However Long the Day
by Justin Reed
Genre: Historical Fiction
Long the Day is
the tale of two strangers—Niall Donovan, a poor immigrant from
Ireland, and Frederick Philips, a rich ne'er-do-well from New York's
Upper East Side—who discover they look so similar they could be
twins. Frederick, desperate to avoid a lecture from his father,
bribes Niall to switch places for the evening. Niall finds there's
more to the story than Frederick let on, and is dragged through the
turbulence created by World War I, the Spanish Flu, and social
upheaval, and into the corrupt belly of Manhattan on the cusp of
As Niall and Frederick hurtle through the next twenty-four hours, will either get what they bargained for?
Niall met Frederick’s eyes in the mirror and froze. They had the same brown hair, the same prominent jawline, and the same flushed cheeks. Niall’s eyebrow deflated, and, with a gasp, the cloud burst.
“I gotta be headin’ on,” Niall blurted. He snatched the tongs from the floor and hurried to the back door.
“Wait!” Frederick called as Niall stepped through the doorway. Niall didn’t wait. Frederick hopped over the puddle and ran into the alley. Niall bounded into the wagon seat. “Wait a minute. I’m not a ghost, or a fitch, or whatever you called me. My name’s Frederick Philips, and I live here. Ask anyone on this block if it’s true, and they’ll tell you. Some of them might curse when you mention me, but they’ll tell you I live here.”
Niall snapped the reins. The wagon jolted forward.
Frederick leaped in front of the horse and held up his hands.
“Whoa!” Niall yelled. The wagon lurched to a stop. “You’re really actin’ the fool, Freddy Boy! Now get outta the lane or I’ll be spittin’ yer name with all yer neighbors!”
“I need your help, Niall,” Frederick said, and he looked at the back door.
“Giddap!” Niall said, and moved to flick the reins again.
“Stop!” Frederick yelled, and held his hands up like willpower alone would immobilize the horse.
“How would you like to earn some money?”
“Have a job, as you can see,” Niall said, and again lifted the reins.
“You said it’s temporary,” Frederick said. He looked at the back door again. “I’ll pay you fifty dollars. That’s twice what you make in a week, and I only need you for the next day.”
Niall’s hands stopped, his mouth opened, but, after a moment, he shook his head.
“Outta the way, Freddy,” Niall said.
“Wait! Just wait!” Frederick said. Frederick’s eyes flicked to the windows on the second and third floors. “Fine, three hundred. I’ll give you three hundred dollars, but you have to get out of that cart right now.”
Niall blinked several times. His lips parted and his jaw sagged. His expression—one of disbelief and disgust—warred with his body, which seemed to have its own opinion. He set the reins aside and stepped down from the wagon.
“What do ya need from me, that you’ll pay so much?” Niall asked, standing next to the horse.
“I need you to take my place for a bit,” Frederick said.
“Are ya coddin’ me?” Niall asked. He looked Frederick over like he had before.
“Don’t know what that means,” Frederick said, “but I’ll pay you three hundred dollars to switch clothes with me, sit at that table in there until my parents come down, and listen to my father’s lecture. They’ll send you to my room, which is at the very top of the stairs on the fifth floor at the back of the house—”
Frederick pointed at the uppermost window, which had a small balcony, then started unbuttoning his shirt and walked inside.
“—Father will say you can’t have dinner. Mother will feel bad and leave some outside the bedroom door before they go to their party. My older sister moved out a month ago, so you’ll have the place to yourself. You sleep in my bed and stay in my room until tomorrow morning. I’ll climb the drainpipe before sunrise and we swap back. I’m the prince, you’re the pauper, see? It’ll be duck soup.”
Justin Reed lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and four children. He was a software engineer and executive for fifteen years before he began his writing career. When not working, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, volunteering at his church, fly fishing, and agreeing to his wife’s requests to take selfies in front of libraries.
Question: What inspired you to write However Long the Day?
Justin Reed: In May 2020, cooped up in my office because of COVID, I was in a writing funk. I had written a novel I wasn’t happy with and lacked motivation to finish the second draft. I craved a diversion, a way to clear my head. I woke up one day with an idea. I polled my Instagram followers for story prompts, with a promise I would write something to entertain them during lockdown. One of the prompts—An alien and a boy switch places, like the Parent Trap but with aliens—sparked something inside me. I discovered, after 4,000 words, I had written a first chapter rather than a complete story. The contrarian inside me tried to wriggle out of the creative box into which these prompts put me. For this story, I played with the definition and historical usage of the word alien. Thus was born Niall—an Irish immigrant (an alien, in the parlance of the day) newly arrived in 1918 New York City—and Frederick—a rich ne’er-do-well from Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Question: Did you always want to be a writer?
Justin Reed: Writing is actually my second career, with the first being software engineering. English, specifically Creative Writing, was my first field of study at university. After some introspection about my goals, I switched to Computer Science and pursued a career in programming. Despite that change, I never abandoned the dream of writing. I wrote on and off during my programming career, but nothing of substance. During my first career, my wife and I established a plan by which I could return to writing on a full-time basis. In 2019, after fifteen years of technology, we were able to execute the final part of the plan. I left a comfortable job with benefits to venture into the wild, unforgiving world of authorhood.
Question: What do you want readers to take away from However Long the Day?
Justin Reed: The conflict between selfishness and selflessness. What do we get when we give? What do we lose when we take? Our focus/goals determine our outcomes. Sometimes we lie to ourselves about our goals/ambitions/efforts. It takes work to overcome our past, but it’s possible. Also, turning a dream into reality requires work, sacrifice, and planning, but it's never too late. I sacrificed my dream of writing for a long time to ensure I could support my family. My family has sacrificed things we could have purchased, and instead chose more economical options so we could save for the time we could chase a dream. Our purposes are manifested in our actions.
Question: How would you describe your author “voice” or style? What about your writing process?
Justin Reed: I would say sparse is probably the best term for the narrative style I used in this book. Sparse on description. Sparse on historical explanation. Sparse on internal monologue. The book is moved along by dialogue and action. While taking prompts from my Instagram followers, I used each story as a way to experiment with new writing techniques. I wrote sans outline for the first draft and discovered the plot as I went. In truth, I discovered a plot, of which only fragments remained beyond the first draft. What I really discovered were the characters. I came to understand them, to anticipate their reactions to various situations, to nestle them into alleys, parlors, stoops, and hidden passages. The novel blossomed from there.
Question: Who or what inspired the characters of Niall and Frederick?
Justin Reed: Midway through the first draft, another inspiration for Niall and Frederick emerged: Justin Reed. I found myself pouring one part of me into the young immigrant, and another part of me into the young ne’er-do-well. There are parts of me that don’t share the same ambitions, and are thus in frequent conflict. This flowed onto the page and saturated the main characters and their actions. The more I wrote, the more I realized their conflict was my internal conflict. I had to write the whole novel before I could see it clearly. I think that there is a version of Niall Donovan and Frederick Philips inside all of us, pushing and pulling and working for what they want.
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