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Kate Manning

Gilded Mountain, a novel by Kate Manning, is a fascinating story that explores the complexities of human nature, family secrets, and the consequences of ambition. Alongside this novel, Manning has produced four other books whose overarching purpose is to uncover the hidden secrets about women in history and the “white-washing” of history. Her writing of rich historical details, complex characters, and engaging storytelling make her work timeless because of the issues it discusses and appeals to readers regardless of age or gender. At a luncheon I was fortunate enough to attend, I spoke with Manning firsthand about her book and how she developed it. Many of Manning’s books originate from a personal aspect of her life and then blossom in the year-long production of a novel. Gilded Mountain, a ten-year project, stemmed from an ancestral artifact she found in her attic that belonged to her dad, which previously belonged to her great-grandfather. From that moment on, Manning dove headfirst into extensive research about this artifact, leading her to many other stories about people and their lives during Western expansion and quarry life in Colorado, the book's primary setting. After speaking with Manning, she urged anyone interested in writing or even learning to accept the unknown, and your interests will drive you to find what you are looking for or trying to learn. She continued by driving the fact that writing and historical novels can uncover hidden historical moments in our country and have the ability to inspire, connect, and transform all people in a society.

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Rachel Beanland


Rachel Beanland presented her historical novel named, “The House is on Fire”, based on the tragic Richmond, Virginia’s theater fire in 1811. The story unfolds through four points of view of people present at the fire that she aimed to represent the diverse population of Richmond at the time; which was composed of 50% white and 50% black. Through her research she became particularly interested in trying to piece together the events of the incident, as the full story was broken apart when recorded; such as the accounts of women in the fire which were left ignored until years later. To elaborate, Rachel explains that although most of the deaths in the fire were women, all the published accounts on the media were from the “heroic” point of view of the men present at the fire. Years later, ancestors of women at the fire who passed down letters and diary entries, discovered the unseen truth of why there were so many more women casualties. Through chaos, the theater erupted into “every man to themselves” leaving vulnerable women in comparison to the stronger men in threat to be trampled while in attempt to escape. This novel touches on not only the social hierarchy of the racially divided south, but also the overarching nature of human greed when it comes to survival. Rachel engaged the audience with her passionate tone and ability to eloquently convey her writing process. Inspired by her own town's rich history, Rachel creates a novel with a historical richness as well as seamlessly incorporating four very different characters that experience complex emotions. Her ability to portray the complexity of the human spirit creates a connection between readers and the characters, who truly seem to come to life. Rachel also explained her research process which she was lucky to have access to at her own back doors of her very own town. This helps highlight the forever duality and lasting legacy of history, even when it seems far away.

Shelby Van Pelt

Meeting an accomplished author has always been on my bucket list but I figured I wouldn’t have the opportunity until I was much older. I am grateful that I just recently got to meet Shelby Van Pelt who is the author of Remarkably Bright Creatures which is a New York Times best seller. To break the ice, I asked if her characters were based on real people and she told me “not completely”. She talked about one of her characters who didn’t have the best qualities, and was stuck in a rut and couldn’t get out. What I admire about Shelby Van Pelt is that she was able to admit that she saw some of herself in this character who isn’t perfect. One of the most amazing things an author can do is make relatable characters even if the relations are not positive. After asking this first question, I never had a chance to ask her many of my other questions. We just started talking about books, college, and movies. After we ate, she went up to the podium to speak to everyone attending the luncheon. During her talk, she even answered my questions that I didn’t get a chance to ask her. As an inspiring author, it was great to hear what she had to say and she calmed many of my fears about being an author. What was most impactful to me was that she emphasized the fact that it is never too late to start doing what you love and that it could be very lucrative to take chances. As a junior in high school, I’m starting to feel as though there isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do but Shelby Van Pelt’s talk reminded me that I am in fact not running out of time, but my story is only beginning.

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