THE NURSE'S SECRET, (out June 28th!) by author AMANDA SKENANDORE
The unflinching, spellbinding new book from the acclaimed author of The Second Life of Mirielle West. Based on the little-known story of America’s first nursing school, a young female grifter in 1880s New York evades the police by conning her way into Bellevue Hospital’s training school for nurses, while a spate of murders continues to follow her as she tries to leave the gritty streets of the city behind…
Based on Florence Nightingale’s nursing principles, Bellevue is the first school of its kind in the country. Where once nurses were assumed to be ignorant and unskilled, Bellevue prizes discipline, intellect, and moral character, and only young women of good breeding need apply. At first, Una balks at her prim classmates and the doctors’ endless commands. Yet life on the streets has prepared her for the horrors of injury and disease found on the wards, and she slowly gains friendship and self-respect.
Just as she finds her footing, Una’s suspicions about a patient’s death put her at risk of exposure, and will force her to choose between her instinct for self-preservation, and exposing her identity in order to save others.
Amanda Skenandore brings her medical expertise to a page-turning story that explores the evolution of modern nursing—including the grisly realities of nineteenth-century medicine—as seen through the eyes of an intriguing and dynamic heroine.
“A spellbinding story, a vividly drawn setting, and characters that leap off the pages. This is historical fiction at its finest!” —Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Codebreaker’s Secret
Ideally, I get up, spend a few minutes meditating
or practicing yoga, brew a cup of tea, and then start writing. And sometimes, I
really do start my day this way. There are many mornings, however, that I’ll
pick up my phone and start scrolling before I’m even out of bed. Then I’ll get
sidetracked by the dirty dishes in my sink (or the clean dishes in my
dishwasher waiting to be unloaded). I’ll scroll a little more, then brood for a
while over all the time I’ve wasted, then finally start writing. Basically, my
routine is a work in progress.
Finish this: “I
can’t write without…”
I can’t write without a window. It doesn’t have to be right in
front of me but somewhere in sight. If I’m writing outdoors, no window
required. In either case, a cup of tea is nice to have on hand too.
If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…
Matches and a water desalinator. My imagination can do the rest.
Do you have a ‘day
job’ as well?
In addition to being
a writer, I work part-time as an infection prevention nurse at a local
hospital. I enjoy being able to use different skills and other parts of my
brain when I’m there. It helps me feel connected to my community in another way
Do you have a
manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?
Yes! The first book I
ever wrote never made it beyond the second draft. It was a great learning
experience, though. It was a historical fantasy novel about an outsider
searching for clues about her past. (All my books seem to circle around this
idea of belonging...) I queried a few dozen agents with the manuscript, but
after hearing their feedback (or lack thereof), I realized the story needed a
lot more work. By then, I’d already fallen in love with the idea for my next
novel. So I put that first manuscript away and started on my next (which would
eventually become BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY, my first published book). Fun as it
was to write, I don’t think that first manuscript will ever see the light of
If I wasn’t an
author, I might be…?
An archeologist, a
museum curator, a librarian, or a cheesemonger.
Do you have a go-to
first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?
When I was starting
out, I joined a critique group of five other local writers. What a difference
it’s made in my life and my career! The group has helped me grow as a writer
and supported me on the long path to publication. These women are not only
fellow creators but dear friends. Over the years, we’ve lost a few members and
gained others, but they’re always my go-to readers when I finish the rough
draft of a manuscript. I know they’ll be honest, insightful, and encouraging.
What are you working
I’ve just begun
working on my next novel about a wily medicine show woman and her band of
misfit performers who find themselves in Galveston, Texas during the most
devastating hurricane ever to strike the U.S.
Do you have a
In most of my books,
my favorite character is one of the secondary characters—the sidekick or love
interest or best friend. But in THE NURSE’S SECRET, Una, the main protagonist,
is my favorite. She’s a slum-dweller and pickpocket extraordinaire. From an
early age, she’s had to fend for herself, and that’s made her scrappy and
self-reliant. But also mistrusting. She becomes a nurse trainee at New York
City’s infamous Bellevue Hospital to throw off the police and finds herself in
a world unlike anything she’s known. What I liked most about writing Una’s
story and what makes her so special is the way she’s able to use her courage
and street smarts to get by at the hospital while also learning there’s more to
life than survival.
Being a nurse myself,
I was curious to explore the profession’s early history. Today, it’s among the
most trusted professions, but that wasn’t always the case. Until the late
nineteenth century, nurses were untrained and often illiterate. Creating a
fish-out-of-water character like Una helped me approach that history in a more
playful and relatable way.
What was some unique
research you had to do for a book?
Research is a big
part of my writing process. Thankfully, it’s one of the parts I love the most.
When I was writing THE UNDERTAKER’S ASSISTANT interviewed the county corner to
get a better sense of what it was like to work with the dead. For THE SECOND
LIFE OF MIRIELLE WEST, I spent several days at Carville (the site of the former
National Leprosarium) researching in their archives.
Do you have any
advice for aspiring writers?
revise! And don’t give up.
Place you’d like to
Back in time! That’s
why I write historical fiction. But, assuming we’re sticking to the present
day, I’d love to visit Turkey and Egypt. I’m also always thrilled to travel to the
ocean—any ocean. My dream writing retreat would be a cottage by the sea.
Is there anything
you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you! Getting to
know my readers is one of the very best parts of being a writer. Once a book is
published, it belongs as much to the reader as it does to the author. It’s a
delight to share the journey with you!