Omaha born and raised singer, writer and now published author Rebecca Rotert released her first novel, Last Night at the Blue Angel, over the summer. She is a participating author at this weekend’s (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest and will join Rainbow Rowell for a discussion on Mixtapes and Jazz Standards. Other authors taking part in the annual event include Lit Fest organizer Timothy Schaffert and Omaha Reads author Karen Gettert Shoemaker.
Last Night at the Blue Angel is a story that highlights the heartbreaking relationship between a talented singer and her 10-year-old daughter, with the vibrant 1960s Chicago jazz scene as its backdrop. Rotert’s work is a “beautifully told coming-of-age story and the characters are rich and vivid even if I didn’t always like their choices,” according to MomAdvice.com. Fresh Fiction concluded that it was “Full of touching prose, heartbreaking moments, and the exact feel of a slow and soulful song.”
With a successful novel in the books (pun intended) and this weekend’s highly anticipated event on her roster, we asked Rotert to chat Omaha, libraries and Last Night at the Blue Angel with OPL as part of our 5 Questions series. She graciously agreed. Enjoy!
1.) How would you describe Omaha?
To folks from far away, who don’t know Nebraska from Alaska, I often find myself saying, “Omaha would surprise you.” The art, the music, the food. The talent! There’s an amazing community of writers in Omaha.
2.) Congratulations on the release of your first novel! How does it feel to be a published novelist?
Not entirely different from being an unpublished novelist. There is still the daily struggle to do the work, to tune out the voices and get sentences on paper. But publishing has been validating, and it has been lovely to suddenly have readers. It’s more work than expected. We don’t get to sit back and let the publisher turn the crank. These days, writers have to do a lot of crank-turning.
Have you ever remodeled a house? Or, say, a kitchen? How in the beginning you have a plan and it’s beautiful and exactly what you want, and you all agree on the vision and the timeline. And then you start ripping walls down only to discover asbestos and lead and a shoddy foundation… fast forward 8 years and you’re still stepping over wires and plastic and there’s plaster in your coffee and you fantasize about just changing your identity and fleeing the country except you can’t because of debt and pets. It was kind of like that.
4.) Which five (separate) words describe Rebecca Rotert?
Distracted. Huggy. Lost. Hungry. Curious.
5.) What are some of Omaha’s hidden gems?
Well now they wouldn’t be secrets if I told you BUT Archetype Coffee. Taita. Study tables at all Omaha libraries. My laundry room. That candy store in the big sprawling antique mall south of the Old Market. Lion’s Mane Vintage on the west edge of Benson. The lesser farmer’s markets i.e.: Gifford Park and Florence Mill.
Cheat Question: Have libraries played a role in your life?
Well this goes without saying. I loved my grade school library (Our Lady of Lourdes) and spent an enormous amount of time there. Willa Cather Branch was in walking distance – again, practically lived there. In high school, when I learned to do research, I spent a lot of time at the Main Library downtown. It was also where we went on dates, which is awfully sweet. I love libraries. They will always feel like home to me.
That last statement gives us warm fuzzies. Rebecca Rotert deserves a special thanks for taking time to answer our questions! Be sure to keep up with her on Twitter, and plan to attend (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest events this Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13.