Friday Night Drinks with… Leah Angstman

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Welcome to the first Friday Night Drinks of the new year, and to my first 2022 guest, author… Leah Angstman.

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Leah, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening and kicking off the new year’s series of Friday Night Drinks. First things first, what are you drinking?

If I’m paying, I’m drinking Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, neat. If you’re paying, I’m drinking Macallan 15-Year Double Cask Scotch Whisky, still neat. If my mom’s paying, I’m drinking soda water.

Drinks are definitely on me! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

If I had a private jet, I’d take you to one of my old stomping grounds, The Publick House in Boston (well, technically, in Brookline). If it has to be somewhere within drinking distance of me now, then we’re going to The Post in Lafayette, Colorado, to get a Big Rosie, hot chicken, and bottomless biscuits.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

This answer will change from day to day, but for tonight, we’d be drinking with Dolley Madison and the Marquis de Lafayette because I’m currently deep in their myriad biographies for novel research. There’d be a drunken brawl over abolition and what went wrong in the War of 1812, but we’d finally get to the bottom of who *really* saved the Washington portrait from the White House fire and what happened to all that lost government-purchased silverware.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

In between madly promoting my debut novel and keeping my head above water with the publishing company I run (Alternating Current Press), I’m writing my fourth novel, which is a loose sequel to my third novel. None of these are published yet, and some have contracts pending, so I won’t say too much about them, but since my agent is already working with my third novel, I want to make sure my fourth novel matches up as its sequel. I’m afraid of boxing myself into something in the first book that doesn’t mesh with what I want for the sequential book, so I’m getting them completed in tandem. No loose ends!

Why did I start this duology? It deals with historical racism, xenophobia, and mistreatment of the land during the California Gold Rush, and then the mistreatment of Native Americans, women, and water at the end of the American Civil War in the western theater. As we sit on the cusp of utter climate-change disaster and are increasingly more racist and xenophobic as a nation and have people still insisting on celebrating Columbus Day and are living through wildfires and water shortages, I wanted to give a historical look at how we’ve simultaneously traveled so far and traveled nowhere at all. We’ve misused the land, her resources, and her various peoples for centuries. We are complicit in all of this. And it’s not just the Boomers vs. Millennials. It goes back for centuries and centuries and centuries.

Where do I want it to go? On your bookshelf! (Or at least on your Goodreads want-to-read list?)

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was getting my publishing contract. It was a long time coming. I straddle that line between being far too literary for the commercial historical fiction genre, while being too historical for the literary readers who just want navel-gazing and contemporary hangups. I fall in a weird in-between world, which is sometimes hard to market, and even more so because my writing is gritty and brutal and doesn’t shy away from ugliness, violence, or difficult truths. I know I’ll find my audience with this first book, and Regal House took a chance on making that happen. So far, that’s been the thing that’s buoyed me through a tedious, soulless pandemic and into a wild new frontier.

My biggest challenge is simply finding the time to balance it all. I run a publishing company that occupies my life from waking to sleepytime and an online journal that publishes Monday through Friday, but I also have to squeeze in time to write and edit my own work, submit my own work (lordy, that is tedious), answer an insane amount of emails, and of course, read other people’s books! And eat! And walk my dog! And exercise! And attempt to be social! Balance, balance, balance. It’s always the hardest thing.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you’d like, it’s just us talking after all!

I’d love to win a U.S national award. It’s too much to ask to win a Pulitzer, I’m sure, but I’d love to win the National Book Award (or even just to be a finalist for it). I want to be in the forefront of moving historical fiction away from whimsical and frilly, and into the realm of dark, literary, and hyper-realistic. History is a dark and violent beast.

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m really excited to start doing readings and book fairs again, to enter the land of the living. I have a national U.S. tour in the works, and hand-selling signed books over a table is a thousand times more effective (and rewarding) than convincing people to buy through an impersonal online link. I can’t wait to start meeting and talking to people again who are actually interested in and excited about reading (and discovering) my work.

That personal contact has definitely been the biggest blow of Covid. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favorite U.S. place will forever be Times Square in New York City, but I recently traveled to Iceland, and it was fantastic—the volcanic terrain, glaciers, ice caves, lava tunnels, and oh, that tongue-twisting language and wide-open sky … and puffins! Florence, Italy, is also a majestic place from another century that is worth a thousand visits. I’m, of course, a history nerd, so I like old forts and the hidden spots of historical people and events. I adore cemeteries with mass graves from cholera outbreaks and trainwrecks (I know, I know—pretty morbid), unnecessary monuments to unnecessary figures, battlefields that are just empty expanses of fields and obelisks, plaques on the sides of buildings that I randomly stumble upon, and kitschy forgotten wayside attractions that are overgrown with moss. On my yeah-right-I-wish bucket list is to travel the entire Lewis & Clark Expedition Trail, the entire Oregon Trail (where the wagon trains traveled), and to visit every single battlefield site of the American War of Independence. On a tinier scale, I want to see Mt. Vernon and Monticello next summer with my dad and visit Château de Chavaniac in Auvergne, France, before it crumbles to dust. I’ll definitely go visit Corsica before I die, and I’d like to see a rhino in the wild.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I am the twelfth-great niece of Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys fame, who, together with Benedict Arnold, took over Fort Ticonderoga and confiscated its cannon and munitions, in the first offensive American victory of the Revolutionary War. Is that interesting to anyone besides me?

I’m interested for sure! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

My biggest “must read” is a kids’ book that is violent and nuanced, My Brother Sam Is Dead. If you want something more modern and adultish, you cannot escape this life without being torn to pieces by Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

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The classic story of one family torn apart by the Revolutionary War

All his life, Tim Meeker has looked up to his brother. Sam is smart and brave, and is now a part of the American Revolution. Not everyone in town wants to be a part of the rebellion. Most are supporters of the British, including Tim and Sam’s father.

With the war soon raging, Tim knows he will have to make a choice between the Revolutionaries and the Redcoats, and between his brother and his father.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

You may have noticed that I’ve been pounding water like it’s going out of style. I ate a little bit of food before I came out here and ordered at least an appetizer right away when I arrived. Light food, nothing greasy, tons of water, and absolutely no sugar. That’s how I keep hangovers at bay. If all else fails, I drink a third of a bottle of Pepto Bismol, and cancel whatever I have planned in the morning so I can sleep in, then take a super hot shower to sweat the rest of it out. If that fuzzy feeling is still there (or worse, a pounding headache), then: water, water, water, water.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Ideally, I’d love to sit out in the backyard on a cloudy autumn day, put my feet up on the porch recliner, and read something really, really good. But pretty much any weekend that I can stay away from working at my computer is a perfect weekend for me, these days.

Leah, thank you so much for joining me, this has been a huge pleasure.

Leah Angstman’s debut novel, Out Front the Following Sea is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned–it is a death sentence.

At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor–Owen–bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets.

But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

LEAH ANGSTMAN is the author of the historical novel of 1689 King William’s War, Out Front the Following Sea (Regal House, January 2022), and serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with Portland Tribune, High Country News, and ProPublica. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Nashville Review; and she’s recently been a finalist in the Chaucer Book Award, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, and Richard Snyder Memorial Prize, and longlisted for the Hillary Gravendyk Prize, Goethe Book Award, and Laramie Book Award. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission, an appointed liaison to a Colorado historical preservation commission, a sponsoring member of the Louisville (Colorado) History Foundation, a founding Quartermaster member of the American Battlefield Trust, and a volunteer at her local mining-history museum.

Connect with Leah:

Website: https://leahangstman.com/

Facebook: Author Leah Angstman

Twitter: @leahangstman

Instagram: @leahangstman

Medium: @LeahAngstman

Ello @leahangstman

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC02mohAZUMBbzdT1hAE76QQ

Pinterest @leahangstman

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