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?
The title is In Search of the Magic Theater, and it’s a novel coming out from Regal House Publishing on June 1, 2022.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
This is the story of two women—fortyish Kari and twentyish Sarah—both residing with Sarah’s retired aunt Joan. Generational tensions, artistic collaborations, and even a romance steeped in Greek myth ensue as the two women pursue their very different paths in theater and music. Kari is newly single and reinventing her life, while Sarah struggles with what parents, mentors, and musical collaborators represent for her.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
I think we could call it literary fiction, but it could also fit in women’s fiction and book club fiction.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
All my blurb contributors have given lovely comments that focus on what the novel does. For example, Gabriella West has said its “meditation on repression, instinct, and the creative drive is fresh and timeless” and Julie Wittes Schlack notes that it “explores the tension between control and surrender, reason and ecstasy, dreaming and choosing.” I’m very much looking forward to seeing what other readers think!
- 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?]
This is a novel inspired by Hermann Hesse’s classic Steppenwolf, and it adopts some of that novel’s structure, so—contrary to recent fashion—it does not begin with a bang. In the early stages of imagining it, I also had Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle in mind, but I’m not sure one would find strong similarities to Lady Oracle in the finished novel beyond that one protagonist is a writer who leaves her husband. Ultimately, I think it has much in common with Robertson Davies’s The Lyre of Orpheus—lots of music and theater plus a talented young woman who’s not always easy to be around.
- Why this book? Why now?
Why any novel at any particular time? In 2022, which in many ways is not looking vastly better than 2021, I hope that readers will find this book simultaneously serious and lighthearted. It doesn’t pretend that life is always fun or that climate crisis doesn’t loom, but I hope it’s fun to read and even at times humorous.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
Being a fiction writer has always been top of the list, but being an art history professor specializing in Czech surrealism, not to mention working in theater years ago, come next in line.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I’d like readers to come away with a sense of wonder and joy at the possibilities life affords us. While those possibilities are not equally distributed to everyone, and some people have relatively few options, it’s important for us to make the most of our talents and abilities and to be open to the unexpected—to accept love and friendship when they are offered, and be willing to try new things while still valuing the old and familiar.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
As far as food, I’m afraid mainly the frozen peas that Kari uses to soothe her feet after accidentally dropping the glass recycling on them! Musically, however, there’s just such a wealth, because music is a huge theme in this book. Sarah, one of the two narrators, is a classical cellist; Kari, the other narrator, listens to folk music among other kinds. The male characters are almost all musicians and their musical interests include jazz, progressive rock, and many other forms in addition to western classical music. I listen to a wide range of kinds of music and enjoyed bestowing many of them on my characters.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
As a 2022 Debut novelist, this year I’m making a particular effort to read and review both other debut novels and other novels by Regal House authors. I recently finished Disorientation, by Elaine Hsieh Chou, and The Tobacco Wives, by Adele Myers, both of which I enjoyed very much. I just began Portrait of a Thief, by Grace D. Li, and have a crazy number titles awaiting me. I’m afraid I’m terribly behind in writing up the reviews, alas.