Today we talk with Stacia Brown, formerly of Redding, about her debut historical novel, "Accidents of Providence" - a book you may recall from an earlier story here on anewscafe.com. I tried to not repeat questions that appear on your blog's Q&A, which readers can check out here.
Q: Stacia, thank you for taking time to chat with me and anewscafe.com about your debut novel, "Accidents of Providence."
You must be very busy, considering the recent publication of your book. And judging by the slew of positive reviews, your book has really taken off. I mean, there's even a review of "Accidents of Providence" in O!Congratulations!
Of course, your book stands on its own as captivating enough to pique our interest to request an interview, but as an added bonus, you happen to be Candace Brown's sister, an incredible writer in her own right who lives here in Redding, and whose work is familiar to anewscafe.com readers.
I'm lucky to have Candace as my sister. She's an outstanding and prolific writer and communications expert.
Q: Agreed! OK, onto your book. What's your elevator-ride description of "Accidents of Providence"?
It's the story of a woman who loses a child. But in her heart, she's not sure why she lost it. She's not sure if she's to blame. And no one else is sure about that, either. So people step in to fill the explanation gap. They step in to write her story for her. And they don't write it kindly.
Q: That perfectly sums up your book, without giving away key parts. For what it's worth, I read your book in one weekend, which puts it in the page-turner category for me.
The characters were fictional, but the richness of your details made them come alive. Were they as alive for you, and did you find yourself thinking of real people you know when it came to forming your characters' personalities?
I'm flattered you read it in a weekend. I wish I had written it in a weekend! It took about 5 years. Living with characters for that long means that they become part of your life. You carry them along with you, and after a while they start to comment on your own life (both on and off the page). They start to talk back to you. I didn't find myself thinking of friends or colleagues when writing these characters, but I did try to pay attention to what the historical record suggests--at least about those persons in the novel loosely based on historical figures.
Q: I think you succeeded, because I was riveted by the historical details in your book, to the point where every so often I wanted to know more about something you'd mentioned. Case in point, what was the deal with the dog-skinner? Was that an actual 17th century occupation?
I can't tell you how many people have asked about the dog skinner. I think it's because everyone I know is a dog lover, and they're horrified by the thought. I came up with the idea from an early map of London that was being digitized online. One of the first versions of that map had a hut drawn in the northeast corner that was captioned "Dog Skinner's House." I took that caption and began to imagine what that might mean and what it might have signified. Unfortunately, I don't know much else about it.
Q: It's good to know I wasn't the only one fixated on the dog-skinner. I don't think I could handle a more graphic explanation of the dog-skinner's work. I think I can get the picture. We can leave it at that. But it does remind me that reading your book made me wonder how anyone survived from that time; especially women. What would have bothered you most about living in that era?
If you stuck me in a time machine and dumped me in the 17th century, I think I would have a very hard time getting used to the sewer and sanitation system. Or lack thereof.
Q: I hear you. I tend to also think about hygiene issues, which must have been pretty grisley. Moving on to a more academic topic, As you conducted research for "Accidents of Providence" and gathered facts about the law that was at the center of this story, did you encounter other laws that sparked ideas for other books?
That's an interesting idea. There was an Act Against Adultery, briefly instituted around the same time period but never fully implemented or enforced. If it had been implemented fully, adulterers both male and female would be subject to the death penalty if caught. But I'm taking a break from the 17th century, and from London, for a while.
Q: Hmm ... death penalty as punishment for adultery ... interesting ...
Seriously, though, without giving the book's ending away, if you had to attribute a moral to "Accidents of Providence", what might it be?
I don't know if there's a moral. I'm hesitant to suggest one -- I think those things are really up to the reader. I do think that the title of my book poses a question: are there accidents of providence? Why is it that the most important moments in our lives never seem to operate according to plan?
Q: Speaking of providence, Do you think there was providence involved in the making and success of this book?
Absolutely. The publishing world is pretty challenging. I sometimes feel like it was pure chance that I managed to get published and others have not. It's not always about talent. It's also about serendipity.
Q: True enough, but you are quite humble. The truth is you worked very hard to produce this book, and you deserve all the notarity and success that's coming your way.
Stacia, I fear I've already taken up too much of your time. What else would you like readers to know about your book?
It's my first book. Which means it has all the ups and downs that a first book often has. It's not polished or perfected to death. I hope that's good.
Q: It absolutely is good! Thank you so much, Stacia, and congratulations on your success. Oh, by the way, where may readers find your book, which is now out in paperback?
I'm so glad you asked ... You can order it from any retail bookseller, on Amazon, etc. Please support your local independent bookstore...
Read more about Stacia Brown on anewscafe.com here.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.