Novelist Laura McNeal Pursues the Question, “How Much Bacon is in This Vegan Sandwich?”

April 5, 2024
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On Friday, April 12, at 3:00 p.m., the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum proudly welcomes novelist Laura McNeal who will deliver the annual Browning Day lecture with her intriguingly-titled presentation, “How Much Bacon is in this Vegan Sandwich? The Role of Invention in Historical Fiction.” McNeal’s lecture will be followed by audience Q&A, a reception, and a book signing for her latest release, "The Swan’s Nest: A Novel" (2024).

McNeal is the author of "Dark Water," a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, two historical novels, and four critically acclaimed novels co-written with her husband, Tom. She holds an M.A. in fiction writing from Syracuse University and received an Armstrong Browning Library & Museum fellowship, which enabled her to conduct research for her latest novel — the first part of a planned trilogy that explores lives of the Brownings.

"The Swan’s Nest" (2024) reads between the lines of the unlikely but endearing and enduring love story of Victorian poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. As McNeal notes, “It’s a historical fact that Robert Browning wrote these words to Elizabeth Barrett: ‘there is nothing in you that does not draw out all of me; you possess me, dearest…’ It’s a historical fact that she felt her looks were gone, that her doctor warned her she would die if she spent another winter in London, that Robert suggested he could take her to Italy, and that her father and brother believed the long journey would kill her. Which part seemed like a lie? A man tells a woman he has never seen that he loves her. He meets her, tells her that he will love her forever—and then he does!”

“It’s a bold feat to enter the minds of geniuses,” says Nina de Gramont, author of international bestseller "The Christie Affair." “But Barrett and Browning, as well as the wonderful cast of supporting characters, are as believable as they are beautifully written. McNeal has constructed a gorgeous, faithful, and gripping rendering of poetry’s most enduring love story.” In her presentation, McNeal will discuss how she carefully navigates historical facts while creating a rich, fictive world where these characters come to life for the reader.

This event is free, open to the public, and available both in-person and via Zoom Webinar. Baylor undergraduate students can earn valuable CAE credit by attending this event in person. For more information, visit or contact Armstrong Browning Library & Museum at or (254) 710-4968.