July 13, 2016

Blog Tour: The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Today I'm very excited to welcome Laura Marx Fitzgerald to The O.W.L.! 

She is celebrating the release of her new novel The Gallery by doing a blog tour. 

About the Book

It's 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth. But in a house filled with secrets, nothing is quite what it seems, and no one is who they say. Can Martha follow the clues, decipher the code, and solve the mystery of what’s really going on with Rose Sewell?

Inspired by true events described in a fascinating author’s note,The Gallery is a 1920s caper told with humor and spunk that readers today will love.

When I was first offered this book by the publisher to be part of the blog tour I thought it sounded pretty good and different from what else was out there that I had been reading.  
As I started it I found myself pulled in over and over by the story.  I loved the setting both 1929 but also the mansion Martha works in with her mother.  It's a time period I don't read about much, and it always fascinates me because it's right before everything changes.  To go with the setting I LOVED Martha.  Boy is that girl the definition of spunky! I loved it! I think I giggled the most when she talked about the presidential race! Opinionated and spunky girl in the 1920's!

But beyond all that I loved the plot.  I'm a sucker for a good intriguing mystery, and I found it in The Gallery.  I kept reading and getting sucked in because I wanted to know more! I wanted to figure out what was happening.  Was Rose really crazy?  What was she doing? Could I trust her husband?  Could I trust anyone in the house?  It just really hooked me! I won't tell much more because if you read it you need to experience the whole thing, but just know I loved it! 

Oh and to add I love that bits and pieces are inspired by true events of the time.  That just made it even more intriguing! 

Laura was kind enough to write a guest post for this stop on the blog tour for The Gallery.  

The prompt was: Please describe your 1-2 biggest inspirations as a writer and how this contributed to the book.

I don’t think of myself as a writer so much as an archaeologist of ideas. 

I don’t claim to have any visions of fantastical worlds or great insight into the interior world of children or even—let’s be honest—any original ideas. What I do have is an insatiable desire to excavate the stories that have been lost to the passage of time. 

What I have is a love of history. 

The inspiration for my writing has been consistent throughout all my books (both finished and not yet . . .). Whenever I run out of ideas, I dip back into the bottomless well of history—to the people, the secrets, the scandals. Because there is no fiction I can dream up that can outdo the stories I find in the past.

Would you believe a crack team of nerdy art historians saved Europe’s greatest works of art from Htiler’s destruction? Or an invaluable painting hidden under another painting for four centuries? Or a scandal involving the greatest Italian master proven by x-ray technology? All these things really happened, and became the inspiration for my first art mystery, Under the Egg.

For my latest art mystery, The Gallery, I started with new stories from the 1920’s. Sure, there were stock market crashes, Charleston contests, and gangster shootouts. But other headlines jumped out as well:

A quite-possibly-mad heiress held captive by her mother and stepfather (a dodgy Italian “count”) for her inheritance.
Terrorist bombings of Wall Street, the New York subway, and famous judges.
The mysterious “disappearance” of America’s first celebrity lady evangelist.
The mass poisoning at a party in Chicago’s tony University Club by an undercover anarchist.

As far as I was concerned, events like these were ripe for the taking. And they pop up throughout The Gallery’s plot, where a young girl uncovers similar dark secrets by messages in a Gilded Age mansion’s art gallery.

Every plot twist took me on a new historical adventure. Question about immigration documents? Off to Ellis Island. How many servants would you find in a Fifth Avenue mansion? Census records are surprisingly easy to find online. What did these in-home galleries look like anyway? I was happy for the excuse to book tours at the The Frick and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museums.

My search for characters took me back in time, too, looking to history books and museums, as well as primary sources like old newspapers, speeches, and photographs. Biographies and autobiographies were a goldmine, leading me to outsized historic figures like Isabella Stewart Gardner, Zelda Fitzgerald, Helen Clay Frick, and “Madcap” Merry Fahrney. (The voice of Martha, my young main character, was born out two such sources: an old diary left by my husband’s great-great-aunt, a turn-of-the-century immigrant from Ireland, and the memoir of a maid to the eccentric Lady Astor.)

As for my next book, I’m following a few different historical leads:

The strange marriage between a twelve-year-old girl and the master of the greatest illuminated manuscript in history. 

The on-set childhood of the daughter of Hollywood’s most audacious director.

The source of mass outbreaks of insanity across Medieval Europe.

All true stories. All waiting to be uncovered. And all inspiring my next round of looting . . . I mean, writing.

That was so cool to hear all about!!! I love to hear how authors are inspired, and with this book I was really curious where it came from.  (OH the book does have some information at the end to address this as well).  Thank you so much Laura for sharing all that! 

Check out the other stops on the tour:

July 11th – The Young Folks  
July 12th – Word Spelunking
 July 14th– The Reading Nook Reviews
July 15th – Margie’s Must Reads
July 16th  Mundie Moms


  1. Love this description "archaeologist of ideas". The Gallery sounds really intriguing, like the blend of mystery with historical facts.

  2. Cool! I just finished reading this yesterday. What a fun mystery. And I love the time period.

  3. Cool! I just finished reading this yesterday. What a fun mystery. And I love the time period.

  4. I want to read this book! Woozer! It sounds great. Thanks for the guest post too. Very interesting.

  5. This sounds like such an interesting book and the cover is to die for! May have to check it out!

  6. Wow this book sounds so good!! I love the cover and the idea of a strange mystery. Thanks for the awesome post, I will definitely check this one out.

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

  7. What a beautiful cover! I may just have to read this one for my middle-grade blog when I get the chance :) The plot sounds really interesting as well, and I'm glad the plot worked out for you.

    - Eli @ The Silver Words