I am thrilled to share a wonderful interview with debut author Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Though I have yet to read Wench, after reading both the description of the book and the interview, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Please enjoy getting a peek inside the author of this fascinating sounding book, Wench!
Tell us a bit about Wench. What is the story about, who are the characters, etc
Wench is a historical novel set in 1850s Ohio. Lizzie is a slave who lives in Tennessee on a plantation with the Drayle family. When Lizzie is thirteen years old, her owner takes her as his sexual partner. When a summer resort opens in Ohio advertising healthy mineral springs, her owner leaves his wife behind and takes her North to the resort for vacation. Other southern planters do the same, and Lizzie forms a bond with three other slave women who are in the same set of circumstances: Reenie, Mawu, and Sweet. The arrival of Mawu is where the book begins, and as she implores the others to consider making a run for freedom, Lizzie finds herself feeling split between the prospect of a new life and the one she has left behind down South.
How do you come up with the names of your characters? It almost seems as though, as an author, you have the continuous fun of naming children!
I change them over and over until I find one that feels right. Sometimes the characters have no name for a good portion of my drafts. I’ll refer to someone as X, for example. One of my characters “Glory” was named something else before. But I don’t remember what it was because after I named her Glory, she became that name so fully!!
What do you want readers to take away from reading Wench?
I have one hope: that readers will enjoy the story. I write to entertain, to transport readers out of their daily lives. Yet given the historical nature of my premise, I understand that the book will be more than escapism for some readers. One reader has recently told me that my story answered some of the questions they had about the Sally Hemings/Thomas Jefferson story. To this day, when I think of my character Lizzie and the things she had to endure, I cry. I have literally been driving in my car and thought of her and started to cry. Perhaps readers will come away feeling that they understand a bit more about the difficulties of being a woman during slavery.