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A Pitch Wars Team Interview with Samantha Rajaram and her mentor, Carrie Callaghan

(This is an archived version of an interview originally published here at

Carrie, why did you choose Samantha?

This year’s submissions were outstanding — there were lots of excellent concepts in both historical fiction and fantasy that caught my attention. In this talented, crowded field, Samantha’s entry stood out because it was historical with a literary feel, which I adore, and her novel dealt with an important but relatively unknown subject — the women who traveled from 17th century Holland to the Dutch colonies to become wives to the men already there. The Dutch East Indies Company sponsored these women in a cross between a 17th century marriage scholarship and human trafficking.

The concept intrigued me, but what sold me were two things: The intimate, exquisite care in Samantha’s writing and observations, and the slow-burn love affair between the protagonist, Jana, and her employer and friend, Sientje. We need more historical fiction that looks at love between women, and I’m excited to play a role in introducing readers to Samantha’s THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS.

Samantha, why did you choose to submit to Carrie?

I read Carrie’s short story “The Mercenary” on her website and saw she was writing excellent, detail-oriented historical fiction. I knew I would learn a lot from her. And I have!

Carrie, summarize Samantha’s book in 3 words.

A woman enters.

Samantha, summarize your book in 3 words.

Nautical love story.

Carrie, tell us about yourself. Something we may not already know.

My debut novel, A Light of Her Own, came out on November 13, and I was actually more nervous than excited about this. It’s strange how something I’ve worked for and dreamed of for over a decade can end up being a source of anxiety once the moment actually arrives!

Samantha, what do you hope to get out of the Pitch Wars experience?

I want to learn as much as I can about the process of revising a novel and I’d like to share what I learn with others (especially my students).

Samantha, tell us about yourself! What makes you and your manuscript unique?

I’m a single mom of three, an English professor at a community college, and I studied human rights law in law school where I focused on sex trafficking policies. These identities inform my book since the 17th c. Dutch policy of sending Dutch women to the colonies to marry Dutch settlers there is a type of state-sanctioned sex trafficking. I wanted to explore what would happen if two women fell in love en route to Indonesia, and how that love could strengthen their desire for greater agency within this colonial and patriarchal context.

Check out Carrie Callaghan’s latest release, A LIGHT OF HER OWN…

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place. 

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to try to become the first woman admitted to the Haarlem painters guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic. 

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Ownis a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.

Story behind the story . . .

The trail of Judith Leyster’s career was so faint that only years after her death in 1660, collectors began attributing her few surviving paintings to other artists. She signed her work with only a beautiful, stylized monogram. Credit went to Frans Hals, Jan Miense Molenaer, and others. She would remain lost to history until 1893.

Available on Indiebound

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