Author Leyna Krow delves into Spokane history for her debut novel

Spokane short story writer Leyna Krow has spread her literary wings, so to speak, with a debut novel titled “Fire Season.” Considering the time of year we’re in, that’s an apt title, except it doesn’t have to be about wildfires.

“The book is set in 1889 here in Spokane, which at the time was called Spokane Falls, and that year Spokane suffered a devastating downtown fire, but three other towns in Washington Territory suffered as well. devastating urban fires. And it was a super hot summer and there were wildfires that were also very close to town, so I was thinking about it like the whole season,” Krow said.

She has developed three characters who are at the center of the plot.

Leyna Krow: “Barton, Quake and Roslyn, Two of them, Barton and Roslyn, have been in Spokane. They’ve been in Spokane for a while and neither of them are from there, but both of them kind of see themselves as not totally belonging. Barton is the manager of a bank. He doesn’t think he gets the respect he deserves from the people of Spokane Falls and is very bitter about it. Roslyn is a sex worker and is somehow largely invisible in the city and she’s not living the life she wants. So she too is very disconnected, I think, from her environment. Quake, he rides into town. He’s just there to cause trouble. He’s not from Spokane. He doesn’t even like the place and leaves as fast as he can. And all three of them, after the fire, used the fire to reinvent themselves, a lot of it doing criminal activities and ultimately I look at Roslyn, the protagonist, I think she emerges in a redemptive way, but really, it’s a story of how this fire happens, and then these three people take this opportunity to change themselves as the environment around them changes.

PSR: “Did you base your characters on people who actually lived at the time or is it entirely fictional?”

Leyna Krow: “It’s almost entirely fictional. There are references to a few characters who were real people. Bill Wolf, owner of Wolf’s Hotel and Lunchroom, was a real person. He makes a brief appearance in the book. And then Kate , who is a friend and colleague of Roslyn, who is really the protagonist of the book, Kate is based on the idea of ​​One of the theories about how the real fire started was that a sex worker named Irish Kate knocked over a kerosene lamp in her apartment and so the Kate in the book refers to her, but we don’t even know if she was a real person.

PSR“It’s mostly a fictional story, but did you feel compelled to stay at least somewhat close to the historic part of Spokane or did you give yourself a lot of poetic license?”

Leyna Krow“I definitely gave myself a lot of poetic license. It’s more fiction than history. What I just wanted was the feeling of the times, especially for people who live in Spokane and know a bit of history. I wanted the book to make me feel like I was immersed in that time and place, and then have the facts and the action fictionalized. But I wanted it to feel like how I thought Spokane would have felt at the time, so that’s where most of my research and effort to be accurate went.

Leyna Krow’s new novel is “Fire Season”, is published by Penguin Random House. The word on the book comes out. Last night [Monday] she was in a Pittsburgh bookstore for a reading.

Lola R. McClure