Title: The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan
Author: Steve Wiley
“Did you know most anything that matters in this city was built by magic before it was built by men? Of course you didn’t. This city is different from other cities. The true history of it is unpublished. Lucky for you, I know it all by heart.”
~ Francesca Finnegan
In Chicago, a secret L train runs through the mythical East Side of the city. On that train, you’ll find a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, a queen of the last city farm, the most curious wind, and an exceptional girl by the name of Francesca Finnegan.
When we first encounter Richard K. Lyons, he is a man who has long forgotten the one night, when he was still a boy called Rich, when Francesca invited him aboard the secret L for an adventure though the East Side. The night was a mad epic, complete with gravity-defying first kisses, mermaid overdoses, and princess rescues. Unfortunately for Rich, the night ended like one of those elusive dreams forgotten the moment you wake. Now, Rich is all grown up and out of childish adventures, an adult whose life is on the verge of ruin. It will take the rediscovery of his exploits with Francesca, and a reacquaintance with the boy he once was, to save him.
The started no differently from any other. Richard took the Brown Line downtown to his place of business. For those who don’t know, the Brown Line is a ramshackle, barely functioning rail train built over one hundred years ago. It looks and operates as if its last tune-up occurred over one hundred years ago. The Brown Line is one of those color-coded trains that make up the greater Chicago L system, coursing through the city’s anatomy like old-man blood vessels, clumsily pumping life in and out of the loop at the city’s heart.
Richard’s ride downtown that morning was more depressing than usual, meaning it was basically soul crushing. The day dawned especially cold, and Richard’s particular train car didn’t have heat—something not unusual, though this didn’t make it any less terrible. The temperature on his phone read a crisp thirty-nine degrees, inside the train. The cold worsened his hangover. Every slight bump of the train racked his skull like an artillery explosion. The ride was one long, torturous barrage. Midway through, Richard nodded off, or fainted, only to be awakened by a man in a suit talking enthusiastically and obnoxiously on his phone about how he would project-manage the fuck out of that project. When a massively pregnant woman saw Richard wake, she pointed to her belly and asked for his seat. Richard lied and said he’d sprained an ankle, so couldn’t stand. No one on the train offered the woman a seat.
As Richard rose to exit the train, feigning a limp, he noticed for the first time some unusual graffiti written in large red characters on the ceiling of the train.
NEXT STOP AUSCHWITZ
Richard wondered how different the Brown Line really was from a Holocaust train. The Holocaust trains couldn’t have been more crowded than the Brown Line. The Holocaust trains most likely smelled worse, but how much worse? The Brown Line, frequented by homeless riders, often stank of trash and shit. Definitely more dead people on a Holocaust train. But then, dead people had been found on the Brown Line. The Holocaust trains must have moved faster, considering they were newer than the Brown Line—it took Richard forty minutes to travel six sluggish miles. The passenger load on the Brown Line was miserable. Probably not quite as miserable as the Holocaust riders, but certainly each passenger was unhappy in his or her own way. Clearly more diversity on the Brown Line.
Richard concluded that the main differences between the trains were their speed, their passenger demographics, their passenger life expectancies, and their destinations.
Steve Wiley, Author
Steve is a father, husband, uncle, brother, friend, and purveyor of fairy stories. He grew up in and around Chicagoland, where he still lives with his wife and two kids. He has been published in an array of strange and serious places, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to Crannóg magazine in Galway, Ireland. This is his first book. He has an undergraduate degree in something he has forgotten from Illinois State University and a graduate degree in something equally forgotten from DePaul University. You can email Steve at Lavenderlinepress@gmail.com, or visit thewileymancan on Instagram.
Chris is an artist who studied at Columbia College Chicago. He is a Chicago native and has lived here all his life. Chris’s paintings have been showcased in many local galleries and beyond. When he feels like it, he travels elsewhere to find inspiration. You can reach him at Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit _ccihon on Instagram.
Interview with Steve Wiley
1. What is your favorite part of this book and why? There is a chapter called The True Source of the Great Chicago Fire by Finbar Finnegan - the chapter was the most entertaining to write, and I think is the most entertaining to read. It follows the father of Francesca Finnegan as he witnesses a relative of his accidentally (and drunkenly) burn the city down with his own daughter's baptismal candle. If you like history, especially Chicago history, and a good short story, this chapter will blow your mind.
2. If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day? I created a character named Templeton Goodfellow, brother of Robin Goodfellow (of Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream). Templeton is an alcoholic elf, and the guy is just pure fun. He's kind of a wily Mad Hatter. If I had a day with Templeton I'd spend it on a tour of Chicago bars, drinking Malort (Malort is a disgusting spirit only available in Chicago). Templeton is a storyteller, so we'd drink and he'd tell stories!
3. If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose? Peter Pan. That book will live forever.
4. Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? The characters within the 'real' chapters of the book (those which don't take place in the East Side of Chicago, that fantasy world we created), are all based on real people. The characters within the fantasy world are all imagination. I had fun doing both, but actually prefer creating new characters.
5. What made you want to become a writer? I think storytellers are just born that way. I don't remember having a moment where I said, "I want to be a writer", I've just always like to tell stories.
Book Website: www.fairytalechicago.com
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/fairytalechicago/
Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/steve-wiley/fairytale-chicago-francesca-finnegan/
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