Interview with bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.
Welcome to our #SaturdaySpotlight Q&A interview series at Alternative-Read.com. Every Saturday our resident interviewer, Elise Cooper, gets to discuss another great author’s work!
American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton delves into the larger than life of America’s darling, First Daughter Alice Roosevelt. As the oldest child of Teddy Roosevelt, the press swarmed upon her as they do the Royal family today. The book describes how Alice became a rebel having to endure betrayals, scandals, and tragedy; yet through it all maintained her wit and composure.
Alice was described as unapologetic, unconventional, beautiful, headstrong, fashionable, and influential. She was someone who did not take kindly to societal norms as she shot a gun, chewed gum, smoked cigarettes, played poker, and participated in car chases. But she also used her celebrity status, becoming savvy at using her political influence. After all she was a President’s daughter, wife to the Speaker of the House, mistress to an influential Senator, and became a Washington fixture.
Readers feel as if Alice is speaking directly to them as she explains her life of ninety-six years. Overflowing with political history, scandal, and societal norms, this novel gives insight into the life and times of Alice Roosevelt.
Elise Cooper: Why Alice Roosevelt?
Stephanie Marie Thornton: When I was a student teacher I started fangirling over the Roosevelt family. The first lesson I taught was on Theodore Roosevelt. (TR) Then, while I was in Washington DC I saw this book Mind Your Manners Alice Roosevelt. My daughter was about five and I picked it up for her. I became intrigued by this woman and remembered the famous quote by TR, “I could either run the country or control Alice. I cannot do both.”
EC: Why historical novels?
SMT: I started writing because I want people to learn about historical figures. This is the fifth book I published about a woman from history not too many of the current day readers know about. I am pulled in by those women who have a strong personality, are energetic, and have contributed something to this country.
EC: How would you describe Alice?
SMT: Bombastic, a larger than life figure just like her father. Alice was brash, bold, and non-apologetic. She never hid her emotions but a Roosevelt family trait was not to talk about their personal grief. “TR’s” death had to be a pivotal moment in her life; yet, even in her memoirs she did not write about it. The way she coped with all the tragedies was to throw herself into something. People said of all the children she was the most like her father, intellectual and charismatic. She pushed the envelope and broke all kinds of boundaries like her dad. I think she was a woman a little ahead of her time.
EC: I was surprised she compared FDR to Hitler. She would fit in today with everyone using “Nazis” to people they do not like?
SMT: Remember during the time she said it not everything was known about the Nazis. I think she did not like that FDR ran for four terms. Her dad voluntarily stepped down after two terms just like all the other Presidents since George Washington. In 1912, he ran as a third-party candidate for the Bull Moose Party. He did it because of Taft’s policies. The Republican Party betrayed him. She and Eleanor did reconcile later in life.
EC: Did she have any responsibilities?
SMT: Besides being a media sensation she helped her father out during his presidency by going on a goodwill trip to the Far East. He essentially sent her because he wanted to negotiate a treaty between Russia and Japan. It was a success because she was America’s sweetheart and everyone loved her. In 1912, after becoming a little older and more mature she traveled with “TR” closely while he ran for the Presidency, helping him with speeches. I think this opened a relationship with her dad, but also caused a rift with her husband. Then, after TR died she carried his torch to make sure America did not join the League of Nations, and became an outspoken political pundit.
EC: What was her relationship with her father?
SMT: As a two-day old, “TR” passed her to be raised by her aunt because he was not coping with losing his wife and mother on the same day. Once he remarried, Edith, she insisted that they take Alice back and raise her. Alice and her family never talked about her mother. Possibly because she was a constant walking and breathing reminder to “TR” of the wife he loved so much and lost. Alice did crazy and wild things publicly to get her dad’s attentions.
EC: She was a feminist of sorts?
SMT: She was not active in the women’s suffrage movement. People have said that the amount of power Alice would have at the ballet box is a drop to the power she had at the dinner table, having access to all these powerful people. She did reject a lot of what society required, such as going “calling on people.” She pushed against the rules and broke some because she did not see the need for them or thought that they were fair.
EC: How would you describe her husband, Nick?
SMT: He is a mixed bag. At the same time, he was Alice’s best friend and her worst enemy. He was suave, charismatic, ambitious, and opened a lot of doors for Alice. Yet, he was a womanizing alcoholic, which she had no patience for. She held every man in her life up to her father’s example who never cheated on his wife or drank. I think “TR’s” morals are gold plated. There is a quote from her after seeing FDR with his secretary: these Washington men would drop their wife and children off in a seaside resort and go off with their mistresses.
EC: Your next book?
SMT: It will be about Jackie Kennedy. I wanted to write about a strong American woman. I think a lot of people read historical fiction because it breathes life into the person’s story. It will begin with her engagement to JFK and end when she became an editor. Alice has a cameo in Jackie’s book and Jackie had a cameo in Alice’s book.
ABOUT THE BOOK
American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt
“As juicy and enlightening as a page in Meghan Markle’s diary.”—InStyle
“Presidential darling, America’s sweetheart, national rebel: Teddy Roosevelt’s swashbuckling daughter Alice springs to life in this raucous anthem to a remarkable woman.”—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
A sweeping novel from renowned author Stephanie Marie Thornton…
Alice may be the president’s daughter, but she’s nobody’s darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves–oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.
But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it’s no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument–and Alice intends to outlast them all.