Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Q & A and a Giveaway: Rosie Sultan

Please join me for a Question and Answer session with Rosie Sultan the author of the highly acclaimed novel, Helen Keller in Love. The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Rosie's book, see details at the end of the post.

Q: What triggered your interest in Helen Keller’s life, particularly her private life?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by Helen Keller. I read my first book about her when I was in the third grade, and I’ve read almost everything about her since. A few years ago I read a new biography of Helen: toward the book’s end a short chapter—maybe six pages long—said she had a love affair at age thirty-seven with a twenty-nine year old journalist from Boston. I couldn’t believe that Helen Keller had a secret love affair; I couldn’t believe she had defied her family and tried to run away with him; and I couldn’t believe the chapter that told that story was six pages long! I put the book down and said, “There’s a story here.  I’m going to tell it.”

Q: Do you think it’s possible that, because Helen was blind and deaf, most people—even those closest to her—believed she couldn’t develop romantic and carnal desires?

A: That’s right. This was 1916, and Helen’s family and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, knew Helen had normal desires, but they did not want her to act on them. But from the time Helen was young, she preferred men to women. Even as a child, if a man came to the house Helen would ask, “Do I look pretty?”  When she was a young woman, at school in New York City and later at Radcliffe College, other girls went out with their boyfriends, while Helen studied or socialized with Annie. During that time Helen secretly read romance novels, and if Annie caught her she’d tell Helen to put the novel away and read something to improve her mind. Another way Helen’s family tried to keep her from having normal romantic desires?  They wouldn’t let her be alone with a man. One time, at Radcliffe, a handsome young man was assigned to proctor Helen’s exam. Her mother had him replaced. So handicapped people had normal desires, but couldn’t fulfill them. Helen tried anyway.

Q: In conducting your research on Helen Keller, her family, and inner circle, did you come across any places or documents that were particularly noteworthy? Or, say . . . shocking?

A: Yes, absolutely. I found some articles in the New York Times that surprised me because in them Helen protested the United States entering World War One. In biographies I found that the public who attended her speeches against the war revered her courage. They mobbed her after her speeches and even took the flowers off her hat. Other surprises were that at the turn of the century Helen supported Margaret Sanger and the use of birth control and she gave her support to the NAACP. Her southern family was scandalized.

Q: Helen had a very close relationship with her instructor, Annie Sullivan. How would you characterize their relationship and how did that manifest itself in Helen Keller in Love?

A: It was complex. It was not an ordinary mentor-student relationship. Annie taught Helen language and was Helen’s doorway to the outside world. When Annie was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1916, they needed to hire Peter Fagan. This is where intense conflicts developed because Annie didn’t want Helen getting close to Peter. She was threatened by Helen’s interest in him, and her growing need for his company.

Q: Helen is a very independent thinker yet, based on her disabilities, she’s very dependent on those around her. What was it like writing a character with such a complex dynamic?

What was it like to write about her? It was thrilling.  I discovered that she’s not the person we all thought we knew.  I got to bring to life her many dimensions: Helen was a public figure, an author, a daughter, a sister, an activist. And I got to bring alive her secret desire for love.

Q: What’s next for you? Do you have plans to continue writing historical fiction?

A: Absolutely. In researching this book I found there is a lot of untapped historical material about the characters I explored. So to answer your question, I have many more stories to tell, and they’ll be in my next novel.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan.

~You must be a GFC follow or an E-mail subscriber to participate.
~U.S. addresses only.
~Deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST May 16th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on this post, not the form.
2.Please fill out the FORM.


lag123 said...

I loved the movie about Helen Keller starring Patty Duke. I am very interested in reading this.

lag110 at mchsi dot com

Linda Kish said...

I never knew about this part of Helen Keller's life. I'd love to read the book and learn more.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Angela - Bookaunt said...

I have always been a Helen Keller fan. I can't wait to read this book.

griperang at embarqmail dot com

Carl Scott said...

Thanks Rosie for making a copy of this book available for giveaway. Helen Keller is such an important historical and inspirational figure. I'm glad to see her story and the interest in her are still alive in 2012.

Anonymous said...

I really want to read this book. I have always love the stories of Helen Keller and the obstacles she overcame due to her blindness.

Wendy Newcomb said...

I loved the Helen Keller story when I was little and would really like to read this book.


Mary (mkdmom) said...

My daughter is an interpreter for the deaf, so I'm especially interested in Helen Keller.

Carol M said...

I've always been interested in Helen Keller and her life. I would love to read this

catslady said...

That is really fascinating. I remember reading about her when I was young. I think she was a very amazing person and would love to read this story!


Colleen Turner said...

I love historical fiction but haven't read very much about Helen Keller. This book sounds like a great place to start!

Chèli said...

I read about HK when I was young too and saw the movie about her.

This should be interesting.

Cheli's Shelves

Stacie said...

I love historical fiction. I remember the movie with Melissa Gilbert when I was younger. I can't wait to check this book out. Thanks for the giveaway! :)


Emma said...

this book sounds great. Thanks for the giveaway!