Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Blog - Kathleen Shoop

I’m so honored to contribute a post at Lilac Wolf and Stuff. Thank you for the opportunity! I was asked what inspired me to write this story and create the characters. The first part is easy—I listened to my mother. Well, not at first. I was looking for a historical disaster to use as the backdrop for my next book and she suggested I explore Donora, Pennsylvania’s “killing smog” of 1948. The what?

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 knew my women would be grittier than expected for some readers, especially if a reader’s tie to mid-century women is limited to sanitized TV shows. I knew my men would be more complex, perhaps, than expected. Henry Pavlesic, Rose’s husband is quintessential Western, PA in many ways—a steel man who logged many years as an athlete, who just wants peace and quiet in his home. But like many people, he has squashed dreams. He regrets forgoing college for a pro baseball career and so he fills his empty moments with Auden’s poetry, quoting him ‘til his wife is up to her ears with irritation. Yes, I knew someone like that—a mill-working poet. Though Henry and his male relatives are coarse and abrupt in their ways with each other, they have slivers or threads or full-out parts of them that are more refined and gentle—the way most people are, multi-faceted.

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:
Website / Facebook / Twitter


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.

--Lilac Wolf

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Angie! And for having Kathleen on this week!

    ReplyDelete

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