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The Year We Were Famous (author interview)

The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of Clara Estby and her suffragist mother, Helga, who walked 4,000 miles from their farm in Mica Creek, Washington, to New York City in 1896 in a heroic attempt to win $10,000 that would save the family’s farm and prove women could do it.

Equipped only with satchels containing compass and maps, first-aid supplies, journals, pistol, and a curling iron, they headed east along the railroad tracks. In 232 days, they wore out thirty- two pairs of shoes, crossed mountains, deserts, and plains, and survived a highwayman attack, flash floods, blizzards, and days with out food and water. For a year, they were famous as they met governors and mayors, camped with Indians, and visited the new president-elect himself, William McKinley.

They intended to write a book about their adventures, but because of the way their trip ended, their journals were burned. Fortunately, newspapers across the country reported on their travels, and The Year We Were Famous is based on those articles, with imagination filling the gaps between known facts.

Q&A with Author Carole Estby Dagg

What motivated you to take on the creation of a revised edition for The Year We Were Famous?

Helga and Clara Estby were family legends, and I did not want their story to die when the 2011 edition went out of print. Steven Chudney, my agent, got the rights back for me so I could publish the book as I originally envisioned it, with photos of the real Helga and Clara Estby and newspaper clippings which reinforced the point that these courageous transcontinental walkers were real women.

What’s different about the Revised Edition?

The revised edition adds the photographs I had always wanted to include in the original, traditionally published edition. Working with a talented graphic artist, Mary Senter, the new edition has a bolder cover with a photograph of my real-life main characters, Helga and Clara Estby, my great-grandmother and great-aunt. Interior photographs and newspaper clippings reinforce the fact that the book, though fiction, is about real women, who walked nearly four thousand miles in an era of corsets, high-topped shoes, and dust-dragging skirts and at a time when many people were scandalized that women would dare such a feat when their place was emphatically at home.

Why did you write The Year We Were Famous from Clara’s point of view?

The focus in family lore had always been on Great-Grandmother Helga. Her cartes de visite that she passed out along the way read “H. Estby and daughter, pedestrians, Spokane to New York.” I was miffed on Clara’s behalf. She had matched her mother step for step and didn’t even get her name on the cards? I decided it was time to give Clara a voice.

How do you research the heart of someone you barely knew?

In 1950, the last time I saw Great- Aunt Clara, she was in the hospital dying of cancer. To imagine what she might have been like in her late teens, I immersed myself in 1896. For a year, I gave up reading all contemporary novels and read only what Clara might have read for school or for fun. The dime novels I downloaded from the Internet influenced the style my version of Clara used to tell her brothers about shooting a man in Oregon and meeting a band of Ute Indians.


Helga and Clara Estby’s Walk Across a Changing America by Carole Estby Dagg

Release Date: 10.19.2021 // Ages 12+ $15.49 –

Paperback / ISBN: 978-1-7376263-0-5

Connect with Carole: Facebook @CaroleDagg

Watch the trailer (1min 24sec) for The Year We Were Famous :

Best of the Week

I’m going to try and do a list of the best book I’ve read and the best movie and show I’ve watched over the course of the last week. So for this, it’s been over the course of July 4-10. (I’ll probably move it to Mondays starting next week.)

The best book I read: Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn. I like that she struggled with faith because of church and not because of Jesus. (Also? Purity and modesty culture is gross and damaging to women and girls.)

The best movie I saw was Fear Street Part II. (Please give me all the camp slashers, thank you.)

The best TV show I watched was the most recent episode of Kevin Can F*ck Himself (episode 4). I know it’s not getting good ratings but I’m really loving this show.

What’s Coming Up

I’m excited to talk about the new Jasmine Guillory (which hasn’t been published as of the time I’m writing this but which I will hopefully be in the middle of or already finished by the time this goes live).

I’m excited to watch Wellington Paranormal (a show by the creators of What We Do in the Shadows) and I hope it pops up SOMEWHERE because I couldn’t find it to stream anywhere. It starts sometime this week though so there’s still hope.

What I’ve Been Reading

The great trend has continued.

Last week, I’ve read:

Falling by TJ Newman (absolutely loved. It’s a really fun thriller with a great concept; I would definitely recommend);

Those Who Survived by Carrie Jones (first in a duology that is ALSO a really fun thriller and a welcome change to those thrillers where the main characters are impossibly cool and unruffled; Dude is nothing but ruffled and is not cool at all. I love her so much);

Vampires and Voodoo by Patricia Frost (ridiculously over the top fun; I loved it beyond all reason);

Simone Breaks all the Rules by Debbie Rigaud (Simone is my actual favorite and I love everything about this book. The friends are wonderful and her family is wonderful and I would happily read 1000 books in this universe and featuring these people);

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson (While I didn’t love it more than You Should See Me in a Crown, I loved it almost as much and Leah Johnson has cemented her place as one of my favorite authors)

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn (This book is amazing and perfect; you should all read it when it comes out in September and now I need to read her other books immediately)

So yeah, a whole lot of excellent books.

What I’ve Been Watching

I spent last week binging Your Honor and it was very fun but also incredibly bleak. (Picture Mare of Easttown but sadder and with worse people.)

My next binge will be Panic, which looks so fun! (It’s free to stream if you have Prime.)

Beyond that, I watched the pilot of the new Gossip Girl. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t particularly like it, either. I’ll watch the second episode and decide from there.

I’ve also been watching some movies. I loved the first two Fear Street offerings and can’t wait until the third one drops on Friday. I ALSO watched and loved Psycho Goreman (vicious alien-type creature is abandoned and imprisoned on Earth; a pre-teen girl finds an amulet that makes him have to listen to and obey her. And she’s got some strong opinions, so she’s not afraid of him in the slightest. It’s weird but it’s also really, really funny.

What if You and Me

My most recent audiobook was What if You and Me by Roni Loren. (I received a copy for review.)

I absolutely loved this book. Part of it is because it was absolutely perfect for me (Andi is a horror novelist and true crime podcaster who also spends a lot of time watching scary movies. We would be BEST FRIENDS) and part of it is because it’s just a really fun story. It’s a romance and it’s really funny but it’s also incredibly deep.

Andi has emotional trauma from a past relationship and it’s stayed with her for years. She’s mostly fine now but the reason for that is because she keeps herself incredibly safe and very far away from anyone who could hurt her (so basically every guy ever).

I like fun books but I also love books like this, books where the fun is balanced by weighty topics and feelings. This one was just a delight (that had me crying a little).

What’s Coming Up

I’m looking forward to finishing Rise to the Sun (I’m loving it so far!) and then I’m hoping to get to Vampires and Voodoo by Patricia Frost (it looks so fun!), an e-galley of Erin Hahn’s upcoming novel and some Book of the Month selections that just came in.

The next movie I’m definitely seeing in theaters is Candyman. (But that’s not out until the end of August so there’s a really good chance I’ll be seeing something else first.)

I’m not sure what my next binge will be, but I’m liking Your Honor. (By which I mean it’s making me sad and tense all the time.)

What I’ve Been Watching

So I’ve been really enjoying the new season of The Good Fight. It’s been really fun and I’ve really missed the show.

I also loved the last season of The Bold Type and how everything ended. It was also the last season of Younger, which I did not love.

As far as new shows, I really like Kevin Can F*ck Himself. It’s the exact opposite of Alexis Rose, but Annie Murphy is doing a fantastic job. It’s a dark show but I’m really enjoying it. I’m also doing a really slow rewatch of Friends (on season two; Ross and Rachel are together for the second time after the very, very quick we-are-together-what’s-this-list thing earlier in the season).

I’m going to watch Your Honor this coming week because that looks really great.

June Most Anticipated

On the podcast recently, I listed my five most anticipated reads for June. (You can listen here.)

I picked Dream Girl (Laura Lippman), Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year (Nina Hamza), The Other Black Girl (Zakiya Dalila Harris), Jay’s Gay Agenda (Jason June) and We Are Inevitable (Gayle Forman).

I’ve now read all five and all were wonderful. I couldn’t have made better choices. (And when you read The Other Black Girl, please discuss the ending with me!)

Latest binge

I did end up starting Dirty John and it’s so hard to believe that that’s a real story! John Meehan was so scary and also just a real creep.

I finished the first season and am about to start the second. It’s an anthology series (like American Crime Story) and the second is about Betty Broderick. I don’t know that very well, but I’ve at least heard the names.

I’ve also started watching Lisey’s Story, and I’m enjoying it. I read the book when it first came out but I haven’t re-read it so it’s a lot of surprises.

I’m almost half done with the audio of Rosemary’s Baby and it’s really good. I love the movie and I know I’ve read it at least once and maybe twice, but not in a long time. The book is similar but there are some major differences so it’s a new experience. I would recommend it. I love the stunt casting of Mia Farrow reading it, but it would be fun either way.