This is the book trailer for Jean Zimmerman’s debut historical thriller THE ORPHANMASTER, which is in stores today. Even if the genre isn’t among your usual reading (as is my case) the trailer is an intriguing mix of historical facts and storytelling. By listening to the author share the history of the time (16th century) and the location (the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, present day lower Manhattan) she chose, I wanted to learn more.
What’s also interesting about the author is that she’s known for writing nonfiction focusing on the changing roles of women in America; THE ORPHANMASTER is her fiction debut. Jean talks about switching from nonfiction to fiction in this Q&A excerpt below.
You’ve had considerable success as a writer of nonfiction. How did it feel to make the transition to fiction?
I’ve always considered it an incredible privilege to write nonfiction, as you get to snoop in private lives via letters, diaries, etc., in order to tell your story. That said, in writing on some historical subjects, particularly the lives of women, these sources are not always readily available. I found that I could use the research I had done and expand upon it imaginatively in a way that was extremely satisfying.
To produce its powerful effects, THE ORPHANMASTERmingles historical fact with some imaginative storytelling. What are some of the more surprising discoveries that you happened on in your research?
I found a map that was drawn in 1660, the first street plan of Manhattan, which conveys every street, structure, meadow and garden in the settlement. It was the world of my characters, and it was the geographical jumping-off point of my work. Also vital was the discovery of the orphanmaster function, an official job that was needed because of the dire trend toward parental deaths through sickness, shipwrecks or Indian incursions. And I also was surprised to learn about the sport of pulling the goose!
Learn more about Jean, including her fiction and nonfiction works, on her website.