Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Coming Apart: The Houses

There are three houses in Coming Apart, and they all mean different things. 

The first is Ava's house in Scovill Run, the coal town in upstate Pennsylvania where she has lived her entire life. Scovill Run is fictional, but based on many coal towns in my research, all of which grew up around the mine, and none of which were particularly nice places to live.

Ava's house is one half of a twin. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and a sitting room and kitchen downstairs. There is no electricity, and water is supplied by a shared pump in the yard. The other plumbing needs are taken care of by an outhouse. Most of the heat in the house comes from a wood stove in the kitchen; there is a coal stove in the front room, but it is only used on special occasions, because coal is expensive and the men who mine it can't often afford it.

Claire lives in Philadelphia, in one of my favorite houses on Delancey Place. All the houses on the street are either brownstone or brick, three and four stories. They were the houses of the wealthy then, and for the most part, that block continues to be single-family homes. The house I chose for Claire stands out because of its round front. I've always liked it, and jumped at the chance to let her live there. 

Not only that, it was up for sale several years ago, so I have a pretty good idea of the interior layout.

There is a third house in the book, which will only be explained in oblique terms because of spoilers, but it is a house I actually lived in during the late 1980s. It's also in Philadelphia, several blocks south of Claire's house, and was built before the Civil War to house mill workers. 

It's what Philadelphia calls a trinity house (Father, son & holy ghost), with one room on each floor. The entire house was no bigger than a standard two bedroom apartment. But it was pretty cool, living in a place that old, and knowing that the underground railroad had used several of the houses on the block as shelters for runaway slaves making their way to freedom.

I have pretty clear memories of this house, but again, it also was up for sale a few years ago and the renovations that were done after my time there as a renter were pretty significant. They couldn't make it bigger, but they made it nicer. One of the few things that's still the same is the clawfoot tub in the third floor bathroom, which my roommate had painted gold on the outside. Thirty years later, it's still gold.

I wonder what my characters would have thought of a gold bathtub?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Coming Apart: The Husbands

Daniel Kimber and Harry Warriner are as unalike as their wives.

Daniel Kimber is a miner. That's all he's ever done, and all he wants to do. But the Depression and the Scovill Mining Company's attitude toward union organizing means his job is always at risk. He started in the mines at the age of ten, and to him it's a big deal that his eldest son stayed in school until twelve before going to work. Daniel worships his wife for her strength and ability to manage their family on next to nothing. He's never looked at another woman - they met in grade school and paired off almost immediately. .

My choice for Daniel is Colin Farrell in a more scruffy moment. Daniel doesn't actual have a mustache, but there's something in the bleakness of his expression here that works for me.

The only son of a wealthy businessman, Harry Warriner made it to nearly forty before acquiring a young wife who met none of his mother's exacting standards. He knows his place in Philadelphia society, but it isn't what he would have chosen for himself, if he'd had a choice. Marrying Claire is his one rebellion, but he doesn't always see how difficult it has been for her to fit into his life.

Harry, at the start of the book, is fifty years old, with a precise trimmed mustache and spectacles. He can't see two feet without them. His upbringing has made him very restrained, but he does love Claire and wishes he knew how to make her happy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Coming Apart: The Sisters

Coming Apart has two main characters, sisters Ava Kimber and Claire Warriner.

Both were born in a fictional upstate Pennsylvania coal town of Scovill Run, a small town entirely owned and operated by the Scovill Mining Company. Their mother, Lillie, was an Irish immigrant; their father was a Polish coal miner. Ava and Claire are children numbers four and six of Lillie Kovalevski's seven children.

Three years older than her sister, Ava married young, to her childhood sweetheart, and duplicated her mother's life of hard work, grinding poverty, and frequent pregnancies. She is often angry and always exhausted, but she wouldn't trade her hardships for her sister's blessings.

Claire graduated high school, got a job in Scranton, and managed to snag herself a wealthy husband. She moved to Philadelphia and has rarely been seen since by the family she left behind. 

Not surprisingly, Ava holds a bit of a grudge that her sister has more or less abandoned them, but she's also too proud to accept any help that would be offered, because she's managing just fine, thank you very much.

Claire may be thirty years old and wealthy beyond anything her family can conceive, but she's not happy. If she could only give her husband a son, maybe her mother-in-law would stop bullying her, and maybe she wouldn't be too embarrassed by her background to go home and visit the sister she misses desperately.

Both these photos were found while wandering the internet. Claire is pale and blonde and perfect; she has little else to do but keep herself looking that way. I found the inspiration photo for Ava when researching 1930s hairstyles. It's the only thing that's not accurate - Ava hasn't cut her hair, but the "I tolerate no nonsense" expression on her face is completely Ava.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

What comes next: Coming Apart!

I'm really excited about the next book. I know, I'm excited about every book, but that's because every time I write one it makes more space in my head. It gets crowded in there. 

This is the one that in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. The original title was My Sister's Child, but I changed it because there is a psychological thriller out there with the same title, about a woman who kills her sister and takes her baby, and even though they are very different genres, it's a recently published book and I didn't want to use the same title. 

So now it's called Coming Apart. One of my favorite things is that I am able to use a family photo (my great-aunt Margaret and Uncle Dick) for the cover. Even though the title has changed, the ambiguous photo of woman and child - which sister's child is he? - will be the same. I can't wait to show the cover design, but I'm waiting until we have a final page count, so my designer can change the title and also do the full wrap cover for the paperback.

While still historical, this book has no real historical figures in it, and so, in the weeks and months leading up to publication, I'll be sharing character bios, location information, and some of the fascinating Depression-era history I've uncovered while writing. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

March Roundup


How have we finished the first quarter of the year already? It still feels like February. Hell, some days it still feels like 2020.

All things considered, though, it's been a productive period. I had three things written on the white board by my desk for January-March, and I crossed them all off:

Publish Lady, in Waiting ✔
Final draft Coming Apart ✔
Send ARCs and endorsement requests for Coming Apart

Coming Apart, by the way, is the new title for My Sister's Child. I changed it because there's a thriller by the same name where a woman kills her sister so she can have her baby, and I know that the genres are totally different, but that wasn't a confusion issue I wanted to risk.

One thing that was on my list for the first quarter as a possibility was researching whether or not to do hard covers of my Tudor Court trilogy. I still haven't decided. I can't tell you the last time I purchased a hard cover book that wasn't for research purposes, and I'm not sure if the sales would be worth the effort involved. On the other hand, I've already purchased the ISBNs, so maybe I'll just wait until I have some extra money to throw to my cover designer to adapt the covers (of course they're just slightly different dimensions so I can't use what I have).

The third item on my list of achievements there was a nerve-wracking one. ARCs (advance reader copies) get send out to early reviewers and authors who might consider reading and endorsing the book. Endorsements go on either the front or back cover, or sometimes on what's called a "praise page" just inside the cover. I sent to a few indie authors whose work I like, and also to a few traditionally published, including a few writers who I know are out of my league. I haven't heard from most of those yet, but hope springs eternal.

My goals for April include sending out more ARCs and requests, formatting Coming Apart's paperback so I can get a final page count so I can in turn reach out to the designer to finish the full wrap cover (page count is necessary so that the cover fits properly, and Amazon and the other printing sites are very specific about their wants). 

I'm also accidentally working on the sequel to Coming Apart, because I was no sooner finished the book than the characters woke me up and told me they weren't done with me yet.