In her first novel, Last Night at the Blue Angel, Rotert moves between 1960s Chicago and 1950s Kansas to tell the story of Naomi, a self-absorbed nightclub singer, and her young daughter, Sophia, who is caught in her shadow. Rotert received her master's degree in literature from Hollins University in Virginia, where she also received the Academy of American Poets prize, and is currently a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. We caught up with her by phone from her home office in Omaha.
What's on your nightstand?
I have a lot of books going on. I'm reading Elizabeth McCracken's Thunderstruck and Yangsze Choo's Ghost Bride, which is just coming out in paperback. I also have the writings of Teresa of Ávila and I'm re-reading Dante. I also read everything Michael Cunningham writes. I have his most recent (Snow Queen).
Michael Cunningham's The Hours is one of my favorites, and when I was reading your book, the way you go back and fourth between the eras made me think of him.
Cunningham was a great sort of guide for me. He really is able to show how to maintain pace and momentum with two separate narratives. It's really hard to make it smooth and to give them equal amounts of tension.
Any other books you're reading?
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. It's just wonderful. It's about narrative structure and character development. It was written in 1927. If you are a writer, I really recommend it. He talks about novels that don't succeed, and interestingly enough it holds true today. I've had it for 10 or 15 years and I go back to it a lot. I go to it when I am starting a new project so I can remember things. It's heavily underlined and I have a lot of notes in it. It's such a great book.
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