Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Q&A with Anika Scott


Photo by Carsten Klein



Anika Scott is the author of the new historical novel Sinners of Starlight City. Her other novels include The Soviet Sisters. She has worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Tribune, and she lives in Germany.


Q: What inspired you to write Sinners of Starlight City, and how did you create your characters Rosa and Mina?


A: An old photo of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair was the first spark that inspired the story.


Rosa and Mina weren’t easy to figure out at first. I thought Mina would be the only main character, and that she was a nurse taking care of premature babies on display at the Fair. But that would have made the book about medical advances when I wanted it to be about family and vengeance.


So Mina became a mom of one of the babies, and Rosa took the stage as a burlesque dancer at the Fair with a vendetta. I knew pretty fast they had to be related to each other but estranged.


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

A: Most of it was done by ordering books and scouring newspapers and photographic archives of the Chicago Fair online. I already had quite a few resources about the time period, the 1920s and 1930s in the US and Sicily. I also drew a lot from trips to Italy before lockdowns and just after.


I was shocked at the warm welcome Mussolini’s pilots had at every stop in their flight from Italy to Chicago. Masses of people gave the fascist salute and there was lots of public praise for Mussolini and his fascist “heroes.” It was creepy, knowing World War II was on the horizon.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: We struggled over the title, as usual! My brilliant editor eventually came up with Sinners of Starlight City, and I instantly loved it. It brings out the glamor of the World’s Fair setting and the main character, Rosa, while also highlighting the moral grayness of many of the characters in the story.


Q: The writer Adriana Trigiani said of the novel, “Mystery, intrigue, secrets and a vendetta fuel this story, which is ultimately about the meaning of family and the power of love.” What do you think of that description?


A: It’s perfect! The vendetta at the heart of the plot is entangled with Rosa’s surprising and painful family history.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A historical about one dramatic night at a famous nightclub in Jazz Age Istanbul.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love so many of the characters in Sinners of Starlight City, but my favorite might be Danny, the gangster that Mina’s family hired to take her baby away from her. I love conflicted villains, and it was fun to see him struggle with his conscience.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Anika Scott.

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