Behind the Book

Nicole recently sat down with Jonathan Haupt, director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, SC, to answer some questions about the origins of The Cage-maker and her process of writing. Below are a couple of the questions. For the full interview, visit the PCLC for Porch Talk or check out the Fall edition of Shrimp, Collards, and Grits Magazine.

Jonathan Haupt: The idea for The Cage-maker began while you were researching your own family history. Tell us what you discovered and how it inspired aspects of your novel.

Nicole Seitz: I first discovered that my paternal great-grandmother from New Orleans shared my birthday, which led me to look deeper into her life and that side of my family. When I found that her brother married a young heiress who died a year after eloping with him, I was intrigued. How did she die? And why, after her death, was her father coming after her money? Researching Louisiana Supreme Court cases led me to learn that her younger sister also married at age 14, and a year later she was dead too. Once more, their father came after the money. I began to care about these young girls and to feel the pull to unearth these family secrets. At some point, I was hooked. This is a story I wanted to write for several years before I actually committed to it.

JH: The Cage-maker is written as an epistolary novel—unfolding through the discovery of found letters, journals, and articles. Dracula is another excellent classic example of this blending of found narratives. What does this approach bring to the story and how it’s read?

NS: One of the hardest parts about writing this novel was figuring out how to write it. It had many starts and stops and even more do-overs. In the end, I decided the most enjoyable part for me was the act of discovery, of being a sleuth in this great mystery. I want my readers to experience that same sense of wonder as they dig deeper and deeper into the letters, files, and photos presented in this novel and ultimately come to their own conclusions. Dr. Le Monnier and François were the perfect voices to tell this story, and I truly loved writing them.