Author Archive


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 –… 


Solvi’s Story and the Spanish Flu

Spanish Flu Epidemic 1918

I hate to admit it now, but I’ve always had a morbid interest in the 1918-1919 Spanish flu epidemic. World War I and its aftermath has also been of deep interest to me for a long time, so there was something about the world-wide sweep of the Spanish flu, and the horrific conditions of trench warfare that amplified its spread, that made it particularly fascinating. So I put the Spanish flu into my novel Searching for Nora. It shows up at the beginning of the secondary story line, when Solvi Lange, a young woman with a camera, takes a shot… 


Why A Doll’s House is Still Relevant Today

Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House may be 140 years old but this story of a failed marriage still commands our attention. According to the Center for Ibsen Studies in Oslo, it’s the second most-produced play in the world after Hamlet. A recent sequel play, Doll’s House Part Two, is now playing in regional theaters across the country, many of which are also staging revivals of Ibsen’s play, and several adaptations of A Doll’s House are currently in theaters around the world. What explains the power of this story? I’ve spent the last decade writing my own sequel to A… 


Other Sequels to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen, Stef Smith, London Theatre

There is something about the unfinished quality of Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House that has been inspiring sequels ever since the play premiered in 1879. Some sequels punish Nora, some send her back home to care for her children, some set her free. I choose to give her a novel and two continents to roam while searching for love, family and her true self. Here’s a sampling of other follow-on works with different outcomes for Nora: There were several sequel plays in England and Europe almost immediately after A Doll’s House premiered in Copenhagen, including one British parody with… 


Why There Are No Dogs in Searching for Nora

white dog to illustrate blog

That’s my dearly departed dog, Rex: a sweet, loyal collie mix who always knew when to cheer me up. Nearly everyone loves dogs, and many people enjoy reading about them and their deep-felt relationships with their owners. Given that, why didn’t I put a dog in my novel Searching for Nora?  It would have been a surefire way of warming up the narrative. A dog could have humanized the humans, led to interesting plot opportunities, and provided Nora with a friend when she desperately needed one. Ah, and therein lies the rub. I had a photography teacher once who banned… 


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