Young author continues trek through history

Stephanie Strohm releases 'Confederates Don't Wear Couture'

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Fairfield native Stephanie Kate Strohm recently returned to the Fairfield University Bookstore to celebrate the release of her latest book, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture: A Tale of Heartache, Haunting, and Hoopskirts.

Last year Strohm debuted her first young adult novel, Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, at the downtown retail bookstore. Both novels feature a dynamic, young female heroine, Libby Kelting, who is both a self-confessed “history nerd” and romantic.

“We’re so proud to be the recipient of this book launch,” said Craig Kennedy, trade manager for Fairfield University Bookstore as he welcomed more than 30 of Strohm’s family and friends to a reception.

Last year Kennedy read Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink and thought the bookstore could “easily sell 100 copies.”

“And, sure enough, we did,” he said.

Confederates Don’t Wear Couture takes place at a Civil War re-enactment in Alabama. Before she began writing the book, Strohm read several authentic diaries written by 16- and 17-year-old Southern girls during the 19th Century. Her extensive research also included reading Godey’s Ladies Book, a top fashion magazine published of the 1860s.

“Every dress that Libby wears is an exact replica of a dress that’s in the magazine,” Strohm said.

However, the author quickly points out that her novel is about much more than “ballgowns and debutantes.”

Although there’s humor, romance and the supernatural found within its pages, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture also references real events in American history.

Strohm grew up with a strong interest in history. When she started writing the Libby Kelting series, Strohm’s goal was to write novels based on historical places and issues in a way that would appeal to a larger audience than those, such as herself, who are already history buffs.

“I wanted to sneakily access those who might not yet realize that history can be exciting and interesting,” Strohm told the audience at the Fairfield University Bookstore.

Accompanied by her father, Frank, Strohm’s research took her to a live Civil War re-enactment. She also spent time visiting several southern battlefields with her mother, Mary.

Her parents said they’re pleased with the positive response the books have received from the publishing industry and readers.

“It’s fantastic and exciting,” said Mary. “Stephanie always had a very creative imagination and sense of play as a kid.”

Strohm’s dramatic talents were evident as she read aloud from the book. After graduating from Middlebury College with a joint degree in history and theater, Strohm worked for awhile as an actress. She was involved in productions at a Shakespeare theater in Vermont. It’s no surprise that her next YA series takes place in a similar summer stock theater company.

The third book in the Libby Kelting series, Pioneers Don’t Get Pedicures, is scheduled for publication next year.

RoseAnn Martinez, Strohm’s fifth grade writing and math teacher at Greens Farm Academy, attended the book launch and signing.

“Not only was Stephanie in my class, but when she went to middle and upper school, I attended every play she was in,” said Martinez.

Martinez said the young author enthusiastically returned to her alma mater to share her insights about writing with the fifth grade students.

“They loved listening her speak about what it’s like to be a writer,” Martinez said.

Strohm frequently speaks to children in New York and Connecticut. She also teaches creative writing for a non-profit organization.

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