Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, S. R. Mallery, about her fiction book entitled, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads. Enjoy!
Where did the idea for Sewing Can Be Dangerous come from?
It was my father who told me all about the infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and as a quilt designer/teacher, I was particularly drawn to those hapless immigrant seamstresses who died so needlessly. Surrounded by so many quilts and fabrics in my studio, I decided to write a group of stories, connecting them all by the single ‘thread’ of sewing/crafts. That actually helped focus me with each new story. No matter what time period I was reading about, I kept asking questions like, ‘How would sewing/crafting ‘fit’ into this time frame? Who would be the likely characters?’
How did the title of this book come about?
After I had written the first story in my collection, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” all about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911, and then came up with the idea of connecting each story by a ‘thread’ of sewing and/or crafts, I thought I was happily on my way. But it was later, after I had completed the stories that the title dilemma began. Many concepts later I had an epiphany. Not only did that first story’s title create a “Huh? What’s that about?” reaction from people, it also embodied the gist of my collection––history, action, crime, romance, and…danger.
What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?
Actually, the genre chose me. Because I love history and relish doing all the research that it entails, I just followed my heart. In other words, I didn’t set out to write historical fiction; I just dove into the history aspect, then later, realizing so many of the stories revolved around history, I just went with the flow.
Oh, there is one modern crime story, however, because I just couldn’t resist putting it in. During my professional quilting days, I had always thought about teaching quilting on a luxury cruise line, so why not include that little fantasy in my book?
Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.
This book took about five years, with time off for obtaining a teacher’s credential. As for techniques, when I read or hear about some little fact in history, it percolates in my head as I continue on with research––exploring that time period, the culture, clothing, and lingo—until I feel as if I’m actually living in that particular time myself.
These stories came with me everywhere: to my children’s afterschool activities, the NY Tenement Museum as we groped through the pitch-black hallway because ‘gaslights hadn’t come in yet’; to Wall Street, where the heart-attack-waiting-to-happen pace was disturbing.
Tell me about the main storyline within this book.
These eleven short stories combine history, mystery, action and/or romance––from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a freedom message system; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980’s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial ‘star’ and an eclectic fiber artist to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.
What is the major conflict in this story?
Because this book involves different stories, there are many conflicts, not just one. That being said, I would say in general, most of the stories end with some sort of resolution to each conflict, whether it be overcoming poverty odds and a severe family member, solving murder cases and curses, avoiding Indian attacks, inventing a clever way to escape enslavement, helping others in trouble, or simply following one’s heart in spite of heavy opposition and nay-saying.
Where and when is this story taking place?
The time periods in this collection are wildly eclectic. From the 1600s Salem Witchcraft Trial where children ran supreme, to a horrendous fire in 1911 New York that darkened the lives of a whole city; from Washington Territory in 1870 where the Indians usually got along with the White people to the Wall Street in 1980; from the Antebellum South to a modern luxury cruise ship; from a 1967-69 Haight Ashbury hippy-dippy murder to the Nazis’ book-burning Kristallnacht horror.
Who is your favorite character in this book?
I choose Sasha, the immigrant seamstress, caught in the middle of the overwhelming conditions of the NYC Triangle Shirtwaist factory and her nasty, domineering father. Being originally from New York, a quilter for so many years myself, and understanding the hardships that immigrants often bear when they come to this country, I felt a particular connection to this character. In fact, at one point, when I was visiting New York and saw a little plaque on the New York University building honoring those college students who crawled across ladders to try and save some of those luckless girls that fateful day, I actually cried.
Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?
No elements of my personality are included, but interests/influences, most certainly. As a quilt instructor, I used to warn my students about the ‘dangers of sewing,’ and I came across quilt curses as I was preparing for a quilt article and I couldn’t get it out of my head! At a machine-quilting exhibit, I saw a little note from a 1870 Washington Territory pioneer woman who wrote that she hid her new Singer sewing machine in the cornfield and I was enthralled. Absolutely no mention of the safety of her cabin, or her family! Talk about obsession!
Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.
Actually, I see these stories as a TV series, because they seem more episodic than a single movie. The theme song would be similar to Thomas Newman’s “Revolutionary Road”–lilting, slightly dark, and mysterious. Casting—oh, my! Shailene Woodley, Elizabeth Olsen, Evan Rachel Ward, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Emma Stone.
Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?
The more I learn about this Author Selling Business, the more I will be able to cultivate a wider audience for this collection as well as my other books. Eventually, however, I would love to have it made into a series…who knows?
Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To obtain your copy of Sewing Can Be Dangerous, please visit the links provided.