My special guest today is mystery author Jane Rosenberg LaForge. We’re chatting about her new thriller, Sisterhood of the Infamous.
Jane Rosenberg LaForge was born and raised in Los Angeles and now lives in New York. She is the author of two previous books of prose, An Unsuitable Princess and The Hawkman, which was a finalist in two categories of the 2019 Eric Hoffer awards. She has also published six volumes of poetry. A seventh, Medusa’s Daughter, will be published by Animal Heart Press in 2021. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including most recently Thorn, Loch Raven Review, 8Poems and Ginosko Journal. She reviews books for American Book Review and reads poetry for COUNTERCLOCK literary magazine.
Please tell us about your current release.
Sisterhood of the Infamous is the story of Barbara Ross, the one-time guitarist in an all-girl punk rock outfit who left the music business to become a mathematician. As she is dying of breast cancer, her former girlfriend, the pop superstar Jasmine, is found murdered in the Hollywood hills. Police focus on Barbara as a “person of interest,” but Barbara can barely communicate and her estranged sister, a retired ballerina, flies in from New York to be at her bedside. Both women reconsider their rivalry as it fueled their quest to become artists, and try to figure out which had the greater cost: success or infamy.
What inspired you to write this book?
My sister died of breast cancer in 2010 and the last months of her life were chaos. They were filled with crisis—personal, financial, bureaucratic, legal: you name it. I knew for a long time that I wanted to write about what happened and I toyed around with a lot of ideas until I came to this particular story. It is inspired by her life and death.
Excerpt from Sisterhood of the Infamous:
From the Prologue:
A body always begins a story such as this. My body, her body; mine to be burned, hers razed by violent action; to be discovered along a remote trail of russet hills and yellow grass, beneath a rare, open sky. She will be laid in a cemetery that becomes a stop on a tourist bus or a destination undertaken on adolescent pilgrimages. I will be spread on the water, to sink to the bottom, or evaporated into the nether-history of the air.
My city is one of many bodies and many hillsides to receive them. Only a particular type of body found on a hillside, by a jogger or a group of stoned teenagers, inspires curiosity into its origins. Only a body that is female and clean, with neither venereal nor retroviral antibodies in the blood—without the scars of surgery, braces, medically sanctioned beatings—much like I wear now. But they are temporary; they too will be swallowed up by the fire. Her body will be remembered because of its face, recognizable and youthful or with the power to remind people of their youth. Mine reminds people not so much of age but the frustrations of aging: missed opportunities and squandered talents.
Some bodies are born to this punishment, like mine; others are drafted, like hers. Some are transformed by the brutality of other bodies to become grotesque discoveries. I think that is how I became this way. Not dead but dying.
Others do not seem capable of death, their resources of power and elegance planted among the masses so that there is always more to draw upon, more to be inspired by, more fodder for creation. When she dies in body, she will not in spirit; she will have a legacy and become a font for new traditions, a fountain of redemption. And people will bathe in it in her memory. They will consult it when they’re blocked, or bored, or require an excuse to dispose of their responsibilities. I would have liked to participate in these rituals, but I will not. My body precludes me from such strenuous activities.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m trying to write something based on my experiences in journalism; I was a newspaper reporter for more than a decade and I met some interesting people and had a few wild experiences. Journalism has changed so much in the meantime; the things I did would barely be recognizable to someone starting out in the business today. I’m trying to recapture not only some of what I witnessed and felt, but also the mechanics of how I wrote certain stories. Ultimately I want to see why my love for the business went unrequited—how it still is, even to this day.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Every time I’m ready to call myself a writer, something happens to remind me that I really don’t deserve that title. So I’ll wait until other people call me a writer, for real.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Technically I am retired, which is what enables me to write full time. I wake up early to feed the cats, and take notes on my phone, or try to. Sometimes I write an entire poem, sometimes just a few lines. Sometimes the well is just dry. Then I eat breakfast, do my exercises; that’s a long story you don’t want to hear. I get to the computer after a shower and I either work on what I started in the morning, or on some kind of assignment, like a book review. If nothing’s happening, I stare off into space, or feel sorry for myself, or read the Internet, or find some other way to waste time. At night I read—for pleasure, for research, or for a book review.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write on my phone a lot. I also work in fragments. I get an idea for a word, or a line, and set that down, and that’s the writing for the day. Part of this is due to all of my orthopedic injuries—a long, long story. I can’t sit down and type for eight straight hours like I used to. And part of it is a combination of laziness and writer’s block.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a ballerina, or a lawyer, or a writer.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope facts make a big comeback in 2021. Best wishes to all.
Thanks for being here today, Jane.