Ilona Fridl is my guest today!
Thank you, Jean, for hosting me on your blog today!
Tell us about what you write.
I started out writing mostly contemporary short stories for magazines. When I first ventured into novels, they were historical romances. I wrote stories set in the late 1800s to the 1990s. I tend to go to eras I love to study about.
When did your writing journey begin?
Before I started school, I used to make picture books out of paper that was stapled together. My first one was about a snowman, which was strange, because I grew up in Los Angeles. As I got older, my friends and I would play “let's pretend” and make up adventurous stories. I guess, in a sense, I never outgrew that. I still love to make up stories.
What was your inspiration for A Balancing Act?
I was reading about the Waukesha Springs Era that lasted from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and thought that would be an interesting setting for a story. There were many resorts around town and most were connected with natural springs that were claimed to promote health. Waukesha water was sold around the world and many people came to Waukesha during the summer from all over the country. Mary Todd Lincoln would come to one of the boarding houses here later in her life.
Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?
I've been housebound in a wheelchair for several years, and decided to write about a heroine who had lost a leg. I used what I knew about the struggle to work with a handicap and how you can adjust your life to deal with it.
Tell us about A Balancing Act.
Lenora LaRue, Bareback Rider Extraordinaire, is the star of her family’s circus—until a cyclone hits. A main tent pole falls on her during the storm, and when her injuries require the loss of her leg, her family abandons her, believing she is of no further use to them.
John Mallory, the young surgeon who does the necessary operation, decides to help her readjust to the real world, against his father's advice. John takes her to his aunt’s sanitarium in the resort city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the two of them undertake to teach Lenora how to live outside the harsh circus culture that has been her whole life. He sets up a practice in the town to be near her, positive that rehabilitation is possible. As a woman doubly cursed by society as both a cripple and a former circus performer, Lenora is not so sure. She struggles to learn social skills…but can she learn what love is, too?
How was your experience with the publishing process?
I've been publishing through a small press, The Wild Rose Press, since my first novel. I had been getting rejections from both agents and publishers until I sent my first manuscript to them. One of the editors, Nan Swanson, loved the story, so she took a chance on me. This is my eighth book with them. They are wonderful to work with.
Any new projects on the horizon?
I'm working on another short mystery with detectives Amos and Sarah Darcy, who were characters in my Dangerous Times series.
Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:
What was the most unusual interesting part of the story to research?
I loved researching about the spring resort era in Waukesha. I did some background on medical practices and artificial limbs. They had advanced quite a bit in the 1890s. Finding out about circuses in the late 1800s has interested me for a long time.
A short excerpt from A Balancing Act...
Miss La Rue took a sip of the water. “Well, Doctor?”
He paused. “First, I want to say how sorry I am for your circumstances. I want to make you an offer. I’ll pay for your artificial limb and you can pay me back when you gain employment.”
She frowned. “How do you know there is anything I can do? Who’s going to hire a cripple?”
“The artificial limb will help with that. We have to find out what you’re good at.”
She snorted. “I'm good at jumping on the back of a horse and doing acrobatics. No, wait, I can’t do that anymore, can I?”
John rose and hurried off the porch. “I’ll be right back.” He went to the horse and pulled the books out of the saddlebags. Bringing them to the porch, he set them in front of her. “You told me you didn’t have much schooling, so I brought these four books to help you.” He picked the first one up. “Since I know you can read some, I brought the fourth grade McGuffy Reader. It has spelling, grammar, and diction. This is intermediate arithmetic, this is geography, and this is business practices.” He pointed to each in turn.
She studied him for a moment. “Why are you doing this for me? This isn’t a medical concern. I don’t want your pity.”
“It’s not pity, Miss La Rue. It’s extending a hand to a person who needs it. I expect you to get a job and pay me back.”
There was a dark cast to her eyes. “I guess, Dr. Mallory, I’m not used to people thinking about me and my needs. If I seem impolite at times, it’s just my defenses.” She took the reader from him and riffled the pages. “Thank you for the use of the books. I shall study them.”