Q&A: Donna Baier Stein, on ‘The Silver Baron’s Wife’ and Lizzie ‘Baby Doe’ Tabor

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Donna Baier Stein visits the Tattered Cover to discuss her new novel, “The Silver Baron’s Wife,” Jan. 25. Courtesy Denise Winters

Donna Baier Stein, travels to the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2526 E. Colfax Ave., Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. to present her new book, “The Silver Baron’s Wife.” We caught up with Stein, author of “Sympathetic People and Sometimes You Sense the Difference,” to discuss her book about Lizzie “Baby Doe” Tabor–the rugged, independent, star-crossed woman of the West.

Why did you decide to write about Lizzie Tabor? “I first heard about Lizzie when I was 7 years old. My family always took summer vacations to Leadville and Central City, the area where Lizzie lived. I’ve always been interested in the contrast in her life between materialism and spirituality, wealth and poverty, loneliness and love. She really bucked social expectations. In fact, she worked in the mines with her first husband–not many women did back then.

“As I started researching her I felt like earlier tellings of her story, which were all told by men, really focused on her role as a mistress, not on her life as a woman. So, I didn’t want to portray her just as a home wrecker and an appendage to a man.”

What was the most challenging part of writing this book? “Since there was such a wealth of research material, it was challenging turning the information into a novel. I didn’t just want to write Lizzie’s biography; I wanted to fictionalize her life while sticking to the facts. So I had a hard time winnowing down the information and finding the narrative arc.”

What was your favorite part about writing the book? “I loved getting into the way I imagine her to be and writing in her voice.”

What do you think will surprise readers when they read this book? “Most people don’t realize how complex she was. Some people call her the most hated woman in the West because she is seen as the woman who broke up Horace Tabor’s marriage to his wife, Augusta. I don’t have anything against Augusta, but I do believe Horace and Lizzie fell in love. Lizzie even stayed with Horace after he lost his fortune—many people thought she wouldn’t do that. She wasn’t just a mistress. She was very intelligent and had a strong spiritual journey.”

If you could write a book about any person or subject, who or what would you write about next? “There are many answers to that question. At some point, I would like to write a novel about Lizzie’s daughter, Silver Dollar. I would also like to write Augusta’s story. I’ve actually just started a novel about Sarah Bernhardt and Nikola Tesla.”

Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite books? Wow, there are so many. I love Haruki Murakami, Jessica Treadway, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates and Mark Haddon who wrote “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” In regards to my favorite books, I love Murakami’s “Sputnik Sweetheart”, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “The Things We Carry” by Tim O’Brien, “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton, “October Light” by John Gardner, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Endless Love” by Scott Spencer, and “Absent Without Leave” by Jessica Treadway.

What about classics? Oh, so many. I love stories by Anton Chekhov, “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Moby Dick.” I love all of them.

 

 

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