What inspired you to write this story?
🖋The Lazare Family Saga grew out of my love of two places: Lowcountry South Carolina and the High Plains of the American West. My family visited Charleston on a vacation in 1987, and we moved to Colorado in 1991. I’ve always been a history buff, and I wanted to know what these places were like in the past, specifically in the 19th century. This series also grew out of my love of classic family sagas: Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, Alex Haley’s Roots, and John Jakes’s North and South. Creating my own family saga gave me a wide enough canvas to unite these places I loved and live there vicariously even though I’m now located in Virginia. Making the central family multiracial allowed me to dig deep into the conflicts and injustices at the heart of the American Dream.
What motivates you to write?
🖋My early readers, who responded to my work even before it was polished and published. My love for my characters and wanting to tell their stories. Feeling I have something to say through my fiction.
How do your characters reflect people you know (including yourself)?
🖋My priest character, Joseph Lazare, was initially inspired by my earthly father, who grew up Catholic and served as an altar boy. Joseph’s mother Anne has elements of my own mother. Joseph’s father René has my sense of humor and my skepticism. René is the voice of reason and stands in for me in many ways.
Who and what are you most thankful for during the writing and promotion of this book and the series?
🖋During the writing, my critique partners, especially Ida Bostian, Christina Campbell, and Elizabeth Huhn. My beta readers, especially Danielle Apple, Maron Anrow, Susie Murphy, and Lillian Rouly. My editor, Jessica Cale. They all made me a better writer, and their words of encouragement meant the world to me. During the promotion, Piepie Baltz, Carla Suto, andTammy Meadal Underhill in particular have been a blessing—they not only read and reviewed all four books in The Lazare Family Saga, they also helped spread the word on social media.
I’m also thankful that my characters spoke to me. Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House, calls her novels “spiritual gifts,” and I agree. It really feels like my characters already existed in some other realm and I “simply” had to learn how to listen—by doing massive amounts of research and understanding their world, by doing countless revisions till I got their stories right.
Because my blog is called Books Lattes & Tiaras, what do you enjoy eating and drinking while creating?
🖋While I’m writing, I like to consume what my characters might be consuming—so for the chapters set in the Caribbean, mangoand coconut juice. Once they reach Charleston, my charactersmight eat benne wafers—small cookies with sesame seeds, a recipe that has roots in Africa. Delicious for snacking and great for getting me “in the zone.” Benne wafers also look a bit like communion wafers!
And what do you do for self-care?
🖋I get out into nature. I love walking through forests and keeping an eye out for wildlife or photographing flowers in one of our many parks in Fairfax County, Virginia. I find it restorative, being out in nature. I gave this love to my character Clare later on in the series as she grows up.
About the book:
In antebellum Charleston, a Catholic priest grapples with doubt, his family’s secret African ancestry, and his love for a slave owner’s wife.
Joseph Lazare and his two sisters grow up believing their black hair and olive skin come from a Spanish grandmother—until the summer they learn she was an African slave. While his sisters make very different choices, Joseph struggles to transcend the flesh by becoming a celibate priest.
Then young Father Joseph meets Tessa Conley, a devout Irish immigrant who shares his passions for music and botany. Joseph must conceal his true feelings as Tessa marries another man—a plantation owner who treats her like property. Acting on their love for each other will ruin Joseph and Tessa in this world and damn them in the next.
Or will it?
Necessary Sins is the first book in the sweeping Lazare Family Saga that transports readers from the West Indies to the Wild West, from Charleston, Paris, and Rome into the depths of the human heart. Passion, prejudice, secrets, and a mother’s desperate choice in the chaos of revolution echo through five generations. If you enjoyed The Thorn Birds or the novels of Sara Donati, dive into Elizabeth Bell’s epic historical fiction today.
✍🏼Visit my review for Necessary Sins
Buy the book:
About the author:
Elizabeth Bell has been writing stories since the second grade. Upon earning her MFA in Creative Writing at George Mason University, Elizabeth realized she would have to return her two hundred library books. Instead, she cleverly found a job in the university library, where she works to this day. Her historical fiction series The Lazare Family Saga follows a multiracial family struggling to understand where they belong in the young United States. The first book, Necessary Sins, was a Finalist in the Foreword Indies Book of the Year Awards. The second and third books, Lost Saints and Native Stranger, were Editors’ Choices in the Historical Novels Review. Visit Elizabeth online at elizabethbellauthor.com
Blog Tour Schedule
Wednesday, August 4
Review at The Cozy Book Blog
Friday, August 6
Review at The Enchanted Shelf
Monday, August 9
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews
Wednesday, August 11
Interview at Books, Tiaras, and Lattes
Friday, August 13
Review at Coffee and Ink
Monday, August 16
Review at Passages to the Past
Friday, August 20
Review at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 25
Review at Robin Loves Reading