Monday, December 5, 2022

TBR: The Glassmaker’s Wife by Lee Martin

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.



Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


A pinch of white powder, a scorched paper, a community eager to assign guilt, an apothecary’s imagination, a young girl’s first steps into the tangles of revenge, a life waiting for her on the other side. Based on the true story of Betsey Reed, who was accused of poisoning her husband in 1844, The Glassmaker’s Wife is a story of the contradictions and imperfections of the human heart that lead people to choices and the consequences they’d do anything to be able to escape.



Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?


I enjoyed the character of Eveline Deal, the hired girl who told the coroner’s jury she saw Betsey Reed put a pinch of white powder into her husband’s coffee. I liked finding the complicated layers of Eveline’s character. She’s fifteen and caught up in Betsey’s glamor while at the same time overly sensitive to her criticism. This relationship stands at the heart of the book, and I was interested in what drew Betsey and Eveline together and what threatened to break them apart. Eveline’s testimony is driven in part by vanity even though she loves Betsey—dare I say she loves her to death. The challenge with writing these characters lay in the fact that I was writing about people who really lived, and I felt an obligation to strike a healthy balance between what was factually known about them and what I wanted to imagine in the interest of making a more compelling story.



Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


This novel has gone through more drafts than probably any of my other books partly because of how slowly the writing comes when doing a historical novel—every detail must be authentic—and partly because it took me awhile to successfully imagine the inner lives of the main characters. The book was eight years in the making.



What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


From Isak Dinesen, who said, “Write a little every day, without hope, without despair.” I love this because it puts the emphasis on the process rather than on the result. It reminds us to pay attention to what we love, the moving of words about on the page. If we can do that, the journey will take us to where we’re meant to be. 



My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


I guess what always surprises me: the resilience of love in the face of all that threatens it, which is to say, Eveline and Betsey each gets herself into a situation that comes with great consequences, but somehow love survives. Not without a cost, of course, but Eveline knows, in spite of the ugliness she wrought, there will always be “the fragile, beautiful charms of a life.”


How did you find the title of your book?


Betsey Reed was a mysterious woman—a healer, and herbalist, a great beauty who wore veiled bonnets, and, so some would said, a witch. One of the liberties I took with fact was to have her married to a glassmaker. That gave me my title.



Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)


Since we’re talking about a novel that features glassmaking, how about I offer the following recipe for making what’s commonly called sugar glass or candy glass, which is used to decorate sweet treats like Murdered Cupcakes.


Sugar Glass:


  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cups of water
  • 2/3 cups light corn syrup
  • flavoring oil, if desired


  1. In a medium saucepan add in the sugar, corn syrup, and water.
  2. Insert the candy thermometer and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees.
  3. Once at 300 degrees, remove from heat and transfer immediately to a baking pan (lined with parchment paper).
  4. Allow it to sit until hardened (about 2 hours on the counter or 30 min in the freezer). Make sure to cover it while it sits.
  5. Once hardened lift the pan up and drop straight down to crack the glass. Repeat until you have fragments at a desired size.

Murdered Cupcakes:


  • ¼ cup Butter or Margarine, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/4 cups gluten-free Flour mix...I used Bob's Red Mill
  • 1-1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tspn white Vinegar
  • ½ cup Milk
  • 1 tsp strawberry flavoring
  • 5-10 drops red food coloring...for effect
  • Some candy glass and cream cheese icing.


  1. Make candy glass. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350⁰.
  3. Place paper baking cups in 12 muffin tins.
  4. Cream the Butter or Margarine and gradually add Sugar.
  5. Add egg and beat well. Set aside.
  6. Combine dry ingredients and stir.
  7. Add ⅓ of dry ingredient mixture to butter and sugar mixture, mix.
  8. Combine Milk, Vinegar, Food Coloring and Flavoring, and add ⅓ of milk and flavoring mixture to other mixture, mix well.
  9. Alternately add ⅓ of dry ingredients and ⅓ of milk and flavoring, mixing well between additions.
  10. Fill cupcake cups about ½ to ⅔ full.
  11. Bake for approximately 12 - 14 minutes.
  12. Once cupcakes are baked set them aside to cool. While they cool make the frosting.
  13. Frost cupcakes leaving about 1/2 cup of frosting off to the side.
  14. In a microwave safe bowl place the 1/2 cup of unused frosting into the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and add in 3-5 drops of red food dye. Stir smooth.
  15. Using a butter knife drip the red frosting on top of the frosted cupcakes to create blood splatter.
  16. Stick in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to allow that to set.
  17. Remove from the fridge and insert candy glass into the top of each cupcake. About three slices fits nice without overwhelming the cupcake.
  18. Grab edible blood and drip over the decorated cupcakes.
  19. Serve!











DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.