Even spending nearly my whole life up the road a bit from Donora, I’d never heard of such a thing. When I finally looked into it, the true facts of the tragedy blew me away. A temperature inversion trapped the steel and zinc mill smoke and gasses in the valley over the course of a week, killing twenty people and sickening another 6,000 or so! How could I not know about this? Turns out, many people who live in Western, Pennsylvania aren’t familiar with the “five days of fog.” I knew I had my backdrop!
When it came to creating the characters, I interviewed many Donora residents—past and present—to confirm whether my experiences with steel-town men and women were similar to those who might have lived in Donora in 1948. Once I confirmed that the types of people I knew from other mill-towns like Etna, where my dad grew up, were similar to Donorans, I began to craft the people of the book.
I took a bit of a risk in how I crafted Rose and Henry’s marriage experience. Rose lived a neglected, ugly childhood, but she’s one of the lucky people whose scrapes with the evils of the world left her crusty, not broken. She and Henry are physically intimate. They’re language of love is in the way they touch: Rose tending to Henry’s slag-burn while he pats her butt, the way they dance, that their sex life is utilitarian more than tantalizing, but it’s alive. Their relationship lives in their touch. Of course, when real crises arise, you can’t touch your way out of them. Rose and Henry find out just how capable they are of true acts of love when faced with threats to the very core of their family.
Mostly, I kept in mind that although the perception of American culture in one era might be that it is more buttoned up or repressed or perceived as “cleaner,” than in another era, people are generally the same—flawed and courageous and wonderful all at once.
You can purchase After the Fog at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
You can also learn more about Kathleen Shoop at her:
I also want to give a shout out to BookSparksPR for allowing me to review After the Fog (coming Wednesday) and getting Kathleen and myself together for this guest blog. If you are an author and need a PR company, I would contact them, I have been working with them for over a year and they are nothing but professional and always nice to work with.