Please welcome Amy Stilgenbauer with
Abby Amaro wants to sing at La Scala Opera House, but she’s a good girl, and in 1957 good girls get married. Still, when she receives her first marriage proposal, she freezes, knowing the way her suitor makes her feel bodes trouble. When he won’t take no for an answer, she flees, joining up with a traveling carnival.
Thanks to a burlesque trapeze artist and the world’s saddest clown, Abby bides her time and fits in until she can rejoin the world she knows. She doesn’t expect a sideshow strongwoman named Suprema, who captures her imagination. As the carnival makes its way across the Midwest, Abby learns much more than she had ever imagined—about herself, about her identity, and, most importantly, about love.
Abby couldn’t remember falling asleep. She only remembered the dark night and how, outside the window of Della’s trailer, the rolling slopes of Eastern Ohio slowly flattened into the farmland of the western side of the state and faded into darkness. She didn’t say much during the trip, but her mind was spinning, unable to process what she had done.
Once, when she had been a little girl, barely older than Annette was now, her mother had taken her and Natale to visit their aunt in Chicago for a week. It had been a nice visit. They had embarked on the train with a great deal of ceremony, and Za Teresa had spoiled the pair rotten, loading them up with peach-shaped marzipan and pizzelle until they were both sick. She hadn’t left Cleveland for any extended period of time since. Oh, sure, she’d talked and dreamt about it. Nonna often wistfully mentioned taking a trip back to her girlhood home one more time now that the war was over and taking Abby along to look after her, and then, if her opera career took off as she had once hoped, she would be visiting all the great cities. In her scrapbook, clippings of Palais Garnier, La Scala, and The Met were decorated with carefully drawn hearts and hopeful stars and the scrawled word: someday. Still, she had never imagined that when she departed the Coventry neighborhood again, it would be in a burlesque dancer’s trailer.
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Hi Amy, thank you for being here today and for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks for having me! I started writing long before my parents believed that I could, and I haven’t been able stop since. I love to tell stories. Somewhere in my mind getting stories told feels like my life’s mission. In Sideshow, we follow the story of Abby Amaro, a young first generation Sicilian-American growing up in late 1950s Cleveland, and what happens to her when she leaves everything she’s ever known and runs away with a traveling carnival.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than any others? Love? Action? Romance? Tragedy?
I have a hard time with any scene in which there are intense negative emotions. It’s funny because those used to be my jam. My writing friends and I even used have a livejournal group called “Torturing Our Characters” in which we invented ways to put them in ever more angst inducing scenarios. Some point in the past 10 years that shifted abruptly and now I just want my characters to be happy, so I’ll leave notes in stories that say “bad things happen here” and come back to them much, much later.
What do you think makes a good story?
This is a tricky question because a great deal of what I’m looking for in a story varies by my mood, the season, etc. I read, watch, and listen to a wide variety of media. One factor that shine through though no matter what, is that the stories I enjoy most have interesting, dynamic characters with complex motivations. This goes for both protagonists and villains, serious and silly stories, and everything in between.
Do you hear from readers much? What do they say?
I don’t hear from them often. When I do, it’s a special treat, so this is me saying that I’d love to hear from you! I know it can feel silly. I’m the kind of person that’s afraid to follow some of the people I’m fans of on twitter because I feel silly, so I get it. Still, though, I really and truly welcome hearing from you.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child or pet! I can’t do it. Each work of mine has been created with a part of me at a specific time in my life and I evolved so much since I finished my first novel (which currently lives in the bottom of a drawer, but I still love it) in 2008. Since then I’ve actually published 2 novels and 2 not-quite-novel experiments and I genuinely love each one in it’s own way.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I write a lot, but I also do a lot of other things. I garden, paint, sew, knit, study history, research genealogy, sing and dance so long as no one else is around, make cheese, make weird non-grape wines (like dandelion), and, of course, curl up with my cats and read books, which is basically paradise.
Meet the author:
Amy Stilgenbauer is a writer and aspiring archivist currently based in southeast Michigan. She is the author of the novelette series, Season of the Witch, as well as the Young Adult novel, The Legend of League Park. Her short story, The Fire-Eater’s Daughter, was included in Summer Love, an LGBTQ Young Adult collection published by Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press. When she isn’t writing, Amy enjoys all things bergamot and tries to keep her cats away from her knitting.
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