Welcome to the Book Marks Questionnaire, where we ask authors questions about the books that have shaped them.
This week, we spoke to the author of The Women of Chateau Lafayette, Stephanie Dray.
Book Marks: First book you remember loving?
Stephanie Dray: When I was a kid in school, I was enraptured by Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. I was so distracted by the petty squabbles of the gods that I didn’t hear the bell ring. And then I got in trouble.
BM: Favorite re-read?
SD: I don’t generally re-read, but I so loved A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman that I insisted on reading it again with my husband. And I laugh to remember that I really loathed the book for the first few chapters until I fell in love with the old grumpy man and everyone else in his world.
BM: What book do you think your book is most in conversation with?
SD: I like to think my book is having a tea party with other novels of revolutionary women, including The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki, Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran and Island Queen by Vanessa Riley. But this book also sends its deepest thanks to the touching memoir Saved by the Spirit of Lafayette by Gisele Feldman.
BM: A book that blew your mind?
SD: Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed shattered my illusions about speculative fiction, making me understand how historical context could work hand-in-glove with fantasy to say something important. It was a story by turns disturbing and beautiful. I was also shaken by Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears because his three-part structure opened a new world to me as a writer.
BM: Last book you read?
SD: Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House. I listened to it on audio, actually, because I couldn’t resist having Tom Hanks tell me a bedtime story.
BM: A book that made you cry?
SD: The most recent book to make me cry was The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. Kate’s known for her irreverent wit and stories of adventure, so I never saw the heartbreak coming. In this book, she builds a beautiful love story, then knocks it down, crushing us under the collapse.
BM: What book from the past year would you like to give a shout-out to?
SD: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner. I enjoyed the twists and turns and the poignant story of found family.
BM: A book that actually made you laugh out loud?
SD: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell. It’s a hoot! More recently, before the pandemic, I was on a road trip with a friend and we were howling together at City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s been harder to laugh during the pandemic, but I snickered at the chorus in Renee Rosen’s Social Graces.
BM: Favorite book to give as a gift?
SD: And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Thornton, because it was such a surprisingly intimate look at the Kennedy era.
BM: Classic book on your To Be Read pile?
SD: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s been sitting there for a while though because I don’t really need any more agitation these days.
BM: Favorite book no one has heard of?
SD: Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz. I haven’t read it in decades but I will never forget the dramatic scene in the arena with the bull!
BM: Book(s) you’re reading right now?
BM: Book you wish would be adapted for a film/tv show?
SD: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin. It smashes romance genre expectations and draws the reader into a murder mystery set in the Tang Dynasty.
Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, cats, and history books.
Stephanie Dray’s The Women of Chateau Lafayette is out now from Berkley Books