DIFFERENT KIND OF FIRE: A Novel
Author: Suanne Schafer
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing
Publication Date: 11.01.18
Genre: LGBTIQ Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Historical Fiction
Page Count: 300 Pages
My Rating: 4
Author’s Bio (Provided by the Publisher’s Author Page):
Suanne Schafer, born in West Texas at the height of the Cold War, finds it ironic that grade school drills for tornadoes and nuclear war were the same: hide beneath your desk and kiss your rear-end goodbye. Now a retired family-practice physician whose only child has fledged the nest, her pioneer ancestors and world travels fuel her imagination. She originally planned to write romances, but either as a consequence of a series of failed relationships or a genetic distrust of happily ever-after, her heroines are strong women who battle tough environments and intersect with men who might—or might not—love them. Suanne completed the Stanford University Creative Writing Certificate program. Her short works have been featured in print and on-line magazines (Bête Noire; Brain, Child; Empty Sink Publishing; and Three Line Poetry) and anthologies: (Night Lights, Graveyard, 166 Palms, and Licked). Her debut women’s fiction novel, A Different Kind of Fire, explores the life of Ruby Schmidt, a nineteenth century artist who escapes—and returns—to West Texas. Suanne’s next book explores the heartbreak and healing of an American physician caught up in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Book Description (Provided by Publisher’s Author Page):
Ruby Schmidt has the talent, the drive, even the guts to enroll in art school, leaving behind her childhood home and the beau she always expected to marry. Her life at the Academy seems heavenly at first, but she soon learns that societal norms in the East are as restrictive as those back home in West Texas. Rebelling against the insipid imagery woman are expected to produce, Ruby embraces bohemian life. Her burgeoning sexuality drives her into a life-long love affair with another woman and into the arms of an Italian baron. With the Panic of 1893, the nation spirals into a depression, and Ruby’s career takes a similar downward trajectory. After thinking she could have it all, Ruby now wonders how she can salvage the remnants of her life. Pregnant and broke, she returns to Texas rather than join the queues at the neighborhood soup kitchen.
Set against the Gilded Age of America, a time when suffragettes fight for reproductive rights and the right to vote, A Different Kind of Fire depicts one woman’s battle to balance husband, family, career, and ambition. Torn between her childhood sweetheart, her forbidden passion for another woman, the nobleman she had to marry, and becoming a renowned painter, Ruby’s choices mold her in ways she could never have foreseen.
Other Books by Suanne Schafer:
166 Palms: A Literary Anthology (06.06.2017) A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES BY FACULTY AND GRADUATES OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY’S CERTIFICATE IN NOVEL WRITING PROGRAM.
Short Story Suite for the Lady in Red by Suanne Schafer: “An aging impotent spy falls in love with the woman he’s assigned to assassinate—with dramatic and unforeseen results…”
Featuring James Burnham, Diane Byington, Luanne Castle, Victoria Grant, Kristine Mietzner, Linda Moore, Suanne Schafer, Stacey Swann, Robin Taylor, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Kenton Yee
Night Lights: An Anthology of Short Fiction: First Contact, Conspiracy, and Space Opera (02.15.2016) Featuring Kurt Bachard, Robert Bagnall, Richard W. Black, David Boop, Tracy Canfield, Rebecca A. Demarest, James Dorr, Chris Doty, Daniel P. Douglas, Julian Drury, Milo James Fowler, Brian Leopold, Michael McGlade, Dennis Mombauer, Nick Nafpliotis, Russell Nichols Frances Pauli, J.B. Rockwell, Suanne Schafer, Jamie D. Wahls, Dean H. Wild
“The short stories in Night Lights are populated with aliens, high and low technology, spaceships—including one with divine aspirations and one helmed by an otter—humans and not-so-human artificial intelligences, Earth locales, and far-off new worlds.
There’s more too, and in each tale, the characters’ struggles will stretch your imagination and sense of reality, while posing profound questions about morality, society and justice, and raising uncertainties of the unknown and unchecked technological evolution.
With 21 original stories from talented, new authors about extraterrestrials, conspiracies, and space exploration, Night Lights is full of moments that will make you gasp, shudder, laugh, and wonder.
Short Story Suite for the Lady in Red by Suanne Schafer: An aging impotent spy falls in love with the woman he’s assigned to assassinate—with dramatic and unforeseen results…”
Licked (12.03.2015) Featuring Rob Rosen, Suanne Schafer, Robin Watergrove, Jessica Taylor, Adrea Kore, Marie Piper, Dale Cameron Low
“Stories taking in both the distant future and pleasures in the past.”
Graveyard: A Collective Work (08.17.2016) “The second anthology compiled by SEZ Publishing contains the stories of over twenty creative writers and their short stories and poems about graveyards.”
BETTE NOIR ISSUE #12 (08.21.2013) Bête Noire brings you the best in dark fiction, poetry and art. In this issue we bring you Rhonda Parrish, Florence Grey, Enna Limb, R. J. Smuin, Marge Simon, Rish Outfield, J. S. Watts, Suanne Schafer, Bruce Boston, Michael Lizarraga, Elanore Lennor Bennett, John Grey, Robert Laughlin, Amberle L. Husbands and Daniel C. Smith.
I’ve read many reviews by those that felt the plot of Schafer’s debut novel, A Different Kind of Fire was driven by romance; however, I found the plot to be inspired by all that was taboo for women in the 19th century, whether in America or across the pond, pursuing a life in the arts. Schafer’s protagonist, Ruby Louise was to me, reminiscent of the 19th-century French novelist Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin who wrote under the pseudonym George Sand because woman authors were demeaned by male authors and treated condescendingly, just as Ruby Louise was treated in her pursuit of artistic painting.
“What you paint is unladylike…Your artwork does not lie within the realm of womanly art.” – A Different Kind of Fire
Both Sand and Ruby Louise were more alike than not, with the exception that George Sand dressed as a man, wearing pants, a top hat and smoking cigars to be a part of the intellectual places women were banned from. Aurora like Ruby Louise rebuffed the double standards of marriage and equality, if in differing ways. It was the time of the suffrage, a time that women were standing up for themselves and demanding free choice.
Melodious, yet defiant, her voice rang out over the multitude. “Yes! I am a Free Lover. A woman has the right to control her body, to refuse her husband if she desires. She has the right to remain unmarried, to bear children outside of wedlock, to love whom she chooses when she chooses. The state has no right to interfer with a women’s–” A Different Kind of Fire
Was it romance or passion? Again, both Ruby Louise in America and Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin had a female lover, while still being sexually involved with men. I have read reviews in which Ruby Louise was referred to as being bisexual. This is not true, Ruby had one long-lasting sexual liaison with one woman and made it clear that she was not attracted to women, even after becoming sexually involved with, and thereafter falling in love with Willow, while also remaining in love with Bismarck.
Ruby’s attraction to Willow developed out of their shared passion for painting which was a passion their families found scandalous and inappropriate. Becoming a painter was an unacceptable pursuit for women just as becoming a novelist was intolerable for women. The distinct difference between Ruby Louise was that Willow loved only women, and George Sand was considered bisexual as she had multiple sexual liaisons with both men and women. Ruby Louise and Willow’s passion for painting morphed into a sexual appetite and ultimately into a deep love. Despite this deep love Ruby Louise continued to be in love with her Texas beau regardless of the Baron and Willow. Who eventually ends up with Ruby’s heart in the end? I’m sorry to disappoint, but you will have to read A Different Kind of Fire to discover this for yourself.
“Bound by fabric and art, the women coversed late into the night, their subjects ranging from chiaroscuro to gouache, from Renaissance artists to those infamous impressionists.” – A Different Kind of Fire
I relished A Different Kind of Fire as it returned me geographically to so many places I have visited or lived. When Ruby finds the book store on the corner of South 9th street it was affecting as I once lived on South 9th street in Philadelphia. I lived in Philadelphia for ten years, and Schafer’s description of the many locales transported me back to the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, as I once fondly referred to Philadelphia.
Schafer had a lot going on in A Different Kind of Fire; however, it was easy to follow without getting lost. Her plot flowed; however, I felt as if some of the characters could have been further developed, but as a debut novel goes, Schafer nailed it.
Thank you to Suanne Schafer for the opportunity to read and review A Different Kind of Fire.