Guest Post: Deborah Noyes author of 'Captivity'

1:33 AM

A special welcome and thank you today to Deborah Noyes, author of the wonderful novel Captivity published by Unbridled Books. Deborah offered to guest post here at Marta's Meanderings to tell us a little more about this novel based on the true story of the Fox sisters.

The Bonds of Love

In real life, the celebrity medium Maggie Fox was always conflicted about her calling. In the end it was this conflict — not whether (or not) she and her sisters were frauds — that came to interest me as a writer. What motivated her? Why did intelligent and otherwise rational people believe unconditionally in what she was selling? To what extent do we need to believe in the continuity of life, and why?

To explore these questions, I needed a second protagonist. Maggie’s friendship with Clara Gill, a reclusive scientific artist, is unlikely to say the least — the two women couldn’t be more different — but Clara has a hidden past that leaves her vulnerable to what her young friend is offering.
Blame it on the Brontes and other youthful reading: I have a weakness for ill-fated love and the ensuing hauntings. I love traditional ballads like the ones I quote in the book (“The Elfin Prince” and “The Unquiet Grave”) with their unsolvable entanglements, drowned lovers, and silver daggers. But I know not to expect a hopeful ending from them, and youthful Clara’s doomed bond with a beast keeper from the Tower of London is that sort of tale.

Her back-story lifts a strand from my first novel, Angel and Apostle, where the menagerie in the Tower of London also made a brief appearance. I’m a former zookeeper myself, and animals and ideas about the wild and captivity always figure large in my thought and metaphor. Here I got to explore them in more depth through the character of Will Cross. But on the most basic level, Clara is held captive by loss, by grief, and that’s where Maggie comes in.

Despite her unusual status in her day as a financially independent woman, Maggie suffered her own captivity. At a time when social status and reputation could make or break you, Maggie teetered always at the edge of disgrace. Her affair with celebrity polar explorer Elisha Kent Kane, a doctor from a notable Philadelphia family, was tumultuous, with Kane continually threatening to withdraw his hand if she didn’t give up her scandalous calling and submit to a proper lady’s education. To her credit, Maggie took the decision seriously. She put it off. She waffled. She relented and then rebelled, over and again. Their letters — Kane’s mainly; Maggie’s don’t seem to have survived to the same extent — reflect an emotional tug-of-war that lasted until Kane’s untimely death in 1857.

So two very different women, each reckoning with the ties that bind (at a time when they bound tightly!).

Visit Deb’s website to learn more about Captivity and the Fox sisters: www.deborahnoyes.com.

About Deborah Noyes
Deb writes for adults and children, and is also an editor and photographer.
 
Deborah's short fiction and reviews have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Boston Sunday Globe, Seventeen, The Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Sun-Times, Stories, The Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, The Bloomsbury Review, Boston Review, and other publications. She has also written and edited numerous books for children and young adults, including the award-winning teen anthology Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales.

Deb lives in Massachusetts with her family.


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