INTERVIEW WITH KRISTINA MCMORRIS

SOLD ON A MONDAY By Kristina McMorris brings to life a story anchored in reality, by an actual photograph. The saying “a picture is worth a 1000 words”

It all started with a picture that became the inspiration for an article by a struggling journalist, Ellis Reed, as it expressed the desperate days of the American Great Depression in 1931. He took a picture of two boys sitting under a sign that read, “2 children for sale.” After the picture is brought to the chief’s attention by his secretary, Lillian (Lily) Palmer, Ellis is offered his chance to write worthwhile stories that begins with this one about the boys. But his chance to advance seems to go up in ashes after the picture is accidentally destroyed just prior to publication.  Knowing the article would be meaningless without a photo Ellis stages another one with a different family.  Lily feels responsible for the aftermath because it was her idea to show the original picture to the newspaper editor in the first place. Ellis’s story launches his career, but it also creates a chain of devastating events. Now both Ellis and Lily, feeling responsible, are determined to make things right.

This novel takes readers back in time and allows them to have a vivid picture of the desperation.  It is an engrossing story of love, family, ambition, and the struggle of each of the characters with their personal beliefs, how life’s circumstances can push people to do the unthinkable.

Elise Cooper:  The story was based on a real photograph?

Kristina McMorris:  I saw this photo circulating on-line.  It was of four children huddled together on a stoop in Chicago in 1948 with their mother in the background.  There was a sign next to them that read, ‘four children for sale inquire within.’ As a mother of two young boys I was haunted by that photo for months and months.  After I understood there is a story to write I revisited it.

EC:  But you changed it a bit?

KM: As I was doing the research I saw a follow up article where one line stood out to me, ‘family members claim photo was staged.’  When I went back and looked at the photo I saw how perfectly painted the sign was.  Now, I thought maybe it is possible, but then I knew all the children were given away.  It begs the question of the chicken and egg, which came first, or was is it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

EC:  Does the saying, “a picture is worth a 1000 words,” apply here?

KM:  Actually, for me it ended up to be 90,000 words, a whole novel.  I think any strong and powerful art piece or photo after someone looks at it can tell a story that might even raise questions.

EC:  There is the saying is the glass half-filled or half-emptied?  Is the photo a half-truth or a half-lie?

KM:  Taking the point of view of the characters, I would say it is a half-truth.  Yes, Ellis staged it, but intended no harm to anyone.  The article he wrote had nothing to do with the family in the photograph.  Yet, it brought absolute hardships on them and told of the hardships faced by many American families at that time. At the beginning of the story, I put in this quote by Elliott Erwitt, “Photography is the art of observation.  It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Ellis is not manipulative.  After the first photo is ruined he needs to recreate it.  It is how everyone else perceived it.

EC: It is relevant today, because of all the references to fake news?

KM:  There is all the sound bites and snippets of information.  We think we know the whole story, running it in our heads, without really finding out the truth.  I think this is also true with art forms that are so subjective.  Half of what is brought to the table has nothing to do with the creator and everything to do with the person viewing it.  Our past experiences skew what we want to see.  Ellis learned the hard way that pushing the moral line in reporting can have devastating consequences to others.

EC:  Do you think children are resilient?

KM:  Yes, a child’s lens can have them deal with a lot. While I did the research for my second novel, Bridge of Scarlett Leaves, I interviewed those who were children in the Internment camps. They are Japanese Americans who dealt with barbed wire, curfews, and machine guns pointed inward.  One person told me ‘children only know how unfair and what dire straits their life is like if they are told.  We had activities all the time with a sense of belonging.’ Similarly, in this story, even when life is downright lousy the children are resilient because they do not know any difference. The book quote, “all they need is the smallest amount of hope and they could do just about anything they set their minds to…Somehow they’ll make do.”

EC:  Did you have any journalistic experience?

KM:  I had personal experience growing up in a newsroom.  As a child, I hosted a children’s weekly television show.  While waiting around during editing, I would hang around with the meteorologist.  Later, while in college I had a summer internship in that same newsroom.  To gather more insight, I read about the New York Herald Tribune and the real city editor.  I hoped I portrayed it as accurate as possible.

EC:  How would you describe Lily?

KM:  Strong, vulnerable, and someone who carries a lot of guilt, shame, as well as secrets. I think her son Samuel helps to drive her decisions. She connects to the children in Ellis’ story, seeing parallel to her own life.

EC:  How would you describe Ellis?

KM:  A good person who makes poor choices.  He wants his father’s approval and to get it has the need for tangible accomplishments.  Through his career achievements he gains self-confidence and self-esteem. All the characters in this story tried to forgive themselves for past deeds.  They are searching for what they really want out of life.

EC:  Do you think people’s memories are like photographs?

KM:  Very few memories play out as a movie, most are viewed as snapshots.  We remember parts of it and piece together from what we are told.

EC:  Why the Pennsylvania setting?

KM:  I lived near Philadelphia for a time so I am familiar with the area and its history.  It’s diversity of landscapes and livelihoods make it ideal for this story.  Within a short driving distance from the big city are sprawling fields and farms, mining towns, and textile factories.  I was also able to talk about the Model T Ford and how the car worked.

EC:  What do you want readers to get out of the novel?

KM:  That the world created around the characters are believable.  Hopefully, they can immerse themselves in different times and step back into the period.  If people visit my website they can gather a lot of information. (http://kristinamcmorris.com/home) Maybe they will come and see me if I am in their neighborhood because I am doing fifty stops in fourteen states over the next three months.

THANK YOU!!