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  • Joan Schweighardt

Spotlight on Claudia Hagadus Long

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

Claudia Hagadus Long, whose historical fiction titles grace our shelves here at Five Directions Press, is now onto her third “sisters” title with Kasva Press, and we couldn’t be happier for her. She joins us here to talk about the sisters novels, the film option she received for the first one, the necessity of writing COVID into the second one, and so much more.

Please describe Our Lying Kin, your newly released novel, and tell us how it’s related to your previous novel, Nine Tenths of the Law.

Our Lying Kin is the second in a series of “sisters books” which find the sisters entangled in mysteries they can only hope to solve. At the end of Nine Tenths of the Law, its predecessor, Zara and Lilly have their mother's menorah back, and they’re feeling pretty secure. They have no idea that COVID, with all its loneliness and isolation, is coming. At the opening of Our Lying Kin, we learn that Lilly has spent the last two years sorting through their parents’ photos and documents, looking for relatives online, and, well, engaging in a bit of insurance fraud. All of this comes to light when she’s interviewed for her local paper and talks about finding the menorah. Not only does that article set her up for some insurance problems, it brings a whole bunch of villains crawling out of the woodwork. Not the least of these is someone claiming to be Zara and Lilly’s long-lost sister!

Did you suspect when you were completing Nine Tenths that your characters would refuse to call it quits?

Oddly, when I finished Nine Tenths of the Law I really thought the story was over. By the time the book came out, I was sure there would be a second book! And now, with Our Lying Kin on the bookstore shelves, the third Zara and Lilly adventure is nearly ready to send to the publisher.

Zara and Lilly discover that their parents had secret lives, and now that both parents are gone, those secrets have come back to haunt them. This is such an intriguing plot point. Did you know as you started the book that this would happen?

I’m a fierce outliner. My outlines have outlines! So yes, I knew when I started writing that certain secrets were going to come out to play and haunt Zara and Lilly. I was surprised, though, as I was writing, that there were even more troubles awaiting them than I first thought.

One of the delights of both books is that you are able to combine some very serious issues—lies, thievery, attempted murder—with a buoyancy that emanates from your narrator’s sense of humor and her banter with the other characters, particularly her sister. How hard was it to find this voice after writing so many historical novels?

Zara and Lilly interact the way my own sister and I do. We’re both pretty intense in our own ways. I’m sharp-tongued and a bit sarcastic. My IRL (in-real-life) sister is not, but she’s as driven as a high-speed train. When I was writing our heroines, it was fun to channel our interactions while fictionalizing them to the narrative. In my historical fiction I was channeling characters that I had never actually met. In Nine Tenths and Our Lying Kin I had the privilege of incorporating the real voices into the created story.

You give a good deal of attention to whom among your characters gets COVID, who doesn’t, who is careless, who is not. How important are the characters’ reactions to the pandemic?

One way or another this has been the most frequently asked question about Our Lying Kin. The pandemic was a devastating time. My sister lives in New York, my dad lived in Manhattan, and all around them people were dying. My father died right at the beginning of the pandemic, though not of COVID, but medical care was scarce on the ground for other illnesses during that time, and it contributed not just to his dying but to the chaos of trying to get a death certificate, reaching the funeral parlor, emptying his apartment. Then the isolation set in. Remember when the parks were closed, beaches were prohibited areas? There were no schools open for the kids? For two years you didn’t see someone’s face; there was fear every time you went to the grocery store. All of this had a serious effect on Zara and Lilly. They became almost caricatures of themselves without interaction with others. You wouldn’t write, say, a romance that took place in 1943 and pretend there wasn’t a world war going on. I’d say it’s the same with the pandemic.

You have sold film rights for Nine Tenths of the Law. How far along is that project? Will you be participating in it on any level?

The film rights have been optioned by Space Dreams Productions. They wrote a script that has won multiple awards, and they are currently “attaching talent” before putting the project out for funding. I learned all of those words in the past two years! I was allowed to offer input regarding the script, but I must say that it’s quite different in some regards from the novel. The spirit of the book comes through, though. One thing I was assured: the characters of Zara and Lilly would be kept as women in middle age and will be played by actresses in their fifties, at least. I hope it will go into production in the next couple of months, but there’s never a guarantee with movies.

You’ve said you’re writing another book with Zara and Lilly. Will you return to historical fiction after that?

The third Zara and Lilly novel is nearly done! And then, who knows? I do have another idea…

In addition to Nine Tenths of the Law and Our Lying Kin, Claudia H. Long is the author of books set in rich historical settings that show the lives, loves, and lusts of women immersed in a society that they want to be a part of, but as themselves: Jewish women living as Catholics in colonial Mexico, professional female writers struggling to effect change in early 20th-century California, and more. Find out about these novels, including those published by Five Directions Press,at

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