Kitty Burns Florey


On April 15, 2015, on what would have been her 127th birthday, my long-in-progress book about my lost grandmother finally saw daylight. It's an unusual blend of memoir and family history that also incorporates fictional elements. The writing of it was very exciting for me --
the strictly factual parts because my research answered a lot of perplexing questions and anomalies in my family history, and the fictionalized sections because -- well, it's always exciting for me to write fiction! (The book contains 23 vintage photographs, some of which are fascinating in themselves.)


The publisher is Genealogy House,
a fine small press here in Amherst dedicated to genealogical research.

From the jacket copy:

In April 1910, a young woman named Inez Willick gave birth to a baby girl, put her up for adoption, and disappeared. When Inez's granddaughter began the search for her mother's mother, she didn't have much more than a name. But, as happens so often in genealogical research, she stumbled into an overwhelming bounty of information. Among her discoveries were another secret child, a close tie to one of America's titans of industry, and a second cousin in California with a cache of family photos.

What remained elusive was a definitive answer to the question that lay at the heart of the story: if Inez was her grandmother, who was her grandfather? There were a few clues, including a mysterious marriage (and annulment) and a scandalous rumor with no one left alive to verify it, but every road led to a dead end. Kitty Burns Florey, the author of nine novels, did what a fiction writer does: she took the facts she unearthed and turned them into a plausible tale of not only a grandmother but a grandfather, a quiet turn-of-the-century Ohio town that is less serene than it appears, and an intriguing love story.

This is family history with a new twist. Here are two stories: the verifiable facts - fascinating in themselves - and alongside them an alternative universe that takes the research and flies with it in an attempt to come close to the truth. And, in the process of writing her grandmother's story, Florey delves into her mother's life and her own and finds some surprising parallels - and some revelations she was not expecting.

I'm very pleased to report that Open Road Media has issued seven of my backlist novels as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks--available from all the usual places, including Amazon and B&N. These oldies but goodies have been hard to find except as overpriced used books, so I'm thrilled that Open Road--which specializes in reviving neglected backlists --has stepped in and done such a wonderful job of reissuing them.

The books are:
SOLOS (ebook link above)
VIGIL FOR A STRANGER (audiobook link below)

Also, has brought them all out as audiobooks. I've listened to a bit of each and am really impressed with the skill of the readers. It's an odd experience, having my own books read to me. I admit I was dubious, but the quality of the reading was so nuanced and thoughtful that the books seemed almost new to me! I recommend, especially, Vigil for a Stranger, which is a semi-thriller, not too long, and beautifully, suspensefully, read by Mary Sarah Agliotta. Perfect for a car trip or plane ride!

They can all be found at and on Amazon, etc.

paperback and ebook


"Gradually, it grows clear that The Writing Master isn't just a mystery or a romance, it's a study of family unhappiness, mental illness and, above all, the condition of women in mid-19th-century America. For all the lightness of tone, it is filled with considerable darkness, and there is no assurance that all will end happily. But the book is chockablock with fascinating characters, especially the women....There are, naturally, surprises in the narrative loops and plot swirls of The Writing Master are finally knotted together."
Michael Dirda in the Washington Post

"I tore through THE WRITING MASTER in one night.
It's a murder mystery, a father-daughter story,
and a detailed slice of
19th-century New England history. Lovely!"
~ Susan Cheever, author of Louisa May Alcott and American Bloomsbury

“I don’t have enough superlatives to describe my delight with THE WRITING MASTER. I loved every moment I spent in the 19th-century world of Florey’s endearing and complicated characters. I loved their heartbreaking plights, their sparkling dialogue, their fully realized setting, their unexpected destinations.
I will read it again while I wait for a sequel.”
~Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys

The Writing Master is set in 1856 in New Haven, Connecticut, a city I lived in for much of my adult life. The book was inspired by the writing of my second work of nonfiction, Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. In the course of the research, I became fascinated by the importance of handwriting -- now so sadly devalued -- in earlier days, when a fast, legible script was indispensable for a gentleman, and the gloriously embellished script of a master of the art was held in deep respect.

My novel is about a summer in the life of a writing master, a man who earned his living producing letters and documents for people who could not write (or, often, read). During long walks around downtown New Haven, and on many afternoons at the New Haven Historical Society, I imagined Charles Cooper and built a world around him - his sad past, his hopeful present. The plot includes a very Sherlockian murder investigation, a mysterious woman with her own tragic story, a visit to a Connecticut madhouse, and much more -- truly a “contemporary Victorian novel”

In my spare moments, I plot a sequel, thirty years onward, set in Amherst, Mass., where I now live. I don't have many spare moments, so I don't know if a middle-aged Charles will ever see the light, but he’s a lovable character, and I remain intrigued by him -- and hope you will too.

The novel is now available as both an e-book and a paperback, published by White River Press. Karen Kleinerman, one of my most talented friends -- and that's saying a lot -- designed the fabulous covers for both formats.

Me and my dog, Fred


"[A] witty and readable (and fetchingly illustrated and glossed) excursion [that] covers a lot of ground."
~ Cullen Murphy in the Wall Street Journal

“Kitty Burns Florey’s charming history of the rise and fall of handwriting is a loving and polished tribute to a modest but deeply civilizing skill that can make our words not only intelligible to others but, like this book, sweet and beautiful.”
~David Skinner, author of The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published

For all you handwriting defenders out there: A link to my interview on Wisconsin Public Radio's terrific program "To the Best of Our Knowledge," with Jim Fleming:


* * * * *

Note: I was pleased that, in the 2008 movie DOUBT, not only was there an accurate sentence diagram on the blackboard in one scene, but Meryl Streep in her role as Sister Aloysius came out against ballpoint pens (see Script and Scribble, p. 17) and uttered the immortal line "Penmanship is dying across the country." So true, Sister....


with a new Afterword about the famous Sister Bernadette herself


"Best Book of 2006!" -- Slate magazine

"This gem from copy editor Florey is a bracing ode to grammar; it's laced with a survivor's nostalgia for classrooms ruled by knuckle-cracking nuns who knew their participles." ~ People magazine