Beth M. Caruso grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent her childhood writing puppet shows and witches’ cookbooks. She became interested in French Literature and Hispanic Studies, receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati. She later obtained Masters degrees in Nursing and Public Health.
Working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, she helped to improve the public health of local Karen hill tribes. She also had the privilege to care for hundreds of babies and their mothers as a labor and delivery nurse.
Largely influenced by an apprenticeship with herbalist and wildcrafter, Will Endres, in North Carolina, she surrounds herself with plants through gardening and native species conservation.
Her latest passion is to discover and convey important stories of women in American history. One of Windsor is her debut novel. She lives in New England with her awesome husband, amazing children, loyal puppy, and cuddly cats.
About the Book:
Alice, a young woman prone to intuitive insights and loyalty to the only family she has ever known, leaves England for the rigid colony of the Massachusetts Bay in 1635 in hopes of reuniting with them again. Finally settling in Windsor, Connecticut, she encounters the rich American wilderness and its inhabitants, her own healing abilities, and the blinding fears of Puritan leaders which collide and set the stage for America’s first witch hanging, her own, on May 26, 1647.
This event and Alice’s ties to her beloved family are catalysts that influence Connecticut’s Governor John Winthrop Jr. to halt witchcraft hangings in much later years. Paradoxically, these same ties and the memory of the incidents that led to her accusation become a secret and destructive force behind Cotton Mather’s written commentary on the Salem witch trials of 1692, provoking further witchcraft hysteria in Massachusetts forty-five years after her death.
The author uses extensive historical research combined with literary inventions, to bring forth a shocking and passionate narrative theory explaining this tragic and important episode in American history.
Would you call yourself a born writer?
Yes and no. Writing comes easily. I was told as a child that I had the ability to write well. Term papers were not quite as painful for me as they were for others in my class. However, in the process of writing my first book, I had to learn more about grammar, style, descriptions, conversations, and layering. I’m sure that I will continue honing in on the craft as I delve further into writing my second book from the same time period. It’s a tale about a tavern wench in New Amsterdam, another witch hanging accusation, unlikely friendships, secret codes, and treason.
What was your inspiration for One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging?
Now that is a fairly long story! But to be concise, I heard about Alice Young, the first witch-hanging victim in the colonies, from my neighbor. Before that day, I had only been familiar with the 1692 witch hangings in Salem, Massachusetts. Shocked and surprised that Connecticut had its own gruesome history, I became obsessed with finding Alice Young in the historical record. I couldn’t understand how the first witch-hanging victim was so hidden from view, even in the town of Windsor. I pondered that the events leading up to the hanging would have had to be quite alarming and tumultuous to result in such a dramatic outcome. My gut feeling was that it would make a great story.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
The complexities of human beings and the motivation behind their actions. The deeper meaning of life and mysteries in nature.
How long did it take you to complete the novel? Two years of research, six months of writing, and several months of rewrites and editing passed before I finished One of Windsor. I worked on it between April of 2013 and October of 2015.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day. When I’m working on a project, I am very disciplined, but I do not sit down to write every day unless I have a project in mind and not until my research is almost complete. In writing One of Windsor, I wrote five hundred words a day or more no matter what and plotted where my progress should be on a calendar. Any missed time was made up. The discipline allowed for the story to evolve naturally with a continued fluidity from one day to the next.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book? The lack of direct information about Alice Young made researching for the novel extremely challenging. She was hanged in 1647 and trial documents from her case no longer exist. The English were meticulous about recording events in their court sessions. It felt strange that the records were missing because the days before and after her hanging are accounted for in Connecticut’s colonial court records. To find out about her, I had to take the very circuitous route of delving into her neighbors’ lives and hoped that a story would emerge. That is why the research took so long.
What do you love most about being an author?
Honestly, I love the flow of writing and I’m so happy to do my work sitting down after running around as a nurse on my feet for fifteen years. I love the quiet time and the journey of discovery as the creative process unfolds.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
The story I was telling had been buried for over three hundred and sixty-five years. I wanted to self publish to be certain that my novel, a story that was really a personal and spiritual quest to bring Alice Young to life, would not sit in a publisher’s warehouse. I was worried that was a possibility if I could not sell a specific number of copies right away. Everyone has heard stories about some publishers not really helping to promote certain books and losing out on important opportunities. Since One of Windsor is my first novel, I knew it might take time to build a following. I was also concerned about not being able to pick an editor that really understood what I was trying to do. Also, I was too emotionally vested in this first book to give up a lot of control.
I’m glad I went the self publishing route, but it’s a slower process and I’ve had to learn a lot about promotion which until this past year, I had no experience in either. Luckily, I’m both flexible and a fast learner. For my next novel though, I may seek out a publishing house to try a different experience. I know some authors have more doors open to them if they use a publisher.
Where can we find you on the web?
Please come visit my website at http://www.oneofwindsor.com and find out more! Thank you for hosting me on The Dark Phantom. It was my pleasure to tell you a little bit about Alice Young and the novel One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging.