It’s the story of a woman who makes a move from England to Pennsylvania for a man, finding herself in a place she is not quite sure she can call home but, in the process, realizing exactly where home is – and though it does sound a lot like Eleanor Gwyn-Jones’ life, it’s actually the basis for the aforementioned Englishwoman’s novel, “Theatricks,” which debuted Dec. 3.
“It’s my baby and I put my heart and soul into this. It’s been a bit of a long time coming,” the Scranton resident, originally from Surrey, England, said in a recent phone interview, her accent only the tip of the iceberg that is the charm she oozes with every story she tells.
Gwyn-Jones actually finished “Theatricks” years back, but its debut was put off due to an incredibly busy agent who was making a transatlantic move of her own. She finally hooked up with a new agent and Omnific Publishing, and the book was just launched at POSH in Scranton to an eager crowd touting rave reviews. Gwyn-Jones is already putting the finishing touches on the sequel to “Theatricks,” which is due out in April.
“Theatricks” tells the story of Enna Petersen, a character Gwyn-Jones calls a “very self-possessed, career-driven woman” who has to make a difficult decision when she says goodbye to her home and beloved theater she’s worked so hard to keep afloat in England and leave for Pennsylvania with her fiancé, who hails from there.
“I think particularly in the 21st century, women are told that we can have it all, career and romance, but, you know, sometimes we just can’t,” Gwyn-Jones said. “We have to make really tough decisions, and that’s what Enna finds.”
“She moves and it causes this whole upheaval in which she re-roots her life, and she goes through the whole visa gauntlet. Then she gets to America, is told she can work at a beautiful 500-seater theater that she falls in love with, but when she looks at the fine print, she realizes she can’t actually work for up to a year. She’s someone with this work ethic. … She’s just possessed by it, so she feels very torn. She questions her decision and eventually leaves. And I won’t tell you much after that, because that’ll just ruin it. She does eventually realize where home really is, though.”
She said the book is not autobiographical, but certain themes do strike a chord with her.
“I really wanted to write about the whole visa process because it really was so very complicated post-9/11,” Gwyn-Jones said of her 2004 move to the United States. “I mean, I understand it completely, but I didn’t expect… I call it the gauntlet because it really was. It was like I was jumping out of the way of axes and swords and through flaming hoops for it.”
She shares Enna’s love of the theater, having a background as an actress, agent, and administrator of a touring theatre company, and she used that experience as a way to put herself in Enna’s situations and live them out through her.
“It was a fun, cathartic way to play out my very own ‘could have beens.’”
The idea of home is a strong theme in the book, and also in Gwyn-Jones’ life.
“My people are here,” she said with a laugh. “That sounds so weird coming from an English person, in my accent, but, you know, it really is true. I once decided, after moving to Pennsylvania, that to be taken seriously as a writer I needed to move to New York, so I bought an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn – such a nice place, everyone there eats kale and does yoga – and I lasted 11 months. I was so gosh darn miserable. … Every weekend I was coming back, for some event or someone’s birthday; I’d be back to Pennsylvania like a shot.”
It was on one of those visits back, when she was hosting an annual Oscar party with her best friend at POSH, that she knew what she had to do.
“There we are, talking about ‘Lincoln’ while wearing evening gowns and beards, or ‘Argo’ and sporting big ‘70s glasses… and I’m looking out at this sea of delighted, enthusiastic, supportive faces, and it was sort of my eureka-come-to-Jesus moment,” she said with a laugh.
“What the heck am I doing living in Park Slope where I’m so incredibly lonely when I have all these people here in Pennsylvania who love and support me?”