When curiosity seizes Samantha Seiple (BA ’89), she knows just what to do: write a book.
To date the DU alumna has an array of nonfiction titles, most of them directed at young adult readers, to her credit. Her books examine everything from the dog-accompanied adventures of a polar explorer to the Japanese occupation of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War II. Still another page-turner, “Nazi Saboteurs”—the story of an attempt to destroy critical infrastructure on U.S. soil—arrives in bookstores later this year.
“I think what I’m really attracted to are stories that either have been forgotten or overlooked,” Seiple says.
Overlooked perhaps, but not for lack of nerdy razzmatazz. Take her recent offering, “Louisa on the Front Lines” (Seal Press, 2019), an account of writer Louisa May Alcott’s stint as a Civil War nurse. It’s Seiple’s first book for an adult audience and is guaranteed to resonate with Alcott’s fan base, for whom her “Little Women” ranks as formative reading. (Like most Alcott devotees, Seiple has read “Little Women” several times. “My grandmother gave me my copy, and I even have my mother’s copy as well,” she says.)
Seiple admires Alcott as a storyteller, abolitionist and independent woman who defied 19th-century expectations about just what a little lady should and could do. “She was considered unconventional in her day,” Seiple says. “She was a modern woman, but she [lived] in the 19th century.”
Until she began working on “Lincoln’s Spymaster,” her book about the country’s first private investigator, Seiple thought Alcott’s story had been told conclusively. But deep into her research, she learned about Alcott’s nursing experience and discovered how rare it was for a young woman to serve at bedside, much less in a war zone. The book chronicles how Alcott tended to the dying, emptied bedpans and wrote letters for soldiers too maimed to pen their own correspondence.
Seiple traces her origins as a writer to her years at DU, where she majored in mass communications and English, wrote for The Clarion and completed a Denver Post internship—all of which helped her land a publishing job. “I was a production editor and learned all the ins and outs of book production—copyediting and grammar,” she recalls.
After studying library and information science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, she worked as a competitive intelligence specialist in the corporate world, gathering information on markets and competitors. “That really helped me to understand how to dig for information—which, it turned out, I really enjoy doing.”
Based in North Carolina, Seiple is happiest when she’s digging and writing.
“It seems sort of mysterious,” she says of the writing process, “but it really is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”