What propelled you to write a story based in show business?
Vaudeville has fascinated me since I was little girl. That’s when my father told me the romantic story about my great-grandparents, who eloped and ran away to join a traveling theater troupe. My great-grandmother was a singer and pianist, and her husband played the fiddle. The couple’s elopement—and their divorce later on—caused a scandal in the small town of Shreve, Ohio, where my great-grandmother grew up. Because some people considered vaudeville as “one step up from burlesque,” my grandmother was ashamed of her history. She refused to answer my questions about her parents and their stage careers.
I have always loved live theater, and once considered becoming an actor. In high school I acted in plays and I spent the summer before college studying acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Though I didn’t pursue a stage career, that summer taught me invaluable lessons about creating characters.
Many years later, I visited the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, a restored and spectacular vaudeville theater. As I walked down the silent aisle between rows of plush seats, I thought about my great-grandparents and their story, which had never been told. Though the characters in The Life Fantastic are invented, and though it takes place in a different time and place, my great-grandparents’ adventure in the theater inspired me to write the novel.