Was there really a first Thanksgiving or is that holiday actually the fictional construct of a certain patriotic 19th century woman? What did the people living in 17th century Massachusetts really eat? And what did the real Pilgrims wear? Find out the answers to these and other pressing questions concerning our favorite gastronomic holiday by listening to this podcast with Macalester history professor Andrea Cremer, an expert on the early modern era in America.
View her syllabi:
- Colonial Encounters: Religion, Race and Sexuality in the Development of Early American Society
- Gender and Sexuality in Colonial America and the Early Republic
With Her First Novel, Nightshade, History Professor Andrea Cremer Introduces a New Fantasy Female, and earns a spot on the New York Times bestseller list
It was an accident—literally—that brought the young adult novel Nightshade to life. When Macalester history professor Andrea Cremer broke her foot horseback riding, she turned to something else she’d always wanted to do: writing a novel.
After spending the summer crafting two “practice novels,” she began Nightshade in the fall of 2008, and by summer 2009 had found an agent and sold the book to Penguin. It was released October 19. “It’s been a wild ride,” she says.
Nightshade may be in the same fantasy genre as the Twilight series, but readers will quickly note that it parts ways with those books. For one thing, Cremer’s novels are more action-packed journeys of self-discovery than triangulated love stories. And Nightshade’s protagonist is a strong, fierce teenage female named Calla, who can transform at will from human to golden-eyed wolf. “Calla inspired the story,” Cremer says. “I had a girl in my head who was strong, a leader, a warrior. My favorite characters have always been strong women who take charge of their lives and can fight for themselves.”
Too, the wolves in Nightshade and its companion volumes (due out in July 2011 and Spring 2012) are not werewolves, cursed and doomed, but rather tough, noble pack animals. She wanted them to reflect “a new wolf mythology” based on how she viewed the wilderness in her own northern Wisconsin childhood. Unfortunately, Nightshade’s wolves are also enslaved to The Keepers, a group of wealthy, powerful witches.
Combining her fictional explorations with her professorship at Macalester—where she teaches courses in early American cultural and social history, women’s and gender history, the history of sexuality, and Native American history—isn’t always easy. “It’s kind of like having two full-time jobs,” she says. “Luckily, I can write anywhere and anytime. So I write whenever I have a spare moment. I don’t sleep a lot.”
It’s fortunate that Cremer is also a fast writer because now that she has finished the Nightshade trilogy, she’s working on a prequel that explores the origins of the Witches War, the conflict that sets the scene for the trilogy. Here her academic historical specialty of early modern history is proving useful, since the prequel is set at the dawn of that era.
Plus she’s simultaneously begun drafting another series, a historical dystopia set in a 19th century America whose revolution failed and whose major cities are industrial prisons serving England. Its heroine is 16-year-old Charlotte, who lives with a group of teenage exiles in New York.
So why does a historical scholar write young adult literature? “Because in the teen years you’re discovering who you are, what the world is all about it, and where you fit into it,” says Cremer. “What could be more exciting than that?”