Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fiona Young-Brown Talks About Wicked Lexington, Kentucky

Today, my guest is historical fiction author, Fiona Young-Brown who is here to discuss her book, Wicked Lexington, Kentucky.

AUTHOR: Fiona Young-Brown
BOOK TITLE: Wicked Lexington, Kentucky
PUBLISHER: The History Press

Please tell us about yourself
I’m a Kentucky Brit! I am still a British citizen but the US has been my home for the past thirteen years. I lived in Japan previously, which is where I met my husband, a Kentucky native. After spending many years in grad school, I spent a while teaching at the University of Kentucky before becoming a freelance writer. I’m just not suited to the 9-5 office lifestyle. I write for various magazines and websites, am an editor for MuseItUp Publishing, and am a certified life coach.

Tell us your latest news?
My second book is being released on July 29. Titled Wicked Lexington, it is published by The History Press and is a fun look at some of Lexington’s juicier scandals. The city was considered one of the wickedest in the nation at the end of the 19th century and so I delve into dueling, vice, and political scandals.

When and why did you begin writing?
I started reading at a very early age and loved to write school projects. Somewhere I still have the notebook I kept for current affairs class when I was 7. I used to write my own scripts for favorite TV shows, and so on. I never thought of writing as a career though because I always imagined it as restricted to major novelists or newspaper journalists. While I was in a grad school, I started writing pieces for encyclopedias. Later, I wrote life coaching newsletters and one thing led to another.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Not until a few years ago when my first book was published and my first paid articles in magazines began to appear. I think then I felt as if I had some legitimacy.

What inspired you to write your first book?
It was actually pure chance. An editor at Arcadia approached me through a genealogy mailing list (a personal interest) and asked if I would be interested in working on a book. That led to Lexington: Then and Now, which was published in 2008. 

What books have most influenced your life most?
There are so many. As corny as it may sound, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People was a huge help to me. I read it when I was a painfully shy and unconfident 15 year old.  I remember writing quotes from it in my daily planner so I would have an instant confidence booster when I needed it. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple remains a favorite, as do Jane Austen’s novels. I also adore reading anything by Bell Hooks.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
I am currently reading Colin Spencer’s British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History. It’s a fascinating look at my homeland’s cuisine and the influences on it over time. I’m looking forward to trying to recreate some of the Moorish-influenced dishes from the Middle Ages that I am reading about. It is a very dense book though so I have been reading it since January as I have time. 

What are your current projects?
I have been planning a book with my husband looking at the history of werewolves in cinema. We’re both big film buffs and he also writes werewolf novels in his spare time. We have our basic outline and a first draft, and are in the process of putting together a proposal to send to possible publishers. I am also working with several departments at the University of Kentucky, helping them to compile a history of a power plant in Western Kentucky. I have several other projects squirreled away – a cowboy romance novel and a book about infertility around the world – but they’re on the backburner for now.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My biggest problem is procrastination. I’m very easily distracted and have so many projects I’d like to do, it is sometimes hard to make myself focus on the project at hand.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Is there time for other things? I’m an avid cook, although I suppose you could argue that’s connected to writing since I blog about it. I adore movies (again – writing connected). I like to get out and about in the Kentucky outdoors with my husband and our two dogs. I also spend a lot of time reading and dreaming about travel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
There is so much advice out there that I think it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sense that you should or shouldn’t be doing this or that. The result is that you end up doing nothing. By all means read blogs, magazines, and books about writing, but learn what works for you and ignore the rest. Some writers will swear that you have to write every day. I don’t. Some days I just don’t want to write. Does that mean I’m not productive? No. I spent the time reading, researching, gathering information so that my time isn’t wasted, and then when I do get back to writing, I feel richer and more productive for it. Just because you spend a day not writing does not mean that you should waste the time doing nothing.

Marketing and contacts are incredibly important in this industry. I admit that I hate marketing myself, but I spend a lot of time making contacts, learning from them, sharing information…and that does pay off. 

Find support. I belong to two in-person writing groups. Neither is a support group. Instead, they are my support. One is an accountability group – we meet, state our goals for the next month, discuss whether we’ve met out previous goals and why/why not. It keeps me on track. The other is a group of writers that meets monthly to let off steam, share tips and warnings, etc. Some writers prefer a weekly critique group. Again – find what works for you. 

Lastly, trust in yourself and your abilities. We always hear “write what you know” and while that’s fine to a point, it can be an excuse not to try new markets. Did I know a lot about the history of Lexington when I started Wicked Lexington? No, but I knew some stories and knew where and how to research further. Do I know anything about nuclear power rods or gaseous diffusion? Absolutely not. But I do have a set of skills that can be useful in this project, and I know that I have the ability to obtain the relevant knowledge needed to compile the history of the plant. If I needed to write a technical manual about nuclear power rods, I’d turn down the project because I know that is not within my skills. 

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
I am still in the planning stages of publicizing the new book, but that will involve quite a few local book signings. My local library has asked me to do a talk and slideshow about my books, which I always enjoy because invariably someone shares a story about local history that I can use at a later date. 

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
My publisher for Wicked Lexington is The History Press. I connected with them through a mutual connection. An acquisitions editor happened to mention a project; a friend passed on my name; and the rest is history. I have been very lucky so far in that contacts and friends have been great sources. I would advise anyone to never underestimate the power of contacts because you never know when your name will be passed on. 

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.

My website is That has links to some of my most recent articles, books, books I’ve edited for MuseItUp and more. I keep a food blog at and have a fledgling travel blog at You can also follow me on Twitter: @fionayoungbrown.

 Book Blurb

Despite its illustrious beginnings as the "Athens of the West," Lexington has always had a darker side lurking just beneath its glossy sheen. It didn't take long for the first intellectual hub west of the Alleghenies to quickly morph into a city with the same scandalous inclinations as neighboring Louisville and Cincinnati. Filled with tales of infamous duels, cheating congressmen and much more, Wicked Lexington, Kentucky offers the first collection of the city's rowdy and raucous history. From Belle Brezing's infamous brothel of the late 1800s, frequented by some of the city's most prominent businessmen and whose owner was once pardoned by the governor, to historic sports scandals of the 1900s, local author Fiona Young-Brown tracks Lexington's penchant for misdeeds from founding to modern times.


  1. Thanks for including me Penny. I had so much fun answering the questions!

  2. Fiona, it was a pleasure and I enjoyed getting to know more about Lexington.

  3. Congrats on your new release, Fiona. It sounds like an intriguing book. I know the procrastination problem well! British food through the ages is very interesting. I'm going to search out your current read.

  4. I never knew Lexington was so much fun! I've got to get down there more often. lol!

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  5. Shelley and Marian, thanks for stopping by to see what Fiona has been writing about.

  6. Great post. :-) I've become interested in Kentucky history, although my research is currently restricted to Louisville & nearby Bullitt County. But there is the Bourbon Trail...

    I'll have to check out Wicked Lexington. See how it compares to the wickedness of Louisville. ;-)

  7. Well, darn. I left a comment but I guess it didn't go through. :-( Great post, though.

  8. Pamela, thanks for sharing. Wonderful to hear from another Kentucky history buff.

  9. Pamela, sorry. I had company this evening and didn't get a chance to load your comment. I monitor to keep the spammers out. Doesn't happen often...

  10. Penny,

    No problem! :-) I thought maybe it was Blogger, given people have had problems leaving comments on other Blogger sites. The joys of modern technology. LOL

    I understand perfectly well why you monitor for spammers.

  11. Hi Penny, sorry to reach you this way but I'm on vacation and unable to send emails. Your blog post is up - but on the main/ home page rather than the guest author page, (to give you more exposure.) The link is:
    You have some comments already (I've been promoting it.)Sorry for any confusion, Kind regards, Grace x
    PS Couldnt post the author photo for some reason - the picture wouldnt open. G x

  12. Hi Pam,

    Would love to hear more about the Wickedness of Louisville sometime!


  13. Pamela, thanks for understanding.
    Grace, thanks for letting me know. Hope your enjoying your vacation and I appreciate you taking time out to get the post up.