Professor debuts second novel


Kim van Alkemade explains the research behind her new book “Bachelor Girl,” which was released in March. The book follows a woman in 1930s New York City who learns about her inheritance.

“Transforming historical people into characters is my favorite technique of writing historical fiction,” said Shippensburg University English professor Kim van Alkemade during a reading of her new book “Bachelor Girl” on Thursday evening in Old Main Chapel.

“Bachelor Girl” is a historical fiction novel set in jazz age New York City that follows the life of unmarried actress, Helen Winthrope Weyant, who received a surprise inheritance from Col. Jacob Ruppert, a millionaire beer brewer and owner of the New York Yankees baseball team in 1939.

Alkemade is also the author of many other works, including her first novel, “Orphan #8,” that was inspired by the orphanage where her grandfather and his brothers grew up in New York. 

Some of her creative nonfiction essays have appeared in literary journals including “CutBank,” “Alaska Quarterly Review” and “So To Speak.” 

The event began with the showing of a trailer for the book that transported the audience back in time to 1930s New York City to catch a glimpse of the life of the novel’s protagonist, Helen Winthrope Weyant. 

Although the book is a work of historical fiction, plenty of research went into the writing of “Bachelor Girl.” 

While researching for her newest novel, Alkemade visited as many story locations as possible. 

This includes the Hudson Valley mansion that Col. Ruppert built.

“American history includes diverse characters and stories…being able to go to the actual place is really inspiring,” she said. 

To further get into the mindset of the novel’s main characters, she attended several Broadway play revivals of shows from the 1920s. 

Alkemade read the prologue of “Bachelor Girl” to the audience. The novel’s prologue takes place on Jan. 20, 1939, the day that Helen Winthrope Weyant learned of her inheritance and her life changed forever. 

To wrap up the event, Alkemade opened the floor to any questions that the audience had about “Bachelor Girl” or any of her past works. 

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