Author Archive

Essay Questions

Henrik Ibsen, Doll's House, Norwegian Americans

I had the privilege recently of talking with a group of British high school students who were studying Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Their teacher, a wonderfully literate young man, invited me to speak because he thought my book Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House could help his students better understand the historical and literary context of Ibsen’s play, something they would need to write about during their upcoming A-level exams. As an English-teacher-wannabe, I loved this idea. The teacher sent me a list of essay questions and suggested I pick several to discuss. I wasn’t sure I… 

The Weight of Creative Work

Henrik Ibsen, Searching for Nora, Norwegian History, Norwegian Immigration

Whenever I give a book talk about my novel Searching for Nora: After the Doll’s House, eventually every group gets to the important question: Are you working on your next book? If so, when will it be out? Some people ask if I’m writing a sequel to Searching for Nora, and – if so – can I share some tantalizing hints about what happens to Solvi and Rikka and Ivar and Bobby? Surely they find each other in America, they say, looking at me hopefully, as if this suggestion might prime my creative pumps. Others ask if I’m working on… 

Nora and the Shadow of Prostitution

Norwegian history, Christian Krohg, Searching for Nora

When Nora Helmer – the heroine of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House – walks out on her difficult husband, most modern audiences respond with applause. The moment feels like a leap of liberation, the first step toward a better life. But it turns out that the audiences of Ibsen’s day would have responded quite differently. As  I was working on Searching for Nora, my sequel to A Doll’s House, I did months of research on Norway in the 1880’s so that I could keep the book rooted in Ibsen’s world. And what a different world it was, particularly for… 

A Silver Medal for Searching for Nora

searching for nora, IPPY award, doll's house, Henrik Ibsen, Norwegian Americans

The hardest thing about writing a book is marketing it, particularly in this day and age. Compared to the quiet and intense focus of the writing process, marketing takes chutzpah, salesmanship and an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s about cold-calling prospective groups, arranging appearances, and handing out chocolates (and smiles) at Barnes and Noble in hopes that a few people might stop for a look. Not easy in the best of circumstances. But marketing a book during a pandemic? Please. Some people say the shut-down has given them more time to read, yet others report feeling too distracted to relax with a… 

Writing Historical Fiction: Challenges and Surprises

Norwegian history, Oslo, Norwegian Americans, Ibsen, Dolls House

Last Sunday I was supposed to be giving a talk at the Kensington, Maryland, Day of the Book Festival. As a featured author, I planned to talk about the challenges and surprises of writing historical fiction. Then came the coronavirus, and it was all cancelled. But if I can’t stand on a stage, I can still share my ideas about researching and crafting a story set in a different time. For me, the greatest joy of writing historical fiction is that it lets you avoid writing, for days and weeks at a time. Any excuse to research another question –…