Friday, September 30, 2022

Q&A with Eileen Joyce Donovan




Eileen Joyce Donovan is the author of the new historical novel A Lady Newspaperman's Dilemma. She also has written the novel Promises. She lives in Manhattan.


Q: What inspired you to write A Lady Newspaperman's Dilemma, and how did you create your character, Alex?


A: I wrote A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma because I wanted to tell the story of the first, and only, time the US Army bombed a US city.


I knew I had to construct a story around that incident, so I thought about how people got the news at that time, then focused on newspapers, then narrowed that down to a reporter covering the story. I wanted the bombing to be the climax of the story, so I had to imagine what Alex’s life might be like prior to the bombing.


I created Alex as the reporter for two reasons. I wanted to show the prejudices women reporters faced in the newspaper business at the time, and I wanted to write a story of a strong independent woman who goes after her goals against all odds.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I initially wrote the entire book set in 1940, which is when the actual bombing took place. But I decided to change it to the 1920s after realizing that there were lots and lots of books being published that were set in the World War II era.


Even though this story is not connected to the war, I knew it would be lumped in with all the WWII books and get lost in the shuffle. So, I decided to rewrite the entire manuscript and set it in 1926.


All the research I had done on what WWII life was like here at home had to be scrapped and instead I had to start reading books about the 20s, fashion, food, speakeasies, women reporters, lifestyles in general.

I was very surprised by the amount of attention newspaper gave to what we would call everyday murders, although that term seems callous at best. A murder in a small town and the subsequent trial could occupy the front page for days, sometimes weeks. And in large metropolitan papers too, not just the local weeklies.


It seemed after WWI, people were anxious to read anything out of the ordinary, or sensational. And the papers thrived on sensationalizing crime.


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had no idea how it would end. I don’t outline my novels, so the writing process becomes an adventure and I find out what’s happening to my characters as I’m writing, in much the same way my readers do when they’re reading.


Q: What do you think the novel says about life for women journalists in the 1920s?


A: Life for women journalists was tough. They were usually assigned to society pages, community news, as Alex was, or advice columns, home hints, anything domestic that didn’t involve solid reporting.


In fact, I’m reading The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul right now, and one of her characters is a lady reporter who has gone through tough battles to be taken seriously. She’s still called Fluff by her male colleagues, due to her time covering the “fluff” news of the day. It was a hard job to be recognized as a serious reporter, even for Alex.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a romance novel, which is a totally new genre for me and surprises even me to be there. It started as a possible short story to get away from constant research on my next historical book and has morphed its way into a novel. I don’t know what will happen with it, but I’m having fun writing something that’s pure imagination, no research involved.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I have another book coming out in March 2023, working title: The Campbell Sisters. It’s set in 1956 New York City and tells the story of three sisters, all in their early 20s.


The eldest one wants the conventional life of wife and mother, the youngest one wants to become a doctor—a tough road even in the 1950s, and the middle sister wants to become the “toast of the town” adored and treated like a princess by all the men of New York City.


After that release, and maybe the romance, I’m planning on a story about a woman prospector in the old West of the 1800s.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment