In honor of the release of Between Before & After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, we have a special author spotlight interview!
What was your inspiration behind Between Before & After?
I grew up in a household of secrets. I knew my grandmother died in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and I’d heard my father’s stories of life as an orphan on the streets of Brooklyn. I also knew there was more to the story, and I was able to observe first-hand the effects of that early trauma in my father’s life. I was intrigued by the way one event, the flu pandemic, could change the trajectory of so many lives. I also had question about resiliency. Why do some people manage to thrive despite difficult circumstances and others do not?
My stories always start with questions I’m grappling with. During the many years it took me to write Between Before and After, some of the questions about my own family were answered. I met two brothers, I never knew existed. After being raised as an only child, this thrilled me, and it gave me a glimpse into the person my father might have been. The book is dedicated to my new found brothers.
What makes this period of history so special?
I became interested in 1918 because of my family’s connection to the Spanish Flu and the more I researched, the more I realized how little most people know about the pandemic that killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. that’s more than died in WWI! The era really came alive to me when I traveled to Brooklyn and took a tour of some of the old landmarks and locations I read about in my research. I was fortunate to have an older, long-time, NY resident as my guide.
During I also discovered the locations where my relatives lived, and most poignantly found the single grave several Irish immigrant ancestors shared.
I grew up in pre-Silicon Valley California, so I was fascinated to learn more about the San Francisco Bay Area of the 50’s when there were more fruit orchards than tech companies. It was a land and a time full of dreams and promises. People were moving in droves to the suburbs like San Jose to pursue the great American dream. Everyone seemed to be from somewhere else and they each brought their own culture and stories with them.
What do you hope readers take away from Between Before & After?
A sense of hope and of wonder which is so important in becoming resilient people. I also wanted to explore the idea of redemption, how difficult circumstances and bad choices don’t have to define us. Even our own stories can surprise us and it’s impossible to predict the ending.
How are you reflected in Between Before & After (or, how much of you is reflected in the book)?
Like Molly, I was always curious and full of questions. In fact, my nickname When I was little was “question box.” I also aspired to be a “real” writer one day. I didn’t think it would happen, and I’m thrilled that it did. There’s a bit of Elaine in me too. I’m a striver, who works hard to pursue her goals, and I’m a bit reserved at first. I think there’s a bit of each character in me, but none are me completely.
Both settings were important in the life of my own family and so were the historical events in the novel.
Get your copy of Between Before & After HERE.