|photo: Kate Bailey
Stephanie Dray is an author of historical women's fiction. Her work has been translated into eight languages and often tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation's capital with her husband, cats and history books. Her newest novel, The Women of Chateau Lafayette (Berkley, March 30, 2021), is based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.
On your nightstand now:
I've got Kristin Harmel's The Book of Lost Names ready to be cracked open!
Favorite book when you were a child:
I was a weird kid. I loved anything by Judy Blume, but I loved Edith Hamilton's Mythology more. I was so engrossed reading it during recess that I didn't realize class had started, and the teacher sent me to the principal's office for punishment. But I would like to inform Mrs. Sutcliffe that what I was reading turned out to be far more important to my career than that spelling test!
Your top five authors:
Do I have to choose? I'm just going to say the first five loves that come to mind that I don't personally know, and in no particular order: Ken Follett, Philippa Gregory, George R.R. Martin, Octavia Butler and D.H. Lawrence.
Book you've faked reading:
Ha! I once met an author whose online presence I admired. I was nervously fangirling the author, so she assumed I had read her book, and began talking to me about it. I had to pretend that I read it and loved it so as not to make the moment even more awkward. I felt so guilty that as soon as I got home, I read the book. Unfortunately, I didn't like it much, so I will never tell which author, or which book!
Book you're an evangelist for:
Absolutely anything by my brilliant friend Kate Quinn, including her newest, The Rose Code. She's a historical fiction genius.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. All that billowing red fabric was mesmerizing. Thankfully, so was the book itself.
Book you hid from your parents:
Like most kids my age, Judy Blume was a favorite, treasured young adult author. But when I picked up her book Wifey, I got the titillating shock of my little life. It was definitely not for young adults. But I kept reading anyway and kept it out of sight. I'm pretty sure I owe my sexual education to Ms. Blume.
Book that changed your life:
The first one I ever wrote. It was terrible but I wrote it when I was 16, proving to myself that I could write a novel!
Favorite line from a book:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." It's from the Federalist Papers, a book I was assigned in college, never realizing that it would resonate the rest of my life. The quote itself is from Federalist 51, an essay by James Madison. It captures the eternal struggle human beings face in trying to govern themselves, and why we must govern ourselves. That struggle is at the center of so many of my novels!
Five books you'll never part with:
I love books, as my sagging shelves attest. But I seldom re-read them, which means that I need to learn to let go and collect more experiences than things.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I'd love to experience reading A Game of Thrones for the first time again without all the baggage we now have from the TV show because I like a book that upends genre expectations, a book that shocks me.