Roselee Blooston is the author of the new novel Trial by Family. She also has written the memoir Dying in Dubai, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including AARP The Magazine and The Vital Force. Also an actress and playwright, she lives in New York's Hudson Valley.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Trial by Family, and for your cast of characters?
A: I went through a similar family experience many years ago––an inheritance battle involving my father’s second wife, me and my siblings, which went all the way to a jury trial, transforming everyone involved. I wanted to explore the fraught situation: how a crisis clarifies and sometimes exacerbates long-standing relationship challenges.
Some of the characters are loosely based on people I knew. Others are entirely fictionalized. Because the story is told from multiple points of view––I am inside the heads of nine people, an impossibility in real life–– even those characters that have some basis in my personal story, are invented.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make changes along the way?
A: I did not know how Trial by Family would end before I began writing. I did know, however, that it wouldn’t end the way the real situation concluded. My goal was to follow each character’s journey to its organic and logical conclusion, which, as I had hoped, took the story in directions that surprised even me.
Q: As you mentioned, the story is told from various characters’ points of view. Did you write it in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character at a time?
A: I did both. In the first draft, I worked to structure the story so that each chapter was told by the person most impacted by the circumstances described in it and to move through the plot in order, i.e., the sister who receives the inciting phone call, the attorney who must handle an unwanted trial, the housekeeper who witnesses key information.
Then I printed out a hard copy of the draft , sat on my study floor and cut and amassed each character’s chapters/sections in piles, in order to ascertain whether or not their individual trajectories built strongly enough to both move the story forward and to deepen the reader’s understanding of that person. I addressed what I discovered during this process in the second and third drafts, pumping up some of the character’s actions, playing down others.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: Many of us have family struggles with love, money, greed, and need, and many have a hard time dealing with sibling rivalry and forgiveness. I hope that Trial by Family gives readers a glimpse into the interior lives of a family under duress and that this fictional peek at different perspectives helps them understand what families leave, inherit and, for each member’s well-being, must let go.
In order to move on from a crisis, from past wounds, and to finally earn genuine adulthood, the sibling protagonists publicly defend themselves. In so doing, they gain self-mastery and better understand each other.
Practically speaking, the novel is also a cautionary tale for anyone, old or young, dealing with or anticipating estate issues.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a memoir, tentatively titled Almost, My Life in the Theater–on ambition, failure, and the drive to create. It covers my first passion, acting, from childhood all the way through my encounters with four Oscar-winners.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love to hear from readers, and I love to meet with book clubs, either in person or via FaceTime. If you read and enjoyed Trial by Family, want to share your thoughts, or have a book group you’d like me to speak with, do feel free to contact me at email@example.com. And if you are so inclined, please post an Amazon or a Goodreads review. Much appreciated. Thank you!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Roselee Blooston.