Questions (“Blythe of the Gates” by Leah Erickson)
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: I am so interested in that period of history. The book spans 1911-1912. It was sort of on the precipice of modern times. Art Nouveau was turning into Art D.eco, vaudeville was giving way to moving pictures, etc. There was the burgeoning Bohemian scene which I got into quite a lot
Q: Can you tell us a little about the characters in “Blythe of the Gates?”
A: The main character is Luna, a young recent immigrant from Ireland who arrives in New York and falls into an abusive marriage to Jack Friday, an ambitious young stage magician. She works at first as his assistant. Both husband and wife are sort of products of flawed institutions of the times. Jack Friday becomes hard and opportunistic and just plain cruel due to his time experience of the orphanage system. And Luna, in the beginning, is lost and very naïve in this new city, having grown up in rural Ireland. And the crossing over by ship was traumatic in itself. The book mainly follows her arc as she grows as a person and learns lessons from her pain and becomes one of the first great female magicians in her own right.
Q: Did you learn anything during the writing of this book?
A: Yes. It is my first time writing historical fiction, and I learned how fun it is to get sucked into the research, in a way I never did in school! I would love to write about other time periods in future books. There is so much to be mined.
Q: Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or do you feel like you have the reigns to the story?
A: I did have one character who was completely unpredictable and had a life of his own, and that is Sean, the Irish gangster who wants to win Luna’s heart. Nowadays this young man would most likely be diagnosed with ADHD. But he was a total disruptive influence in my writing. I never knew what crazy thing he would say or do next. I was actually caught off guard by the letters he wrote from prison. I felt I was literally channeling a spirit or something. I would literally laugh out loud at stuff that he said. But that’s the best part of writing when the author is actually surprised. That’s when I know there is life in the work and everything is flowing as it should!
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