Engaging Novel Interview
Instead of interviewing an author or writing about my own work, I will interview a Southern Magic author’s novel. This will work basically like a book review, except it will only cover the first 16 sentences of the novel. See if you can guess what story this is, and who wrote it.
Throughout the endless, hot summer of 1864, Isabelle Ryan Holloway had watched her entire world crumble around her like the parched, red Georgia clay. Her heart plummeted to the toes of her well-worn shoes as she, her mother, Caroline, brother, Grayson, and Uncle Hewlett, the grizzled old manservant who’d attended her father until his death, walked up from the servants’ quarters to take back possession of her house.
“They’ve cut down every tree,” she cried. A jagged stump remained where an oak once stood her father had planted as a boy.
“They used them for firewood,” Uncle Hewlett murmured. “Some of the chairs, too.”
Isabelle squeezed her eyes shut against the sight of the charred remains of one of her dining room chairs her Grandmother Ryan had imported from England.
How many happy, carefree meals had her family shared, seated on those very chairs, when her father and grandparents still lived?
It was as if those chairs represented a different time. A time before war had come to Georgia, before the Yankees had come winding up the drive at Clover Bottom, like a writhing snake, poised to strike. Soldiers on foot, on horseback. Wagon after wagon—all filled with wounded.
She’d faced the Federals down, pitchfork in hand, but in the end, she’d had little other choice than to acquiesce, and give them the house to use as a hospital, or risk losing it to their torches. There’d been so many men. So many blue coats interspersed with the less common, colorful Yankee Zouave uniforms. And if, on that fateful day, they’d charged her, there hadn’t been much she could have done other than add a couple more wounded to their number. Further resistance had been futile.
1. Does it connect the reader with the protagonist? Yes. I connected to Isabelle and felt her sorrow. The hopelessness and helplessness of being in a war torn area surrounded by the enemy.
2. What is happening? Isabelle and her mother, brother, and uncle are sneaking in the back door of her home to take back control.
3. Is it dramatized? Yes. Her heart breaks at seeing their dining room furniture used as firewood and the desolation of the countryside.
4. Does the action move the story forward? Yes. Isabelle and crew are sneaking in the house through the servants’ entrance. The scene is described but not overly done – it was engaging.
5. Does what happens have consequences? Yes. This little revolt could cause the Union Army to burn Isabelle’s house as punishment for resisting or she and her family would be added to the list of causualties.
6. Does the protagonist do something? Yes. Isabelle walks then pauses to mourn the burned tree and furniture, setting the surrounding scene as they journey from the slaves quarters to the big house.
7. Does the protagonist desire something? Yes. Isabelle wants her home back and for the men to quit destroying life as she knew it.
8. Is the action current? Yes, for the most part. This is a mix of current action and remembrance of what led to this. It sets the overall scene in an effective way.
9. Is there enough setting? Yes. I see the plantation in my mind with everything bare around it because the wagons and troops have destroyed everything but the house.
10. Does what happen raise a story question? Yes. Does she succeed in running out the army or does she lose her home? Or, is she put to a different purpose now that she is rebelling against the reigning army? Since the home is used as a hospital, does she fall prey to the men inside? Lots of questions to be answered. This is a historical so we know the big picture of events, but we don’t know what happens on the individual level.
I give the start of this story a full 10 points because all questions were answered with a yes. So, what do you think? Is this a story that you’d like to read? I’m intrigued myself and want to know how it ends. The author has graciously agreed to award the story free to one luck individual. Post a comment to qualify. Below are the Novel name and a short summary as well as the Author Bio.
Hope you enjoy my review,
Philisha Byrd Stephens