Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Ron Fritsch, author of Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial
FQ: 1. Why did you decide to set your novel primarily in the 1970’s?
FRITSCH: I think the 1970s were the break-through years for the LGBTQ community. Of course, no one then dreamed that gay marriage would become the law of the land. Still, the 1970s were the decade in which many Americans other than the bohemians, artists, intellectuals and hippies of previous times realized LGBTQs had always lived among them—and weren’t about to go away.
FQ: Expanding on question #1 a bit, were there special considerations/research necessary to get accurate descriptions of the 70s in your book?
FRITSCH: I lived openly gay in Chicago during the 1970s. My mother and father still lived in the rural farming community in northern Illinois I grew up in. What I needed to know to write this novel was in my memory.
FQ: How has your life affected your decision to write an LGBTQ courtroom novel?
FRITSCH: In writing this book, I heeded my sister and brother’s advice to “write what you know.” They’ve read the novel and agree it’s fiction. On the other hand, they can’t help telling me who some character—like Olivia, say—reminds them of. As for the setting and the time, they tell me I’ve got them down.
FQ: Are there any special considerations, or research, you, as the author, make when writing a story with LGBTQ themes?
FRITSCH: Elizabeth Daleiden on Trial takes the reader back to the 1970s and the 1950s, and for some of the characters, even to the 1920s and 1890s. Attitudes and terminology in the LGBTQ community changed dramatically during those years. I had to make certain the historical record confirmed my understanding. For example, younger gay men living anywhere in America in the 1970s would’ve insisted they were “gay.” But older gay men living in a Midwestern farming community as late as 1955 never would’ve used that word to describe themselves. Likewise, no gays or lesbians in 1977 would’ve referred to themselves as “LGBTQs.” When the term began its life as “GLBT,” I seem to remember the question arose whether we’d be confused with a sandwich.
FQ: Your story has a lot of characters – how do you remember them all? Their backstories, personalities, etc.? Do you keep a ‘cheat sheet’ on them or are they all living in your head? Do you ever have trouble remember who did what/said what?
FRITSCH: I do remember them all. I keep a cheat sheet on them just to make certain my spelling is consistent. Early on, Eli Daleiden was sometimes Ely Daleiden, and Jonah Neumeyer was often Jonah Neumeier. I didn’t have trouble remembering who did what/said what, but I wasn’t above changing the what, especially the said what, to another more appropriate character.
FQ: Elizabeth is a very interesting character. Is she loosely based on anyone you know or is she completely made up?
FRITSCH: Your saying “Elizabeth is a very interesting character” is the highest compliment I could wish for my book. She’s completely made up. On the other hand, one of my best friends for the last twenty-one years was her inspiration. When she reads this answer, she’ll know who she is.
FQ: I see that you have a law background. Would you tell our readers briefly about that and how that helped you when writing the courtroom scenes in Elizabeth Daleiden On Trial?
FRITSCH: At one point in my career as a lawyer, I represented defendants in criminal cases. Two of my heroes in this novel are Violet (Elizabeth’s attorney) and Gideon (the judge). I’ve always dreamed of a case in which the usual evidentiary rules don’t apply and witnesses tell the jury whatever they please. Violet and Gideon, bless them, find a way to make that happen.
FQ: Will there be a sequel to Elizabeth Daleiden On Trial? I'm sure readers would particularly love to know how the relationship between Jonah and Eli is progressing!
FRITSCH: I, too, wonder about Jonah and Eli. Are they still alive today, almost forty years later? Are they still living together on the farm in Revere? I really, really hope so. I might have to go back there and find out.