The Lucknow Mutiny with Jocelyn Cullity

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I have always been fascinated by India… maybe because it is literally as different a culture from ours as possible yet there’s always been cultural cross-over. The British Raj has given us some of the most famous historical fiction ever (you’re a good man, Gunga Din) and yet we in the West have seldom heard the story from the Indians’ perspective. That’s where Jocelyn Cullity and “Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons” come in.

Jocelyn Cullity’s Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons is based on ten years of research. She was awarded The New England Writer’s Fellowship from A Room of Her Own Foundation in the United States, and a Writers’ Reserve Grant from the Ontario Arts Council in Canada. Her short stories and essays have been published in American, Canadian, and Indian journals and anthologies; her award-winning documentary film about women and social change in China, Going to the Sea, aired on television and in festivals in Canada, the United States, and in Europe.

Jocelyn has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and is currently the Director of Creative Writing in the BFA Program at Truman State University. She lives in Columbia, Missouri with her husband, the film scholar Prakash Younger, and their two daughters.

What’s the story of Amah about?

Amah and the Silk-Winged Pigeons is about the women (who do not find sufficient space or voice in many of our history textbooks) who valiantly resisted English rule in 1857 India — in a famous event that some English called “the Great Mutiny” and what some Indians call “India’s First War of Independence.”

As a Canadian living in the US, I find one of the great ironies is that one person’s “freedom fighter” is another person’s “godless rebel.” What is it about this particular story you found so fascinating?

19th century Lucknow was gorgeous, opulent, and cosmopolitan — European travelers to the city regularly would say they were in “luck. now.” when they reached the city. The English had already taken over other parts of India and in 1856, they deposed Lucknow’s King and began to take over the city. What followed was a famous uprising in which the Indians in the city — led by women — attempted to oust the English.

My mother’s English family lived in India for five generations and my great-great-great aunt was in the city of Lucknow during the resistance to English rule there. When I was a teenager, I transcribed her diary and the event stuck with me! I went on to look at Indian women’s perspectives on the tragedy that happened there. That’s when I found out that it was Indian women who planned and led the resistance — women we know too little about — and I knew then that the story I wanted to tell was theirs.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

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My favorite scene in the book is when Amah, who tells the story, must fight off an English soldier over a very hot and difficult afternoon.
Where can we learn more about your book?
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Reformation, Faith and Heresy with C.L.R Peterson

By now, it’s abundantly clear from Acre’s Bastard that I have a complicated relationship with organized religion. Still, any student of history knows that little else has moved the levers of power in every corner of the world like faith and people’s reactions to it. Case in point:  CLR Peterson’s new novel about the Renaissance, the Reformation and the line between conscience and heresy. “Lucia’s Renaissance” comes from the author’s own academic interest in the topic. Here’s what she has to say:

What’s your deal?

CLR Peterson is the author of Lucia’s Renaissance

Renaissance history came to life for me during a semester of study in Italy. Then Martin Luther’s bold stand against the Roman Church and its pleasure-loving Pope Leo, a classic David-versus-Goliath battle, hooked me on the Reformation. I’ve pursued my passion for the Renaissance/Reformation era ever since, earning a PhD in Early Modern European History at Stanford University. Research for my debut novel, Lucia’s Renaissance, included reading heresy trial transcripts in Venice’s State Archives.

 

 

Geeky but cool. What’s Lucia’s Renaissance about?

Heresy is fatal in late sixteenth-century Italy, so only a suicidal zealot would so much as whisper the name of Martin Luther. But after Luther’s ideas ignite a young girl’s faith, she can’t set them aside, even when faced by plague, death, and the Inquisition.

What is it about that time period that is so fascinating to you?

For years, I’ve been intrigued by the relationship between the Italian Renaissance, with its vitality, creativity, and focus on humanity, and the religious Reformation sparked by Luther.

While reading heresy trial records from this era, I found a microcosm of this Renaissance/Reformation tension. A bare-bones portrait emerged of a Renaissance-educated Italian physician so devoted to Martin Luther’s ideas that for years he smuggled the reformer’s writings into Italian lands, leading to three trials before the Roman Church’s Inquisition. My novel fills out his family’s story (using literary license when necessary) from the viewpoint of the physician’s daughter, Lucia.

What’s your favorite scene or event  in the book?

When Lucia unlocks a hidden drawer in her father’s desk, she makes a shocking discovery: a book by Martin Luther, the arch-heretic her priest railed against. Questions flood her mind. Why was the book placed in the drawer? Does her father, a strict follower of the Church’s rules, know about the book? Could he be a heretic?

Lucia must decide whether to report her find to the priest, lock the book away and pretend she never saw it, confront her father, or read the book and make her own judgment.

Where can people learn more about you and Lucia’s Renaissance?

My website: clrpeterson.com

My book’s Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/ B076GKJY2V

My book’s Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/ book/show/36339179-lucia-s- renaissance?from_search=true