A family legend inspired Taylor to shine a spotlight on her hometown of Scranton, Penn., in her debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night.
Your publisher informs us that the idea for this novel was inspired by a real-life incident that occurred in your family before you were born.
On the day she was baptized—July 4, 1918—my grandmother’s sister, Pearl, and her friends were playing with sparklers in the backyard. Something happened, and her dress went up in flames. According to the story, she survived for three days, and she sang hymns nonstop. When she passed away, everybody in Scranton came to view the body of the little girl who sang hymns. The story took on mythological proportions; it has always fascinated me. What also fascinated me was the effect witnessing [it] had on [my grandmother’s] life—although in real life, no one blamed her.
A key plot twist is a fateful snowstorm that has a major impact, not just upon Violet and her family but upon the entire community. Is the character Billy Sunday, who figures prominently, a historical figure?
The Billy Sunday Snowstorm is a real event that happened in Scranton in 1914. I grew up hearing all kinds of stories about it. Everybody seems to have known someone who was “saved” during the revival meeting that went on during the snowstorm. It seems kind of funny, because not everybody in Scranton was there that day, but they all wanted to have some claim to it. There’s something about that snowstorm I always thought would make for an interesting scene in a novel, so I purposely went back [to 1914] to include it.