How Civil War Vampires inspired Samantha Sotto’s Time-Traveling Love Story

Monthly Edition: 
Last week we read an excerpt from Samantha Sotto’s Love and Gravity (Ballantine, Feb.), and this week we have a behind-the-scenes look at what inspired this curious time-traveling love story. I bet you weren’t expecting Abraham Lincoln to play a part in inspiring Sotto, were you?
An axe, an American president and Confederate vampires. And popcorn. My husband didn’t have to do much convincing when he suggested that we watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer for our movie date. Dominic Cooper was in it and that was all I really needed to know. I walked into the theater expecting a dark, fun adventure, and a few good scares. I wasn’t disappointed. What I didn’t expect was to walk out with the idea for my second novel, Love and Gravity.
Abraham Lincoln wielding an axe and chopping off vampire heads probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when looking for inspiration for a love story, but watching this reimagined version of him set my thoughts sprinting down the road of all the possible “secret lives” other pillars of history might have led. It planted a restless question in my mind: What if?  What if an icon that we thought we knew so well, wasn’t the person we thought he was at all? The story swirling in my head demanded a character that had truly changed our lives — so that I could reach back in time and change his.
Dozens of names flashed in my head. I made a list of historical figures that intrigued me and set about my research. I wanted to challenge myself and find the most unlikely romantic protagonist. I needed someone that I could make readers look at and care for in a completely different way. My search ended with Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds in history. His achievements in science and mathematics were extraordinary, but more importantly, his life had a gap.
When Cambridge University was closed due to an outbreak of the plague in 1666, a twenty-four year old Isaac Newton returned home to Woolsthorpe Manor. While other students might have killed time at the local tavern, Isaac used his time away from school to develop calculus, author the laws of motion, and discover the workings of gravity.  This year came to be known as his Annus Mirabilis – his Miracle Year.  For a boy who used to languish at the bottom of his class, his accomplishments that year were nothing short of wondrous — and a mystery.  Isaac’s work in 1666 was well documented, but little was known about what he did outside of it. Who was he with? What did they do? Where did they go? I started my search for answers in his personal library. 
Isaac Newton owned close to two thousand books, with subjects ranging from alchemy to astronomy. But one book to me seemed out of place — a treatise on the vibration of musical strings. I wondered what might have prompted Isaac to acquire such a book. I followed a trail of breadcrumbs and found myself on a twisting and haunting path of music, magic, physics, time, math, love, and secrets. I found my answers. A young Isaac Newton had explained why and how the apple fell. I wrote Love and Gravity to tell the story of the woman who dropped it.
— Samantha Sotto
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