Interview & Giveaway: Gilded Dreams by Donna Russo Morin

Happy Friday, dear readers! Today on the blog I am super excited to be hosting Author Donna Russo Morin! She is currently on Blog Tour for Gilded Dreams and she's here with us today to talk more about the new release! I hope you enjoy it! We have a great giveaway as well, so be sure to enter!

Hello Donna and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Gilded Dreams!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure to be back with you and your readers!

I'm a mix of an artistic, intellectual, spirited, curious, girly-girl, tom-boy, rocker. I'm the granddaughter of Italian immigrants and very proud of it. I believe in living life to its fullest despite all the traumas that I've had to overcome. As I've just turned 62, that's a whole lot of living but I still have so much more I want to experience. Writing is not only my profession but my passion. Ironically, when I was assailed by a debilitating illness, I finally found the space in my life to write my first book and it was off to the races. Writing feeds my mind and my soul.

Gilded Dreams is the second book in your Newport Gilded Age series. What inspired you to write the series?

I love the story of how these books came to be.

GILDED SUMMERS is a book I wanted to write/publish for years. As a born and raised Rhode Islander, having played in Newport for most of my adult life, having worked there for over five years, it is a magical place so dear to my heart, in large part because of the depth of its historical significance to our country, dating back to the Revolution with visitors the likes of such Iconic Forefathers as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. For a historical fiction author, that's some hefty fertile ground.

I actually pitched GS to a former editor the year before Downton Abbey came out. Her response was, 'Oh, no one is interested in that time period.' So I turned back to Renaissance Italy, signing a three book deal. Then boom...Downton Abbey comes out and the popularity of the time period soars.

As soon as my trilogy was written and on its way to publication, I turned back to Newport and GILDED SUMMERS was born!

I never had any intention of writing a sequel. But so many readers (as well as my publisher after GILDED SUMMERS hit the International Bestseller's ranking on Amazon) were crying out for it, I began to consider it. I had to find an historical event that not only spoke to me but made sense for Pearl and Ginevra, our heroines. When I discovered that August 18, 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, that which granted American women the right to vote, my muse found the magic.

What research did you undertake when writing Gilded Dreams?

I thought, as a feminist who grew up watching the women's rights movement of the 1960s, that I knew a lot about the suffrage movement. I did not. Nor did I know the role Rhode Island women played in the movement. That's where I centered my research...learning all I could about the country-wide, seventy-two year suffrage journey and honing in on the part Rhode Island women played in it, which was so much greater than I ever expected. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, one of the historical leading ladies of Newport, almost individually funded the major suffrage party of the United States as well as those in New York and Newport. And yet, historically, she is simply dismissed as a 'socialite'. After learning so much about her contributions to the movement, I longed to give her her day in the sun.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont
What would you like readers to take away from reading Gilded Dreams?

There are other books and movies about the suffrage movement, but most of them are about the United Kingdom suffragettes. They were more aggressive and violent than their American counter-parts. Yet my research uncovered just how hard the American suffragettes fought, how much they endured (imprisonment, torture leading to death, and so much more). It baffles me that what these women went through is not part of the American History curriculum in schools, especially high schools. Young women about to embark on their journey as adult women, need to know on whose shoulders they stand. They--and all American women--need to know the truth of the fight that gave them the right to vote so that they'll not squander theirs.

What was your favorite scene to write?

Oh my goodness, there are a when Pearl and Ginevra bicker like the sisters they've become, when they take part in a feminist play and prim and proper Pearl gets into a 'fisticuffs' scuffle, when Ginevra lets her Italian temper get the best of her, when Ginevra comforts Pearl at her most difficult time, and a scene in which these women participate in a march for the vote as other women were doing across the was such a triumphant moment.

Knowing these characters as well as I did coming into it, I was really able to render them and their activities to the fullest. Bringing them from the fifteen-year-olds that they began as in GS to empowered adult women in GD was truly a privilege.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I don't want to give anything away but loss is a part of life and so it must be for our characters if we are to write them authentically. Whenever we, as authors, must write loss, it forces us to tap into our own. It's never easy, but it's essential.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

In the words of one of my favorite, I was born that way. I started writing in grade school and had a wonderful teacher in sixth grade who fostered and supported my creativity. But life, as it does, got in the way and it took me until much later in years and becoming sidelined with Lyme disease before I wrote my first book, landed an agent, and then a publisher. It's the second main purpose of my life (the first has been and always will be the raising of my two sons, now men, an opera singer and a chef).

What does your daily writing routine look like?

As dictated by our publishers, authors must be very active on social media, so I wake my brain up with that activity. Once all sparks are fired, I dig in and I don't let myself out of my desk chair until I've met my daily quota...typically two to three thousand words. Some days, that can happen in just a few hours, and I let myself go out and play. Other days (ugh) it can take till well into the night. But having published ten books in eleven years while raising those two sons I mentioned on my own, it's a routine that works for me. Writing is a solitary endeavor and while we may have publishers and deadlines, the crux of the matter is that we must have the self-discipline to stay in that chair and get the job done.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

You mean other than an abusive marriage and seven and a half years in divorce court (eye roll)? It's an interesting question and I'm going to dare to answer it with an honesty that many people may not know about. My greatest challenge has been not having enough money to publicize and promote my books to the extent that is necessary. I was once told by a very bestselling author that the only difference between my success and theirs is my lack of finances to promote my work. I had no spouse to support me and my work. Publishing companies just don't do as much marketing as they used to. As a single mom, and a struggling one, putting money into publicity rather than feeding my children was not an option. Period.

I've done my best to seek out as many effective, low-cost promotional venues as possible, including as many free ones as I could find. I rely on the kindness of my readers to spread the word about my books. And I take every opportunity to get out there and meet as many readers as I can (BC, of course).

Who are your writing inspirations?

In terms of authors, I'd have to say Diana Gabaldon (oh what a fangirl moment it was when I met her for the first time in 2013), Stephen King whose works taught me so much about good, simple storytelling, and J.K. Rowling, another woman who rose above difficult circumstances to find enormous success. May I follow in her path.

Others include James Michener, John Jakes, Rosalind Laker, and Leon Uris.

As for my muse's inspiration, it is all the women throughout time who have had to--and still do--fight against the restrictions imposed upon us merely by our gender. That so many obstacles still exist for women, tells me we still have work to do and I, many more books to write.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Gone with the Wind, though I had no idea at the time (I was twelve) that I was reading historical fiction. I do know that after reading it that first time, I sought out more books like it, still without knowing 'genres' existed and that, in doing so, I was being pulled towards the genre in which I would write.

What is the last historical novel you read?

Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul (which released this month). As a Jackie Kennedy Onassis devotee who almost dated her son, JFK Jr., and as a mother of an opera singer, it was not only a read tapping into so many of my interests, it was revelatory, which came as a wonderful surprise.

What are three things people may not know about you?

Only three (lol). I adore playing video games, my favorite being The Legend of Zelda series (my first tattoo actually came from a symbol in the game).

I'm a fanatical football fan...a New England Patriots devotee, even when they had losing seasons for decades. Tom Brady may not be with the team anymore but he'll always be in my second book.

And for the third, many people may not know that I'm also a painter. Truth is that I didn't know it myself until a little less than two years ago. I was to have my first exhibit this past June, but...well, we all know how life has changed. I know I will exhibit someday.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

It astounds me as to how much about human existence, in general, can be learned from studying history. And as a histfic author, I get the privilege of telling tales of humanity throughout history and making it personal for the reader to identify with. My books range from the 15th century to the 20th century and there's still a whole lot of stories in me longing to get on the page, there are still so many lessons to be learned.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

While it's lost its popularity somewhat, I still love tales from the Renaissance, of which I've written many times, especially the Italian Renaissance. It was such a powerful vortex in time, a time of great advances not only in art, music, and architecture but in humanity itself.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Anything at, in, or on the ocean. Luckily I live just two miles from it (and why my self-discipline is so important). One of the most cherished moments of my life was last summer when, with my two sons and daughter-in-law, we took my mother kayaking. At then 85, she had never been on one ever. Her shining eyes and delighted smiles will warm me forever.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I'm working on what I consider to be, by far, the greatest writing challenge of my career. This work is taking my research to a level I had never imagined I'd go. It's centered around the life of one of the most well-known artists of all times but I'm not only telling it in a way in which it has never been presented before, but I am also writing to new theories about the truths of this artist's life and death that have never been explored in fiction. It's risky...and I love it!

Well, that sounds exciting! I can't wait to hear more! Thanks for stopping by today, Donna!

Gilded Dreams by Donna Russo Morin

Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Magnum Opus
Paperback & eBook; 495 pages

Series: Newport's Gilded Age, Book 2
Genre: Historical Fiction

From the bestselling author of GILDED SUMMERS comes a powerful novel of the last eight years of the American Women’s fight for suffrage.

The battle for the vote is on fire in America. The powerful and rich women of Newport, Rhode Island, are not only some of the most involved suffragettes, their wealth - especially that of the indomitable Alva Vanderbilt Belmont - nearly single-handedly funded the major suffrage parties. Yet they have been left out of history, tossed aside as mere socialites. In GILDED DREAMS, they reclaim their rightful place in history.

Pearl and Ginevra (GILDED SUMMERS) are two of its most ardent warriors. College graduates, professional women, wives, and mothers, these progressive women have fought their way through some of life’s harshest challenges, yet they survived, yet they thrive. Now they set their sights on the vote, the epitome of all they have struggled for, the embodiment of their dreams.

From the sinking of the Titanic, through World War 1, Pearl and Ginevra are once more put to the test as they fight against politics, outdated beliefs, and the most cutting opponent of all... other women. Yet they will not rest until their voices are heard, until they - and all the women of America - are allowed to cast their vote. But to gain it, they must overcome yet more obstacles, some that put their very lives in danger.

An emotional and empowering journey, GILDED DREAMS is a historical, action-packed love letter to the women who fought so hard for all women who stand on the shoulders of their triumph.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Donna Russo Morin is an award-winning historical fiction author. Donna has dabbled as a model and actor, working on Showtime's Brotherhood and Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Branching out with her storytelling skills, Donna is now a screenwriter. A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Donna lives on the south shore of Rhode Island close to the ocean she loves so very much. She is the proud mother of two sons, Devon and Dylan, her greatest works in progress.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 10
Review at Books, Cooks, and Looks

Wednesday, August 12
Review at Gwendalyn's Books

Friday, August 14
Review at Books, Writings, and More

Saturday, August 15
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, August 17
Review at Amy's Booket List

Wednesday, August 19
Review at Book Bustle

Friday, August 21
Guest Post at The Intrepid Reader

Monday, August 24
Review at Books and Zebras

Tuesday, August 25
Feature at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, August 26
Review at The Love of Books

Friday, August 28
Interview at Passages to the Past

Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, September 2
Excerpt at Bookworlder

Friday, September 4
Review at A Darn Good Read


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of the book + a painting of a scene from the book painted by the author! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway is open to US residents only and on September 4th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Gilded Dreams


  1. Such an interesting interview!

  2. Wonderful interview...thanks for introducing me to Donna Russo Morin and her books! I can't wait to get started on Gilded Dreams. It sounds right up my alley.


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