Lauren Willig

Event Recap: NYT Bestselling Author Lauren Willig In Conversation At Siena College

by Keith W. Willis

On Tuesday, April 4th, award-winning historical fiction author Lauren Willig took part in a literary event at the Standish Library at Siena College. This was the first in what Library Director Vicki L. Parsons (to whom Willig’s latest book is dedicated) described as an anticipated series of author presentations and conversations. The event was free and open to the public,and a crowd of about fifty attendees gathered to enjoy the evening.

Ms. Willig is a New York Times bestselling author of historical novels. She is best known for her “Pink Carnation” series, which follows a collection of Napoleonic-Era British spies, similar to the Scarlet Pimpernel, as they fight for Britain and fall in love. Since winding up the Pink Carnation series, Willig has written numerous stand alone works of historical fiction as well as co-authoring four novels with fellow historical fiction authors Karen White and Beatriz Williams. Her latest work, just released in March 2023, is Two Wars and a Wedding, set during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The evening centered around a conversation between Ms. Willig and Sienna’s Assistant Professor Stacey Dearing. Dr. Dearing is a leading Early-American scholar, and is working on a book project centered around the life and mysterious death of Dorothy May Bradford (the wife of William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth Colony). The topic was “Filling in the Blanks: The Importance of Historical Fiction in Sharing Women’s Stories”. Prompted by Dr. Dearing’s questions, Ms. Willig was by turns animated, engaging, informative, and funny as she outlined some of her thoughts on writing women-centered historical fiction and why she feels it so important for those stories to be told. She also entertained the audience with tales of her early love for historical women (especially the Queens of England as portrayed by Jean Plaidy) and how this lead her to where she writes now; how her Pink Carnation series came to be written and published (as a joke, and by accident); and how historical fiction authors often get things wrong so very wrong. She and Dr. Dearing discussed the lamentable lack of historical sources, their research processes for finding what is available, and generally presented a quick masterclass for historical fiction nerds and historians alike. Ms. Willig finished up the evening by briefly detailing her next book (a true-crime murder mystery featuring Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton working together as lawyers for the defense), and then answered a series of questions from the audience.

As both an author and a long-time fan of Ms. Willig’s stories (especially the Pink Carnation series), it was a thrill for me to attend this event and listen to one of my favorite writers talk about her writing processes and inspirations. Her passion for history, writing, and women’s stories shone bright, and she was gracious and charming as she signed books and chatted with attendees after the event. And, she even promised to read Traitor Knight, the first book in my Knights of Kilbourne series. *sigh*

I encourage lovers of good writing to keep an eye out for the next iteration in the Standish Library’s author series–if it’s anything like this inaugural event, it’s going to be great. Follow the Library’s Twitter feed at @SienaStandish for info.