Friday, July 16, 2010

INSIDE OUT with Dolen Perkins-Valdez

with Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She is a graduate of Harvard and George Washington University. She has published fiction in The Kenyon Review and elsewhere. Wench is her first novel.

Urban Reviews:  Tell our readers about Wench.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  WENCH tells the story of four women who are the enslaved mistresses of their masters. They meet at a summer resort in 1850s Ohio and begin to contemplate escape when the spirited Mawu arrives. She pushes them to think about running and leaving behind their plantations. Yet the decision is a difficult one, especially for my protagonist Lizzie who believes she loves her master and that he loves her. The novel examines the complicated dynamic between a female slave and her white male master.

Urban Reviews:  How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  I was reading a biography of W.E.B. Du Bois and, during a section about his time spent on the campus of Wilberforce University, I came across a stunning line about the existence of a summer resort in Ohio that was popular among slaveholders and their enslaved mistresses. I could not get this idea out of my head. I had so many questions. I began to delve into the archives, and found very little. These women left no record behind. Neither did the men, as far as I could tell. I wanted to write this book to answer my own questions of what life would have been like for these women.

Urban Reviews:  What are your ultimate goals as far as the literary industry?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  I'd love to keep publishing and writing stories. This is a very tough business, but I love to write and I hope my readers will hang in there with me.

Urban Reviews:  Who do you think will most enjoy Wench? Is there anyone who shouldn't read it for whatever reason?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  My hope is that everyone will read Wench! It has resonated most with women readers, particularly those who want to learn something new and different about this period in history.

Urban Reviews:  Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  All I can say is that I am still waiting for inspiration for the next literary project. I won't begin something until I feel extremely compelled because I know that it will take quite some time to finish!! Stay tuned.

Wench: A Novel
Urban Reviews:  Do you have any favorite authors or books?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  I am influenced by so much more than fiction, but the great novels that changed my life include Toni Morrison's Beloved, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Gayl Jones' The Healing, and Edward P. Jones' All Aunt Hagar's Children.

Urban Reviews:  What's the best literary advice you've gotten from another person in the literary world so far?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  I recently had lunch with the legendary Marita Golden who had some very wise words of wisdom for me. She reminded me that although the writing seems to be the most important thing, I should always keep "friends, faith, and family first." She is a gem of a person, and I cherish that advice.

Urban Reviews:  Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your novel?
Dolen Perkins-Valdez:  I believe in the importance of telling the story of these slave women. That is what motivated me to keep going all these years. I hope other writers who have not yet published will keep writing! There are so many stories that need to be told. If you don't tell the story that is in your heart, who will?


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