Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Linda Gould, author of Gilded Prisons.
FQ: Your earlier novel, Let’s Play Ball, was a story with some of the same characters that you included in Gilded Prisons. What led you to write another book with these characters?
GOULD: While the two novels were published roughly eleven years apart, I always felt that there was some “unfinished business” left over from the first story. Let’s Play Ball centered around the kidnapping of a Cuban-American ballplayer, a plot concocted in Cuba. All of the issues that prompted that crime seemed to have been resolved the first time around, but grievances like that have a way of regenerating. Guadalupe, the ballplayer’s ex-wife, was the character most likely to revisit those issues.
FQ: Do you have any plans for a future story with the characters from Let’s Play Ball or Gilded Prisons?
GOULD: I can see them all getting older in my mind, and perhaps more satisfied with life as they age. That might not be conducive to more drama, but who knows?
FQ: What was the inspiration behind the story of Gilded Prisons?
GOULD: I’ve been a baseball fan ever since my dad took me to my first game, at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC, when I was seven. Every game, and every season, is full of drama and nuances. I wanted to portray some of those twists and turns as the backdrop for these stories, hoping the reader would appreciate the beauty of the game as much as I do. The Washington Filibusters of my story are based on my own Washington Nationals, who finally reached the mountaintop in 2019 after falling short many times.
FQ: You label yourself a “career bureaucrat.” Can you elaborate on what this title entails and how your career has inspired the political twists often found in your novels?
GOULD: My first full-time job out of college was with the Fulbright grants program, a quasi-government program. After 5 years, I moved on to the Department of Labor and spent almost 35 years there. I’ve always been intrigued by office politics and intrigue. My first novel, Secretarial Wars (2003), revolved around a secretary’s efforts to uncover a scandal in a Fulbright-like program. The office was based on a real one, but the scandal was made up. Several of my stories do feature office settings. For some reason, my heroines tend to be discontented employees.
FQ: One thing I appreciated about Gilded Prisons was the level of development you put into the characters. Were any of your characters based on people you know in real life or did you develop them purely from your imagination?
GOULD: Justin was modeled after an actual ballplayer, but not knowing much about his personal life, I made up many of the details. April was based on what I imagined his ideal wife would be like, especially one who involved herself in the community. Guadalupe seems to have been a figment of my feverish imagination, as I’ve never actually known anyone who combines evil, power, and beauty in such a unique way. I also wanted to make her redeemable, which was a challenge.
FQ: You have written six novels. Does any particular book stand out as having been the most gratifying for you to write?
GOULD: Secretarial Wars was fun because it recalled some of the work and dating experiences I had as a twenty-something in DC. Handmaidens of Rock (2014) was also nostalgic in that it recalled the cultural changes that were roiling young people during my high school years. But when it came to the writing process, Gilded Prisons was the fastest, possibly because it had been germinating for some time. It seemed to come out easier, with fewer tangles to straighten out. Also, I was without my beta reading group for the first time, so I had to learn to trust myself more.
FQ: I found it especially interesting how much of the story explained what happened after Justin was reunited with his family. Did you have the entire story planned out when you began writing or did you develop it as you wrote?
GOULD: I don’t write romances per se, so a happy ending isn’t a given. Still, I like my stories to be uplifting, even if not fully resolved. I knew from the beginning that Justin and April would find a way to turn the horrifying events into something positive. I wanted redemption even for Guadalupe, who instigated the events.
FQ: After reading the book, I can come to my own conclusions as to the meaning behind the title Gilded Prisons. Could you explain your motivation for titling the book as you did?
GOULD: Guadalupe uses the term “gilded prison” to describe the Cuban presidential palace where she reigns as de facto first lady. April has similar feelings when she sees other baseball wives living their lives as ornaments rather than using their privileged positions to do something meaningful. Later, the two women bond over this common feeling. Both have succeeded in “breaking out” of their respective prisons.
FQ: Within the story, there are numerous serious societal issues present, including adopted children, sexual assault, political tension, and corrupt politicians. How did you decide which social issues to include in your book?
GOULD: As in Let’s Play Ball, the kidnapping of a baseball player is the catalyst of the story, but I wanted it to be more than just an act of lust. There are also political and international motivations behind the crime, some of which take years to unravel, and some of which remain mysterious.
FQ: Towards the end of the book, there are many references to the young boy, Trevor, being destined for great things in his life. Are you considering any plans to write a book that will focus on his adult life?
GOULD: It’s something to think about! Trevor seems to have a future not only as a ballplayer but as a political leader. At eleven, he is already coming to grips with the unusual circumstances of his origin and his status as an adopted child. He knows that regardless of that, he belongs. He has a sense of being special without being conceited. And he sees clearly that the world adults have made needs to be changed. It’s difficult to project 20 years ahead, but I like to think that kids like Trevor are the “new day.” We really need them to change the world.