"A stunning debut novel about black American pioneers in the South Dakota Badlands
It is 1917 in the South Dakota Badlands, and summer has been hard. Fourteen years have passed since Rachel and Isaac DuPree left Chicago to stake a claim in this unforgiving land. Isaac, a former Buffalo Soldier, is fiercely proud: black families are rare in the West, and black ranchers even rarer.
But it hasn’t rained in months, the cattle bellow with thirst, and supplies are dwindling. Pregnant, and struggling to feed her family, Rachel is isolated by more than just geography. She is determined to give her surviving children the life they deserve, but she knows that her husband will never leave his ranch: land means a measure of equality with the white man, and Isaac DuPree is not about to give it up just because times are hard. Somehow Rachel must find the strength to do what is right – for her children, for her husband, and for herself.
Moving and majestic, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree is an unforgettable novel about love and loyalty, homeland and belonging. Above all, it is the story of one woman’s courage in the face of the most punishing adversity. "
About the authorAnn Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. After graduating from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, she was a social worker in a psychiatric hospital before moving to Houston, Texas, with her husband. She earned a Master of Arts in Sociology at the University of Houston and taught high school and later, sociology at a junior college. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa, but now splits her time between Sugar Land, Texas, and Galveston, Texas.
Hi, Ann, tell us a little about your novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree:
"It’s a story about the meaning of land and what people will do to get it and then what they’ll do to keep it. It’s about loyalty and pride, and the refusal to give up in spite of overwhelming odds. The novel takes place in the South Dakota Badlands in 1917. The main characters are Rachel and Isaac DuPree who are the successful owners of a cattle ranch.
"Everything changes when the rain stops and the cattle begin to die. When Rachel and Isaac have to lower one of their children into a well to ladle up water, Rachel begins to question just how far she is willing to go to keep the ranch. Isaac, though, is determined to do whatever it takes. Eventually, Rachel and Isaac become locked in a struggle against one another as they both try to do what they believe is best for themselves and for their children. "
How did you and Macmillan New Writing meet?
"In January 2007, I read an article in Poets & Writers about a UK-based publishing house that was willing to consider unsolicited manuscripts. The only catch was the house didn’t pay advances. That didn’t matter to me. If Macmillan New Writing was willing to read my manuscript, I was willing to give it a shot. In March, I e-mailed my manuscript, and in June, I heard from Will Atkins."
What is your typical writing day like?
"I try to write two to three hours a day. Sometimes that happens in the mornings and other times it might be late at night. It all depends on the day. "
Four random facts:
Worst thing about writing
"Once in awhile my characters get into such a fix that I feel sorry for them. What are they going to do now? Then it hits me. I’m the writer. I got them into the mess, and now I have to get them out of it. That’s when the computer screen goes blank and so does my mind. "
Best thing about writing
"I love stepping away from my own life and sinking into the world of my characters. It’s a chance to be someone else. That’s fun. "
Writers you most admire
"Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy readily come to mind. I admire their skills with dialogue – both men know how to pack a punch with just a few words. "
Most ludicrous moment in your life
"Without a doubt, it was the moment when I decided to write a novel. I didn’t have a clue what all was involved or how to go about it. Ignorance might be bliss, but it was also time consuming. It took me seven years to write this novel. That’s the one thing I’m glad I didn’t know when I started. "
Thanks, Ann, and congratulations. The Personal History of Rachel DuPree is out on 6th June 2008, from all good bookshops. For more information please check out:
The Macmillan New Writing website