June 06, 2014

Lynn Cullen's Mrs. Poe - Interview and {Giveaway}

Thank you for being our guest at Historical Fiction Connection today, Lynn. We appreciate you answering our questions and look forward to your answers.

It’s a pleasure to be here! Thank you for hosting my book.

What inspired you to become a historical novelist?

I’ve been in training for being a historical novelist since I was a kid, when my dad used to take our family on history-themed camping trips. For three weeks of every summer we made the rounds of pioneer villages, historical sites, and museums. I don’t think we missed a single pioneer reenactment this side of the Mississippi. I grew up looking for past worlds, and fed this love by reading nearly every fictionalized biography in the juvenile section in my local library (which my dad also took me to) as well as novels about pioneer times like those in the Little House on the Prairie series. Little did I know that this was the perfect background for writing fiction set in the past. I have my father to thank for it.

Your book new book is Mrs. Poe. What led you to write this novel? Have you always been fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, as many are (including me)?

Poe came to me at a traumatic time in my life, when my husband was recovering from a brain injury that he’d received from having meningitis and my own future as a novelist was in question—the book I had been working on had been turned down by my former publisher the week he became ill. The day that I’d brought my husband home from the hospital, I was pacing in my office, wondering how we were going to survive. (My husband was also unemployed, one of the many who’d lost their jobs in the recession.) In my frantic state, Poe popped in my mind. It was puzzling because I didn’t know much about Poe. I ran to the computer and looked him up, and liked what I saw. I loved his underdog status—he was an orphan, struggled with poverty, and was desperate for love and success—but it was his affair with Frances Osgood that caught my eye. When she met Poe, she had just been abandoned by her husband and was trying to support her two children with her writing. An alarm went off. I knew this woman. I had to write about her and her relationship with Poe.

What is your opinion of Edgar Allan Poe? There are many rumors surrounding his persona historically. Do you think any of them are true? 

Poe is the victim of the nastiest smear job in literary history, courtesy of his archrival, Rufus Griswold. In an astonishing turn of events, Poe’s aunt and mother-in-law, Maria Clemm, made Griswold, who was known to despise Poe, Poe’s literary executor. The moment Griswold got his hands on Poe’s papers, he began to doctor them to support his outrageous lies about his competitor. Griswold is responsible for our image of Poe as a drunk, a madman, and a ghoul. In reality, when Poe rose to fame from “The Raven” in 1845, the time of MRS. POE, he was thought of as a gentlemanly ladies’ man, known for his exquisite manners and stirring readings. His scary stories were paying the bills, and so he wrote a few, but at the time, his contemporaries didn’t confuse the man with the villains in these tales. He was known just as well for his love poems, which he began writing for Frances Osgood in 1845. No wonder his peers had no doubt that he was having an affair with her—it fit their image of him as a ladies’ man.

One of the most persistent rumors about Poe is that he was a drunk. Most modern scholars believe that the man had a problem in that one drink could make him very drunk, but that he was not a big consumer of alcohol. He was desperately poor and needed to stay sober to work, and work he did. The recent exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York City provided proof, at least for me, of his sobriety. The letters and manuscripts on display from his late teens to his death were, to an item, neat and precise in both penmanship and thought. No one in their cups could have produced such elegantly composed script. Griswold, of course, talked a great deal about Poe’s drunkenness. It’s interesting that this slander persists, even with hard evidence to the contrary. Also interesting is that Griswold did not promote the talk about the Poe-Osgood affair. No wonder—he was quite jealous of the pair. HE wanted to be associated with Frances, not Poe.

Do you have a process when you're doing research for your books?

I start with reading biographies on my characters. I then read tangent materials found in the bibliographies of the biographies. (Try saying that sentence five times fast!) Once I’ve read about the characters, their families, and their friends and enemies, and have made a study of the settings and times, I hit the streets that the characters walked. I start writing my books early into the research, and then travel to the scenes that I’ve written about, which in turn spawns new scenes. So in effect, I’m writing and discovering things about my characters and their stories all at once. If I had my druthers, I would simply exist in this pretend world for the year or so it takes me to write a book. But it’s never as straightforward as that. Family is super important to me—I brake for grandkids!

You grew up in a large family? What was that like? Any adventures that stand out from your past?

I was the sixth of seven kids and so was on my own a lot. This was fine with me. I spent a lot of time in an imaginary world in which I was a pioneer girl or little lost child, which was perfect training for a writer. I had to figure out things for myself, and what I loved figuring out most was how people ticked. I also loved nature and animals and spent every moment I could outside, which I still do today. In fact, I’m writing this on a laptop on my patio, where I write for most of the year. Note that birds always work their way into my book—they’re always flying around me, so zip! They appear in the book. I notice that rivers always feature in my books, too. I grew up nine houses away from the St. Joseph River in Fort Wayne (only a mile from Johnny Appleseed’s grave—more history!) I used to swing from the riverbank by hanging onto weeping willow branches and got my first lesson on sex by studying the crude drawings spray-painted under the bridge near my home.

Are you currently reading any historical fiction? If so, which one(s)?
The most recent work of historical fiction that I’ve read was a historical thriller by M.J. Rose, THE COLLECTOR OF DYING BREATHS. I loved all the ideas and philosophies that she worked into her story. I really enjoy being educated as well as entertained and COLLECTOR was excellent at both.

What is your favorite historical fiction book and/or who is your favorite historical author?

I’ve been greatly influenced by WUTHERING HEIGHTS, which is not historical fiction, of course, but is set in the past and has the authentic historic feel that I strive for in my books. I read it while working on my last three novels. I love how it’s constructed, I love the characterization, I love the story. And I love dark, wounded Heathcliff. Especially when he was played by Ralph Fiennes in the BBC Films version of the book.

Do you have your next project in the works and can we get a hint?

I’m working on a book about Mark Twain and the women in his life. I am finding that anyone who becomes famous by changing their name and personality might have major personal issues....

Lynn, thanks again for joining us today. We really enjoyed chatting with you and look forward to hosting you here at HFC again in the future. We wish you continued success with Mrs. Poe

Thank you for your interest and support. It’s always a pleasure to chat with people who understand the thrill of exploring the past.

Note: Was this not an excellent interview, readers!? I hope Lynn stops by and reads this because I would first like to send my best wishes to her husband and family. I hope he has made a full recovery. I also want to mention that Wuthering Heights is also one of my favorites and the Ralph Fiennes version of the film was also my favorite. He was a perfect Heathcliff! Finally, someone who 'gets' Heathcliff, as I do. Thanks again, Lynn for a wonderful interview!

About the book
Paperback Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Gallery Books


Great Reads of 2013 –NPR
Books That Make Time Stand Still –Oprah.com
Editor’s Pick—The Historical Novels Review
Best Books of 2013—Atlanta Magazine
Indie Next List Pick

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late…

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

Praise for Mrs. Poe

“Is it true that Edgar Allen Poe cheated on his tubercular, insipid young wife with a lady poet he’d met at a literary salon? Cullen makes you hope so.” –New York Times

“This fictional reenactment of the mistress of Edgar Allan Poe escorts you into the glittering world of New York in the 1840s…A bewitching, vivid trip into the heyday of American literary society.” –Oprah.com, Book of the Week

“Vivid…Atmospheric…Don’t miss it.” –People

“Nevermore shall you wonder what it might have been like to fall deeply in love with Edgar Allen Poe… Mrs. Poe nails the period.” –NPR

“A page-turning tale…Readers who loved Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife will relish another novel based on historical scandal and romance.” –Library Journal, starred review

“Immensely engaging…Set upon the backdrop of a fascinating era…this is not only a captivating story of forbidden lovers but an elaborately spun tale of NYC society.” –The Historical Novels Review

“A must-read for those intrigued by Poe, poetry and the latter half of nineteenth-century America.” –RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

Buy the Book
Amazon (Kindle)
Amazon (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble
Simon & Schuster

About the author
Lynn Cullen grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the fifth girl in a family of seven children. She learned to love history combined with traveling while visiting historic sites across the U.S. on annual family camping trips. She attended Indiana University in Bloomington and Fort Wayne, and took writing classes with Tom McHaney at Georgia State. She wrote children’s books as her three daughters were growing up, while working in a pediatric office and later, at Emory University on the editorial staff of a psychoanalytic journal. While her camping expeditions across the States have become fact-finding missions across Europe, she still loves digging into the past. She does not miss, however, sleeping in musty sleeping bags. Or eating canned fruit cocktail. She now lives in Atlanta with her husband, their dog, and two unscrupulous cats.

Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her novel, Reign of Madness, about Juana the Mad, daughter of the Spanish Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, was chosen as a 2011 Best of the South selection by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist. Her newest novel, MRS. POE, examines the fall of Edgar Allan Poe through the eyes of poet Francis Osgood.

For more information please visit Lynn Cullen’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #MrsPoeBlogTour

Stop by at The True Book Addict on June 12 to read my review of Mrs. Poe and to enter another giveaway.

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Mrs. Poe! (Open to U.S. entries only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Michelle, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview! Thanks for your kind wishes about my husband. I'm happy to say that he is fully recovered. When he first came home from the hospital, he couldn't comprehend a sentence. Still, every day he would spend hours trying to read one of the hundreds of novels lying around the house. After a few months, he started talking to me about the characters in the book and the plot. I knew then that he was back. So you can say that he healed himself with books.

    So glad to have found another fan of Fiennes' Heathcliff. Didn't he just smolder? I have to admit that when I was developing Poe in my book, I pictured Fiennes in that role.

    Thanks again!


    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Lynn! Reading really IS a healing experience. He is proof positive. :)

      Yes, he certainly did Smolder. Every time I read Wuthering Heights or read something about the book or its characters, I always picture him as Heathcliff.

      We loved having you here on HFC!

      <3 Michelle

  2. I absolutely adored Mrs Poe, and would love to have my very own copy! Thank you for having this giveaway!!

  3. I love Poe's Annabelle Lee poem. It has been my favorite since I was in high school.

    1. That is my favorite Poe poem as well!

    2. My favourite Poe story is " Ligeia", which was made into the Vincent price movie. I also liked "The Tell Tale Heart".
      Thank you for the giveaway.

  4. The Raven, tho I must admit, I've never read it, but I've seen the movie, with Vincent Price..........

  5. I've seen Vincent Price mentioned twice now and I love it. I don't think there is anyone who can think of Edgar Allan Poe without thinking of Vincent Price. I really adored that man! All of those movies he made are my favorites. :)

  6. I like his poetry better than the stories, esp. The Raven, and The Bells - totally fascinated by the onomatopoeia ( had to look up the spelling )

  7. I loved The Raven. Thank you so much for the giveaway!!

  8. The Raven has always been my favorite of his poems and I have always love the Tell Tale Heart.


  9. The Pit and the Pendulum was compelling. Thanks for this great giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  10. This seems like a very intriguing book! I love teaching Poe's works to my students and reading them for my own pleasure!
    alto1jr @ hotmail (dot) com

  11. My favorite story by Poe is the Tell-Tale Heart. Scared me mightily when I first read it.

  12. Without a doubt it is The Tell-Tale Heart. I've found it fascinating since I was a child.

  13. I think I read the Raven in school but can't remember. Thank you for the chance to win this book, it looks good. griperang at embarqmail dot com

  14. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is my favorite. It totally creeps me out!

  15. Definitely The Tell Tale Heart. Scary.

  16. The Raven is what stays with me!


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