What inspired you to write this novel?
It’s ar to tink ack an gure out wat te original impetusas or writing tis story. I ten to carry ieas an caracters anits o tis an tat aroun in my ea or years eore tey nallyﬁnd a place in my stories. I’ve always wanted to write about thisbig old house my family lived in for three years from 1963 to1965. I was only seven years ol in 1963, ut several tings let animpression on me aout tose ays in tat ouse. First, tere wasust te un o living in suc an amazing uiling—a ouse wittis really cool allroom in it. Te oter ting tat let animpression on me was all the people who came and stayed at theouse: young, old, white, black, wealthy, poor, church groups,teacers, stuents. My parents ave always een tat way, incluingeveryone tey know in wat tey’re oing an inviting tem intoteir omes, ut tis was a time wen I rst really ecame awareo it an realize everyone in’t live like tat. I tougt it wasreat. I felt special having all these people in my life. As for thecivil rights aspects of the story, that’s something I’ve beenesearcing an wanting to write aout or aout eigt years. I’veeen intereste in uman rigts, incluing te civil rigtsovement, just aout all my lie. I tink again tat stems rom myparents’ generous an inclusive attitue towar people.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this novel?
Tere were quite a ew callenges or me wit tis novel. As Iai, I’ve een trying to write tis story or years, ut I never quitead the right characters and I could never ﬁnd the right “entrance”into the story until now. It wasn’t until I set the story in the NewYork town were I grew up tat te wole ting starte to cometogeter. Up to tat point, I a een trying to write te storyet in te Sout, ut I nally realize tat wasn’t were te storyneee to take place.Anoter prolem was tat until I got aout alway trougthe book, I didn’t really know what Esther’s problem was. I didn’tnow her true reason for being—for existing—and because of tat, King-Roy’s caracter kept treatening to take over te story.wonere i I neee to tell tis story troug King-Roy’s eyes.Ten, wile I was in Maine or two weeks up to my eyealls innow an sivering in a ouse witout eat, it came to me. I knewho Esther really was and why she was telling this story: She felthe was being left behind. The reason had been there all along; Iust couln’t see it. Tat’s wen I knew tis a to e Ester’story. Tat’s wen se really came alive or me.Yet anoter prolem or me was te lengt o te story. It tookme eigty-six pages just to get troug te rst ay, an I knew Istill had a whole summer to write about. I felt I could have writteneighty-six pages for every day of that summer, so obviously I hadto really rein it in to keep te story a manageale lengt.
A Summer of Kings
is set during a tumultuous period in Americanhistory and obviously the lives of Esther and King-Roy are deeply touched by these historical events, but would you characterize the bookas a historical novel?
Yes an no. I’ ate to tink o any perio o time I’ve livetroug as eing istorical—tat makes me eel so ol—ut itis set in the past, and it does touch on some historical events andin as truthful and as authentic a way as I could possibly make it,so in tat sense it’s a istorical novel. However, I really trie toocus on two young people rom two iﬀerent worls an owteir lives come togeter or tis rie time. For me it’s alwaysaout te people: te caracters an teir lives an teir eelingsand interactions with others.
You were a child during the civil rights movement. Are there any particular events from that time that left a strong impression upon you?
As I sai, I was only seven in 1963 an to tell you te trut, attat time I was completely olivious to te civil rigts movement.I remember we had a young black boy staying with us for a whileback then. I didn’t know why he was there. I just thought he wasa playmate my parents had invited to stay with us. I only foundout tis year rom my oler sister tat is visit was part o aprogram to ring city cilren out to te country.” I just tougte was te cil o one o my parent’s riens. So, wen I wrotetis story, I wante to inclue some o tat innocence anignorance about the movement and those times in Esther andsome of the other characters.
What sort of research did you have to do get the historical aspects of thestory right?
Like most writers I i a ton o researc. Every ay eore,during, and after writing this story, I was doing some kind of research. I wanted to get every detail right, down to the type of trees tat line te mall in Wasington, D.C., so tat wen Esteran Pip clim up in te tree, I coul name it. I rea everyting
An Interview with Han Nolan