I first met Radha Vatsal when we were both reading excerpts from our novels at KGB Bar in New York as part of a Mystery Writers of America New York Chapter Event. As soon as she started reading from her novel, A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR, I knew that it was something I absolutely had to read. I love historical mysteries, and I love reading about old New York. Since then, I’ve been patiently waiting for its release– which lucky for me, is tomorrow! I had the pleasure of getting to know Radha better when we were both panelists recently at a Sisters in Crime event at the 67th Street Library in New York. I am thrilled to have her join me today!
Radha Vatsal is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Mumbai, India and has a Ph.D. from the English Department at Duke University in North Carolina. Her debut novel, A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR, comes out this May from Sourcebooks Landmark.
Thank you so much for joining me this month on Not Even Joking, and congratulations on the upcoming release of A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR. Your protagonist, Capability “Kitty” Weeks seems ahead of her time. I love strong female characters! What was the inspiration for this character?
My inspiration for Kitty Weeks were the action-film heroines like Pearl White, who inspire her. These amazing film heroines drove cars, brandished guns, chased down villains and had all kinds of daring on-screen adventures. Although they’ve largely been forgotten now, they were wildly popular during the mid-1910s. Kitty is a journalist but she wants to be like them in terms of independence, fearlessness and courage. Like her heroines, she faces danger and she also gets into trouble.
What are some of the most interesting things you learned while conducting research for the book? Is there anything that really surprised you?
The way in which the 1910s are so similar and yet so different to our times really surprised me—and continues to surprise me. Issues like the status of women, immigration, the role of the US in foreign conflicts were on everyone’s mind then, and seem to be on everyone’s mind now. Many of the decisions that were made in the 1910s—for instance, the way in which the Middle East was partitioned into different countries after World War I, or the creation of the FBI, also as a result of espionage going on in the US as a result of WWI—still continue to affect us.
What does your average writing day look like?
There’s no typical writing day for me except that I know I have to get all my serious writing done while my daughters are at school –-so that means I have to be done by about three o’clock. I try to work on fiction during the morning, which is when I’m freshest. And other kinds of writing—blog posts etc. I’ll do in the afternoon or at night. I like to throw in some exercise too and that’s hard for me. It’s easier to for me to sit at my desk and crank out words than it is to go out for a jog. But I think exercise is crucial in the long run.
What else gets you up in the morning? What are you passionate about? And how does this influence your creative life? (or does it?)
Actually, writing gets me up in the morning. (I didn’t realize that until you asked the question!) Even on days when I’m facing difficult points in the book, I’m ready to sit down to write. On the rare days that I’m not, I just take time off. I go out and do other things. I also schedule time, sometimes a week or two at stretch, when I know I won’t write and that gives me time to recharge.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author who thinks they’d like to write historical mysteries?
Pick a historical moment you really like because you’re going to learn more about it and spend more mental time in it than you realize!
Thank you so much for joining me here today! That is wonderful advice.
And here’s some more info about A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR:
Capability “Kitty” Weeks is nineteen, well traveled, well-off, and fresh out of Swiss boarding school. She’s just returned to New York and started writing for the New York Sentinel Ladies’ Page. New York in 1915 is an exciting place. Everything—from cars and movies to culture and women’s roles in the workplace—is undergoing a sea change.
When Kitty is sent to the Sleepy Hollow Country Club to cover the Japanese Fireworks at a Fourth of July picnic, all anyone can talk about is the man who shot J.P. Morgan at his mansionand was pinned beneath the robber baron’s enormous bulk. That is, all anyone can talk about until a man is discovered murdered in the stables.