Sunday, November 3, 2013

Interview with Julie Dewey, author of One Thousand Porches

Today, Flashlight Commentary is pleased to welcome author Julie Dewey to our little corner of the net to discuss her latest release, One Thousand Porches.

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Author Julie Dewey
Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Julie. To start things off, please tell us a bit about One Thousand Porches.
Thank you for having me Erin. It’s an honor to be here. My second book, One Thousand Porches, is set in 1885 and is about the many faces of tuberculosis. There was no known cure for tuberculosis during this time period and the disease was our countries number one killer, far surpassing typhoid or Scarlet fever. The disease was not prejudiced in whom it affected either.  Men and women, the elderly as well as the young, wealthy and poor, and folks of all races were affected. The book chronicles the lives of several people, from various backgrounds, as they seek a cure in the Adirondack Mountains. Saranac Lake was home to Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau, a man who suffered from the TB and fought against all odds to open a sanitarium for those who suffered. He believed the mountain air provided a cure for those afflicted and made researching the disease his life’s work.

What inspired you to write this story?
My great grandmother, Lena Green Thompson, spent four years in a sanitarium for tuberculosis. She had to leave her husband and three children while she “took the cure” in the mountain air. She was restored after a period of four years and returned to her family at long last. Lena lived to be ninety six years old. Her story was inspiring and thought provoking to me. I couldn’t fathom leaving my own children for any length of time, but back then this was the only answer if you hoped to live.  I was inspired by Lena’s courage more than anything and felt it was a story that needed telling

What research went into One Thousand Porches and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating background material for your book? 
First, I started researching my own family history. I took personal accounts from my mother, my aunts and my uncle. After learning more about my great grandmother, Lena, I researched the time period, the disease, and any cures that were available. I read Edward Livingston Trudeau’s, “An Autobiography” and studied several firsthand accounts of life in the sanitariums. I learned more about the sanitarium through the Saranac Lake museum, Adirondack Research room, and the Trudeau Institute.

Little Red. Cure Cottage at Saranac Lake. 
I was surprised at how widespread the disease was and how much it varied from person to person. There were numerous different types of tuberculosis, the most common being pulmonary. 

The story is told by several characters. Why did you feel this story should be told by multiple narrators? 
It was essential this story be told from the voice of numerous characters in order to give an accurate firsthand account of what they each endured. The characters are so different from one another that to do it from one voice wouldn’t have had the same affect and outcome.

On that note, who was the easiest character to write and why? 
I thoroughly enjoyed writing about Amy’s character. To witness her suffering as a young child, and then watch her blossoming into a young woman with such grace gave me goose bumps. She went from a scared little girl who was all alone at the Sans, to a woman in love who married and went on to give birth under difficult circumstances. It is her hope and courage that pulls her through her darkest days and makes us all think twice about our own lives and what we endure. Amy may not have been the easiest character to write but she was certainly the most rewarding. 

Did you find any of them particularly challenging?
Writing from the voice of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau was the most challenging. I hold him in the highest regard and because of this wanted to be sure his accounts were accurate and justified. He was such an incredible human being, not only did he suffer alongside his patients, but he researched the disease until his dying days. 

Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau
You probably have many, but is there are scene in any of the books that you really enjoyed writing?
I really and truly enjoyed writing the circus scenes with Big Joe. I was smiling as I typed the whole time. Thinking of this big hulk of a man scared to feed the animals and then falling in love for the first time was very endearing. I loved his attitude, and the way he took it upon himself to become the Strongman in the face of love. Also, he gave himself a second chance at love with Christine, he was a genuinely good person with bad circumstances. 

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author?
Writing the scene at the end where Dr. Trudeau is recounting his life was challenging. His autobiography is confusing because it bounces back and forth across the years as opposed to following a timeline. I had do create a timeline and follow it to a “t” in order to accurately account for his life.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
The only sacrifice that may have been made in the telling of this story, was that of the character James. I detailed throughout the book how afraid he was of consumption and as a result he sacrificed his family’s love. His self-preservation was more important to him than anything. I considered writing from his point of view, delving into his fears and then his guilt. I am certain James would have told the story of many people, but in the end I decided I liked the story as it was written. I didn’t want to complicate the focus of the story, which was about the patients themselves, and their courage, hope, and resilience. 

One Thousand Porches is your second novel. How did your experience with it differ from that of Forgetting Tabitha? 
My experience with One Thousand Porches was far more personal. Not only because of my great grandmother, Lena’s time spent in a sanitarium, but also because I suffer from lung disease. In fact much of my writing and conjuring of the story took place while I was laid up with chronic asthma. In no way can my asthma compare to what the patients with TB endured, that’s not what I am saying, but I can relate on a small scale to what the patients went through. The difficulty breathing, the feeling of an elephant on your chest, these are all things I personally struggle with. I believe part of me wrote this book to relinquish my own feelings of frustration, and then to remind myself to always be positive and hopeful. 

St Johns in the Wilderness
If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Hands down I would meet with Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau. In fact I feel this way outside of the book as well. If I could choose one individual to meet with and have a discussion with it would be this incredible man. I am simply blown away by his life’s work. His attitude and foresight to establish a place such as the Sans and to help thousands of people overcome their suffering was unselfish and unprejudiced. He took in folks from all walks of life, he provided for them comfortably, knocking on doors to raise funds for their care, all the while dealing with his own ills. He was a pioneer, an incredible researcher and a gentle soul. I would love to learn even more about this man and how he had the fortitude to maintain a positive attitude throughout his life even when faced with the loss of his children and his personal struggles. 

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
I hope my readers come away with a renewed sense of hope after reading One Thousand Porches. I hope they feel empathy and compassion for those who are suffering, and perhaps they even make an attempt to be helpful in some small way. I also hope they learned something they never knew before, that’s important to me.

Finally, what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
I am currently researching electric shock therapy that was widely used in the early 1900’s as a cure for mental illness. I find the topic fascinating and hope to put a story together that encompasses ECT in a way that is intriguing and informative.

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About the Author: Julie Dewey is a novelist who resides with her family in Central New York. Her daughter is a singer/songwriter, and her son is a boxer. Her husband is an all-around hard working, fantastic guy with gorgeous blue eyes that had her falling for him the moment they met. In addition to researching and writing she is an avid reader. She is also passionate about jewelry design and gemstones. She loves anything creative, whether it be knitting, stamping, scrapping, decoupaging, working with metal, or decorating. For more information, visit her website. 

About the Book: Set in the majestic yet untamed Adirondack Mountains of New York more than a century ago, an extraordinary story unfolds about a little known town called Saranac Lake. The town is home to a man with a disease known as consumption, white plague, or as some called it, the red death. It is here that Doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau finds a hopeful cure for tuberculosis in the form of open air. Trudeau’s patients vary in age, gender, class, and race, but they have one thing in common. They must all choose to embrace life, even in the face of death, if they wish to heal at the Sanitarium. Christine, a woman at the helm of her family, has already lost two children to the dreaded plague. But when her daughter, Collette, contracts the disease, she is determined to keep her alive. Venturing into unknown territory, Christine risks her own health and that of her unborn child, as well as her marriage, to help her daughter seek a cure that to many is absurd. Christine embarks upon a life-changing journey as she moves from caregiver to patient. In the face of adversity she must find the courage to sustain herself. When Lena, a factory worker and mother of three, begins coughing up blood she is faced with a decision no mother wants to make. She either stays with her family and risks her own death, or leaves her loved ones behind while she goes off in hope of a cure at the Sans. Big Joe, once a strong man for a traveling circus, seeks a quiet place to live out his final days in hiding. When he is sent to the Sanitarium, he is terrified to learn he will be housed with fellow circus performers for he is a hunted man. Gaunt and thin, he can only hope no one from his past recognizes him in his current state. Little Amy, a six year old child, must care for her entire family of seven, all whom are afflicted with different forms of plague. When she is diagnosed with a very rare form herself, she is sent to the Sanitarium and put under the care of Dr. Trudeau. Alone and afraid, Amy faces her fears and allows herself to dream of a future. With a cast of characters so vivid, One Thousand Porches is a heart warming and engaging story that will instill hope and faith in even the most pessimistic reader.

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