Williams, White and Willig talk about THE FORGOTTEN ROOM
The Forgotten Room is a riveting and insightful book. With captivating characters, an intricate plot line, and just missed opportunities it shows how people can be affected by the choices they make. An added bonus is the realism of the settings and the behaviors of the times. Anyone wanting a captivating novel should read this story.
Elise Cooper: How did you meet, were you all seated together in the “W” section?
Beatriz Williams: We met each other on the writing circuits and would sometimes meet up during book tours as some of our novels would be released at the same time. We had so much fun together, joining each other for dinner. As our friendship built we thought how we all had similar styles, narratives, and used different time lines.
EC: Why did you decide to write a collaboration?
Karen White: We were all interested in the impact of the past. I learned while writing a previous anthology just because you are a writer does not mean you are a good co-writer. An anthology is just writing your own story, with a short word count, and working in isolation separate from the other authors. Part of my reluctance to do it again is due to the word count. I’m just used to thinking in more sweeping saga-type stories. Instead I chose to write a collaboration, something I would not have done with just anyone. I wanted to do it because we all had the same work ethics and the same goals, which made it is much more involving and fun. It was something I enjoyed immensely.
EC: How did you write the actual story?
Beatriz: We decided who is going to do each narrative and timeline and then created a detailed chapter outline. Once that basic framework was in place we started writing round robin style. One person would write their chapter and pass it to the next person. We took cues from each other that we built into the next chapter. Our voices were different notes in the same symphony. We became one person with one ego.
Karen: It was constant communication so there was no need to edit each other. I joke it was like reading one of my favorite novels and then the author gave me the opportunity to write a little bit for it.
EC: Who came up with the idea?
Lauren Willig: Karen had the idea of having three different people from three different time periods connected by a building. It would represent how people and neighborhoods can regenerate themselves. We found this perfect building that used to be owned by Beatriz’s husband’s family. It is now a private hospital on the Upper East Side of New York so we marched up to the door and asked if we could look around, explaining we are authors.
Beatriz: This used to be a breathtaking mansion. It was our inspiration since it started out as a private mansion for an industrialist and has now become a hospital. When we looked around we saw that every floor was more inspiring than the next. To get to the top floor there was this spiral staircase. There was this amazing room now used for storage that had depictions of Saint George and the Dragon. We started to think who would have lived here. Anyone who has read my book A Hundred Summers might remember the character Aunt Julie. She is based on a real character that grew up in this house.
EC: Why did you choose the eras of the 1890s Gilded Age, the 1920s Roaring Twenties, and the end of World War II?
Lauren: All these periods are times of great influx. The 1890s had the great crash and woman suffrage when New York was in great disarray. The 1920s, coming right after WWI, had hemlines beginning to rise and women entered the workforce. WWII had Rosie the Riveter and all bets were off. As authors we all are interested in writing how the role of women have changed over time, and the influence the different time periods have on the characters.
Karen: Given the constraints of society each mother wanted more for their daughters than they themselves had. Kate was taught to be career oriented. The reason we gave her that profession was that WWII left a gap in the amount of doctors. After reading some great Memoirs on female WWII doctors we wrote Kate as a doctor who gets push back and fights to find her way to push the envelope.
EC: Can you briefly describe the characters?
Beatriz: Olive, from the 1890s, is darker and more melancholy. Her daughter Lucy is more ambitious but plagued by insecurity, unsure where she stands in the world. Kate is deciding how to balance the need to be loved with wanting a profession that contributes to society.
EC: Of all the male characters Philip stood out?
Beatriz: We all fell in love with Philip. He was a product of his generation and time period. We thought of him as a thoroughly decent guy, and a man with insight. I picked him up from this book and will put him in my next standalone.
EC: Did the ruby necklace symbolize a connection between the present and the past?
Lauren: We all have heard stories about our parents’ past. These stories were passed down by generations, like the necklace, and have been used to define ourselves. We don’t know if they are true, but they have become the truth. A part of us has been shaped by our past, even before we were born.
EC: Why the epilogue?
Lauren: It represented how our past affects our present. The loop keeps on going. How a single choice can affect generations down the road.
Beatriz: To tie up loose ends. But more importantly to hear from Harry’s point of view, and to offer why he did what he did.
EC: Will there be a follow-up book?
Karen: We have been talking about something and even have some ideas for books after that. The ground is very fertile.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
Beatriz: A Certain Age, out in June, is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York of the Roaring Twenties. It has intrigue, romance, and scandal involving New York Society.
Lauren: My next book will be out sometime in 2017. It has murder and suicide set in New York, a Gilded Age Gone Girl. Beatriz and I also participated in an anthology, Fall Of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War out on March 1st. This historical fiction is a collection of short stories in the aftermath of World War I.
Karen: Flight Patterns, out in May, has the main character, Georgia, finding the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, heal the rifts with family members, and face up to the secrets she was forced to keep. As with all my books it is set in the South, Florida to be exact.