Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Interview with Ann Weisgarber

Yesterday I reviewed Ann Weisgarber's The Promise, a stunningly delicious novel set in 1900 Galveston, Texas, featuring two unshakeable narrators and a poignant story.  It's going to make my top ten of 2014, I know it, and I can't stop enthusing about it.  I'm delighted to share my interview with Ann Weisgarber to learn more about her and her writing (as well as how she and I met!).  Be sure to enter the giveaway, too!

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Audra, it was great fun meeting you last June at the Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was at the book signing and when you introduced yourself, I bounced out of my chair to give you a big hug. You had written a lovely review for my first novel, and I was excited to meet you in person. Thank you so much for reading The Promise and for giving me the opportunity to be part of your blog again.

Ann Weisgarber
What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

I’m a late bloomer. Unlike many writers, I didn’t write stories when I was a kid or when I was in my twenties. I did try to write poetry and took a non-credit poetry workshop when I lived in Des Moines. I didn’t have the talent or the perseverance to develop the craft. Yet, when I look at these poems, I see the foundations for my novels. Many are set in the West and one is about a man who chooses his ranch over his wife. This theme is suggested in my first novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree. Another poem is about a woman whose husband disappears in the Galveston 1900 Storm, a historic event that plays a role in The Promise.

I hadn’t thought about the connection until your question. Now I realize both novels began with poems.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I write at home and in a small study that looks out onto our screened porch. I have an old-fashioned timer that I set for an hour. I make myself work at my desk until the obnoxious bell goes off. Then I set the timer for fifteen minutes and leave my desk. I run the sweeper, put a load of laundry in the washing machine or unload the dishwasher. When the fifteen-minute bell goes off, it’s back to work for another hour. That pace works well for me.

Was The Promise the original title of your book?

My original title was Galveston 1900. My Mantle editors in London quickly told me we needed to do better. I tried and tried but couldn’t think of a thing. One of the editors came up with The Promise, and I think it works well since there are many promises made throughout the book. It also reflects the promise I’d made with myself to remember the nearly forgotten people who lived on the rural part of Galveston Island in 1900.

As you were writing The Promise, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

One of the main characters, Nan Ogden, was originally a minor character. She’s a young woman born and raised on the rural end of Galveston who takes care of a little boy after his mother dies. As I wrote the story, her presence took over and demanded more space. It was a Eureka! moment when I realized she should be a second narrator. It seems obvious now but when the thought first occurred to me, it took me by surprise.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I’m a baseball fan, and my husband and I go to Astros games whenever we can. I’m one of those nuts who keeps score but I don’t take a mitt to the games. When a line drive comes my way, I dive for cover.

Read any good books recently?

Gary Schanbacher’s Crossing Purgatory is one of the best novels I’ve read in years. It takes place before the Civil War and the heart of the story is set in eastern Colorado. I’m thrilled that I’m meeting Gary at the 2014 Western Writers of America Convention in Sacramento in June. I’m excited about Ellen Feldman’s soon-to-be-released The Unwitting that takes place in the 1950’s during the Cold War. I read the advanced reading copy of Lin Enger’s The High Divide that will be published in September. He’s a gifted story teller with a captivating voice.

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My thanks to Ms. Weisgarber for her time and thoughtful answers. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Promise to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers only, ends 5/9.


  1. Well wow, if you think it will make your top ten, then I must see what's so good about it! :--) Besides, I like the fact that it has the Galveston 1900 Storm as background - sounds really good!

    1. Really delightful -- has that perfect mix of drama, emotion, memorable characters, sense of place, and EVENTS that made it un-put-down-able! Hope you get it and love it!

  2. Hello Audra! Thank you for the interview. You're the only person who's asked about the title so that was especially fun to answer. I'm terrible with titles so I need to take some kind course for that. Or maybe consult with poets since they're the pros.