Interview & Giveaway: Necessary Sins by Elizabeth Bell

Happy FriYAY, dear readers! Today on the blog I am very excited to share my interview with Author Elizabeth Bell with you! She is currently on blog tour for Necessary Sins and has graciously stopped by to tell us more about it!

This is a wonderful historical that I loved and that has received fabulous reviews from other readers. You can read my review here.

We also have a giveaway on Instagram! Pop over to enter to win an eBook! Enter here.

Interview with Elizabeth Bell

Hello Elizabeth and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Necessary Sins!

Thank you, Amy! I’m happy to be here.

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

I work in a university library, a researcher’s dream. I’m the author of The Lazare Family Saga, a historical fiction series that follows a multiracial family struggling to understand where they belong in the young United States. Two of the books were Editors’ Choices in the Historical Novels Review—all that research paid off.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Since childhood. I remember in the second grade, my teacher would give us vocabulary words, and we were supposed to use each one in a sentence to show we understood what they meant. No matter how disparate the words were, I’d fit them into a story. At the age of fourteen, I chose a pen name and vowed to become a published author.

What research did you undertake when writing Necessary Sins?

The four-book Lazare Family Saga took me twenty-eight years to write. About a decade of that was researching, writing, and rewriting Necessary Sins. My father was raised Catholic, but I was raised Protestant, so most of traditional Catholicism was foreign to me. I really wanted to get into the mindset of someone dogmatic so I could unpack and unravel those beliefs. I attended Masses in Latin. I read memoirs by priests and former priests. I read hundreds of books on everything from the Haitian Revolution to Charleston architecture to mixed-race people “passing” as white to the Oregon Trail. I studied 18th and 19th century paintings, clothing, furniture, food, transportation, medicine—you name it! If it was familiar to my characters, I had to know about it. I did genealogical research on a real family who appear as supporting characters in Necessary Sins, the family of horticulturalist Philippe Noisette. I read whole books about roses and visited the places where Noisette roses are still grown in my adopted state of Virginia: the Lewis Gintner Botanical Garden outside Richmond and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants near Charlottesville. Best of all were my research trips to the South Carolina Lowcountry, where I got to walk Longitude Lane in Charleston and the beach on Sullivan’s Island.

What inspired you to write Necessary Sins?

When I was eight years old, my parents took me to visit Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the architecture and the gardens, the flora and fauna, the beaches and the food. I knew I had to set a story there.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Initially, Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds, Alex Haley’s Roots, and John Jakes’s North and South. Later historical novels that inspired my work were Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Douglass’ Women, James Welch’s Fools Crow, and Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House.

What is the last historical novel you read?

A Sitting in St. James, Rita Williams-Garcia’s outstanding family saga published a few months ago, set mostly in Louisiana on the eve of the Civil War. Full of fascinating, despicable, complex characters—including a bitter, racist French noblewoman who fled the Haitian Revolution, a striking parallel to my character Marguerite Lazare.

How did you come up with the title?

The concept of “necessary sins” is straight from my research. Near the novel’s climax, Joseph discovers the writings of 14th-century anchoress and mystic Julian of Norwich. Her Revelations include the line “Sin is necessary, but all shall be well.” Then Joseph sings the Exultet hymn, part of the Easter Vigil Mass, which includes the line “O truly necessary sin of Adam…” My priest protagonist, Joseph Lazare, has been trying to live a life without sin, but he comes to understand that that’s not only impossible but wrongheaded. Good can come from bad. When we screw up, we learn—and hopefully we become more compassionate.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I’m particularly fond of a certain scene at the end between Joseph and his soulmate Tessa. I had so much fun with the double entendres that Joseph doesn’t consciously realize are double entendres—but I trust my readers do!

What would you like readers to take away from reading Necessary Sins?

I want to transport my readers to the 18th-century Caribbean and to 19th-century Charleston. I want to make my readers’ hearts race. I want them to rejoice and grieve with my characters. I hope I draw readers out of their comfort zones. I hope they see American history in a vivid new way and not just through rose-colored glasses. I hope that my readers walk away with more empathy for their fellow humans.

Necessary Sins by Elizabeth Bell

Publication Date: August 7, 2019
Claire-Voie Books
eBook & Paperback; 490 Pages

Series: Lazare Family Saga, Book 1
Genre: Historical Fiction

In antebellum Charleston, a Catholic priest grapples with doubt, his family's secret African ancestry, and his love for a slave owner's wife.

Joseph Lazare and his two sisters grow up believing their black hair and olive skin come from a Spanish grandmother—until the summer they learn she was an African slave. While his sisters make very different choices, Joseph struggles to transcend the flesh by becoming a celibate priest.

Then young Father Joseph meets Tessa Conley, a devout Irish immigrant who shares his passions for music and botany. Joseph must conceal his true feelings as Tessa marries another man—a plantation owner who treats her like property. Acting on their love for each other will ruin Joseph and Tessa in this world and damn them in the next.

Or will it?

Necessary Sins is the first book in the sweeping Lazare Family Saga that transports readers from the West Indies to the Wild West, from Charleston, Paris, and Rome into the depths of the human heart. Passion, prejudice, secrets, and a mother's desperate choice in the chaos of revolution echo through five generations. If you enjoyed The Thorn Birds or the novels of Sara Donati, dive into Elizabeth Bell's epic historical fiction today.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound


“A feast of a novel by an extraordinary new voice. Haunting, meticulously researched, and exquisitely told through characters so human you’d swear they have beating hearts.” — Kathleen Grisson, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House

"From the ashes of rebellion to heart-rending forbidden love, Necessary Sins is a work of art. Bell's voice is a refreshing addition to the genre, and the breadth of her research is impressive. A strong start to a promising series." -- Jessica Cale, bestselling author of Tyburn

"A taut, compelling family drama with a fresh and intriguing setting. Necessary Sins will be a welcome read for fans of historical fiction." -- Olivia Hawker, internationally bestselling author of The Ragged Edge of Night

"A gripping family saga with complex characters, Necessary Sins is lushly detailed and beautifully written. I look forward to following the fortunes of this antebellum family in future volumes." -- Susan Higginbotham, author of The First Lady and the Rebel

"In antebellum South Carolina young Joseph Lazare discovers a secret that would ruin his family. Driven to atone, he becomes a priest, only to fall in love with a married woman. In this carefully researched historical novel Bell examines the way race, religion and class weave a web that Joseph may never escape. A thoughtful, vividly imagined and engrossing historical novel, highly recommended." -- Sara Donati, internationally bestselling author of The Gilded Hour

About the Author

Elizabeth Bell has been writing stories since the second grade. At the age of fourteen, she chose a pen name and vowed to become a published author. That same year, she began the Lazare Family Saga. It took her a couple of decades to get it right. New generations kept demanding attention, and the saga became four epic novels.

After earning her MFA in Creative Writing at George Mason University, Elizabeth realized she would have to return her two hundred library books. Instead, she cleverly found a job in the university library. She works there to this day.

Elizabeth is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, and she loves chatting with fellow readers, writers, and history buffs. Visit her at You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, BookBub, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, August 4
Review at The Cozy Book Blog

Friday, August 6
Review at The Enchanted Shelf

Monday, August 9
Review at Rajiv's Reviews

Wednesday, August 11
Interview at Books, Tiaras, and Lattes

Friday, August 13
Review at Coffee and Ink

Monday, August 16
Review at Passages to the Past

Friday, August 20
Review at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, August 25
Review at Robin Loves Reading

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