In this interview, author Lanette Kauten discusses some of what went into her creation of Cassia, a literary exploration of the art scene, perfect for fans of literary or women’s fiction: a lesbian “Anna Karenina” set in an art district at the end of the Cold War.
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Interview with the Author:
Where does your story begin?
Cassia begins at a baseball game in the year 2010. My main character, Tanya, is there with her husband and a married couple he knows professionally. The woman peppers Tanya with questions about Cassia, insinuating she knows too much about Tanya’s past.
The next chapter starts twenty years in the past and details Tanya’s torrid relationship with the enigmatic Cassia.
Who are your main characters? What do they want? What will get in their way?
As a reporter living in Deep Ellum, all Tanya Falgoust wants is to be accepted as part of the underground arts district. But living among free thinkers and musicians doesn’t make her one of them. Then she meets the sensual, rebellious Cassia, a performance artist who struts onto the stage and into Tanya’s bed.
No one knows who Cassia is, but her beauty and talents as an actress and dancer captivate the local scene. Tanya is mesmerized, and they quickly form a relationship. A close friend warns Tanya about Cassia, but she brushes him off. But when Cassia refuses to divulge anything about herself, where she lives, or even her real name, Tanya starts to realize her friend was right. And the secrets her lover is hiding are deeper and more damaging than Tanya could imagine.
As the pull of their relationship deepens and becomes more volatile, Tanya must decide whether to break from her desire before she loses the one thing she wants most—connection to the musicians who have accepted her into their community.
Where does your setting fit with what we know, and where is it unique?
Cassia is set in an arts/bar district just east of downtown Dallas, which in itself makes the setting both familiar and unique. A lot of cities have a section that’s pretty much reserved for the boho lifestyle—East Village in New York, 6th Street in Austin, and pretty much all of Portland, to name a few. Dallas has such an area as well, called Deep Ellum.
The neighborhood started as a Freedman’s town and was a Blues and Jazz hotspot at one time. For decades, it sat nearly empty except for the few businesses that never moved from the area. In the 80s, a handful of people saw tremendous opportunity to make it into a place for local musicians and artists.
What books, movies, etc, might this story be similar to, and in what ways is it unique?
The first book to come to mind is Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, because of its structure, and because the main character is a woman looking back on a particular year of her life and how the events of that year changed the direction of the rest of her life. But 1939 New York (Rules of Civility) is very different from 1990 Dallas (Cassia).
A generational tie exists with the book Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel, as both her book and mine deal with the struggles of a young crop of Gen-Xers. Outside of Wurtzel’s book being a memoir and mine being a work of fiction, there is a difference in writing style and focus. While Prozac Nation deals with depression in young adults, Cassia focuses on the postmodern view of art and sexuality.
Are more stories planned in this series?
I don’t write book series, but I am working on a new novel with Cassia as the protagonist. Tanya won’t even appear as a cameo in this new book.
Our thanks to Lanette Kauten for spending a little time with us, and we hope you enjoy her wonderful book, Cassia.