Abby Amaro wants to sing at La Scala Opera House, but she’s a good girl, and in 1957 good girls get married. Still, when she receives her first marriage proposal, she freezes, knowing the way her suitor makes her feel bodes trouble. When he won’t take no for an answer, she flees, joining up with a traveling carnival.
Thanks to a burlesque trapeze artist and the world’s saddest clown, Abby bides her time and fits in until she can rejoin the world she knows. She doesn’t expect a sideshow strongwoman named Suprema, who captures her imagination. As the carnival makes its way across the Midwest, Abby learns much more than she had ever imagined—about herself, about her identity, and, most importantly, about love.
~ Pride Promotions
Once, when she had been a little girl, barely older than Annette was now, her mother had taken her and Natale to visit their aunt in Chicago for a week. It had been a nice visit. They had embarked on the train with a great deal of ceremony, and Za Teresa had spoiled the pair rotten, loading them up with peach-shaped marzipan and pizzelle until they were both sick. She hadn’t left Cleveland for any extended period of time since. Oh, sure, she’d talked and dreamt about it. Nonna often wistfully mentioned taking a trip back to her girlhood home one more time now that the war was over and taking Abby along to look after her, and then, if her opera career took off as she had once hoped, she would be visiting all the great cities. In her scrapbook, clippings of Palais Garnier, La Scala, and The Met were decorated with carefully drawn hearts and hopeful stars and the scrawled word: someday. Still, she had never imagined that when she departed the Coventry neighborhood again, it would be in a burlesque dancer’s trailer.
Hi Amy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Thanks for having me. I’m a writer and history nerd who grew up in a small festival obsessed town in Ohio and thanks to this have developed a lifetime love of carnivals. Sideshow is my second full-length novel. It tells the story of Abby Amaro, a first generation Sicilian-American young woman growing up in the late 1950s, and the adventures and love she finds on the midway after she decides to run away and join a traveling carnival.
1) What’s the easiest thing about writing?
Coming up with story ideas? At least for me. I have a ton of them and I’m always grabbing little snippets of inspiration as they fly by. Actually sitting down and turning those ideas into real works of creative writing, however, that’s a little bit more challenging. That and finishing one before starting on another.
2) Name one author (living or dead) you’d like to write with?
There are so many, but I think I’ll go with the slightly cliched answer of Jane Austen. I think I could learn so much from her about how to write realistic romances. Wentworth’s letter from Persuasion still ranks as the number one most romantic thing that I have ever read and Northanger Abbey still ranks as one of my top five books of all time, so I would be over the moon to be able to work with her. Someone living would be Kate Atkinson whose ability to use time and history to create as story is unparalleled. I could learn so much.
3) Tell us about your cover and how it came about.
I love my cover so much! I think I may have actually squealed, clapped my hands, and jumped up and down like a five-year-old when I saw the finished version. It began with a discussion meeting between the amazing staff of Interlude Press and myself in which we pitched a number of ideas and discussed my concerns, which were mainly that any cover model be of a body-type that accurately represented my heroine. Then the amazing CB Messer got to work. I was blown away by the results. Sometimes I still just stare at it in disbelief.
4) Is this book part of a series? Do you have ideas that could make it into a series? If it is a series, tell us a little about it.
Sideshow takes place in the same world as my short story “The Fire-Eater’s Daughter” which originally appeared in the Summer Love anthology. It is not technically a sequel as it follows different characters, but it does show a little bit more about Ruth and Constance’s life and expands upon the world they live in. I have a few more ideas to do something of this nature with other minor characters in Sideshow, but we’ll have to see if those come to anything.
5) Word association. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when you read these words.
Ketchup – French fries. The really crispy shoestring variety in paper cups from a carnival booth.
Flakes – Frosted. Oh man, that’s a really cliched answer. Pretend I said something cool.
Elastic – Hair bands. An absolutely necessity in my life, if I don’t want to get my hair everywhere.
Timer – I immediately picture my kitchen after this one. It’s right before lunch though. I think I’m hungry.
Google – Maps. What did I do before Google maps? I have no idea. I actually had a brief momentary panic while writing Sideshow regarding how much I rely on Google maps.
About the Author & Links:
Amy Stilgenbauer is a writer and aspiring archivist currently based in southeast Michigan. She is the author of the novelette series, Season of the Witch, as well as the Young Adult novel, The Legend of League Park. Her short story, The Fire-Eater’s Daughter, was included in Summer Love, an LGBTQ Young Adult collection published by Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press. When she isn’t writing, Amy enjoys all things bergamot and tries to keep her cats away from her knitting.