Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
American Queen: An Agatha Wells Novel. Published by BlueBullsEyePress in November 2020.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Agatha Wells may be a prominent fixture in the DC social scene … but she is so much more. As the wife of a spy, Agatha has learned to recognize when pieces don’t fit together. Speaker of the House Adam Trent’s mysterious wife Ana is one of those puzzles. As their social circles continue to cross, Agatha begins to suspect that Ana is playing a dark game. Will it drag Agatha—or her husband—in?
This is a novel about faith and doubt and about the hidden motives behind the choices we make—hidden even from ourselves. It takes place in Washington, DC in the contemporary political world but with a decisively domestic focus—the main character is a DC socialite by birth, with a spy husband and five children. She also has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Economics, an English nanny, a Jesuit priest academic advisor, and a shrewd DC socialite mother as part of her team. She has a hunger to know that converges with friendship, the survival of her marriage, and international politics.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
American Queen is a cross between psychological thriller and spy novel, with a woman sleuth in the central role.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
If I may quote, my esteemed colleague Lisa Tener posted this extremely humbling review:
Ginger Moran’s second novel is un-put-downable. The delightfully quirky narrator offers a fresh voice–at once deeply feminine, maternal, brilliant, witty and iconoclastic. I found certain passages stopped me in my tracks they were so beautifully crafted. The dialogue is fast paced and witty and I’m sure I missed half of the cleverness and layered meanings that a second reading would uncover. The domestic scenes and fabulous parties beautifully mirror the political intrigue and add a depth that is not always seen in this genre. And the relevancy of this book for our times makes it a must-read. Highly, highly recommended!
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?
Might be what would happen if Virginia Woolf wrote The Manchurian Candidate.
- Why this book? Why now?
I started writing American Queen in 2016, right after the election. As a long-time political activist, I was intrigued by the question of why people make choices that undermine their own interests. I considered looking at the question through the lens of philosophy, theology, or psychology, but ended up using a fairly new discipline, Behavioral Economics, that looks deeply into the “bounded rationality” of choices people make, very rarely informed by careful critical thinking, that have powerful, practical consequences. Plus I wanted to write about how DC high society and politics coincide.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I taught for 8 years at Fisk University, one of the first historically black universities and intellectual home of WEB Dubois. I was able to explore my favorite topics—African American women writers, the creative writing of African American writers as models for current students, British lit. My students were the best I have ever had—and I have had many terrific students. They loved a challenge, loved give and take, and taught me at least as much as I taught them.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Well, first, I hope people enjoy the story itself—an intellectual, colorful character who has somehow found herself in the weird world of being married to a spy and the probably equally weird world of being a mother of five boys. In a time of political turmoil, Agatha Wells finds that her friendship with the mysterious wife of a fast-climbing politician becomes the turning point of international politics. I hope that people ask themselves questions about what goes into making moral choices and good governance, from world politics to good parenting.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
Oh, gosh, the food was the most fun. There are several high society parties in the book, with unique menus and political tensions served up, but my favorite is the Moroccan Halloween Party Agatha gives at the beginning of the book. I had a great partner in fictional food crime who created the menu for me and it sounds so good we have promised that we will make it for a party we give as soon as we are out of covid prison.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I am a longtime British mystery devotee and I read all of the great mysteries, old and new. The new includes Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series, and anything Denise Mina and Tana French write. I also love Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series. That is JK Rowling writing as Galbraith. She is a brilliant story-teller. But, honestly, I have taken refuge in PG Wodehouse a whole lot lately, for a good hard laugh and a world where everything works out.
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