Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Q&A & Giveaway - Donna Thorland's The Turncoat

Now that you've gotten my opinion of Donna Thorland's delicious historical novel THE TURNCOAT, how about you win a copy of your own to devour? All you need to do is like Rockland Mother on Facebook HERE and leave a comment with your thoughts on the Q&A with Thorland below, and you'll be entered for a chance to win a copy of the novel. Entries will be accepted until midnight on Monday, May 18th, with the winner to be announced on Facebook. You must be a US resident.

Good luck and enjoy your time with the author!

1. In the novel, you write about historical figures George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Did you base their personalities on historical accounts about them or mold them to fit the story?

Author Donna Thorland
I believe that Hamilton’s childhood on Nevis and the difficulties his mother faced would have made him sympathetic to Kate Grey’s plight at the end of the book. As a young man he hungered for adventure, and wrote to his friend (and probable brother), Edward Stevens, that, “I shall conclude saying I wish there was a war.” During his tenure with Washington he longed to see action—so his participation in a daring midnight rescue is in keeping with his personality. Washington’s relationship with Arthur Grey is modeled on his wartime friendships with men like John Glover, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene.

2. Will there be more “Renegades of the Revolution” stories?If so, are they going to be about Kate Grey, or will they be tales ofnew characters?
My next book is about piracy during the Revolution. America had virtually no navy, but she had hundreds of miles of coast and some of the hardiest seamen in the world. Eight hundred American privateers took six hundred British prizes during the war, crippling enemy shipping and creating vast private fortunes. But the stakes were even higher on sea than on land. Because Britain refused to recognize American privateers as enemy combatants, privateers unlucky enough to be captured by British crews could be hanged as pirates.

3. What makes theAmerican Revolution such an interesting time period to write about?How did you know it would lend itself well to a fiction piece?

I was particularly interested in the occupation of 1777, because the officers on Howe’s staff attempted to recreate decadent Georgian London in conservative Quaker Philadelphia. It was a clash of cultures from the start.

In London, this was the era of the Hellfire Club (which Franklin attended) and public figures such as John Montagu, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who AES had as many as nine children with his opera-singer mistress. Sex and the Georgian theater went hand in hand. Wealthy men chose their mistresses from its stages, and those with less coin from the streets outside.

London had DruryLane, Covent Garden, and the Haymarket. Philadelphia had only theSouthwark Theater, built in 1766 and closed repeatedly by the cityfathers for immorality. (As a side note, John Andre did indeed designa backdrop at the Southwark that remained in use well into the 19thcentury.)

The Mischianza,or little bit of everything, was the crowning event of that glittering winter, but it owed more to the baroque extravaganzas of Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones than to the Grand Medley traditionof the English stage. The event, with its river flotilla and grand processional, bore Captain Andre’s stamp from concept to execution.And Peggy Shippen’s father did, in fact, withdraw his consent for her participation at the last moment.

4. Before readingThe Turncoat, I knew nothing about John Andre, or even thatthe British had a spymaster. Can you tell us more about him?

A talented artist, acharming conversationalist, and very much a self-made man, Andre diedin Tappan, New York, as much mourned by the Americans who hanged himas the British he spied for.

His relationship with the Cope family was as set forth in the book: they sheltered him during his captivity in Lancaster. He discovered a talent for drawing in their son, Caleb. After Andre was released to New York, he wrote to the Copes, asking them to send Caleb to him as a drawing pupil,and went so far as to offer to pay all of his expenses. The Cope family refused, but young Caleb made at least one attempt to run away to join Andre. Speculation about Andre’s sexuality has only arisen in the last forty years.

5. Your novel made me feel acutely the high stakes and grave consequences for the men and women who fought on the rebel side, while for the British soldiers it was business as usual. How do you think that uneven commitment affected the war?

For officers like Howe and Tremayne, it was “business as usual” – and a distasteful one at that. The rebels were more dedicated, often desperate. Franklin said it best: We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

6. What do you see happening to Kate and Peter after the story ends? Do they live happily ever after?

Kate and Tremayne not only live happily ever, but they go on to foil an assassination attempt against Franklin in Paris. When I have time to write that, of course!

7. Were there really female agents working for George Washington during the American Revolution? What do we know about them?

There were female agents recorded in the pay books of both Howe and Washington,although neither Lydia Darragh nor the Widow of Mount Holly appear in them. There is no evidence to suggest that Elizabeth Loring and her husband were anything but what they seemed—avaricious Loyalists—but the affair was widely believed to contribute to Howe’s failure to prosecute the war more efficiently that winter.

Eighteenth century spies communicated in writing using ciphers, masks, and invisible inks. They concealed messages inside the heads of buttons, rolled in writing quills, and sewn into the linings of clothing. Andre was captured with the plans for West Point stuffed in his boot.

*Q&A provided by Penguin Group USA. Thanks, Penguin!


  1. The book sounds fascinating! As a fan of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I'm excited to read historical fiction that is partially based in my hometown!