Q&A With Felicia Grossman

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Q&A With Felicia Grossman

My latest Q&A is with author Felicia Grossman. Felicia is the author of historical romances usually featuring a Jewish heroine. Her books are Marry Me By Midnight, Appetites & Vices & Dalliances & Devotions. Felicia also wrote a short story for the anthology Love All Year A Holidays Anthology. Coming in 2024 is her new novel Wake Me Most Wickedly. 


Q: Felicia, what is it about historical romance that you enjoy writing so much? 

A: I majored in history in college along with English, and I’ve always been fascinated by the past, and using it to try to help understand where we are now and where we’re going in the future. I love dissecting the journey. 


Also, if we’re being totally honest, in genre historical romance, there are a lot of big, fancy, dresses and I challenge you to find anyone who loves big, fancy, dresses more than I do.  

Q: Would you like to talk about your upcoming release Wake Me Most Wickedly & how you came up with the concept for the book? 

A: Wake Me Most Wickedly (out April 9, 2024) is the second book in the Once Upon the East End series, in which all the books are fairytale retellings set in London’s Jewish community in the early 1830s. 


This one is a Snow White retelling, starring Solomon Weiss who was one of Isabella Lira’s (the Prince Charming figure) suitors in Marry Me By Midnight. I fell in love with him as a character when I was writing that book and changed his name from Solomon Meyer to Solomon Weiss so he could be our Snow White figure in his own book.


His book picks up where Marry Me By Midnight left off and Sol is still looking for ways to raise his and his brother’s status, inside the Jewish community and out. Unfortunately, he falls for a heroine with both money and respectability problems. Even worse, someone is out to kill him. So his HEA depends on not just finding a way to obtain the standing he and his older brother crave, while retaining the relationship with the one person who captures his heart, but also not eating any poisoned apples. 

Q: What is the research process like when you write historical romance for your books? Where does the inspiration for your characters come from? 

A: When I research, I try to use as many different sources as possible. Though I always like to be grounded in a basic political history of the time before diving into the social history. I feel it’s important to remember, when writing in the 19th century, that the British did not have the only empire in Europe, let alone the world. And Napoleon did a great deal more than merely give fictitious British noblemen wartime backstories. 


With the American stories, I wrote about the area of the U.S. I grewup there, so I’ve been lucky enough to have visited many of the places described and have made many trips to some of the local museums for knowledge and inspiration.


I also read a lot of specific biographies, and contemporaneous writings at the time including periodicals, collections of letters, and even fiction. For the stories set in England, I have to work a lot more with books, photographs, etchings, and images of contemporaneous art, as I’ve only been to Heathrow for a few hours and never outside it. 


Since I write in Jewish communities, I spend a lot of time, again, with contemporaneous (or near contemporaneous—I’m a huge fan of Amy Levy for the “spirit” of the British Jewish community) Jewish writings as well as anything I can get from the leading Jewish periodicals of 19th century (even though the Chronicle and the Exponent are slightly later). 


My characters definitely take inspiration from real people, not literally, but in the lifestyles they had and the worlds in which they operated. I thought a lot about Rebecca Gratz’ life when I was drafting Appetites & Vices, Emma and Josephine Lazarus when I was drafting Dalliances & Devotion, Sir Moses and Judith Montefiore when I was drafting Marry Me by Midnight, and Isaac “Ikey” Solomon and family, when I was drafting Wake Me Most Wickedly

Q: Where is your favorite spot where you sit down and plot, research, write and edit your historical romances?

A: I enjoy the couch in our family room. I can focus pretty easily while I write, so everyone can play, watch television, draw, etc, and I can still be productive. That way, we can all be together, but I can still create. 

Q: Who were/are your biggest supporters of your writing talent and goals? 

A: My husband, Dan, who is an artist himself, is probably my biggest champion. But I have been so lucky in this industry in terms of meeting and connecting with like the kindest authors. The acknowledgement sections of my books are huge, but honestly, not an exhaustive list of people who have just been so wonderful to me. I’d not have lasted in this industry without all of their support. The list of people is seriously so, so, long. There are people I talk to every day and there are people who just always treated me with kindness even when I was a baby writer who had no idea what I was doing. I have been incredibly, incredibly lucky in my friends and in meeting people. 

Q: If you are currently writing your next book, is it a sequel to one of the books you’ve already written, a standalone book, or a beginning of a new series? 

A: I might have a different answer to this question in a few weeks, but I can tell you, I still love to play in the Once Upon the East End World, and at the same time, venturing into other worlds, in different, 19th century locations. 

Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to write historical romances?

A: I think reading in the subgenre is really helpful, even if you are writing characters with different backgrounds, time periods, and settings than your selections. I think seeing what other people do and which beats and tropes you like best (and what doesn’t work for you), as well as really analyzing why makes you a better writer and helps you create the stories you want. Also, you’re on the hunt for books you enjoy, and who doesn’t like finding and reading books they enjoy? 

Q: If Hollywood were to have the rights to your work (if they haven’t already) who would be your dream cast to play the characters you’ve created? 

A: If someone acquired the rights to my work, I’d just really want all my Jewish characters (especially the women) played by Jews. I’m not saying that talented non-Jewish actors can research and understand us and give good performances, but I think it’s important for Jewish women and girls especially to see themselves portrayed as heroic and desirable by other Jews. And that no one is made to feel that being Jewish makes you less desirable and heroic than your non-Jewish counterparts.


Unfortunately, historically, Jewish women have not been portrayed as particularly desirable or even “good,” even by Jewish creators. My sister is a Hebrew school teacher and is constantly looking for folktales to read to her class, but no matter where the tale originates, Germany, Tunisia, Russia, Yemen, Iraq, the characters are the same: a wise, kindly, charitable Jewish man; his nagging, materialistic shrew of a wife who needs to be a taught a lesson; and maybe the Prophet Elijah or a talking fish. There was traditionally an idea that Jewish men were supposed to study and fulfill the ritual commandments, while women were supposed to create the spaces to allow them to do so (this often included both earning money and maintaining a home). Such created a system in which Jewish men were, by default, seen as kind and wise, while the women were seen as workhorses, who needed to be kept in check. 


Unfortunately, when cisgender Jewish men, especially those with European backgrounds, were allowed to assimilate and create art for non-Jewish audiences, these attitudes not only persisted, but almost melded into the larger, secular Christian patriarchy, in a way in which Jewish women are often seen as less desirable and even less “innocent,” for lack of a better term, than their non-Jewish counterparts, but also subject to the same misogyny. 


For me, if I had that sort of control, I’d want to work hard not to reinforce the message that being Jewish, especially being a Jewish woman, makes you less desirable and less “good” and worthy of love and protection as your non-Jewish counterparts.