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Deborah Crombie: Hallie, you write such wonderful characters. Mina (the "old woman" of the title) touched me particularly. I've dealt with Alzheimer's repeatedly in my own family, so her fears were very real to me. Was Mina inspired by anyone you've known?
Hallie Ephron: I think all of us after (ahem) a certain age start to wonder whether the little grey cells are holding up. I sometimes can't remember if I've brushed my teeth without feeling the toothbrush. Once I went out to cut flowers and realized I'd brought out the wine bottle opener instead of the shears. Yes, I've forgotten to turn off the stove.
Mina, who is ninety-one for heavens sake, is used to little lapses. But when she misplaces purse and it turns up in the refrigerator, and then she loses her car, she's more than concerned. She's terrified.
DC: Are there other characters that mirrored your own experiences? (I noticed some sibling rivalry between Evie and Ginger!)
HE: Of course! Evie's and Ginger's mother is dying of cirhossis. My mother was an alcoholic who died at 57. Writing the book gave me a chance to examine the ways love and grief can get all mixed up with anger and relief, and how sisters can grow apart or together as they deal with loss.
DC: How did you discover that a plane had crashed into the Empire State Building in the 1940s?
HE: You've got to love Google. I was looking for a "historic NYC fire" for Evie to feature in the historical society exhibit she's curating. There it was: July 28, 1945, B-25 bomber crashes in heavy fog into the 79th floor. One of the bomber's engines flew off, shot across the building, and plummeted down an elevator shaft. The explosion sent one of the elevators into free fall. An elevator operator miraculously survived an 80-story drop. I used that amazing incident in the book. Hint: Mina worked in the Empire State Building in 1945.
DC: You describe the Bronx neighborhood of Higgs Point in such fascinating detail. Is it a real place?
HE: Higgs Point is a few facts fueling a lot of fiction. It's where the East River meets the Long Island Sound where a natural wetland with marsh and lagoons survives today. At the turn of the century there really was an amusement park there with a swimming pool called the Ink Well (water piped direct from the river) and a Ferris wheel that blew over. Its quirky waterfront houses, built on narrow lanes in the 1920s, have breathtaking views of marsh and Manhattan skyline. I named the neighborhood after Thomas Higgs, the man who owned the acreage before it was developed for housing.
DC: There Was An Old Woman has a truly diabolical plot. What first gave you the idea?
HE:A few winters ago my neighbor was pulled out of her house by rescuers who found her collapsed in her kitchen. No heat. No electricity. Between the fleas, cats, and mountains of garbage, they almost couldn't find her. The house was quickly sold at auction and a year later, the man who renovated it made a tidy profit. So I've always wondered, how could the house have gotten that bad if she didn't do it?
DC:What do you like about writing a standalone thriller rather than a series mystery?
HE: Each time it's a fresh start. New characters, different houses (I love to write houses), and a new answer to my favorite question: What's going on here?
It kept me guessing from beginning to end!
Unfortunately, this is a rather run-of-the-mill story - the plot follows predictable lines and the characters feel rather stiff and not very realistic.
Because this is a really great story, written by an author who is superb at creating characters whom I utterly believe in.
Really well-written book. I read all Hallie Ephron's books after loving a teaser of this one in an anthology. Great author and consistently captivating stories.Published 26 days ago by Lorelei
Once I reached the halfway point I had to read straight through to the end! I couldn't stop without seeing if my suspicions would be confirmed. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cheryl E Johnson
Hallie Ephron....a new author to me. I was kind of intrigued by the title, because there is ALWAYS an old woman somewhere. I was very well impressed with this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by mahjah
I didn't like the book as much as I thought I would. Had an interesting storyline but it wasn't a book that you didn't want to put down. Read morePublished 3 months ago by jmhward
It kept my interest. I read it in a day and a half. Great recreational reading.Published 3 months ago by Bobbie G
Only a few write well about being old, and Hallie is one of them I went from wondering if I wanted to read about the problems of being old to being totally engrossed in the story... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Marilynne Smith
The characters were interesting but I got confused when the author changed point of view. I would have liked a notation at the beginning of the chapter telling me whose point of... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Edie Green