Lafayette’s 1825 tour illustrated in new novel
Contoocook writer Dorothea Jensen got the idea for A Buss from Lafayette while on a Jane Austen tour in England with her mother in 1997. There was lots of downtime on the bus, so the group told stories to pass the hours. Jensen offered the tale of her eighth-grade teacher shaking hands with Geronimo, the last Native American warrior to formally surrender to the United States.
May 12, 2016 Radio Interview: WEMF Citywide Blackout program with Max Bowen and Gina House. The podcast is below!
January 24, 2016 Online Interview:
Meet Dorothea Jensen, Author of A Buss From Lafayette
BBB: Tell us about yourself.
DJ: I just turned 70, but am still going strong. For a number of years, I was a singer/actress in amateur and professional companies. (As a mezzo, I usually lost the hero to the soprano.) I have been having fun putting all my old skills to work with video blogs, audio recordings of songs from the stories, audio book recordings etc.
I earned a BA in English at Carleton College and an MA in Education at the University of New Mexico. I have one husband, three kids and six grandsons (whom I put in my Izzy Elf stories). I have lived all over the U.S., as well as in Holland and Brazil.
People often ask me how a “woman of a certain age” has learned to create/maintain book trailers, YouTube channels, websites, blogs, Pinterest, Bublish, Google+, Twitter accounts, etc. I tell them I do it the same way I learned my way around the many places I have lived: I get hopelessly lost and stumble around until I figure out where I am.
BBB: What inspired your book, A Buss from Lafayette?
DJ: I met an elderly woman whose great-grandmother was one of the little girls who presented Lafayette with a posy when he was touring the U.S. in 1824-25, for which he apparently “bussed” her (a playful smacking kiss). That buss was passed down in my new friend’s family, and she passed it along to me. I then learned that General Lafayette came right by my house in June, 1825, on that same tour. This all piqued my interest about Lafayette and the immense part he played in the American Revolution. After years of research, I wrote a story about a troubled teenager who lives in my little town in New Hampshire at the time of Lafayette’s “Farewell Tour”.
BBB: Tell us about your main character.
DJ: Clara Hargraves, 14, lives on a farm in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, during the early 19th century. She has a couple of big problems. First of all, she has a stepmother, “Prissy” Priscilla, formerly her spinster schoolteacher aunt, who keeps trying to make her act like a proper young lady. Secondly, she has red hair that makes her a target for teasing. Clara, however, has a secret plan she hopes will change this.
In June,1825, Clara’s town is abuzz because General Lafayette, hero of the American War of Independence, is about to visit their state. In one eventful week, Clara learns a lot about her family, herself, and, most of all, about Lafayette and his huge and vital role in America’s Revolutionary War. She also just might find that her problems are not quite so terrible after all.
BBB: What other books have you written?
DJ: The Riddle of Penncroft Farm;Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf; Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf; Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf; and Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf. All have won awards, I’m happy to say!
BBB: What do you think readers will find most appealing about your book?
DJ: As one 11 year old “previewer” said, “It’s like getting two stories in one book! I got to learn all about Clara, and to learn all about Lafayette, too.”
BBB: How did you come up with the idea for your book cover?
DJ: I wanted it to echo the current cover for The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. Something like 130,000 copies of that story have sold over the years, so I hoped that making the covers similar would lead people to pick it up. Besides, as soon as I saw the redheaded girl’s photo, I knew she was Clara!
BBB: What are you currently working on?
DJ: I am working on a story called A Scalp on the Moon, that takes place in 17th century Massachusetts at the time of King Philip’s War. (Superstitious English settlers there at the time who were worried that there might be a war with the native population swore that they saw “a scalp on the moon” that portended terrible trouble.) I’m also trying to finish another of Santa’s Izzy Elf books (which are illustrated modern Christmas stories in rhyme) called Bizzy, the Know-It-All Elf.
BBB: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
DJ: Go to my website, www.dorotheajensen.com. It has information about my work, and also links to all my social media. I particularly recommend visiting my blog (http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/) and my Bublish.com account (https://www.bublish.com/author/view/5755) for background information etc. about my books.
MIscellaneous Q & A I Thought Might Interest Readers:
Q: Where did you get the idea for Clara’s family problems?
A: A few years ago, I did some genealogy study of my family, and found that one of my ancestors married his deceased wife’s sister in the early 1800s. I wondered how his children would have felt about this, although they were younger at the time of their father’s remarriage than I have made Clara and her brother. I also know that in this age of divorce, many young people are having to adjust to stepmothers in their lives. I thought that Clara’s situation might seem familiar to them, even though she “lived” two centuries ago.