By Harriet Clark.
We are very happy to welcome Margarita Montimore to The Reading Corner to discuss her new release “Acts of Violet“, out July 5th!
Nearly a decade ago, iconic magician Violet Volk performed her greatest trick yet: vanishing mid-act. Though she hasn’t been seen since, her hold on the public hasn’t wavered. While Violet sought out the spotlight, her sister Sasha, ever the responsible one, took over their mother’s salon and built a quiet life for her daughter, Quinn. But Sasha can never seem to escape her sister’s orbit or her memories of their unresolved, tumultuous relationship. Then there’s Cameron Frank, determined to finally get his big break hosting a podcast devoted to all things Violet—though keeping his job hinges on an exclusive interview with Sasha, the last person who wants to talk to him.
As the ten-year anniversary approaches, the podcast picks up steam, and Cameron’s pursuit of Sasha becomes increasingly intrusive. He isn’t the only one wondering what secrets she might be keeping: Quinn, loyal to the aunt she always idolized, is doing her own investigating. Meanwhile, Sasha begins to experience an unsettling series of sleepwalking episodes and coincidences, which all lead back to Violet. Pushed to her emotional limits, Sasha must finally confront the most painful truths about her sister, and herself, even at the risk of losing everything.
Alternating between Sasha’s narration and Cameron’s podcast transcripts, interspersed with documents that offer a tantalizing peek at Violet herself, Acts of Violet is an utterly original, propulsive story of fame, deception, and forgiveness that will make you believe in magic.
I really loved your book, and its snappy style. I was hooked from the start! Where did the idea for Acts of Violet come from?
Thank you! The idea took a while to take shape. Years, in fact. After Oona, I wrote portions of six or seven different novels (from an opening chapter to over a hundred pages) and always ended up hitting a wall. Some themes I kept coming back to included mysterious disappearances, sisterhood, and the darker side of showbusiness. During this time, I was also listening to a ton of podcasts (true crime, paranormal, pop culture, etc.). While housebound during the global pandemic, great stories provided an escapist outlet for me. At one point, I remember thinking, with all the chaos around us, we all needed a little more magic in our lives. That was my lightbulb moment. As soon as I landed on the idea of a famous magician going missing in the middle of a performance, the rest of the pieces began to fall into place.
The dynamic between Violet, her sister Sasha, and Quinn, Sasha’s daughter, is searingly complicated and drives the narrative of the book. What inspired you to focus on these female relationships?
I’m an only child and, while growing up, I often wished for a sister. Like Sasha says in the book, I imagined it would be like having a built-in best friend. As I got older and saw the reality of sibling relationships, I realized they were far more complicated and nuanced, as are parent-child relationships. I think it’s also common for us to have perceptions of our loved ones based on what they reveal to us (or what others shield from us), and those perceptions don’t always line up with reality. Other times, we feel a need to preserve a family legacy at the cost of hiding unpleasant truths. Those are some of the ideas I wanted to explore trough the relationships among these three women.
Violet’s larger than life character could be seen as the archetypal artist. Someone who will sacrifice everything to reach her career goals. Is this what you intended for Violet when you wrote the book?
I don’t see it in terms of sacrifice, I see it as an innate obsessive drive that overshadows everything else. Violet Volk’s craft is her top priority and her greatest passion. While her ambition does create a desire for fame and success, I don’t think she consciously casts aside other elements of her life—she’s just blinded by her love of magic and need for achievement to notice how unbalanced the personal aspects of her life become. It’s an inadvertent sacrifice more than anything. I wouldn’t call that the archetypical artist, but that obsessive drive is common among highly successful people, especially ones that attain the level of fame and fortune Violet Volk does. Show me one person who’s a leader in their field, creative or otherwise, who hasn’t had to make sacrifices to get to where they are.
Which character do you most identify with in the book?
There’s a little bit of me in every character I write, but I actively work to distinguish them from myself so that they can take on their own personas. It’s easier for me to identify with certain traits— Violet’s creative passion and Sasha’s dedication to her family and Cameron’s eclectic curiosity—more than a complete character.
I really appreciate how inventive a writer you are, and in both Oona out of Order and Acts of Violet you take your readers on surprising detours. What inspires you to blend genres like time travel, mystery, magical realism, and family drama?
I tend to prefer stories that bend or blend genres—I love their freshness and originality—and by extension, those are the kinds of stories I enjoy writing the most. As soon as a story is given a single label, it needs to follow certain genre conventions (romances must have happy endings, murder mysteries must reveal the killer, etc.). When I’m writing, it’s more exciting to blur those lines and subvert the conventions, while still (hopefully) creating a satisfying experience for the reader.
Acts of Violet is a novel about loss. A missing magician, who is a constant presence in the narrative. What motivated you to write about a character disappearing?
I have a personal fascination with mysterious disappearances and unsolved missing person cases, and I wanted to see if I could put my own offbeat spin on such a story.
Having emigrated to the USA when you were 4 years old from Soviet Ukraine, you have a clear vantage point for understanding the outsider perspective. Would you say that identity and belonging are enduring themes in your work?
Yes, that is an excellent observation. Another theme is the concept of home. Having grown up with two cultures and then moving abroad for a time as an adult (I lived in London for a year-and-a-half after college), I spent many years chasing not only a sense of belonging but a feeling of home. That’s prevalent in many of my characters, too.
What book written by someone else do you wish you had written?
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. A brilliant labyrinthine nesting doll of a novel.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Singing, though I mostly keep it to karaoke.
Margarita Montimore is the author of Acts of Violet, Asleep from Day, and Oona Out of Order, a USA Today bestseller and Good Morning America Book Club pick. After receiving a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, she worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. Born in Soviet Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn, she currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog.
Margarita’s Instagram: @damiella
Margarita’s Website: https://www.montimore.com/
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