Mastodon The Writing Desk: Interview with Samantha Wilcoxson, Author of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

10 June 2020

Interview with Samantha Wilcoxson, Author of Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Catherine Donohue's life was set on an unexpected course when she accepted a job at Radium Dial. The pay was great, and her co-workers became her best friends. But a secret was lurking in the greenish-grey paint that magically made things glow in the dark. When Catherine and her friends started becoming sick, this shy Catholic girl stood up to the might of the radium industry, the legal and medical communities, and townspeople who told her to be quiet. Would she be too late?

I'm pleased to welcome author Samantha Wilcoxson to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

My novel, Luminous: The Story of a Radium Girl, was just published a few days ago. It is the story of Catherine Donohue, who worked at Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois during the 1920’s and 1930’s. It was during this time that those working with radium began to sicken and die, but the radium industry attempted to deny liability or even that the illnesses could be caused by radium. Catherine’s story is one of a quiet, small-town girl finding the courage and strength to stand up to the radium industry and the legal system in an effort to save herself and her friends.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Although writers are infamous night owls, I prefer to write during the day, especially first thing in the morning when my mind feels sharp. I have a small office set up in my home, but I prefer to take my laptop out on the deck when the weather is nice. Occasionally, I am able to get away for a couple of days to focus solely on writing, and it is wonderful to spend some time free of distractions.

What advice do you have for new writers?

I would advise writers to follow their passion – for writing and when it comes to what topics to write about. I was in the middle of the draft of an entirely different novel when I decided to set it aside to write Luminous. It felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders to write a story that I was truly excited about telling.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

My favorite way of spreading the word about my books is being involved in online history groups. I love discussing history, and people are much more likely to be interested in my books if they already know me. I also have regular traffic to my blog where I write about history and historic places that I have visited.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

While researching the town of Ottawa and Radium Dial, I was shocked to learn that companies had been legally allowed to continue exposing their employees to radium for many more years than they should have been. Although it was well-known that radium was dangerous by the end of the 1930’s, Luminous Processes (a company started by Radium Dial management) was not shut down until 1978. It made me so angry to hear how long workers were exploited, and it made me wonder what such stories continue to this day.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

In this book, the most difficult scene occurs during Catherine’s hearing with the Illinois Industrial Commission. Her health is failing due to radium exposure and this is her chance to have Radium Dial held legally responsible. She and her husband are forced to listen to doctors testify regarding her condition. I don’t want to give away too much, but it is one of the most tragic and emotional scenes that I have written.

What are you planning to write next?

That’s a great question! I have been proven a liar on more than one occasion after responding to similar inquiries. The best I can say is that I plan to continue writing about American history, but two ideas are competing for my attention at the moment. I may even veer into the world of writing nonfiction.

Thank you, Tony, for welcoming me to your blog! I hope that your readers enjoy Luminous and that it inspires them to strive to make our world a better place in the same way that Catherine Donohue did.

Samantha Wilcoxson
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About the Author

Samantha Wilcoxson is a history enthusiast and avid traveler. Her published works include the Plantagenet Embers series with novels and novellas that explore the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. Luminous is her first foray into 20th century American history, but she suspects that it will not be her last. Samantha enjoys exploring the personal side of historic events and creating emotive, inspiring stories. Find out more at Samantha's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @carpe_librum


  1. Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Tony!

    1. Wishing you success with this new direction Samantha :)


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