My Life In Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.
Way back before Random Things, in 2009, I read Ann's first novel The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. I absolutely adored that book, it totally blew me away. It was always going to be a hard act to follow, but Ann nailed it with her second book The Promise which I reviewed on Random Things in January 2013,
If you haven't read Ann's books, I'd really urge you to go out and buy them, I really do recommend both of them.
And here's some really exciting news about The Personal History of Rachel DuPree:
My Life In Books ~ Ann Weisgarber
Whenever I'm asked to list my hobbies, reading always tops the list. I panic if I don't have a book on hand or if the stack on my nightstand dwindles down to only one book.
It began for me with children's literature. I have sweet memories of sitting on the sofa with my mother and my older brother. I was five. Each day, she read one chapter of Charlotte's Web by E B White to us. I was so captivated by the story my mother had to remind me to stop holding my breath.
Since then, I have re-read the novel countless times. It's an unforgettable story about friendship, love, sacrifice, and the power of the written word.
Another childhood favourite is Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could. The chant "I think I can, I think I can," is my motto when my own writing is stuck.
When I was ten, my grandmother gave me The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It has 298 pages - I still have the copy - and I felt quite grown up with it on my shelf. It was the first novel I'd read that took place in England and for many years, I was convinced everyone in England lived in mansions with walled gardens. The gift of this story was it made me imagine a world very different from my home in Ohio.
Edith Wharton's Ethan Frame is probably the first book I read that made me keenly aware of atmosphere. There's a sense of doom from the first paragraph on but even still, the twist at the end is unexpected. I've studied this story, line by line, to understand how Wharton pulls it off.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee knocked the pins out from under me when I first read it. The narrator's voice jumps off the page but most important, the author tackles sensitive topic: injustice and institutionalised racism. Through literature and through a child's perspective, Lee shook up Americans and helped to start a conversation about race.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is probably the bravest novel I've read. The author plunges headfirst into topics rarely discussed in 1982 when the book was published. I greatly admire Alice Walker and her editor for their courage to write and publish a book that truly goes to dangerous but necessary places.
When it comes to dialogue, my go-to novel is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I've read it so many times, the spine fell off my hardcover copy. The novel is packed with characters but each has his/her own voice.
I'm a big fan of Billy Collin's poetry and especially love the poems in his book, Sailing Around the Room. Many begin with humour, then reveal truths, that cause me to sit up straight and think. I love how Collin surprises me, yet the surprises are logical. He reminds me the actions of my characters must make sense.
The voice of the teenage narrator in Carol Rifka Brunt's Tell The Wolves I'm Home is one of the most compelling I've read in years. The narrator is not wise beyond her years, and her voice rings true from start to finish. Brunt's ability to pull this off inspires me to do my best to keep my characters "human".
Juliet West beautifully imagines the inner lives of two historical figures in her novel, Before The Fall. Like Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, the sense of doom builds with each page. On the surface, the narrator might not be a sympathetic character but West handles the character with care and respect. That, I believe is an author's duty.
This is a quick peek into my life with books. Every book I read, great and not so great, shapes me as a writer and a reader. As a reader, I love dipping into other worlds. As a writer, I admire anyone who has the courage to string sentences into stories.
Ann Weisgarber ~ May 2016
Ann Weisgarber is the author of The Promise and the The Personal History of Rachel DuPree that was nominated for the 2009 Orange Prize and the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers.
In the United States, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer.
The Promise was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, was the first finalist for the Spur Award for Best Western Historical Fiction, and was a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction.
The Promise was inspired by a dilapidated house and by an interview Ann conducted when she was writing articles for a Galveston magazine. She wrote much of the novel in Galveston where pelicans glide along the surf and cows graze in pastures. Her debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was inspired by a photograph of an unknown woman sitting in front of a sod dugout. It was published in England and France before being published in the United States.
Ann was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. She graduated from Wright State University in Dayton with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Houston. She has been a Social Worker in psychiatric and nursing home facilities, and taught Sociology at Wharton County Junior College in Texas.
In addition to Ohio and Texas, Ann has lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She now splits her time between Sugar Lands, Texas (home to Imperial Sugar Company), and Galveston Texas. She and her husband, Rob, are fans of America's national parks and visit at least one park a year.
Ann serves on the selection committee for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. She is currently working on her next novel that takes place in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, during the winter of 1888.
Find out more about Ann and her writing at www.annweisgarber.com
Follow her on Twitter @AnnWeisgarber