With the upcoming Presidential elections in the United States, interest in the story of the first female presidential candidate, Victoria Woodhull, has been stirred. Several weeks ago I interviewed Eva Flynn about her novel, The Renegade Queen. Today Neal Katz is here to discuss his new novel, Outrageous, about the pioneering woman, with us.
Welcome Neal. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
NK: Outrageous is about unfailingly believing in one’s self and a vision with such fortitude that any barrier can be overcome. The story depicts the horrific ways women were treated in Victorian America. The Saga also covers how men in power use prison and the law to suppress social, economic, and legal change, especially the advancement of women. It also covers some of the original manipulations of Wall Street and the Gold Exchange— behaviors present today.
Outrageous tells about the journey and the long, impactful lives of Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin, who broke every barrier known to women of the day. They opened the first women-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street, and published the first women-owned newspaper. Victoria was the first woman invited to address Congress, and she was formally nominated and ran as a candidate for POTUS, in 1872.
What prompted you to write about this historical event?
NK: There are many uncommon parallels between the lives of Victoria and Tennessee and my own. Having to create the full psychological reality of the two allowed me to deal and investigate the influence of early traumas in my own life. Ultimately it is a story of triumph and accomplishment, something I still aspire to.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
NK: I want my readers to experience the history, not learn about it. If I found a fact, I would conform the story line to the fact. That said, some of the history itself is contradictory, and I willingly sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of a compelling story that allows the reader to feel the emotions, see the lighting, and smell the odors in the scenes. For me, this is the way to make the history come alive and create lasting images and awareness.
What research did you do for this book?
NK: Extensive. I include a short Bibliography at the end of the book. There are eleven histories that I read about all the main characters and the times. I also reviewed speeches, newspaper articles, and several filmed documentaries. At any given time I have 3–5 books and my web browser open to fact check while writing.
Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?
NK: There is only one primary character I invented, and a few minor characters to fill in the narrative. I had a lot of fun with the one primary fictitious character who will appear throughout the four volumes. I am usually intoxicated with the creativity and expression of writing, I don’t have a preference or find one more difficult.
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
NK: I place myself in the room, at the train station, or on the streets and try to imagine the smells, the colors, the fabrics and clothes. I also endeavor to create true psychological profiles for each character. Then, dialogue is the best way to involve the reader in a scene.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
NK: Great question. I find the depictions of men and women characters equally challenging and rewarding. I call my writing herstorical faction, because it is about an historical figure, Victoria Woodhull, and it is based on the real events portrayed as I imagine she experienced them. As a writer, I like to promote both sexes equally. That said, I encourage readers to “Know Your Herstory” as there are so many wonderful tales of powerful women, and I am known as The Guy Feminist, actively supporting the HeForShe movement for gender equality.
Thanks for answering my questions, Neal, and I wish you great success with your novel.
About Neal Katz: He is a semi-retired, serial entrepreneur, CEO with a passion for women’s rights. He lives a life based on self-awareness and Love. He practices Yoga, meditates daily, has taught A Course in Miracles, produced Oregon wines, enjoys being a gourmet chef, recites Vedic sutras, and writes his own inspirational poetry.
The saga of Victoria Woodhull appeals to Neal, as it serves three purposes. First, the story provokes public awareness of the historical and continuing denigration and subjugation of gender prejudice. Second, the tale exposes the historical basis for the manipulation of the free markets of stocks, bonds and commodities. Third, the story shows how existing financial and political power structures used prison and seizure of assets to prevent innovation and social change. Victoria Woodhull overcame all these obstacles in a remarkable life.
Neal chose to write in first person using Victoria’s words, thoughts, and point of view to tell the tale, inviting the reader to see through her eyes. The style is magic realism along the lines of Allende, Marquez, and Kathleen McGowan (The Magdalene Trilogy). This is an expression of the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality championed by Emma Watson, and Neal proudly proclaims himself a male feminist!
Neal has pledged fifty percent (50%) of his author’s royalties from book sales and all ancillary revenues, including foreign print distribution and Hollywood rights to a foundation formed in tribute to Victoria Woodhull and her passion for woman rights. The foundation will promote and prove programs for the empowerment and sustainable economic improvement of women, especially single mothers.