would have given you a very different answer. I would have told you that the decision to introduce the son’s perspective was a direct result of reading [British photographer] Antony Penrose’s biography. He was the son of Lee Miller, one of my heroines. At the outbreak of World War II, she documented the Blitz bombings for Vogue magazine and became the only woman in combat photojournalism in Europe. Eventually, she settled in Sussex [and] had a son. She was depressed and struggled with alcohol. Antony only knew Lee as an embarrassing mother. He had no idea of her history until, after she died, he discovered her work. I found his comment, that he was cheated out of knowing someone very extraordinary, extremely poignant.

A lot has happened in ten years. My father is 83 years old, has dementia, and is desperately clinging to the past. His mother, Josephine, died when he was just six months old. All we have of her life are a few photos. As I write this, I wonder if—subconsciously, at least—my decision to expand the story line to the son’s point of view stems from this idea of a mythical grandmother I didn’t know, and [whom] my father only knew through these inherited photographs.

Lottie is such a vivid character. Can you expand on her development? Under the surface, people are hugely complex, but I’m glad you say that Lottie comes across as vivid. I like to leave readers with the sense that they’ve met a real person. Because the novel spans an entire century, we see Lottie’s transition from a young girl to a mature woman. As a young girl, she believed herself to be special, almost invincible, because of the stories she’d been told about herself. Part of her journey is the discovery that these stories were, at least in part, lies. I’m hugely interested in identity. What happens if what you think you know about yourself, knowledge you base all of your decision-making on, turns out to be wrong?

You’ve self-published several books over the years (An Unknown Woman; These Fragile Things). Is there any advice you’d give to newcomers? Self-publishing is such a huge topic, but my advice would be this: remember that the “self” in self-publishing is a misnomer. It’s all about collaborating with others. To self-publish successfully, you have to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, identify where you need help, and build a team of professionals around you who can fulfill your creative vision for the final product. The only “self” is that the decision of when to publish comes down to you.—Kate DiGorolomo

These titles are currently the top historical fiction novels being read through SELF-e Select, a subscription-based digital discovery platform that culls the best self-published submissions. To bring SELF-e to your library, visit the SELF-e website.
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