This week I had the privilege of interviewing Thelma Adams, the author of the historical novel The Last Woman Standing. It is the first biographical novel about Josephine Marcus, Wyatt Earp’s wife, the gutsy Jewish beauty who captured the lawman’s heart in 1981, the year he fought the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral. NY Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt says, The Last Woman is “a wild west story made even wilder, more poignant and inspired by Adams’s fascinating research and glittering prose.” It’s no wonder then that the novel is already a Kindle bestseller!
If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of The Last Woman Standing or enter our GIVEAWAY: RETWEET on Twitter, and/or SHARE on Facebook by noon (EST) Friday, November 18th to win a copy of The Last Woman Standing (US only). We’ll select and contact the winner on Friday.
What is one book that has made an impact on you?
Last summer when I picked up Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend at the suggestion of a best friend who wanted to read it together, I didn’t know it would change my writing life with the same power as reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I ripped through the story of two young bright girls from early memories until their sixties, as told over four novels. Here was an epic novel by and about women, seen through their eyes, funny, violent, petty, brave and sexy. I finished the Neapolitan quartet and then I bought all the standalone novels. When I turned to other books, they felt like shades, and so I’ve begun to read My Brilliant Friend again, in small doses, to see how Ferrante creates her magic. Recently, a journalist “outed” Ferrante, who had been writing under a pseudonym. It angered me a bit but then I simply chose to ignore the information, because if Ferrante didn’t want me to know, I would live in her words not in the reflections on magazine pages. As a smart girl who found approval and praise in academic prowess, I totally identified with the books’ narrator, Elena.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book.
Josephine Sarah Marcus’s greatest fear was being painted as a prostitute and having people in the years after this novel takes place disparaging her reputation and that of Wyatt Earp. She went out of her way to write a memoir that scrubbed her story. In my book, I made a leap of faith, that she had not taken money for sex – but I also understood that in the West, prostitutes all had their own stories to tell even when they were tarred with the same brush. I think if she had the ability to read my book, she’d have a few bones to pick. Still, my intention was always to be true to her spirit and hew close to the facts.
Where do you love to be?
I love the screened-in porch at my house in the Hudson Valley. It overlooks the Fallkill Creek a few miles from Eleanor Roosevelt’s house. From the early days of spring until deep snows, it is a place of ever-changing Northeastern beauty. I love the wisteria bursting over the corner knowing that it took many years between when we planted it and when it began to bloom. The wild turkeys chortle by and, if we’re lucky, they may even do their crazy wackadoodle mating dances right in front of us. Sometimes a great blue heron takes over the center of the stream, posing on one leg, a sign that the ecology is healthy. And I love when, like it is now, the leaves turn at their own paces: yellow and red, orange and russet. I’ve spent so many good times there with friends, drinking and talking and telling each other stories as they sunlight falls and we light beeswax candles in old vintage carnival glass candleholders. And, once my kids became teenagers and twenty, it became a great place for them to bring friends, hang out and be very comfortable, which again makes me very happy. We have two big stone fireplaces but it’s not the hearths but the screened porch that’s the heart of our home.
Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?
I began writing poetry when I was 15 and continued in college, where I wrote my first film review. After college, I applied to Johns Hopkins as a poet and they rejected me. I sulked and instead of persevering, I went off in a different direction: arts management. I even have an MBA in Arts Management from UCLA. But I always returned to writing: before work or after work. When I ultimately got into the Columbia MFA in fiction when I was in my early 30s, my husband insisted I attend despite the financial hardship. He was a first-class hero, insisting I do what I felt in my heart I had to do. It gave me three straight years to write, which was more of a blessing than the Ivy degree. I’ve written memoir and written contemporary fiction. I had a two-decade career as a film critic and journalist that began after I got my MFA. And now I’m writing historical fiction, a genre that I love and that I find incredibly freeing. I don’t write poetry anymore but I think I access that muscle in my fictional descriptions and in getting under the skins of my characters.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Never give up! Don’t look to anyone else to tell you that you are a writer! That way is madness. If you feel the urge to write then write, lay down tracks, sentences, paragraphs, again and again. You may start out a poet, move over to short stories, write some criticism and, discover, like me that novels, the long form, is what you’re best at. What it takes is writing. A lot. You may swoon and fall into the many traps that exist: people telling you you’re not a writer, people saying you have to write so many words a day to be a writer, your writing sucks. But there’s a connection that exists between a writer’s mind and the word, it’s like a wireless connection, or a muscle. It won’t work every day. It won’t always bring joy. It can even bring desperation and doubt. But if you write through that, you will have the power to express yourself, to create something that wasn’t there previously and connect with an audience.
Novelist Thelma Adams (Kindle Bestseller The Last Woman Standing, O Magazine Pick Playdate) has interviewed Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore and Diane Keaton for the New York Observer and contributes regularly to Variety. She twice chaired the New York Film Critics Circle, covered film festivals from Berlin to Marrakech, reviewed movies for The New York Post and Us Weekly, and covered the Awards circuit for Yahoo Movies.
You can Find Thelma at:
Her Website – http://thelmadams.com/wordpress/http://thelmadams.com/wordpress/