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Tampa Bay Times - - BOOKS - Piper Castillo, Times staff writer

Ka­trin Schu­mann

Schu­mann’s new novel, This Ter­ri­ble Beauty, a love story set after World War II on an is­land in the Baltic Sea, was in­spired by her East Ger­man her­itage. Its pro­tag­o­nist, Bet­tina Hell­strom, is forced to make heart­break­ing de­ci­sions con­cern­ing love, a child and per­sonal free­dom. Schu­mann,

54, is also au­thor of the novel The For­got­ten Hours. She di­vides her time be­tween Bos­ton and Key West, where she is the di­rec­tor of the Key West Lit­er­ary Sem­i­nar and Work­shops.

What books are you read­ing? Cur­rently, I’m work­ing on a first draft of an­other novel, so when I’m in this stage of writ­ing, I read books around the topic I am in­ter­ested in as I find my way. I’m read­ing Madame Bo­vary (by Gus­tave Flaubert). The book is wo­ven into my novel. I am lov­ing it even more this time than I did the first time. I’m also read­ing The Ice Storm by Rick Moody.

The books con­cern such dif­fer­ent times.

Yes, they cer­tainly do. Madame Bo­vary is look­ing at a woman who is strug­gling to find her way and pur­pose in an era when the cul­tural norm is shift­ing. She is trapped. My new book is set in 1969. There is a shift in the cul­ture at that pe­riod, too, and in women’s be­hav­ior. Also, my main char­ac­ter be­comes ob­sessed with Madame Bo­vary, so that’s why I have that one. Then, I am read­ing Ice Storm to see how the writer wrote about an era in re­cent his­tory. It was more for craft. Rick Moody did some things that were pow­er­ful to me. The first is the in­cred­i­ble speci­ficity of his writ­ing. When he de­scribes the en­vi­ron­ment and sit­u­a­tions, he is in­cred­i­bly spe­cific, and yet he man­ages to fold in de­tails that add to the story. Se­condly, his psy­cho­log­i­cal in­sight is amaz­ing. There is an ironic tone to the book, yet there’s still a cer­tain ten­der­ness about the char­ac­ters, the flawed char­ac­ters, that I really ap­pre­ci­ate.

I also have one more book, The Forger’s Ap­pren­tice by Mark Forgy. It’s about an art forger in Ibiza, an is­land in Spain. It was an im­por­tant is­land in the 1960s. It was a hot­bed of dif­fer­ent classes and cul­tures. It was some­what of a Petri dish of what was go­ing on in the world at that time.

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