A Different Kind of Fire by Suanne Schafer Book Tour and Giveaway :)


A Different Kind of Fire
by Suanne Schafer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

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.


Author Note:
Ruby Schmidt has just left her West Texas home and betrothed to go to attend the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts. This is her first day in her new world.

Eager to explore the Academy, Ruby skipped there the next morning. She reined in her eagerness, not wanting to appear a foolish schoolgirl. Red and black brickwork patterns graced the magnificent façade of the Academy. Terra cotta statuary, floral designs, and stone tracery surrounded a large Gothic window. Above, a bas-relief frieze depicted famous artists. She’d never seen such elaborate ornamentation on a building. She entered through a two-story arch, gaping in awe at the decorative tiled floors, a spectacular staircase with banisters of bronze and mahogany, walls studded with golden rosettes, and a blue ceiling spangled with silver stars. How easy to learn art here where beauty dwelled. In the student store, she received the list of supplies for her first class,Drawing from the Cast. She purchased Venetian charcoal, paper, and fixative, and for a modest additional cost, she chose a portfolio instead of a drawing board. Carefully she counted $3.72 from her reticule before placing the majority of the items in her new locker, rented for a dollar a year, keeping only pencils, an eraser, and a sketchbook for immediate use. She climbed the grand stairs to the second floor galleries. The largest painting Ruby had ever seen dominated the landing. Beneath it, a gold plaque read Dead Man restored to Life by touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha, Washington Allston (1779-1843). An entire wall of her room at the boarding house could not hold the image. Scarlet accents swirled through a pyramid of figures. At its peak, Allston had placed a Roman centurion’s gleaming gold armor, and at its base, the dead man’s white shroud. As Ruby moved through the galleries, she understood why the Academy’s art collections were considered the most valuable in America. Briefly she worshipped before each picture, moving close enough to study the translucent layers of colors and shifting her head to catch the play of light across individual brush strokes. Her fingers itched to hold a paintbrush, and she rubbed her fingers together to soothe their prickling. On the Cherry Street side of the Academy, Ruby wandered into galleries containing paintings and casts of sculptures. Rooms lit by skylights contained furnishings for drapery painting and life drawing classes. She inhaled deeply. Pungent odors of turpentine and linseed oil mixed with paint permeated the building. Black fingerprints from charcoal dusted the doorjambs. A stout, middle-aged woman watched over the door to the Antiquities Room. She beckoned to Ruby. “Come on in, dearie. It’s Thursday, Ladies’ Day. No men allowed.” Glad she happened to come when the galleries were open to women artists, Ruby entered, her heart thumping with anticipation. Inside a dozen women, uniformed in dark smocks, stood before easels and sketched. All her life, she had seemed singular in her desire to study art. She was no longer alone. The urge to whisper hello to her fellow painters rose within her, but the silence in the room was so profound she found herself unable to speak. The Nike of Samothrace caught her eye, a sculpture she’d only seen in art books at the library of the Texas Normal College. Carved by an ancient Greek sculptor, the figure of the goddess Nike commemorated a victory at sea. Wings unfurled behind her, she descended from the heavens to land on the prow of a warship, struggling to maintain her balance against the combined forces of ship, air, and water. The wind whipped her garments behind her like sheets snapping in a Texas breeze. The goddess’s missing head and arms did not diminish her grandeur—nor did knowing she was a reproduction of the statue in the Louvre. Compelled to touch the graceful wings and the undulating rhythm of the robes, Ruby skimmed one hand sensuously over the plaster, finding it hard, cool, smooth, yet delicately textured at the feathers. The Nike celebrated Ruby’s own triumph in being in Philadelphia. Next Ruby stood before a copy of Michelangelo’s David. From loving Bismarck, she knew what lay beneath the fig leaf and longed to pry away the ludicrous covering and sketch the Biblical hero in all his glory. She wandered around the cast room, her lips clamped together to control her desire to exclaim over every statue, bust, or bas-relief. She hesitated before taking out her sketchbook, afraid the other artists would intuit she was a mere amateur. Beginning her academic career by sketching the Nike or Davidwould surely be too audacious, so she chose a plaster cast of a woman’s hand. As she drew and redrew the long chalky fingers from different angles, the natural light from the skylights faded unobtrusively from warm gold to mercury silver. Suddenly, the brilliance of midday blazed again from overhead. Startled, she looked up. The guardian of the galleries noted her dazed expression. “It’s just our new electrical lights, dearie.” Once the Academy closed, Ruby returned to the boarding house, spinning in giddy circles, oblivious to peoples’ stares. She was intoxicated, as drunk as old Joe Greer, the town ne’er-do-well, when he stumbled from the Dark Horse saloon back home. Art everywhere! More than she had seen in her entire life. The Academy exceeded her dreams. Too delirious with joy to pay attention to where she was going, Ruby wandered into the path of an omnibus. The driver clanged its bell in frantic warning. She jumped to the sidewalk, narrowly escaping being struck by the electrical conveyance. Back at Mrs. Wheelwright’s, she wrote her family and Bismarck describing her adventures. Enthusiastic words flew from her pen:

My dearest Biz,

My New Life began today! I walked into the Academy and immediately knew I had answered my Calling. Before that moment, I had not truly lived. Art will give my life meaning and purpose from here on…



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.


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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for featuring my book here! *warm holiday hugs*

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