Monday, February 3, 2014

Kismet Book Tours Blog Tour, Interview, & Giveaway: The Traitor's Wife (Allison Pataki)

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The Traitor's WifePaperback, 496 pages
Expected publication: February 11th 2014 by Howard Books

A riveting historical novel about Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and mastermind behind America’s most infamous act of treason.
Everyone knows Benedict Arnold—the infamous Revolutionary War General who betrayed America and fled to the British as history’s most notorious turncoat. Many know Arnold’s co-conspirator, Major John André, who was apprehended with Arnold’s documents in his boots and hanged at the orders of General George Washington. But few know of the integral third character in the plot; a charming and cunning young woman, who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it.
Socialite Peggy Shippen is half Benedict Arnold’s age when she seduces the war hero during his stint as Military Commander of Philadelphia. Blinded by his young bride’s beauty and wit, Arnold does not realize that she harbors a secret: loyalty to the British. Nor does he know that she hides a past romance with the handsome British spy John André. Peggy watches as her husband, crippled from battle wounds and in debt from years of service to the colonies, grows ever more disillusioned with his hero, Washington, and the American cause. Together with her former lover and her disaffected husband, Peggy hatches the plot to deliver West Point to the British and, in exchange, win fame and fortune for herself and Arnold.
Told from the perspective of Peggy’s maid, whose faith in the new nation inspires her to intervene in her mistress’s affairs even when it could cost her everything, The Traitor’s Wife brings these infamous figures to life, illuminating the sordid details and the love triangle that nearly destroyed the American fight for freedom.. 

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ALLISON PATAKI grew up in upstate New York, in the same neighborhood where Benedict and Peggy Arnold once lived. Allison attended Yale University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in English. While at Yale, Allison received Distinction in the Major from the English department and served as a campus reporter and news anchor for the student-run campus television program, YTV News.
The daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki, Allison was inspired to write The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America based on the rich Revolutionary War history of her hometown in New York State’s Hudson Highlands.
Allison spent several years writing for television and digital news outlets prior to transitioning to fiction. The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America is Allison’s first novel.
Allison lives in Chicago with her husband.

What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

A couple of years ago I was walking the dogs with my mother in upstate New York, right across the river from West Point. We paused to read a historical marker, which described “Arnold’s Flight,” the walking trail we hiked. The marker described the three main characters of Benedict Arnold’s conspiracy to sell West Point.

I knew Benedict Arnold, the notorious American turncoat. I knew John Andre, the British spy with whom Arnold had conspired. 

What I had not known, however, was whose face belonged to the portrait of the beautiful young woman beside Benedict Arnold. Her name was Peggy Shippen Arnold. I read how Peggy was courted first by John Andre before she married the colonial hero, Benedict Arnold. She was a loyalist to the British cause. As such, she was the central figure in orchestrating her husband’s treason. Reading this, I thought to myself: how did I not know this? It was pretty juicy stuff!

As I continued my walk, I could not stop thinking about Peggy Shippen Arnold, and I could not wait to learn more about the role she had played in this well known treason. Once I began the research, and continued to uncover the salacious details of the whole plot, the idea for the novel took off.

Who is your favorite character in the book?

It is tough to pick one!

Peggy was definitely a really fun character to write. She is so beguiling and charming and moody and deceptive. I hope the reader will be simultaneously seduced by and then disgusted with her.

Cal was another fun character to write. He, like Clara, has a guilelessness about him. An optimist, Cal believes in the cause of American freedom, even if he is a bit naïve at times. 

Which came first, the title or the novel?

The novel, absolutely. I knew that the plot would revolve around Peggy Shippen Arnold from the first day. 

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold’s name, and to call someone a “Benedict Arnold” is to call someone a traitor. I wanted this to be about the woman who stood by his side when he became a traitor. By his side, or, you might even say, out front!

What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

Probably the opening scene, when George Washington’s rider approaches the Arnold house. Washington is on his way! Further down the Hudson River, the treason is being uncovered, and yet, Peggy and Benedict Arnold are convinced that they have succeeded in their plot.

That is, until the second rider approaches. From this messenger, the Arnolds learn that their plan has been unearthed. And yet, Washington is still on his way! Chaos ensues. 

I like that the novel begins with immediate tension and disaster. The rest of the novel then goes back and works up until this very moment, this fateful and disastrous morning.

Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

How much more goes into publishing a book than just having an idea and writing it down.

You start with the idea and the research. Then there is the writing of the book, yes. But then there are the edits, and the rewrites, and more edits and more rewrites. Then there is the process of selling the book to a publisher. After all, a manuscript does not become a book until someone in a position of power says so. 

Then there are many more edits and rewrites… 

After all of that, you have to package and brand this emerging book. You develop the related content, and the book cover design, and you create a platform to try to position this book in the market and to reach readers.

It’s been a wild and fun process, and it has made me so appreciative of all of the people who have helped me and guided me along the way.

What do you like most about the cover of the book?

I love everything about the cover of book! I love Peggy’s dress. I love that she holds a cryptic letter behind her back. I love that her expression is cloudy and she is sort of difficult to see. I love the tattered colonial flag waving in the background.

Probably my favorite detail, however, is the Hudson River backdrop. That’s the view I call home! You can see the hint of where West Point stands on the distant hill. That fort was the crowned jewel around which all of the treason and betrayal and drama in The Traitor’s Wife swirled!

What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2014?

I love Nancy Horan’s writing, so I’m very excited to read her new release, Under the Wide and Starry Sky.

I’m also looking forward to reading Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Invention of Wings.

Both of those women write lyrically, and both of them steep their plots in rich and interesting historical settings. I admire them both so much.

What was your favorite book in 2013?

It’s always tough to pick just one! But I loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. That book had me laughing out loud – like, deep guttural laughs. I read it on a plane ride and it was actually sort of embarrassing. 

Also, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. His writing is so moving, and his characters come to life with startling clarity.

What’s up next for you?

More historical fiction! I thought, while writing The Traitor’s Wife, that I would never enjoy writing another book this much, ever again. But I was surprised. I found another topic that, to me, is equally fascinating and fun.

Like The Traitor’s Wife, it is the story of a captivating woman who had a front-row seat to the events of her time. Though her time period is well known, her life and her role in history have been largely forgotten.

Kismet Book Touring


  1. I love that it is an historical novel, the cover is great, I would love to read it :)

  2. Lovely interview Allison as usual! :)

  3. I love the interview in this post. The Traitors Wife sounds like a great easy read, that is why I would choose it.

  4. I really enjoyed the post and absolutely loved the book. I can't wait to read more.

  5. I enjoyed the interview thank you. I think it's a beautiful cover & a most fitting title.

  6. cover looks awesome would love to read this book.

  7. I love the nostalgia of the book and i loved reading about whats next for the author

  8. sounds like a great book! I want to read it because I like historical books.