Girls and Pearls: Why I Want to Have Dinner with Elizabeth I
By Jenni Wiltz
Elizabeth I probably wouldn’t want to have dinner with me. I don’t think she’d be impressed by the fact that I’ve written five books or finished grad school, considering what she achieved. But I’m pretty sure we could bond over a shared love of pearls – and then maybe I’d get the chance to tell her about my latest book, The Red Road.
Lessons in Wisdom
In the book, I gave my 16-year-old heroine, Emma West, a terrible adversary: a vicious street gang that threatens her father. But Elizabeth had even worse adversaries: France and Spain. When she became queen of England in 1558, the country was a disaster. It had no money, no international prestige, and religious disagreements were tearing it apart. If Las Vegas oddsmakers had existed back then, they probably would have set the odds against her turning things around at 100 to 1.
But then something happened. She figured out that what people wanted was peace, prosperity, and a little bit of good news. So she kept England out of military conflicts, saving money that others wanted to spend on war. She put aside her personal desires when her councilors refused to accept the man she loved as an acceptable spouse. One of her personal mottos was “I see, and say nothing.” She trusted herself to stay calm, sift the good advice from the bad, and make a rational decision.
Lessons in Courage
I don’t have to face anything as terrible as the Spanish Armada, thank goodness – although I get pretty nervous when I have to make a presentation at work! I’d love to ask Elizabeth what gave her the courage to forge her own path. She didn’t have many good examples in life. Her mother was beheaded on suspicion of adultery and her sister burned Protestants at the stake. But somehow, she created a period of growth and stability that paved the way for England to turn into a superpower.
In The Red Road, Emma has to make a lot of hard decisions, too. When a gang attacks her gentle father and puts her entire family in danger, she has to decide what’s more important—her own future or her family’s. Her impulse is to try and get revenge to convince the gang to leave them alone. But that could jeopardize her chance to go to college, which is all her parents ever wanted for her. Which will she choose? I would love to ask Elizabeth what she would have done in Emma’s place. And, if I’m brave, I’d ask if I could borrow some of her pearl necklaces.
About the Author:
Jenni Wiltz writes literary and historical fiction, thrillers, romance, and creative nonfiction. Both her fiction and creative nonfiction have won national writing awards. She holds undergraduate degrees in English and history and an MA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, The Portland Review, the Sacramento News & Review, and several small-press anthologies. When she’s not writing, she enjoys sewing, running, and genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California.
Visit her at her website, JenniWiltz.com.
About the Book:
Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can’t afford it.
When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he’s sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.
Her best friends, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case try to convince her to focus on school. But school won’t prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what’s more important: doing what’s expected, or doing what she feels is right, even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge. Even if it plunges her into the heart of the gang violence threatening to tear her family apart. (356pp, ISBN #9781942348009)
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