5 character facts: the “special features” part of Hagridden

There’s this writerly meme going around. The rules: to share five facts about the main character from my current work-in-progress.

I got tapped for this on Facebook, by the amazing Ally Malinenko, author of one of my favorite stories ever in Jersey Devil Press. Ally has a book coming out (very!) soon, the beautiful-sounding This Is Sarah, and in a couple of weeks I’m going to run an interview with her here on the blog. So I wanted to respond to the meme here as well, as a kind of heads-up about the interview.

And I’m going to cheat. The meme is supposed to address a WIP, but the book that I’m going to be working on this summer, I’m not actually working on yet. I’m still setting it up, getting to know the characters. (I might return to this later and do it again, just as a character-building exercise.)

So instead I’m going to do Hagridden, because, 1) it’s not out until August 19, so it’s still “in progress” (right? wink wink), and 2) I’m actually working this week on a series of stories related to the book, with some minor characters in the novel becoming main characters in the stories. So it counts.

For this, though, I’m going to stick to the novel, and I’m going to give you five details about the main characters — yes, plural: the woman and the girl (the woman’s daughter-in-law). And I’m going to give you details that are mentioned in the novel, but they’re the kinds of character-background details that I know a lot more about than gets revealed in the book. So consider this the special-features section if the novel were a dvd. 🙂

  1. The woman is a closet alcoholic. She’d never admit it, and everyone thinks she’s a teetotaler because she never let her husband Alphonse keep liquor in the house. But actually, she wouldn’t let him keep it around because she knew she’d be in the bottle if he did. (In the novel, she does find a bottle Alphonse hid from her, and after he dies it becomes her most treasured possession.)
  2. Unlike practically everyone else in the novel, the girl isn’t local to the bayou. Most of the white folks are Cajuns or Anglo-Cajuns (the woman is Cajun with Native American ancestry), and there’s a free black Creole, but the girl comes from the Carolinas. That’s how she puts it, never specifying which Carolina she’s from, because what’s left of her family — brothers, mostly — lives in both North Carolina and South Carolina. But between you and me, she’s from North.
  3. The girl wound up in Louisiana, and married to her now-dead husband Remy, by accident. She and her parents were on a ship headed for Texas when they got caught in a storm and shipwrecked off the coast of Louisiana. (This is loosely based on a real shipwreck, though that one occurred about 30 years later and 35 miles west, near the Texas border.) This is never explicitly stated in the novel, but the girl was only 16 at the time of the wreck; she was 17 when her parents died and she married Remy.
  4. The woman, as I mentioned earlier, is part Native. Her background is actually Chitimacha, a tribe from a bit farther east in Louisiana. The tribe was known for its strong, independent women, which is where the woman gets her fierce will and her survivalist fortitude. It’s also why, when her house fell down in a storm in the first years of the war, she was able to build a reed hut from scratch — the structure, called a palmetto house, is traditional to the Chitimacha people (though the woman’s house isn’t as complex or as sturdy, since she was working from childhood memories of stories told by her grandmother).
  5. The woman and the girl have names but I never give them and I never will. When I first considered doing this meme, I nearly chose to write it about the “main character” of the bayou itself, because it’s that region that dominates the novel and directs most of the characters’ lives. These women are a part of that, not quite forces of nature in their own right but certainly agents of nature. Which is why I never name them.

Hagridden comes out August 19 from Columbus Press! Check the website for updates!

Oh, and I’m supposed to tag more writers to play along, so here we go: I’m calling out Hannah Pass (who, rumor has it, is working on a novel right now), Alexis M. Smith (who better be working on something new because I LOVED her novel Glaciers), and Luke B. Goebel (whom I just met, but his forthcoming book, Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours, sounds amazing!). None of them are obligated to participate, but I’d sure love to hear more from them about their work.


Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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