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Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel: Guest Post and Giveaway!

Thursday, October 31, 2013
People are sometimes surprised when they find out that I wrote a work of historical fiction entitled Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel. I suppose they expect a woman of a certain age to be writing Regencies or some other more traditional form of romance. But they would be wrong, because my work does not fit that mold. While romances play an important role in all of my stories, love is life after all, the relationships are not the driving force behind the premises. I'm glad someone came up with the term "with romantic elements"!  When folks get to know me, they discover that I have had relationships with real gangsters through my work as a secondary school assistant principal, but that has no relation to my writing. I wrote Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel because I had some themes I wanted to explore. The Deep South is a place of great contradictions. Our reputation for friendliness, courtesy, and hospitality is known around the world, yet so many painful, inhumane things have happened in our midst. Writing about this dichotomy was cathartic for this child of the South. The fact that I once lived in Lake City, Florida and stayed at the Blanche provided the vehicle for my exploration. Knowing Capone really stayed at the Blanche sealed the deal. I wanted a catchy title and Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel fit the bill.

When the cover of Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel scrolled into view for the first time, my heart actually did a little flip. I think it was the combination of the gangster's sexy eyes and seeing my vision come to life. From the beginning, I knew I didn't want the traditional romance cover of an embracing couple because my plot involved so much more than the romantic relationships in the novel's two timelines. I also wanted something that would represent the Blanche and Capone. I asked the cover artist to create  a snapshot of a gangster that looked like it was printed in 1930, then superimpose it over a picture of the hotel. Fiona Jayde, the artist, went one step further by adding a photograph of the current day Jacksonville, Florida river front in the background. Initially I didn't understand why she chose Jacksonville when the story is set in Lake City and Gainesville, but then it dawned on me. A pivotal moment for Liz, my modern heroine, takes place in Jacksonville. The choice now seems inspired.

My two female main characters are dear to my heart because they are loosely based on women in my own life. My modern timeline heroine, Liz, is a rock star in her professional life, but her personal life is a disaster. She is intelligent, innovative, productive - everything she should be and more as a university professor and researcher. Sadly, she has an unfortunate personal tick when it comes to her romantic relationships. She is drawn to glamourous bad boys. Perhaps you have known women like this? I have some friends who fit this mold. Watching these accomplished women make poor romantic choices and get hurt time after time makes my head spin. Why, oh, why girls, do you do it? I can't change my friends or make their choices for them, but I can with my characters. Liz let me make life turn out as it should, not how it usually does.  

Meg, my 1930 heroine, is an homage to the strong women in my life who were young during the Great Depression. Despite the economic conditions and the discrimination women faced, my mother and my mother-in-law left the farm and managed to work their way through college. Several of my aunts did as well. The 1929 Wall Street Crash and its aftermath left their marks on these women, but they did not let circumstances beyond their control defeat them. They survived and went on to help win World War II from the home front. These women, and so many like them, are the unsung heroes of the 20th Century.

How about you? If you wanted to honor someone by making her a character in your story, who would it be and what part would you assign her?

Author Bio:

I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, "Let's pretend."

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband, one German Shorthaired Pointer who thinks she’s a little girl, and one striped yellow cat who knows she’s queen of the house.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion:  "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire  



Twitter:  @LindaPennell

Buy link:


Linda will be awarding a $15 Amazon or BN GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon or BN GC to a randomly drawn host.


  1. It is a very catchy title. I do enjoy finding out more about how this book came to be.


  1. Andra Lyn said...:

    I think any author, of any age, can write whatever they want. Am I surprised when I find an 80 yr old woman writing about vampires and teenagers, sure...but they can do what they want! I love that you don't fit the mold and brought us Al Capone!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  1. Thank you for hosting me today! This was a fun article to write!

  1. Thank you, Andra, for stopping by and commenting. Love it that you have such an open outlook. We humans do like to label each other and place each other in neat little boxes. It's great to meet someone who has a different way of approaching things!

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Mary. LOve it that you like the title!

  1. Karen H said...:

    For some reason, every time I read something about this book, I'm reminded of a TV program on STARZ network called 'Magic City'. It's about a mobster owning a glamorous Miami hotel in 1958. Don't think there is any real similarity between that program and this book...just a recall for me. Maybe it's just the history of mobsters and other unsavory types in Florida through history.

    This book sounds like an outstanding read.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Hey, Karen, it's great ti see you here! Florida does have quite a history with the mob. The Miami connection is the most well known, of course.

  1. Excellent post, Linda! The storyline is intriguing and will appeal to a wide audience.

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Thank you, Joanne! Nice to have you stop by!

  1. Unknown said...:

    love that you dared to step outside the box and write about something different. Wishing you much success and many sales.

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Thank you, BJ! Debby and Soul Mate make it easier to be outside the box as a writer.

  1. erin said...:

    sounds fantastic! Congrats to Linda on the new release! Thanks for sharing!

  1. Anonymous said...:

    Two of my favorite things, historical fiction and the Mob. I definitely need to get the book.

    Carolyn Valdez

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Thank you, Erin and Carolyn for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it!

  1. As a Florida resident, this book sounds especially appealing to me! To answer your question, I would make Jane Austen a character in my book. She would be my best friend, and we would plot out our books -- and our romances -- together!

  1. Meghan said...:

    Have any of you seen the Drunk History episode about Al Capone. It's hilarious! Apparently, Al Capone was clinically retarded and somehow evaded the government for years! Crazy!
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  1. Unknown said...:

    sounds like a good read!
    aprilnu2003 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  1. Linda Bennett Pennell said...:

    Thank you to all who stopped by and commented and to Live to Read for hosting!

  1. Natasha said...:

    Sounds like a really good read!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  1. This sounds like a great read and definitely something a bit different. The cover is great, the photo really has the 1930s look.