Elizabeth Camden is best known for her historical novels set in Gilded Age America, featuring clever heroines and richly layered storylines. Before she was a writer, she was an academic librarian at some of the largest and smallest libraries in America, but her favorite is the continually growing library in her own home. Her novels have won the RITA and Christy Awards and have appeared on the CBA Bestsellers List.

In this interview, Elizabeth shares some of her thoughts regarding While the City Sleeps, the second book in her The Women of Midtown Series.

FF: Can you tell us a little about your new novel While the City Sleeps?
The story takes place in 1913, and despite her being a woman in a male-dominated field, Dr. Katherine Schnieder has established a good life for herself in New York City. Her world, however, is plunged into danger after she learns the identity of the people behind a string of bombings. Thus she seeks protection from a dashing police officer. Lieutenant Birch has long admired Katherine from afar, but he has good reasons for keeping her at arm’s length. Now they must work together to unravel the criminal conspiracy that threatens Katherine’s life.

FF: While the City Sleeps kicks off the start of The Women of Midtown Series. What’s the connecting element between the books of this series, and are they strongly linked or more loosely associated?
The novels are loosely linked by the Midtown Manhattan apartment building where all the heroines live. In the early twentieth century, there were several female-only apartment buildings reserved for unmarried career women who might otherwise struggle to find safe housing. The heroines are all professional women who live on the same floor of one such building, but each novel will stand entirely on its own.

FF: Can you share with us why the book is titled While the City Sleeps? What significance does this have to the story?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel featuring the culture and comradery among people who work an overnight shift. I worked the late shift while in college and so appreciate the unique environment of overnight workers—those who keep hospitals staffed, the plumbing and electricity working properly, and the police and fire departments ready to swing into action at a moment’s notice. I wanted to shine a spotlight on these people and celebrate their often overlooked contributions carried out while the rest of the city is sleeping.

FF: You’re famous for setting your novels in the Gilded Age. What is it about that time period that captures your interest?
The Gilded Age has the glamour and romance of a bygone era, yet there’s enough familiarity with this time period that it doesn’t seem alien to the contemporary reader. It was a time when women were entering professions, so I have the freedom to explore interesting work environments and have my heroines fully engaged in the drama of the storyline.

FF: Your main female character, Katherine, is employed as a dentist, which was uncommon for women in the early 1900s. Where did you find the inspiration for her character and her profession?
I’ve always wanted to have a dentist for a hero, and I assumed it would be a man. However, the plot for this novel required the dentist to need constant police protection during which a love story could develop. It worked best to have a female dentist paired with a police lieutenant, who’s determined to keep her safe. By 1913 there were plenty of female dentists, so the idea worked perfectly.

FF: Your male protagonist, Jonathan, is a New York City police lieutenant. What kinds of criminals were the NYPD going after in the early 1900s? What crimes were the biggest threats to the city and its citizens?
The type of crime in New York back then is exactly what they have today—mostly petty street crime, although more serious offenses like murder, terrorism, and Mafia crime consumed the majority of the police’s time and attention. What was unique about this era was that growing professionalization within the NYPD led them to start forming specialized crime-fighting teams. The Bomb Squad and the Italian Squad were established around this time, and both play an important role in the novel. In 1913, almost all Mafia crime was assumed to be Italian, thus the name Italian Squad.

FF: What is one lesser-known tidbit you came across while researching this story that you found most interesting?
I have a few scenes set in newspaper offices during the overnight hours as the editors and typesetters prepare the morning edition. I learned that William Randolph Hearst, owner of the New York Journal, routinely showed up after midnight to participate in laying out the front page and featured stories for the morning newspaper. He often arrived wearing a tuxedo and drinking champagne after a night at the theater. Hearst was a hands-on owner and loved working into the small hours of the morning, fiddling with his newspaper.

FF: You’ve written quite a few historical novels now, each one focusing on a different slice of history. How do you form an idea for a new story?
I devour memoirs written by people who lived during the Gilded Age. For While the City Sleeps, I read memoirs written by early twentieth century dentists, a police officer, and several by newspaper publishers. These memoirs provided authentic details and insights not only for this novel but they also stir ideas for future books. For example, in a memoir by publisher George Putnam, he spoke about living in a boardinghouse alongside a bunch of revolutionary exiles from Bolivia. They were a colorful crew who offered to make him their minister of education should they succeed in retaking their country. Okay, that’s simply fabulous! This is the sort of unique insight into boardinghouse life I can tweak for a future novel.

FF: What do you hope readers take away from an Elizabeth Camden novel, and this one in particular?
I hope readers enjoy a thrilling and powerfully emotional love story. One of the things that stands out in this novel is the ability for a person to reinvent themself. Must we live with the hand of cards life has dealt us, or does God give us the freedom to change our lives by reinventing ourselves into a new and better person? Several of the characters in the story face this issue, and I hope readers can take inspiration from them if they too feel trapped by something in their past.

FF: What can readers look forward to in the next book of the series?
The next book will feature a real-life American ambassador to Berlin in the years immediately before World War I. He was a sportsman, a socialite, and completely unprepared for such an important ambassadorship as the war loomed on the horizon. My heroine will be his secretary, and the hero is his chief of staff. It will be an opposites-attract romance, set amid the glamour of aristocratic Berlin and the drama of an impending war.

While the City Sleeps
The Women of Midtown Series #1
Elizabeth Camden
Bethany House
Genres: Romance, Historical Romance
Release Date: February 13, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎0764241710
ISBN-13: ‎978-0764241710

Book Summary:
Katherine Schneider’s workaday life as a dentist in 1913 New York is upended when a patient reveals details of a deadly plot while under the influence of laughing gas. As she is plunged into danger, she seeks help from the dashing Lieutenant Jonathan Birch, a police officer she has long admired from afar.

Jonathan has harbored powerful feelings for Katherine for years, but never acted on them, knowing his dark history is something she could never abide. Now, with her safety on the line, he works alongside her through the nights as they unravel the criminal conspiracy that threatens her…even as he keeps his deepest secrets hidden at all costs.

Join award-winning author Elizabeth Camden for a sweeping and romantic adventure of dangerous secrets and wounded hearts, fighting to overcome the darkness while the rest of the city sleeps.


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About The Author

Elizabeth Camden is a historical author whose fiction has been honored with both the RITA Award and the Christy Award. With a master's in history and a master's in library science, she is a research librarian by day and scribbles away on her next novel by night. She lives with her husband in Florida.