Fangtastic Friday Welcomes Anita Bartholomew
I’m happy to welcome Anita Bartholomew.
When I read the premise of your book, Anita, I jumped at the opportunity to interview you. My son graduated from New College of Florida in May 2010, and I spent considerable time in Sarasota during the four years he was there. I have always been intrigued with Ringling Brothers and circus lore. So, are you ready for your questions?
Absolutely. What would you like to know?
- Your book weaves historical facts and fiction…how much of each?
I did a great deal of research before it occurred to me to write the book, because I was trying to discover the history of my house. Were the legends true? Was the house really built for Ringling midgets? That led me to the circus museum, to newspaper archives, to rare old books about circuses, carnivals, and midget villages, and to retired circus people who still live in the area. Once I started writing, much of that research found its way into the pages. So, I wove in a bit about sideshow impresario Samuel Gumpertz, circus king John Ringling, and a few others who not only played major roles in traveling shows but helped build Sarasota.
There really was a Dreamland in Coney Island, and one of its star attractions was, indeed, a midget village. Everything in the novel about the great influenza epidemic, draft dodgers in World War I, sharecroppers, early twentieth century circus life, and the consolidation of smaller circuses under the Ringling Brothers, was based on extensive research.
And the sometimes underhanded dealings of real estate vultures in southwest Florida during the recent boom is, of course, based on widely reported fact.
The rest is what my imagination constructed from those facts.
- I have the feeling your premise for The Midget’s House had been ruminating for quite some time. Am I right, or was this an idea that suddenly occurred to you?
Questions about my house’s history percolated for several years before I began writing. But you could also accurately say that the book suddenly occurred to me, because in a way, that’s true, too. The character of Lucinda the midget seemed to appear one day as I was sorting through what I’d learned of the history of Sarasota and the circus. It was almost as if she started dictating her story, and I was there to write it down. Even so, it wasn’t a quick process. I probably went through ten revisions before I was ready to present it to the world.
- Do you feel the presence of ghosts in your house?
At first, I definitely felt a presence. I tried to capture what that experience felt like when writing about Marisa’s encounter with something she could feel but not see. Several years ago, I spoke to a previous owner of the house who told me that his daughter, as a little girl, had conversations with someone in her room upstairs, who she described to him as Santa Claus in a sailor suit. He and his wife were intrigued enough to use a Ouija board to get in touch with the presence, but I didn’t want to encourage it, and had a professional come cleanse the energy, which is now gone. Oddly enough, while I didn’t want to live with it, I sort of miss the magical feeling of having it here.
- What do you think are the best and worst aspects of a life spent in the circus?
The best? The closeness and camaraderie. It’s not just that several generations of a single family might live, eat, rehearse, work, and travel as a unit for many months every year. The whole group of Sarasota circus people seems, at least to this observer, like one big extended family. From kids to old-timers approaching their second century, they share a free-wheeling yet disciplined way of life that no outsider can fully appreciate. But it can be a brutally difficult lifestyle. Circus folks strain their bodies to the max. What they make appear easy would be challenging to the average Olympic contender.
5. What’s next on the horizon for Anita Bartholomew?
I’d love to write more fiction. But I make my living as an editor and a non-fiction writer, and sometimes, I think, it’s easier for someone with a different day job to sit down at night and write for the joy of if. If I’ve been writing all day to meet a deadline, or I’ve been re-structuring the manuscript of another author, getting back to writing for myself is often the last thing I want to do.
6. How can readers contact you?
I’m on Twitter – screen name, AnitaBart. Readers can also reach me at TheMidgetsHouse.com (the book’s website should be up at about the time the paperback is available) and AnitaBartholomew.com
Thanks for being with us today, Anita.
Thanks so much for inviting me. It’s been a pleasure.