Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest post from Taylor M Polites

I'm honored to welcome Taylor M. Polites, author of REBEL WIFE. Set in Reconstruction Alabama, Augusta “Gus” Branson's is a young widow whose quest for freedom turns into a race for her life when her husband Eli dies of a horrifying fever, and a large package of money – her only inheritance and means of survival – goes missing. Gus begins to wake to the realities that surround her: the social stigma her marriage has stained her with, what her husband did to earn his fortune, the shifting and dangerous political and social landscape that is being destroyed by violence between the Klan and the Freeman's Bureau, and the deadly fever that is spreading like wildfire. Nothing is as she believed, everyone she trusts is hiding something from her.

I really enjoyed this novel. It presents a different picture of what we often see in fiction about the south, after the Civil War, when slaves were suddenly free and an entire society had to dig itself out of the ashes of defeat. Mr Polites has clearly researched his subject in depth and it's a delight to have him with us today. Please join me in welcoming Taylor M. Polites!

Writing The Rebel Wife

This is my first novel, and I think for many people, the first novel is the hardest. It is not the first novel I have tried to write, of course, but the first one that I have finished, and hallelujah for that!

I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, and that town is really the basis for Albion in the novel. Growing up in Alabama, learning about the old homes and the history and the hard times, laid the groundwork for a specific way of understanding the Civil War. Getting older, I continued to be fascinated by that time and to read about it. I was looking for another level of awareness and understanding about the Civil War and Reconstruction. I began to understand Reconstruction not as a rampage of Republican carpetbaggers hell-bent on pillaging the state (although there is no doubt there was corruption, just as there was corruption in the Bourbon administrations that followed Reconstruction), but as a time of idealism and experimentation. This was a time in modern history when a people held in bondage were freed and given equal rights with their former captors. When in history has something like this ever happened before? It was an amazing, truly mind-blowing time, and there was a harsh and violent reaction against it that led to another hundred years of segregation and white racial dominance. What an amazing field in which to write a book!

So I began from that perspective as someone who thought about the Civil War and Reconstruction one way, but over time learned that things were not quite as originally presented. The main character, Augusta, goes through a parallel change, but she is in the period. She understands what happened and what people said about the war and the carpetbaggers, but she wakes up, she looks around her, she weighs what she believes against what she sees. And that brings about a change in her.

Her character, too, changed over the years I spent on this book. I did much writing, first in 1998. Realizing I had much more research to do, I put the idea aside and zeroed in on research for the period. Again in 2002, I picked up the story and wrote about 200 pages of text, but still felt short on what I needed to know. I went back to the history books and research. Finally, in 2006, I made a major life change. I decided this was the time for me to make a go of writing, or I would never do it. I left my job in New York City, moved to Cape Cod and began to work on this book again. Through the wonderful and fortuitous guidance of some good friends, I entered the Wilkes University MFA program and found a mentor, the great novelist Kaylie Jones, who helped me bring this work to its end. What an incredible ride! And what a dream come true!

Thank you so much for giving me space on your blog to talk about my book!

Thank you, Taylor. Best of luck with this fascinating novel! To learn more about Taylor Polites, please visit his website.


Kathy said...

I am so excited to read this novel. It looks great and because it gets your approval, I know I'll love it!
PS... LOVE The Queen's Vow cover...beautiful!

Tribute Books said...

C.W. - as an established and uber-talented historical fiction writer, yourself - thanks for embracing Taylor's debut novel and for sharing it with all of your blog readers. It means a lot. We're thrilled to have you as a part of "The Rebel Wife" blog tour.

tmpolites said...

Hey CW--thanks again for your kind words and letting me talk on your website. Your novels look fascinating and beautiful--I look forward to checking them out, too!

And thanks Kathy! I look forward to hearing what you think!

Sam Thomas said...

Hi Taylor-

I just moved from Huntsville (I taught history at UAH), so I've got some sense of how complicated it must have been to write about this subject. Kudos on finding a balanced perspective, and good luck moving forward!

If you would be interested in doing so, I can put you in touch with colleagues from the department. They have a nascent public history program, and I'm sure your book would be of great interest.

Sam Thomas

C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you! Kathy, so happy you like Queen's Vow cover; hope you enjoy the book! Taylor, great to have you here and thank you, Nicole, for giving me a chance to read Rebel Wife. Hi, Sam!

tmpolites said...

Hey C.W. Thanks so much for reading TRW and giving me space on your blog!

Hey Sam, that would be wonderful! I'll actually be coming to Huntsville in a week or so and it would be a great time to meet and see what we can work on together.

Thank you!!!

Sam Thomas said...

Hey Taylor,

I'm actually now living in Ohio, so we'll have to find another time to meet. Are you doing a reading?

If so, send me the details, and I'll get the word out as best I can. (There are a couple of facebook groups I can post it on.)

Good luck!