Saturday, March 7, 2020

Marty Ambrose

Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College, Southern New Hampshire University or creating her own fiction. Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels.

A few years ago, Ambrose had the opportunity to take a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction. Her first book in a trilogy, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth. Ambrose’s second novel, A Shadowed Fate, begins where the first novel ends with Claire on an “odyssey” through Italy to find the fate of her daughter, Allegra, whom she now believes might have survived; her narrative plays out with Byron’s memoir from 1821, and Allegra’s own story.

Recently I asked Ambrose about what she was reading. Her reply:
I hate to admit this, but as a historical mystery author I didn’t choose the novel which I’m currently reading because of the genre. It was the cover. I spied The Indigo Girl in my local independent bookstore and found myself entranced by the cover art’s dreamy blend of blue colors around the lone figure of a woman in eighteenth-century dress—without a face. Just a blank space where the woman’s features would be drawn. Why so cryptic? Then, I read the blurb about the protagonist: sixteen-year old, Eliza Lucas Pickney, who takes over running her family’s plantations in 1739 and becomes a local legend for introducing indigo farming to South Carolina. I was hooked. And the book hasn’t disappointed me. The author has a delicate narrative style that fits the age of the heroine, giving such a complex portrait of Eliza who is stubborn, compassionate, and adventurous—compelling at every turn, especially in her relationship with the slave who teaches her how to raise indigo. And I’ve become obsessed by the entire production of creating indigo dye; it is a complex brewing process and the color doesn’t appear until the fabric is soaked, then exposed to air (it changes from chartreuse to blue). It’s almost like a magical alchemy. I couldn’t learn enough about indigo and started researching it myself, which is always the hallmark of a great historical novel: it makes me want to dig for more historical details. Back to the cover, I did find out why the woman on the cover has no face. I had the good fortune to hear the author give a presentation, and she revealed at the end of her talk that there were no portraits of Eliza so, rather than fabricate her appearance, the author wanted to keep it as a mystery—an enigma similar to indigo itself.
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Shadowed Fate.

My Book, The Movie: A Shadowed Fate.

--Marshal Zeringue