Eileen Brill joins The Spotlight to discuss her debut thriller, A Letter in the Wall
Author Name: Eileen Brill
Book Title: A Letter in the Wall
Book Genre: Psychological Thriller/Historical Thriller
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Spark Press
Welcome, Eileen! Please tell us a bit about A Letter in the Wall.
Based on and inspired by an actual found letter and moving through seven decades, it’s the story of a complex woman battling her outer obstacles and inner demons to be respected and validated.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I found an old, unmailed letter in a wall of my house. Initial research revealed the writer and her family were the first owners of my house, built in 1920.
Intriguing! How long did it take for you to write the book? What was the research like?
I found the letter in 2007 and did research off and on for several years with the idea of writing a biography. In 2017, I decided to use the skeleton of what I’d learned and craft my own fictionalized rendition.
What drew you to historical fiction?
I just love to connect with the past, whether through architecture, recordings, photos, stories, or letters. A well-written historical novel can truly send you back to a point in time such that you see, hear, and feel where you are. You’ve traveled back in time!
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author?
I got lost in my protagonist Joan. I knew how she thinks, what she desires, how she will react in every situation. And, since she’s nothing like me, it was fun to take on another persona. What do you find challenging? Marketing and promoting the book, while fun on many levels, is a constant job and doesn’t really have an end-point. It can be draining! And, it’s totally a new thing for me.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read A Letter in the Wall?
This is a real page-turner, in that every period in Joan’s life has another surprise waiting for the reader. Some readers will like Joan, some may not, and most people, I hope will relate to at least some of her struggles with empathy.
What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?
I never realized how “competitive” it can be to get a book under the eyes of readers. Though my degree is in Economics and I understand supply and demand, I never considered this with regard to writing a book. There are about a million new books out each year, yet most Americans are not avid readers. This means that there are so many writers who want their books published, yet demand for new books doesn’t keep up with supply.
Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?
Understand that you are embarking on a new business: You are about to learn how to sell yourself!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
Painting, swimming, hiking, and travel.
Where can readers find you?
Thank you, Eileen! A Letter in the Wall is out NOW.
It’s 1971, and Joan Dumann fears her former business partner wants her dead—but her anxiety is less about dying than it is about feeling disrespected and invalidated. As she constructs a letter about her predicament, she revisits her past.
Born into a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family in 1915 and raised with privilege and opportunity, Joan wrestles with her turbulent thoughts and unfulfilled desires—an internal battle that often results in self-destructive tendencies. When she attempts to push against the norms for women of her time in order to forge her own identity, she is met with resistance. Yet she might also be her own worst enemy, often alienating those who care deeply for her. Both manipulative and vulnerable, naive and conniving, Joan is, like many people, complex and misunderstood.
Inspired by a letter written by the real Joan, found hidden in the wall of a Pennsylvania home more than half a century later, this story is a fictionalized imagining of who she was and what motivated her. Moving through several decades and events—from the 1918 influenza pandemic to Prohibition to the Great Depression to Vietnam—A Letter in the Wall examines the internal and external factors that influence one woman’s journey toward independence and empowerment.