Once in a great while, a novelist comes along with the ability to dazzle the crowd with their own taxonomy-defying creation. In her debut novel, Fire Season, Leyna Krow deftly weaves together elements of magical realism, historical fiction, and traditional westerns to make something so much greater than the sum of its parts. Fire Season is a propulsive story of three scheming opportunists—a banker, a con man, and a woman with an extraordinary gift—whose lives collide in the wake of a devastating fire in the American West. Author of the short story collection I’m Fine But You Appear to Be Sinking—a Believer Book Award Finalist—and the story “Sinkhole,” which was optioned for film production in collaboration with Jordan Peele and Issa Rae, Krow is poised to teach the world that genre is merely a construct.
We spent an afternoon in her home office, talking about scammers, coping with the real world, and encountering marmots on the street of her adopted town, Spokane, WA.
The Rumpus: Your novel Fire Season is based in Spokane, WA, where you currently live, and is inspired by a real fire that devastated the city in 1889. How did the idea for this book evolve?
Leyna Krow: I started writing Fire Season while I was working as a tour guide in Spokane. It was compelling to me to have this story that I was telling over and over but with no answer to how the fire began. I intended for it to be a short story, which turned into Barton’s story, or the first section of the novel. When I got to the end of it though, I was pretty unsatisfied, so I thought if I could add other characters, then perhaps it could be expanded into a novel.
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Rumpus: While this book is definitely populated with magical people—women who can fly, start fires with their minds, communicate with animals—it also reads like straightforward historical fiction. What role did research play in your process of writing Fire Season?
Krow: I wanted the book to feel historically accurate and I had some information based on my tour-guiding days. When I decided to develop Fire Season into a novel, I wanted to do a little bit of a deeper dive. I was fortunate enough to be employed by a couple of community colleges at the time and used their academic resources and history archives. I also read old newspaper clippings and used the Spokane Public Library’s Northwest Room, which has a tremendous archive of historical material. But I was cherry picking. There was also a lot of Googling, “How much is one dollar worth in 1889?” Or, “When did Spokane first get electricity?” in order to get details right. But at this point there is stuff in the book where I have trouble remembering if I made it up or if it is true.
Read the rest of this fascinating conversation at therumpus.net!