Thursday, September 9, 2021

Liza Nash Taylor Interview - In All Good Faith


Photo Credit: Brett Walsh Photography, Paris

Liza Nash Taylor, the author of Etiquette for Runaways, was a 2018 Hawthornden International Fellow and received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. The 2016 winner of the San Miguel Writers Conference Fiction Prize, her work has appeared in Microchondria II, Gargoyle Magazine, and Deep South, amongst others. A native Virginian, she lives in Keswick with her husband and dogs.

      
  


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think the human imagination is wired to seek escape, especially these days! With devices in our pockets or at our bedsides, reality is always a tap away. Stories take us out of that, and open our minds to dreams.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Well, of course there’s a feeling of validation in seeing your work in print. That feels amazing. What’s been life changing for me has been overcoming lifelong stage fright, through doing so many events on Zoom and social media live. I used to absolutely hate to be the center of attention in any situation, now, if people want to ask me about my work, I feel honored to have their attention.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m working on a third manuscript, also historical fiction. It’s set in 1953 in Paris and has to do with the fashion industry there, and the designer Jacques Fath, who died tragically at the age of 47 from leukemia while at the top of his game. I’m also working on a children’s book using knitted animal figures and miniature settings I created during the winter of Covid.

Can you tell us when you started IN ALL GOOD FAITH, how that came about?
IN ALL GOOD FAITH is a standalone sequel to my first historical novel ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS, which came out in 2020 from Blackstone Publishing. I started the novel as part of my MFA coursework at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where it became my Master’s thesis in 2018. I knew I wanted to continue May Marshall’s story.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Good question! I hope they can lose themselves and be transported to 1932.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
The turmoil! For some reason I find it immensely satisfying to wrestle with ways to express emotional upheaval and to attempt to make characters’ emotions relatable to readers. I love it when a character makes a bad decision.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love for my sixteen-year-old character Dorrit to meet the character who inspired her personality, and that is Mattie Ross from Charles Portis’s novel, True Grit. One of my MFA advisors, Jacqueline Mitchard, made all of her advisees read it. I think it’s a pretty perfect novel and Mattie has an amazing voice. And speaking of voices, Donna Tartt narrates the audiobook of True Grit and it is absolutely one of my top three listens of all time.

Tell me about a favorite event of your childhood.
I grew up in a beach resort town. Once each summer, my parents would take the three kids to the local honky-tonk beachside amusement park. We’d make an ugly spatter painting, and play skee-ball and ride the bumper cars. There was an absolutely terrifying mechanized life-sized figure of a laughing woman sitting on a stool outside the house of terrors. We kids looked forward to that night all summer long.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Skinny dip.

Best date you've ever had?
Not technically a date, but when I started seeing my husband I owned and ran a shop on Nantucket Island. It was open from 9 am-10pm, seven days a week in the high summer season. I wasn’t often free for dinner dates, but one night he surprised me with a paper-bag dinner of sandwich and chips while I worked. He also brought the same for the woman who was working for me in the shop. His kindness in that single act made me realize I was in love with him.

What was the first job you had?
Besides babysitting? I got my first paid job at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand when I was sixteen. I could ride my bike there from home. It was hot and dusty and I got paid minimum wage to sort rotten potatoes. But that wasn’t the worst part—that was having to calculate price-per-pound in my head without an electronic scale.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
Going to college.

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Just last night I was discussing with my sister-in-law things that might inspire us to unfriend people on social media, such as too many pics of your unremarkable takeout dinners, or any pictures of your surgical scar/x-rays/stitches/wounds, or photos of you in a hospital bed before a routine procedure. We’re very indulgent regarding photos of cute dogs, tho.

First Heartbreak?
From about the second to sixth grades, I had a crush on a boy in my class. He had a crewcut and black-rimmed glasses and his ears stood out. We were always friends, but when we got old enough to “like” members of the opposite sex, he paired off with the girl in the class with the biggest bosoms.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Being the old, tough, jaded broad that I am now, I’d probably choose to skip love and live alone with my three dogs for companionship.

TEN FACTS ABOUT IN ALL GOOD FAITH
  • 1. The story is set in 1932, around the events of that summer at the Veteran’s Bonus March. It’s a part of American history I knew nothing about.
  • 2. The Bonus March ended after Herbert Hoover declined to meet with the 20,000 assembled veterans in Washington D.C. The term “Hooverville” was coined that summer, to identify the shantytowns that were erected all around the Capitol.
  • 3. The rural Virginia setting, Keswick Farm, is actually the house where I’ve lived for twenty years. It was built about 1825.
  • 4. Keswick Farm is a half a mile away from railroad tracks, and coal and passenger trains pass through all the time. After living where I do for a few months, I sort of stopped noticing the noise. The old Keswick depot building is across the road, and now it is part of a residential school.
  • 5. Dorrit Sykes’s name comes from two Charles Dickens characters, Amy Dorrit from Little Dorrit and Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist.
  • 6. My character Elsie also appears in Etiquette for Runaways. She’s based on my flapper grandmother, also called Elsie, who christened a ship in 1920 and played ragtime piano.
  • 7. I did a lot of fun research on candy, starting with making my grandmother’s recipe for pull taffy, which is a hot sugar caramel. It’s poured out bubbling from the pan, then scraped up and stretched repeatedly until it lightens in color. It’s flavored with molasses and vanilla and is still one of my favorites, though I always manage to blister my palms while pulling it.
  • 8. During the Great Depression, candy sales were booming, and there were candy bars introduced called “Chicken Dinner,” and “Goo-Goo Cluster,” and “Pearson’s Nut Roll”. Many of these were touted as having the same nutritional value, calorically, as a meal. These were marketed to target folks who rode the rails or were unemployed wayfarers with no cooking resources.
  • 9. I discovered my Boston settings in this novel during a three-day research trip in 2018. I had no itinerary, and roamed the city, discovering the amazing Boston Public Library where I took their fabulous docent-led Art and Architecture tour. Another Boston setting was the Gibson House Museum, which is a mid-19th-century period house museum. It was also a setting in the most recent movie version of Little Women.
  • 10. In my research I learned about what were called “hobo signs” which were a set of graphic markings used by Depression-era foot travelers to indicate a house or business that might offer food or turn folks away, or offer food after listening to preaching, or indicate if a water source was clean. These were a sort of shorthand that could be understood by illiterate or non-English speaking folks.
Your journey to publication
I took up writing in my early fifties, when my daughter went to high school. I started by taking literature classes at my local community college. That turned into the pursuit of an English degree, then that morphed into taking a few great courses in writing, and those led me to apply to a low-residency MFA program in creative writing, which I began at age 56. When I began my MFA I was working with a literary agent in a “revise and resubmit” status, meaning that I wasn’t originally offered a contract for representation, but worked with the agent on revisions of my first manuscript. After almost a year, I was offered a contract. More revisions followed and as I pursued my MFA, the agent and I parted ways and I had to start over querying. Once I landed another agent the manuscript went out on submission. Through all of this, I finished my second novel, and my agent negotiated a two-book deal with Blackstone. There have been some high highs and some low lows. Certainly I never anticipated that both of my books would launch during a pandemic. Even though that’s been tough, I’ve been buoyed by the support of my family, readers, and especially my fellow writers.

In the summer of 1932, Americans are coming to realize that the financial crash of 1929 was only the beginning of hard times. May Marshall has returned from Paris to settle at her family home in rural Keswick, Virginia. She struggles to keep her family farm and market afloat through the economic downturn. May finds herself juggling her marriage with a tempting opportunity to revamp the family business to adapt to changing times.

In a cold-water West End Boston tenement the fractured Sykes family scrapes by on an itinerant mechanic's wages and home sewing. Having recently lost her mother, sixteen-year-old Dorrit Sykes questions the religious doctrine she was raised in. Dorrit is reclusive, held back by the anxiety attacks that have plagued her since childhood. Attempting to understand what limits her, she seeks inspiration in Nancy Drew mysteries and finds solace at the Boston Public Library, writing fairy stories for children. The library holds answers to both Dorrit’s exploration of faith and her quest to understand and manage her anxiety.

When Dorrit accompanies her father to Washington, DC, in the summer of 1932 to camp out and march with twenty thousand veterans intending to petition President Hoover for early payment of war bonuses, she begins an odyssey that will both traumatize and strengthen her. Along the way she redefines her faith, learning both self-sufficiency and how to accept help.

Dorrit and May's lives intersect, and their fates will intertwine in ways that neither could have imagined or expected. Set against a backdrop of true historical events, In All Good Faith tells a story of two women’s unlikely success during the Great Depression.
You can purchase In All Good Faith at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you LIZA NASH TAYLOR for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of In All Good Faith by Liza Nash Taylor.

*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
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3 comments:

  1. I want to live in the (hopefully) near future without the threat of COVID.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The swingin' 1960s, best years I've ever had!

    ReplyDelete