Patty Templeton won the first-ever Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award in 2010. She’s just published her first novel, There Is No Lovely End, and will read from the book on Wednesday, July 16, 7 PM, at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge, 3058 W. Irving Park. We spoke with Templeton about the book’s title, its basis in reality, and what’s next for her:
As of today, your book is #74,373 on Amazon.
Three days ago it was under 15,000. I am not overly worried about Amazon ranking. It will ebb and flow depending on what interviews, book reviews, and personal appearances I have in the pipeline. I don’t dwell on the Amazon ranking. I am more likely to dwell on the print copies that I handsell (or don’t) at conventions. It’s easier to be like, “MWA! You don’t like me!” when someone looks you in the eye and doesn’t want the book, rather than ignores buying it on Amazon. All that being said . . . geez, I’d like to see that ranking stay under a hundred thousand.
It can be hard to come up with titles that reflect the essence of a book. How did you decide on this one?
Geez! The title. I was at least six months into this novel before I had a title. That scared the hell outta me. In my writing process, if I don’t have a solid title day one for the story, poem, or whatever I’m working on, I’m screwed. The piece isn’t going to work. Weird, but it seems to be my routine.
This title came about because I sat down with a thesaurus and played. I wanted a pseudo Victorian title. I wanted to give a feeling of power, glory, and—most importantly—doom. I matched and smashed words together until they fit to my liking.
This is a work of fiction, but its genesis came from some factual reality, right?
There Is No Lovely End is a work of historical fiction. But what does historical fiction become once you make ghosts some of your main characters? Historical fantasy? Historical horror? Whatever it is, the story is rooted in the life of Sarah Winchester, the famed Winchester rifle heiress—a real person who lived from 1839 to 1922. (Though some say she was born in 1837.)
Sarah Winchester’s baby, Annie, died in the 1860s from a withering disease. Her husband died in the 1880s from tuberculosis. Some say that she despondently spent her entire life a miserable widow who was haunted by familial phantoms . . . and by all of the people ever killed by a Winchester rifle. Depending on who is telling the story, the ghosts either wanted Sarah dead or wanted her to build a home for them with her tremendous fortune. In the 1880s, Sarah was told by a now unknown medium to move out west. If she moved out west, and built a house—and never stopped building—she would find solace from the spirits who surrounded her. The spirits couldn’t murder her if she kept building. The spirits couldn’t find her if her house was large enough. The spirits would be appeased by each having a room in her home. There are a lot of different ways the legend goes.
Sarah Winchester did indeed move out west and she did build a very large house. Some say she built it nonstop, day and night, for 38 years. You can still visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. It is over 160 rooms and a glorious tour.
When I toured the house, over ten years ago, the tour guide gave the impression that Sarah Winchester was an innovative lunatic. At the time, there were only gossipy history books and no one else wrote different. I wanted to give Sarah Winchester a voice that may have been haunted, but was certainly not mad. At the same time, I wanted to explore the life of the unknown medium who may have spurred the building of a fabulous Victorian mansion.
You’ll be reading on your book tour here at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge. What else might you do while “back home” in Chicago?
Fall over. I will faceplant into a bed and snore. I am coming to Chicago after Readercon, a writing conference in Boston. I am only in town for two days before I have to motor on up to Detroit for Detcon1, a sci-fi and fantasy writing conference. If I can manage it, I will snag some buffalo tofu at Pick Me Up and then stroll my way down to the Bookworks to visit dear friends. I’m hoping for Hoosier Mama pie. If I can accomplish all this in a day, plus errands and a book release party on day two, I will give myself a jump high-five.
What’s next on your writing agenda?
I have two projects going. I’m working on a novella that can most succinctly be described as a lesbian Indiana Jones pastiche set in the rare book world. And I am working on a novel in stories that amounts to Winesburg, Ohio—if the town in Winesburg, Ohio, was a Halloweentown full of beautiful weirdos and oddity shops. Think Gilmore Girls meets Hocus Pocus for grown-ups.
- Julia Rios
- Patty Templeton