A couple days ago, this post was going to be about how Gary Paulsen’s wilderness stories influenced my writing or a list of novels featuring women surviving through winter, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a Holiday Inn an hour away from where my house stands inside an active wildfire zone on the outskirts of Boulder. My whole town is under a mandatory evacuation, and flames leap mere blocks from the house I just mortgaged and completely remodeled over the past year. My antsy German Shepherd paces the room next to me, tiny and cramped from end to end with whatever I could grab on my way out of the house I figured I’d never see again. There’s not much solace in taking quick photos of interiors, appliances, electronics, and belongings to catalog for insurance. Definitely no solace in watching the news.
Right now, as I finish typing this guest post that has completely changed direction overnight, I’m calmer. A neighbor has texted me a porch-cam picture of my house across the street from hers, still standing. Amid the horrendous wreckage that has wiped out half my town, my house is still there. The relief I feel floods out in guilty tears as friends text me one after another with images of their own houses burned all the way to the foundation, nothing left but a scorched hole that looks like a nuke dropped or like some video-game scene out of Fallout.
And now, I’m supposed to promote my book.
It is true that I have my debut literary historical novel, Out Front the Following Sea, releasing in a handful of days from Regal House Publishing. It’s true that it’s coming, whether I’m ready for it or not, whether I’m sitting in a hotel room canceling local book events that no longer have a standing venue, whether I’m worrying about my pipes freezing in an evacuated house I can’t get to. And it’s true that the novel is a survivalist story of a woman who loses her family and home to a fire, has to evacuate her town after struggling through a horrifyingly harsh winter, and then has to survive on her wits alone in a brutal world that doesn’t want to accommodate her. So maybe it’s exactly the story we need right now.
It’s hard not to feel trite and selfish in promoting a book in the midst of disaster; and dark, gruesome tales can be a hard sell when everyone wants something to cheer them up instead. Following Sea isn’t cheery, but it’s hopeful at turns. It follows disaster after disaster, yet it chronicles the survival that goes along with each new surfacing crisis. It’s not going to make you feel better, necessarily, but it will show you strength beyond measure. And that strength is what we could all use right now, as I doomscroll through posts of people’s lost pets missing in the fire, at the start of another new wave of dangerous pandemic cases all around me, headed into a very uncertain new year. It’s been a trying couple of years, and what’s kept me going are the strong female characters I’m writing—they are the historical reflection of our current pains, a reminder that disaster is cyclical and as old as time, and that getting through stress, grief, and catastrophe by writing and reading stories is a natural and ancient response. Stories save us when Mother Nature does not.
Over the past two years of the current coronavirus pandemic, many in the literary community have talked about how much more reading they’ve gotten done—with some of my friends having read two or three times as many books during the pandemic years as during the Before Times. There’s something about isolation and disaster that makes us turn to books—the need to escape to a different world, hear a new perspective, or feel less alone. A book can be like a quiet friend sitting in the same room with you. In my case, sitting here in a hotel, that’s exactly how it felt, and it was exactly the friend I needed.
When the firetruck came down my street with its bullhorn blasting—saying the rapidly spreading wildfire was too close, so we had to evacuate immediately—I had about ten minutes to gather the few items I’d take with me. In one bag went the thumb drives, hard drives, back-up discs, old phones, laptops, cords. An impulse grab was the box of handmade Founding Father ornaments that my mom bought me from Monticello, still in their unopened package. I’d just returned from Christmas break and hadn’t even unpacked my luggage yet, so I snatched my backpack with all its overnight stuff and my suitcase—still filled with books gifted from my family. I can’t remember a time when my family gifted me something other than books for the holidays. It was this suitcase of books that would get me through evacuation, just as other TBR stacks had gotten many of us through quarantine, isolation, and myriad disasters before this. Stories. I needed stories. I needed someone else’s story in order to forget the devastation of my own. And over these past few days of wondering and hoping and refreshing webpages on evacuation and power-outage maps, I devoured this suitcase filled with new books, and it made me forget the wreckage by giving me other wreckage to get lost in.
And maybe that’s what my own novel does, too. It’s not a light read. But as Jack London said, “The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.” Following Sea is a survival story of one woman’s fight for life and independence in 1688 New England, and here I am, sitting in 2022 on the tail of a terrifying 2021, surviving. Surviving by reading and writing brutal stories with tough characters that must also survive. Despite all the devastation, all the wreckage among us, survival books are still the stories we need most. Survival is the story of right now.
Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Available for Pre-Order Now!
**Shortlisted for the Chaucer Book Award**
OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence.
At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.
Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, persecution, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society. The debut novel will appeal to readers of Paulette Jiles, Alexander Chee, Hilary Mantel, James Clavell, Bernard Cornwell, TaraShea Nesbit, Geraldine Brooks, Stephanie Dray, Patrick O’Brian, and E. L. Doctorow.
“With OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman reveals herself as a brave new voice in historical fiction. With staggering authenticity, Angstman gives us a story of America before it was America—an era rife with witch hunts and colonial intrigue and New World battles all but forgotten in our history books and popular culture. This is historical fiction that speaks to the present, recalling the bold spirits and cultural upheavals of a nation yet to be born.”
—Taylor Brown, author of PRIDE OF EDEN, GODS OF HOWL MOUNTAIN, and THE RIVER OF KINGS
“Steeped in lush prose, authentic period detail, and edge-of-your-seat action, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a rollicking good read. Leah Angstman keeps the story moving at a breathtaking pace, and she knows more 17th-century seafaring language and items of everyday use than you can shake a stick at. The result is a compelling work of romance, adventure, and historical illumination that pulls the reader straight in.”
—Rilla Askew, author of FIRE IN BEULAH, THE MERCY SEAT, and KIND OF KIN
“Lapidary in its research and lively in its voice, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA by Leah Angstman is a rollicking story, racing along with wind in its sails. Though her tale unfolds hundreds of years in America’s past, Ruth Miner is the kind of high-spirited heroine whose high adventures haul you in and hold you fast.”
—Kathleen Rooney, author of LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK and CHER AMI AND MAJOR WHITTLESEY
“Leah Angstman has written the historical novel that I didn’t know I needed to read. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is set in an oft-forgotten time in the brutal wilds of pre-America that is so vividly and authentically drawn, with characters that are so alive and relevant, and a narrative so masterfully paced and plotted, that Angstman has performed the miracle of layering the tumultuous past over our troubled present to gift us a sparkling new reality.”
—Kevin Catalano, author of WHERE THE SUN SHINES OUT and DELETED SCENES AND OTHER STORIES
“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a fascinating book, the kind of historical novel that evokes its time and place so vividly that the effect is just shy of hallucinogenic. I enjoyed it immensely.”
—Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST, THE WALKAWAY, COTTONWOOD, and HOP ALLEY
“OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a meticulously researched novel that mixes history, love story, and suspense. Watching Angstman’s willful protagonist, Ruth Miner, openly challenge the brutal world of 17th-century New England, with its limiting ideas about gender, race, and science, was a delight.”
—Aline Ohanesian, author of ORHAN’S INHERITANCE
“Leah Angstman is a gifted storyteller with a poet’s sense of both beauty and darkness, and her stunning historical novel, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, establishes her as one of the most exciting young novelists in the country. Angstman plunges the reader into a brilliantly realized historical milieu peopled by characters real enough to touch. And in Ruth Miner, we are introduced to one of the most compelling protagonists in contemporary literature, a penetratingly intelligent, headstrong woman who is trying to survive on her wits alone in a Colonial America that you won’t find in the history books. A compulsive, vivid read that will change the way you look at the origins of our country, Leah Angstman’s OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA announces the arrival of a preternatural talent.”
—Ashley Shelby, author of MURI and SOUTH POLE STATION
“Rich, lyrical, and atmospheric, with a poet’s hand and a historian’s attention to detail. In OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, Leah Angstman creates an immersive world for readers to get lost in and a fascinating story to propel them through it. A thoroughly engaging and compelling tale.”
—Steph Post, author of HOLDING SMOKE, MIRACULUM, and WALK IN THE FIRE
“It’s a rare story that makes you thankful for having read and experienced it. It’s rarer still for a story to evoke so wholly, so powerfully, another place and time as to make you thankful for the gifts that exist around you, which you take for granted. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA is a book rich with misery, yet its characters are indefatigable; they yearn, despite their troubles, for victories personal and societal. Leah Angstman’s eye is keen, and her ability to transport you into America’s beginnings is powerful. With the raw ingredients of history, she creates a story both dashing and pensive, robust yet believable. From an unforgiving time, Angstman draws out a tale of all things inhuman, but one that reminds us of that which is best in all of us.”
—Eric Shonkwiler, author of ABOVE ALL MEN and 8TH STREET POWER AND LIGHT
The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on February 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Leah Angstman is a historian and transplanted Michigander living in Boulder. OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA, her debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, is forthcoming from Regal House in January 2022. Her writing has been a finalist for the Saluda River Prize, Cowles Book Prize, Able Muse Book Award, Bevel Summers Fiction Prize, and Chaucer Book Award, and has appeared in Publishers Weekly, L.A. Review of Books, Nashville Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current and The Coil magazine and copyeditor for Underscore News, which has included editing partnerships with ProPublica. She is an appointed vice chair of a Colorado historical commission and liaison to a Colorado historic preservation committee.
Tuesday, January 4
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
Wednesday, January 5
Review at Probably at the Library
Thursday, January 6
Review at Reading is My Remedy
Friday, January 7
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss
Monday, January 10
Review, Excerpt + Interview at andreajanel_reads
Tuesday, January 11
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary
Wednesday, January 12
Review at Novels Alive
Thursday, January 13
Review at Books, Cooks, Looks
Friday, January 14
Review at SJ Through the Looking Glass
Monday, January 17
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, January 18
Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads
Wednesday, January 19
Review at Jessica Belmont
Thursday, January 20
Review at Reading the Past
Friday, January 21
Review at Books and Zebras
Monday, January 24
Review at Bookworlder
Tuesday, January 25
Review at Booking With Janelle
Wednesday, January 26
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews
Friday, January 28
Review at Michelle the PA Loves to Read
Sunday, January 30
Review at A Darn Good Read
Wednesday, February 2
Review at Donna’s Book Blog