Kirsten Weiss guest posts: the “shocking” Gertrude Atherton


gertrude athertonGertrude Atherton – Shocking Victorian California

by Kirsten Weiss

The Californians, published in 1898, was my first introduction to Gertrude Atherton. The novel is creepy. The novel is gothic. And the novel was scandalous when first published.

Gertrude wrote from life.

Gertrude was born on October 30, 1857, in San Francisco. Childhood finances were sketchy after her parents divorced. She shocked everyone by marrying at 19 into the wealthy Atherton family. What was so shocking? The man had actually come to court her mother.

But Gertrude was known for shocking people, and developed a reputation for delightful nastiness. When her friend Ambrose Bierce tried to kiss her, she rebuffed him and then laughed about the incident at parties. Perhaps feeling some professional jealousy, she spread the rumor that Edith Wharton hadn’t actually written The House of Mirth. And she passed up a chance to meet Oscar Wilde; she didn’t like his looks.

Gertrude had two children by her husband, George – the son died at an early age. In 1882, Gertrude anonymously published The Randolph’s of the Redwoods, a scandalous tell-all based on local California families. Her own family was embarrassed – not only because of the exposure of their neighbors’ secrets, but because of the independence and sexuality of the heroine. Gertrude was an early feminist.

Her husband died in 1887 on a solo trip to Chile (rumor had it he was trying to escape Gertrude). But widowhood freed her. She moved to New York and pursued a writing career.

And she was a career writer, make no mistake. She networked, taught herself the publishing industry and wrote, wrote, wrote. Over the course of her life, she published dozens of novels, novellas, articles and short stories – mysteries, gothics, biographies and social commentaries.

Gertrude Franklin Atherton died 14 June 1948 in San Francisco. Her ashes are interred at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park columbarium in Colma, California.


Wasn’t that cool?  Gertrude sounds like a spunky gal who would be fun to know.  But let’s find out more about Kirsten!

About the author:

IMG_0992Kirsten Weiss is the author of the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy,The Metaphysical DetectiveThe Alchemical Detective, and The Shamanic Detective.  The fourth book in the series, The Infernal Detective, will be available on Amazon May 21st.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Here’s a teaser about Kirsten’s soon-to-be-released mystery, The Infernal Detective:
detective-book_infernal_2When Riga Hayworth finds a dead body in her bedroom a week before her wedding, it’s par for the course. When the corpse drives off with her fiancée… That’s a problem.
Riga knows dead. More intimately than she’d like. So when a murdered photographer gets up and walks away, she’s believes there’s necromancy afoot. And when she discovers that several of her wedding guests are under the influence of dark magic, she’s certain. But how can she catch a killer and stop a necromancer when even her nearest and dearest are lying to her?



check out the cool book trailer for The Infernal Detective:




Play the book trailer contest!

The book trailer (above) is the gateway to an alternate reality game – a virtual “novella” in the world of The Infernal Detective – which leads players through character blogs and a Pinterest board.  Hidden in the game’s text are links to stories within stories, and a quest for a “junk oracle.” The first fifty players to solve the game and report in to the author will receive an advance electronic copy of The Infernal Detective for Kindle, Nook, or Kobo.


Sounds like fun, right?  And be sure to check out The Infernal Detective – I’ve read it, and it’s just a terrific blend of mystery, noir, and paranormal…I know you’ll love it!

Kirsten, thanks so much for stopping by!  Let me see that book trailer again…time to test my observational abilities. 😉


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14 thoughts on “Kirsten Weiss guest posts: the “shocking” Gertrude Atherton”

  1. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    Thanks, Kirsten and Kathy, for this intro to Gertrude. She sounds like a feisty lady, and I love those kind of gals. In that era, women had to be so much more feisty in order to create a path for themselves in a man’s world.

  2. Kirsten WeissKirsten Weiss

    Agreed! I wonder if many of the negative stories told about her during her time were really true, or exaggerated because she was making it in a business a woman had no business in.

  3. Stacy GreenStacy Green

    Very interesting post! I’ve never heard of this gal – sounds like she was a writer ahead of her time. I would bet many of the stories were exaggerated because of how women were expected to “behave” in those days.

    Great job!

  4. JoAnn BassettJoAnn Bassett

    What a fun post! And ol’ Gertrude sounds like a real pip. I’m always amazed by women who pull a fast one over on men (but their own mother? yikes!). Gertrude’s story reminds me of Wallis Simpson, the not-so-gorgeous, but wily American divorcee who charmed Edward the VII into abdicating the throne of England “to be with the woman I love.” I just love wondering how she (and Gertrude) did it…. Wouldn’t we all love to be a fly on the wall?

  5. Catie RhodesCatie Rhodes

    Never heard of her before, but how interesting! Reminds me a bit of the things I’ve read about Kate Chopin. 🙂

  6. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Kathy – Thanks for hosting Kirsten.

    Kirsten – This is really interesting!!!! Thanks for sharing it. One thing that strikes me is how our perspective changes over time. I’ll bet Gertrude was a lively, interesting person to know.

  7. shannon espositoshannon esposito

    Oh man, why can’t I find these kinds of friends to hang out with? Putting The Californians on my wish list.


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