Today, I have the wonderful Carole Estby Dagg, author of The Year We Were Famous, which I just reviewed in the previous post.
Why did you decide to write about Clara Estby’s walk with her mother across the country?
Back in 1896, when Great-aunt Clara Estby and her mother decided to walk from their farm near Spokane, Washington, clear to New York City, their neighbors were scandalized. Respectable women did leave their families behind for a year, even if they were walking to win money to save the farm. Their homecoming was so disastrous their trip journals were destroyed and they agreed never to write or talk about the trip again.
The family legend persisted, though, and by one hundred years later times had changed and descendants were proud of Clara and Helga’s courage and their part in promoting women’s suffrage. I decided to recreate the record of their walk in their honor.
What type of research was involved in writing your novel?
Every kind you can imagine! I started by writing librarians along the route of Clara and Helga’s walk to collect newspaper accounts of their progress across the country. I read biographies of the people they met and books about early days of railroading, bears and rattlesnakes, frontier treatment of blisters, and the places they went through. I leapfrogged through related articles on the Internet, bought period postcards of the places they passed through, combed antique stores for items similar to those they carried with them, and drove part of the route with my daughter.
Since I wanted to write in the voice of a late Victorian young woman, I gave up reading all contemporary novels for a year and read only books Clara might have read for school or for pleasure. I downloaded dime novels from the Internet (that florid style influenced Clara’s writing style when she described shooting a brigand and demonstrating their curling irons to Native Americans they encountered), paged through Ladies’ Home Journals of the 1890’s to see what women were thinking about then, and scrolled through microfilmed newspapers to take notes from news stories about the 1896 election and to read the ads to see what clothing and products were popular then.
What was your favorite aspect of writing The Year We Were Famous?
Through the research for this novel, I decided history wasn’t boring after all. History is fascinating when you focus on social history—how the ordinary person lived—instead of political history, which is what’s usually taught in school. It’s doubly interesting if you can imagine your own ancestors during different eras: how they dressed, ate, earned a living, and how major events affected them. I can see why genealogy has become one of the most popular hobbies!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was eight, I wanted to be a trapeze artist and gave my mother palpitations when I wrapped my ankles around the chains on the backyard swing set to hang upside down. I thought about writing, but didn’t think I could write worth beans so I became a librarian instead so I could at least hang out with books other people had written.
What are some of your hobbies?
Reading, of course – I read about 100-125 books a year. I also enjoy weaving (I have a loom the size of a spinet piano), sewing, and playing cars with my grandsons.
What’s next for you?
I am midway through a draft of a sequel to The Year We Were Famous and have started another book which will take place in Alaska, where my son’s family lives.
I can't wait to read it Carole! You certainly are a masterful storyteller. Thank you for stopping by today and giving me the chance to read your fantastic novel. Congrats on your debut novel.
If you'd like to read my ARC of The Year We Were Famous, please leave a comment below for Carole and include your email address. Open to US/Canada. Ends April 15th.