Friday, July 7, 2023

Q&A with Kitty Zeldis




Kitty Zeldis is the author of the new historical novel The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights, which focuses on three women in the 1920s. She also has written the historical novel Not Our Kind. Kitty Zeldis is the pen name of an author who has written many books for adults and for kids.


Q: How would you describe the dynamics among your three protagonists, Bea, Alice, and Catherine?


A: The relationships between the characters is not at all static, but keeps shifting and changing as the novel unfolds.


Bea and Alice have a comfortable if somewhat distant relationship as protector and orphan but when Alice sees how much stronger Bea’s feelings are for Catherine, she becomes jealous and resentful, causing her to act out in ways that have damaging consequences.


At first Catherine is wary of Bea, and then comes to accept her and grows curious about her life. But when she learns something more troubling about Bea’s past, she rejects her, saying she never wants to see her again.


Alice’s resentment of Catherine is mirrored by Catherine’s mistrust of Alice, yet this too undergoes a profound change.


The ways in which they come to understand one another and work to repair the relationships they have with one another is a major part of this novel.

Q: What do you think your characters' lives say about the possibilities for women in that era?


A: Their lives were so much more restricted than ours, forcing them to make uncomfortable and even tragic choices.


Having a child on her own was cataclysmic for Bea, and because of that, the entire direction of her life changed. The censure and shame around sexuality caused both Bea and Alice great harm; they were each preyed upon and victimized by men in their lives.


Their opportunities for autonomy were limited, and so was the understanding about that victimization; they, like all women at the time, were told that they were at fault for what had happened to them.


Catherine is more protected than either Alice or Bea, but she too lives with expectations from society and her mother about what her role can and should be. Women in that period had to fight very hard to attain even a small degree of agency.


Q: The writer Lauren Willig called the novel “an only-in-America story of reinvention, rising above tragedy, and finding family.” What do you think of that description?


A: I’m a big fan of Willig’s and was so pleased with her description. And I agree that the novel is about the different ways we create and maintain family. There is no one size fits all here; each family is a unique entity and an ongoing construction.


Q: Why did you decide to write the book under your pen name of Kitty Zeldis?


A: This was a decision made by my publisher HarperCollins who felt that Not Our Kind, which came out in 2018, and this current book were different enough from my previous novels to warrant a relaunch.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A novel called One of Them, which set in the late 1940s and once again deals with the kind “received” and “polite” anti-Semitism of that period—restricted clubs, resorts, towns, quotas that existed in schools etc. The intersection of Jews in the wider, non-Jewish world has always been of keen interest to me. The novel will be published by HarperCollins in 2025.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Kitty Zeldis.

No comments:

Post a Comment