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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Rosalie Morales Kearns and ‘Kingdom of Women’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan 

Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Rosalie Morales Kearns, a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, is the founder of the feminist publishing house Shade Mountain Press. She’s the author of the novel Kingdom of Women (Jaded Ibis Press, 2017) and the magic-realist story collection Virgins and Tricksters (Aqueous, 2012), described by Marge Piercy as “succinct, smart tales rooted in a female-centered spirituality.” Kearns is also the editor of the short story anthology The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “vital contribution to contemporary literature.”


In a slightly alternate near-future, women are forming vigilante groups to wreak vengeance on rapists, child abusers, and murderers of women. Averil Parnell, a female Catholic priest, faces a dilemma: per the Golden Rule she should advise forgiveness, but as the lone survivor of an infamous massacre of women seminarians, she understands their anger. Her life becomes more complicated when she embarks on an obsessive affair with a younger man and grapples with disturbing religious visions. She had wanted to be a scholar, before the trauma of the massacre. Later, all she wanted was a quiet life as a parish priest. But now she finds she has become a mystic, and a central figure in the social upheaval that’s gathering momentum all over the world.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

ROSALIE MORALES KEARNS:  The first books I fell in love with were Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I probably read them two dozen times as a child. As an adult I still read them, and still laugh.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Hot chocolate.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Anything by Charlotte Bronte. When I was a teenager I assumed she was too stuffy to read.

A favorite quote from your book 

Years after the massacre, when well-meaning acquaintances asked her how she felt, how she survived, Averil wanted to tell them about those encounters during the plague years. She was still there, she wanted to tell them, still on that road.

Your favorite book to film?

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood.

Favorite Indie Book Stores?

Duende District in Washington, DC.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

The writing doesn’t get easier, but I think it’s easier to find a publisher, and easier for the publisher to market your book, if you have a prior track record.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cats, definitely. I have three of them.


A favorite book cover?

Restless Empire: A Historical Atlas of Russia. Combines white birch trees, snow, and a setting sun.

A favorite song?

Suzanne Vega, “Pilgrimage”

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

For several years in the 1990s I used to go to a wonderful feminist writing retreat in central New York State. One year the featured guest was Ruth Stone. Each morning, she and I were usually the first ones up because she was desperate for coffee and I was an early riser and woke up ravenously hungry. We would sit in the lounge and look out at Seneca Lake. I was in my early 30s and she was about 80 at the time, very unpretentious and easy to talk to, but I was too awed by her brilliance to say much. I do remember that we both loved spiders and were horrified at the idea of anyone killing them.

Ideal vacation? 

Someplace in a forest with lots of walking trails, but with a decent restaurant so I don’t have to do any cooking.

Favorite work of art?

Carnival Evening, by Henri Rousseau. When I saw it for the first time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it was on the landing of a stairwell. It’s a large painting, and I kept backing up to get a better view and almost toppled over the railing.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? 

I don’t really have a particular favorite Austen novel. I appreciate her genius, but her work doesn’t resonate with me the way Dickens and Charlotte Bronte do. Dickens in particular had such a sympathy for characters like Mr. Dick and Mr. Micawber, people the world considers unsuitable, unsuccessful, abnormal, etc.

I haven’t watched many film adaptations, so I don’t have a strong opinion. A few years ago I listened to several Austen novels as audiobooks, some of which I had read before and some I hadn’t. I love her omniscient narrators, their restraint and dry wit, how they gently but inexorably zoom in on a character’s foibles. I shudder to think how I would be portrayed in a Jane Austen novel. A Dickens narrator would be more forgiving, I think.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Architecture at the End of the Earth: Photographing the Russian North. The novel I’m drafting now is set partly in Russia. With all the historical research I’m doing sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



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