The Infinite Now: A Q & A with Mindy Tarquini

11/14/2017 11:10 am ET

The Infinite Now by Mindy Tarquini mixes taboo with plague is her exploration of the time surrounding the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. In a time when the whole world is changing, Tarquini explores what it takes for an orphaned teen to push past her past and the stigma of her family to a new life for her and those she cares about.

What first drew your attention to the time period? What research did you need to conduct to get the time and place right?

My family emigrated to Philadelphia from Italy during the first two decades of the last century. I grew up steeped in research of the time and place, a marinade of memories served up by elderly family members when I was young about a time when they were young.

With the passing of the last of that generation, I developed an interest in genealogy, of learning more about their lives. I know the area; I’ve spent plenty of time on the modern-day streets. The research helped me get to know the community as it used to be—the streets, the houses, even the factories and shops where people worked.

I discovered a great-grandmother who’d died circa 1918-1919. While searching for her death record, I noticed a voluminous and sudden string of deaths due to pneumonia, often subsequent to influenza. The bulk of the victims were young, people in their prime. I remembered a bit of history, an article detailing the Influenza Pandemic of 1918—The Forgotten Pandemic, as it is sometimes called—which infected a third of the world population and killed more in two months than the World War had killed during its long and bloody four years. The 100-year anniversary of the Armistice also marks the 100-year anniversary of the pandemic, yet the approach of the first overshadows the second, with interest in the influenza restricted to epidemiologists and infectious disease docs. I wondered why such a devastating scourge faded so thoroughly from memory. I decided to do some digging.

Histories and scholarly work provided facts and figures of the sickness and the war. Photo archives, catalogs, handbooks, and other historical documents provided the window dressing. And newspapers, plenty of newspapers, read as if I lived during the time, first page to last, day after day, provided context—first-hand accounts, interesting detail regarding events and attitudes mentioned in the novel.

Do you believe in fortune- tellers or mysticism? Is it possible to know things beyond our own experience?

Yes and yes and yes. In my upbringing, mostly scientific, but also highly cultural, the two belief sets, the two worlds, lived side-by-side.

Change scares Fiora into making choices; what do you hope this book says about change? About possibility?

One of the most intriguing cards in the Tarot is called the Wheel of Fortune. The wheel turns whether we wish it or not. We can run, we can hide, build fortresses, dig storm shelters, the Wheel’s message is clear—for the better or the worse, change is inevitable, its pressure enough to break down every battlement, burst every bubble. The only real choice the Wheel of Fortune leaves us is our reaction to that change. And our reaction is the catalyst from which springs the possibilities.

Choose wisely. What is next for you as a writer?

What else? Another novel, coming Fall 2018 from SparkPress. Titled Deepest Blue, the story is filled with folklore and myth and is set in a magical city seen only at twilight.

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