An excerpt from Paul Dimond’s in-depth interview with Jorie from Jorie Loves a Story: Conversations with the Bookish, June 8, 2017.
Q: Was there anything in your research you were unable to broach inside the novel? How did you pick and choose what to highlight and use as you wrote the novel?
A: For three reasons, I invented the two main antagonists to personify the different challenges and types of people Belle, Pip, David and her allies had to confront Up North and downstate. First, I didn’t feel comfortable naming and shaming any of the several lesser real-life adversaries Belle and Pip might confront in either place. Second, as set forth in 6 above, my research did guide the two different types of antagonists needed for the two different places.
Third, I got lucky with the Ned Strait character who acted under the pseudonym Nym, a very minor character in a few Shakespeare plays. Alan Seager, the UM English Professor who inspired much of my Rabbie character, also wrote the best biography of Ted Roethke. In that book, Seager quoted from a letter written by another UM English Professor under the pseudonym Nym: it “blackballed” the Michigan poet from teaching and left Roethke out of a job during the depths of the Great Depression. Guess what? In researching a completely unrelated aspect of Frost’s life in the archives of Michigan’s Special Collections for Frost’s assistant and companion after 1938, I found a copy of a 1926 student literary magazine to which Frost had given a poem for the cover: several of the short stories and essays offered satires about a know-it-all, domineering Michigan professor of Shakespeare named Nym who looked down his nose at all creative writers. In one of the short stories, Nym even tried to impress one of his young woman student marks by showing her how to drive his stick-shift roadster. What better model and name for Belle’s antagonist at the University than Nym, A.K.A. Ned Strait?!