Hello. Glad you found your way back to my neck of the woods and didn’t get lost along the way. I could tell you stories about getting lost! But I won’t digress. Instead, I’ll announce that with me today is the fascinating and fantastic Anne Westrick. Anne is represented by Leigh Feldman of Writers House.
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you can probably guess the place Anne and I have in common, so I’ll save myself some typing and instead tell you that Anne’s book, Brotherhood, is what we’re here to talk about today. (If you’re new to the blog, just click here and you’ll have the answer.)
Check out this synopsis for Brotherhood:
The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a brotherhood, newly formed to support Confederate widows and grieving families like his. As the true murderous mission of the brotherhood—now known as the Ku Klux Klan—emerges, Shad is trapped between his pledge to them and what he knows is right. In this unflinching view of the bitter animosity that stemmed from economic and social upheaval in the South during the period of Reconstruction, it’s clear that the Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.
Brotherhood debuts on September 12, courtesy of Viking/Penguin. But one of you will receive an ARC of Brotherhood very soon. It even comes with a bookmark! More about that later.
El Space: Thanks for stopping by, Anne! Please slip us four quick facts about yourself.
Anne: Through junior high and high school, math was my favorite subject. I don’t live to eat; I eat to live. I love sudoku puzzles. I hate to shop.
El Space: Wow. For two out of four of those answers, we are twins separated at birth! So, how did you come up with the idea for Brotherhood?
Anne: It really started with a feeling more than an idea—with the feeling of being stuck in a situation you can’t get out of. When my father was growing up in the South in the 1930s, he felt stuck, and vowed that he wouldn’t raise his own children there. I thought about that a lot, and started writing scenes with a character who felt stuck. My protagonist is a boy who has joined a gang, because it offers him a lot of support. Then the gang—the Klan—makes demands on him, and he wishes he hadn’t joined. But it’s too late.
El Space: How long did it take you to write Brotherhood?
Anne: I started in 2008, completed a first draft in 2009, then rewrote it five times during 2010. In 2011, I polished the story and the manuscript got the attention of an agent who sold it to Viking. My editor there asked for revisions, and I worked on those in 2012 and early 2013.
El Space: What tools were helpful as you researched the time period?
Anne: Books, libraries, museums, and the Internet were great. I set the story in Richmond, Virginia, where I live, and I made a point to walk or drive down every street mentioned in the story, and linger en route, taking in the details—the angle of the light, the toll of church bells, the views of Richmond’s hills.
El Space: What appealed to you about this time period? What were the challenges of writing about such a turbulent period in history?
Anne: Many have written nonfiction about this time period—Reconstruction—but I hadn’t seen a lot of good fiction set after the Civil War, so I figured that even in today’s saturated market, there might be a place for a novel set in the late 1860s. I’d also noticed that while there are books featuring Southern elites—plantation owners—and African-Americans, both free and enslaved, few books feature ordinary poor white tradesmen. I didn’t think their story had yet been told.
El Space: Many writers sprinkle a little bit of themselves in their characters. Which character, if any, is very much like you? Which is extremely different from you?
Anne: I was a little goody-goody growing up, so my bad-boy character, Jeremiah, was really hard to write. I’d like to think that the character most like me is Rachel, the African-American teacher who is strong and funny and determined. But I’m probably more like the protagonist, Shad—sometimes unsure and questioning how I got into a situation I didn’t plan on, and basically trying hard, but not always succeeding.
El Space: What authors or books inspire you as a writer?
Anne: For writing inspiration, I’ve read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird three times. She was the first to give me permission to write badly and revise later, and without that advice, I wouldn’t have a book coming into the world this year.
Thanks, Anne, for visiting today! Anyone else who stopped by need not say good-bye to Anne. You can visit her at her website, Facebook, or on Twitter. And don’t forget that Brotherhood is available here:
I’ve got an ARC of Brotherhood signed by Anne and a bookmark ready to leave my hands and find a home in yours. Simply comment below to be entered in the drawing to receive both. The winner will be announced on Saturday. Previous winners sadly remain ineligible until September. But please don’t let that stop you from commenting! As Edna Mode from The Incredibles would say, “I enjoy our visits.”
Photos of Richmond from Wikipedia. Bird by Bird cover from Goodreads. Edna Mode from msednamode.blogspot.com.