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Dana Carpenter, English professor, debuts her historical fiction novel

Haley Coble  | 

See dates for local book signing and other book tour locations below.

A young woman, standing in the middle of a battlefield, her face full of strength, determination and sadness—this was the vision Dana Chamblee Carpenter, associate professor of English at Lipscomb University, saw in her head while driving one day.

Little did she know that this young woman would become the main character of an award-winning manuscript and Carpenter’s debut novel, Bohemian Gospel.

Bohemian Gospel will debut on Sunday, Nov. 15, and Carpenter will speak and sign books in Nashville at Parnassus Books in Green Hills, on Nov. 15, at 2 p.m.

“Stephen King compares writing to an archeological dig,” said Carpenter. “You first see a piece of pottery, a glimmer of story, and you slowly begin to dig deeper for more. The image of this girl took months to slowly uncover.”

As Carpenter unearthed her character, Mouse, a bold and unique young orphan, her bewitching story came to life in 13th century Bohemia, uniting and revealing historical facts and characters along the way.

After completing her manuscript, Carpenter, the award-winning author of short fiction that has appeared in The Arkansas Review, Jersey Devil Press and Maypop, began her hunt for a publisher.

“The manuscript received floods of positive feedback from editors, but many publishers were hesitant to pick up an unpublished author,” Carpenter explained. “It was a frustrating process having editors say that they loved the book and give some suggestions, but not be willing to take the gamble on a debut author.”

Not too long after, Carpenter’s husband suggested that she enter her manuscript in the Killer Nashville International Writer’s Conference.

The Claymore Award, presented at the annual Killer Nashville Conference for writers of thriller, mystery and suspense genres, was created in 2009 to help writers advance their careers and to open a new path to publication.

Carpenter submitted her manuscript, Bohemian Gospel, and within three months, she received a call that her story was up for the award. Carpenter quickly purchased a ticket to the conference and attended the awards dinner.

“The contest was for a thriller story and my story was not the conventional ‘horror thriller,’ but rather a historical one,” said Carpenter. “I had no thoughts of actually winning, so I was really surprised when they called out my name. It was an incredible experience.”

After winning the coveted Claymore award, Carpenter was approached by Pegasus Publishers to publish Bohemian Gospel.

Carpenter was familiar with Pegasus and liked the idea of working with a smaller publishing firm, as opposed to a larger one. It was important for her to maintain her voice as a debut author. 

“A book is like your child, and you want to find someone who loves it as much as you do,” said Carpenter. “Pegasus and its supportive staff is the place for Bohemian Gospel.”

Bohemian Gospel is set to come out on Nov. 15, and has received dozens of positive reviews thus far.

“The experience of getting published has been a whirlwind, but truly amazing,” Carpenter explained. “There is a wonderful community of authors in Nashville who are supportive and encouraging to one another. Being a part of this group of authors has been one of the best blessings so far.”

One challenging aspect that Carpenter emphasized was how difficult it is for new writers to get their foot in the door.

“It takes a lot of hard work and luck to land a publisher,” said Carpenter. “I would like to see a reconfiguration of the current model where publishers would be willing to let more new authors in.”

Carpenter noted that her students have helped make being a published author even sweeter.

“My students have been through the experience with me, and being able to share this with them has made the whole process so much richer,” said Carpenter as she reflects on the day when the book cover was finished and she got to celebrate the event with her students.

See Carpenter’s book tour dates below:

  • Keynote speaker for the Young writers Conference at The University of Tennessee-Martin, Nov. 13.
  • Official book launch at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Nov. 15, 2 p.m.
  • Square Books, Oxford, Miss., Nov. 17, 5 p.m.
  • Barnes and Noble, Jonesboro, Ark., Nov. 16, 6 p.m.
  • Star Line Books with Erica Wright, Chattanooga, Tenn., Nov. 21, 2 p.m.


Bohemian Gospel Plot Summary

Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, Bohemian Gospel is the remarkable tale of a bold and unusual girl on a quest to uncover her past and define her destiny.

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past.

But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her? A heart-thumping, highly original tale in the vein of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Bohemian Gospel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice for historical fiction.