Friday, September 30, 2022

7 Questions with Novelist J.G. Lewis


J. G. Lewis grew up in London, England, where she spent her childhood visiting nearby museums and watching the mounted regiment ride down her street. She came to the U.S. for college and stayed for the sunshine.

USA Today bestselling novelist, she didn’t delve into historical fiction until she discovered genealogy and the impressive cast of potential characters in her family history. Once she realized how many fascinating historical figures are all but forgotten, she decided to breathe life into them again by creating stories for them to inhabit.

The Ela of Salisbury series features the formidable Ela LongespĂ©e, wife of King Henry II’s illegitimate son William. The widowed mother of eight children, Ela served as High Sheriff of Wiltshire and castellan of Salisbury and ultimately founder and abbess of Lacock Abbey.

J. G. Lewis currently lives in Florida with her dogs and horses. 

            1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t intrigued by history. I grew up in central London within walking distance of the Victoria and Albert Museum. My mother was and is a lover of art and history and books and shared her passions with me and my sisters.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

Some of my earliest memories are visiting the costume galleries at the V&A and learning—while looking at tiny panier dresses and delicate embroidered mules—that people were much smaller back then due to nutrition. Now that I know more, I suspect that the galleries are full of tiny clothes and shoes because those are the ones that didn’t really fit anyone and thus didn’t get worn out! Ela’s husband William LongespĂ©e was over 6’ tall. Based on how she appears on her seal I imagine Ela being fairly tall as well. I’ve since learned a healthy suspicion of preconceived notions about history and everything else in life.

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

My first real job after college was at a museum, now known as The Paley Center for Media. I worked my way up from administrative assistant to curator over the eight years that I was there. After leaving the museum I wrote contemporary novels which were published all over the world in more than twenty languages. Delving into genealogy made me want to explore history in my fiction, as I became fascinated with the untold stories hiding in the past. Although I grew up in England, and even did an A-Level in History, I had never heard of Ela, or even that there was a female sheriff during the middle ages. Exploring Ela’s life and imagining her exploits took my writing career in an exciting new direction.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

Learning history gives us insight into our own humanity and provides a sort of touchstone for whether we are on the right track. I think through much of the twentieth century there was a feeling that we were moving forward into a brighter and better future of the “better living through chemistry” sort. In the 21st century I think people are looking back to the past and pondering the things we lost along the way, like herbal medicine, knowing how to farm without destroying the land, and taking time to reflect and be present.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I’ve always been primarily interested in social history: What people wore, what they ate, how they talked, what their houses looked like, etc. It was a great disappointment to me to arrive at university ready to pursue a history degree, and discover that all the classes were about battles and treaties and involved memorizing the dates, locations and reasons for various wars. I quickly changed my major to Semiotics, which allowed me to study aspects of culture that were far more intriguing to me. I’m actually interested in all periods of history, from very ancient to “just yesterday.” If Ela had lived during the Roman era, or the Victorian era or anything in between, I suspect I’d have been just as interested in exploring her life and work. Once you delve into a period of history you realize that the people and even the culture are similar to our own in ways that don’t seem obvious at first glance, and that never fails to fascinate me.

6. What inspired you to write the Ela of Salisbury Medieval Mysteries?

I discovered Ela almost by accident. I typed the name of a Victorian ancestor—Anne Theresa Elizabeth Haly—into Google, and was surprised when it led me to a list of descendants of William the Conqueror. In between myself and that particular William, were quite a few interesting people, including Ela. At the time there had been no books published about Ela since the excellent history of her life published by William Lisle Bowles in 1835. Since she was High Sheriff of Wiltshire I thought it would be fun to imagine what type of crimes she might be called upon to solve, and thus the mystery series was born.

7. Who is Ela and what kind of mysteries is she involved in?

The series begins when Ela finds herself widowed at age thirty-nine. She decides to pursue the roles of sheriff and castellan that were recently held by her husband. Historical records show that she was initially ousted from the castle and had an uphill battle getting it back. This struggle to regain her ancestral home and command the role of sheriff provides a backdrop to the first three books. The mysteries I embroil her in are generally murders—discovering how a young woman came to be found dead in a clump of reeds, or how a foreign merchant mysteriously fell to his death from a castle parapet. My goal in writing the mysteries was to keep things interesting for myself as well as my readers by exploring a variety of plots and subjects within my early thirteenth century setting. So far I’ve confounded Ela with a variety of troublesome villains including opium traders, child slavers and an outlaw. As I write this I’m nearing the end of the first draft on book eight in the series. Information about the books can be found on .


Friday, September 23, 2022

7 Questions With Nick Charlie Key, Fantastic History of Food podcast


 Nick Charlie Key is a part-time history aficionado at the very tip of Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

He explores his two great passions, food and history in a podcast aptly titled, The Fantastic History of Food, where he shares bizarre stories from history that in some way involve food.  Website:

 1.          How and when did you get  hooked on history?

I got hooked on history as a young child when my parents gave me a stunning and very big hardcover book about great historical events depicted in a where's waldo style cartoon. I would spend hours looking at, for instance, the double page spread of the pyramids and look at all of the hundreds of little people all engaged in some activity or other in ancient Egypt, floating on the Nile, getting chased by crocodiles, carrying blocks towards the pyramids build site etc. It was fascinating to me.  At the age of 10 I actually got to take a trip to Egypt and went inside one of the pyramids, went to the Cairo Museum, saw the Rosetta stone, made traditional papyrus. History came alive to me even more then.

2.          What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

In my personal life, history is a massive part of my daily podcast intake, as I love listening to history-based shows. In other personal areas of my personal life, I grew up with a mother who was fascinated by World War 2 as her father, my grandfather, had fought in the war. We had photos of him during the war and letters he'd sent home up in frames around the house. He was a war hero for a particular conflict in Italy and was personally mentioned by the Queen of England in her dispatches for his heroism. So it's not hard to see why I too became incredibly fascinated with WW2.

3.          How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

In my professional life I studied for 4 years to be a teacher, and then taught for 5 years in a small under-resourced school in one of the townships here. I taught history, amongst a few other subjects and it was always my favourite subject to teach. My kids thrived and I like to think that I imparted my love of history into them.

4.          Why is studying/knowing history important?

This is a long and intricate question to answer properly, but at its core history teaches us about ourselves, where we came from and why we do the things we do. We're not so different from those who came before us and so we can look to history to learn how to live well today. And when it comes to human tragedy and suffering, I'm VERY sure you already know the quote, but it is very true: "Those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it."

5.          What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I tend to have 3 distinct periods in history that hold my attention more than others. I am enthralled with biblical era history, specifically to do with the Bible itself, but also the surrounding ages of the rise and fall of the Persian empire, Alexander the Great and of course the Roman Empire. Then I have a special place in my heart for the 1800's which seemed like an era of adventure, discovery, giant leaps forward in knowledge, inventions and general "let's try this thing and see what happens" kind of mentality. And finally as I mentioned before, I am obsessed with World War 2 for obvious, Grandfather related reasons.

6.         How did the Fantastic History of Food podcast come about?

Food and history have always been my two great passions in life. I am also a published cookbook author and worked for many years at a food based e-commerce retailer in their marketing team. I had originally conceptualised it as a content piece for the brand, but as with many things never got the time to action it. A few years later, after having moved to a different company, I thought about it again and how much fun it would be to just do in my personal capacity. The timing of it however couldn't have been worse as I, for some reason, decided to start doing it one week after the birth of my first child, hence why my release schedule is always all over the place :)

7.      What does  food history tell us about the bigger picture of history?

What I love about the history of food is that it is the one thing that ties every civilization on earth together, all throughout history. Every single one of us has had to stop to eat a meal each and every day. It's been around the dinner table that great meetings have happened, treaties and accords signed, delegations assassinated and on and on the list goes. Food has been at the centre of so many major world events. It's one of the first things to be blended when cultures collide, and food, more so than many other things defines and denotes one culture's heritage from another.

Friday, September 16, 2022

7 Questions with Julie Tulba, Author of The Dead Are Resting


Julie Tulba lives in the Pittsburgh area and currently works as an academic librarian. Besides history, travel is Julie's other great love in life, especially when there's a food tour (or two) involved; she's taken more than 20 in 13 countries around the world. Julie published her first book, The Tears of Yesteryear, in 2019, followed by The Dead Are Resting in 2021. Her passport is always at the ready for her next international adventure, while also brainstorming ideas for her next novel.
The author at Gallipoli

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

As a child I absolutely adored series like Dear America, Little House on the Prairie, and American Girl books. It was these wonderful books that instilled in me at a young age, my lifelong love and fascination with history. I also grew up in Philadelphia, colonial America’s foremost metropolis, thus further cementing this love affair.


2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

I am an avid world traveler and every destination I have ever visited always includes a visit to at least one historical attraction, if not two or three…or four. In my opinion, nothing brings the past more alive than being, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, right in “The Room Where it Happened.” I was inspired to write my second novel, The Dead Are Resting, after unexpectedly ending up in Berlin, Germany and visiting a truly unique museum there, the Topography of Terror. It is the only museum of its kind to focus on the perpetrators of the Holocaust. And what makes the museum even more chilling to visit is that it’s built on the site of the former Gestapo Headquarters of the Third Reich.


3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

When I’m not writing historical fiction, I’m an academic librarian so being surrounded by books day in and day, looking up random historical factoids, complements my love of the past.


4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

I fully subscribe to the adage, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” supposedly uttered by writer and philosopher George Santayana, because it is so very true. Look back through the annals of history and one will see how more often than not, history has indeed repeated itself. I also feel that studying and knowing about the past is of the utmost importance because it serves as a memorial to the past dead too—how can we remember our dead from wars and battle, if we don’t actually know the facts and dates of those same events?


5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

While it’s hard to choose just one, I would have to say the first half of the 20th century—so everything encompassing America’s immigration heyday, and of course both world wars. My great-grandparents emigrated from Ukraine to the United States in the 1910s and so I have always felt an immense personal connection to that period of American history—the story and history of the millions of immigrants who left behind everything they had ever known to come to a foreign land for the chance at a better life. I live in Pittsburgh, a city that thousands of European immigrants flocked to in the early 20th century to work in the steel mills and so that past is still very much seen and felt. And the world wars, well, to me that’s still very much “recent history,” especially the Second World War and that aspects makes it all the more fascinating and incredible to me.

in Istanbul


6. What inspired you to write historical fiction?

Historical fiction has always been my favorite genre and so I wanted to fuse that love with my love for writing and being a creative storyteller through my words. I loved the idea of being able to help people acquire newfound knowledge on the past through my books.


7. Please tell us about your latest book?

The Dead Are Resting is a dual timeline novel set against the backdrops of Nazi Germany and modern-day Pittsburgh. However, it’s not just “another” World War II/Holocaust book because in my opinion, too often novels about the Holocaust focus just exclusively on the war years, but never the aftermath, never in the years and even decades following the liberation of the camps. The authors of those books tend to paint a rosier picture, as in “they were the lucky ones to have survived,” but now they can start anew. But as historical testimonies of survivors showed, it was never that easy/. And for some who survived, they remained dead on the inside for the rest of their lives, never able to come to terms with what had happened to them and the lives of their family members who were murdered by the Nazis. The Dead Are Resting shows THAT side, one rarely covered in historical fiction novels about the Holocaust. The book's cover which is a real-life photograph from World War II inspired the story behind it. 


My third historical novel, Red Clay Ashes, set during the Vietnam War, comes out later this year!

Friday, September 9, 2022

7 Questions With Matt Beat, AKA Mr. Beat


Matt Beat is a teacher, video producer, podcaster, and musician based out of Kansas. He has taught various subjects in the classroom from grades 7-12. His YouTube channels, Mr. Beat and The Beat Goes On, have accumulated more than 630,000 subscribers and over 100 million views, helping expand his "classroom" to around the world. Beat's specialty is American history, but he also has a big passion for geography and economics. He has a band called Electric Needle Room, which is most known for original indie-pop songs about all of the American Presidents. Matt co-hosts an iHeartMedia podcast called Jobsolete. Finally, he is a coffee snob who unironically wears khaki shorts.

1.          How and when did you get  hooked on history?

I had a great American history teacher in 7th grade (shout out to Mr. Emmett) who inspired me, but I also was heavily influenced by the film Forrest Gump. Finding out that much of what the movie covered actually happened completely blew me away. 

2.          What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

For starters, I taught history in the classroom at both the middle school level and high school level for 12 years. I ended up getting a master's degree in history while teaching and realized that I actually knew very little about history up to that point. Now, I make history videos for various platforms, so I am always consumed by it. One of my favorite things to do is dig around in online archives...particularly looking at old photographs. I even make original songs about historical topics. Whenever I travel, I make an effort to go to all the historical markers I can, and I often drag my family along with me. :) 

3.          How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

I am now a "professional" YouTuber, so every day I am researching, writing, filming, and editing a video about some historical topic. It plays a huge role. 

4.          Why is studying/knowing history important?

Studying history causes us to have more context. It forces us to critically think, and to reflect, analyze, and evaluate. It also inspires us to try new things, but also learn which things not to try. History is also the quickest way to learning anything. It keeps us curious and empathetic. 

5.          What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

The 1960s since it was such a turbulent time. So much was changing in a good way, and studying that decade is a quick to see the old worlds and new worlds clash in this dramatic way.

6.       How did you become Mr. Beat?

When I become a teacher in the classroom. The first videos I posted were meant to only be for my students in real life, and I was surprised when I found out later that other teachers had been playing them in their classroom. Mr. Beat is my name, and it also happens to be this weird brand now. And no, I am not Mr. Beast. He is a little bit more successful than me. :)

7.      What do you hope followers of your videos take away with them?

My biggest goal in life is to spread empathy and to expose people to ideas, cultures, and places they would otherwise know nothing about. The more we understand each other, the less afraid we are of each other, and the more willing we will be to work with each other for the sake of preventing our species from going extinct. 

Friday, September 2, 2022

7 Questions with Dave Wilson, Victorian Photography Studio

Dave Wilson is a Wetplate Collodion photographer residing in Geneva NY. A long time student of history, he owns and operates the Victorian Photography Studio in Gettysburg PA, and takes his tintype camera on the road all over the United States. When he’s not on traveling shooting images, he takes care of a small Victorian era farm and drives the Zamboni at the local ice rink.

 1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

 In 1st grade, growing up in Illinois, we took a field trip to the Rock Island Arsenal, which has a confederate cemetery. I had misheard them, thinking they were calling it the "Silver War," but they had a bronze cannon, and my 1st grade brain couldn't rationalize that, so I bought my first civil war book in the gift shop and I was hooked.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

History is omnipresent in my life. Besides being an amateur historian and full time practitioner of a 19th century trade, my wife is a National Park Service superintendent at  Women's Rights National Park, and we are restoring an 1850's farm

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

*see above

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

Understanding the lives/feelings/beliefs of people in the past gives us context to the decisions they made, and how those decisions and attitudes have shaped our country and the direction of the world in general

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

the mid 19th century in general. The American Civil War has always been my favorite, but I love just about anything in the Victorian period. I also really like the Napoleonic era, especially seafaring history.

6. What attracted you to Civil War and Victorian era photography?

I had been a reenactor and always loved having images made. When an opportunity came up to learn, I jumped on it and have been working at it ever since.

7. What do you provide for your customers in their experience? Who are your customers?

My customers vary! In the studio, 99% of our clients are tourists who are visiting and want to dress up. When I'm on the road, I shoot mainly people in modern clothes, and my clientele is widely varied. I spend a lot of time shooting at tattoo studios, horse barns, metalsmith shops, and barbershops. Its a lot of fun introducing this era of photography to people who are not familiar with it.