Last year I met Elizabeth Kerri Mahon at the Romance Writers of America's New York Chapter. A professional actress, Mahon has recently published Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women, a non-fiction book which was the extended work from her popular blog with the same title.
Q: In terms of "spirited women" how do the women in your book relate?
A: Well, considering the book is called Scandalous Women, there are many 'spirited women' in the book. Over the course of history, a 'spirited woman' or a ‘scandalous woman’ was often one regarded as troublesome or unfashionable. All the women in my book buck the status quo of their particular era. Many women of the time, such as Camille Claudel, paid a high price for being at odds with what was acceptable for women at the time. Some were able to constantly reinvent themselves over the course of their lives. Josephine Baker, for example, went from just being a novelty act to one of the most accomplished performers in Paris, to a spy during World War II, and then a civil rights activist after the war among other roles.
Q. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: I’ve always known deep down that I was meant to be a writer, as a child when we had to write 500-word compositions for English, I always ended up writing first chapters. I submitted my first manuscript to Grosset & Dunlap when I was ten, thinking that I was going to be the next Carolyn Keene but I got sidetracked along the way with my other passion which was acting. It wasn’t until I realized that as much as I love acting, I wasn’t making a living at it, that I moved on to my other passion which was writing. Still, it took ten years of struggle and many manuscripts before I finally stumbled on the idea of Scandalous Women. At first, I was just blogging about all these fascinating women that I was reading about and developing a readership, but it wasn’t until I was laid off from my job two years ago, that I actually sat down and wrote a book proposal. Nine months later, my agent sold Scandalous Women to Perigee.
Q. What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
A: I’m not a historian but more of a history geek. I hope that readers find these women just as fascinating as I do, and that it encourages them to not only read more but also to think about the role of women in history. I hope that when a reader picks up one of the book, she’ll think 'I never thought of say Cleopatra that way' while she’s reading. I hope she’ll revel in the stories of these amazing women, and think about just how far we’ve come over the centuries. If she has a daughter or a niece, I hope that she shares the book with them. I’ve said from the beginning that I think Scandalous Women is a wonderful introduction to women’s history for teenage girls.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. I have several projects that I'm working on at the moment. I have a few non-fiction ideas that are floating around in my head that I hope to see to fruition. I also have a contemporary romantic comedy that is set in England that I want to revisit as some point, as well as a historical young adult novel set during the late 19th century that I’ve been working on for the past few years.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A. I’m on Twitter and Facebook, of course, and there is my blog Scandalous Women. Also, if you’re in a book club, Scandalous Women would be a great book for discussion. The profiles in the book are just long enough to whet the reader’s appetite for more.