Three years after she began work on her first novel, Mary Baldwin University Professor of English Sarah Kennedy is ready to celebrate the release of The Altarpiece, which debuts this week from Knox Robinson Publishing.

To help mark the launch, Bookworks in downtown Staunton will host a book signing at 4 p.m. March 16. Kennedy will also appear for a reading and signing at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville on March 23.

While Kennedy is no stranger to the publishing world, having written seven books of poems, managing the debut of The Altarpiece is a vastly different experience.

“It’s all very overwhelming, and not at all like publishing a book of poems,” Kennedy said. “The marketing tasks alone are a job in and of themselves and I have never been this anxious to see reviews. Novels come from a different part of my mind than poems. It’s like having many different people living inside your skin.”

Kennedy’s love and knowledge of the Renaissance period guided the creation of The Altarpiece — book one in The Cross and the Crown series. Set in Tudor England during King Henry VIII’s dissolution of religious communities, the book begins at a convent in Yorkshire where the nuns anxiously wait for the king’s soldiers to come and begin disbanding their community. The convent has only one very valuable possession, a beautiful altarpiece that adorns their chapel. Before the soldiers arrive, it mysteriously disappears.

More on the novel and Kennedy’s work can be found at