Saturday, May 17, 2008

Louisiana Saturday Night With Rosalind Foley

Every now and then we come across a writer we know is the publishing world's loss. Rosalind Foley is that writer for me. I can't remember when I met Ro, but I do recall sitting on my sofa totally captivated by her novel, Hero's Welcome. I didn't budge until I finished it and very few days go by that I don't think of some aspect of the story. When I'm asked about my favorite book, Hero's Welcome springs to mind. Ro and I have been friends for years, critique buddies and conference pals. I can't tell you how pleased I am to share her with you today.

1. You've written some articles, essays, poetry, screenplays and novels, some of which have been published. You co-authored a memoir, now in its second edition. How did you learn to be so prolific?

Curiosity, I guess. I wanted to see if I could. I come from a family of readers. Words matter to us. We moved a great deal and I went to a lot of different schools where I think I got a fairly broad education.

2. You did a lot of research for your novel that I particularly love, Hero's Welcome. Tell us about it.
It started when a neighbor happened to mention that her dad used to drive German P.O.W.s to work in the rice fields of Acadia Parish (i.e. county, outside Louisiana). I hadn't known there were POWs here in WWII. I had one of those "what if?" moments when I wondered what it would have been like for a Cajun rice farmer to wake up his first morning back from the war hearing German voices.

The more I learned, the more intrigued I was by the elements of conflict. There's a rice farming area of Louisiana which was settled many years earlier by Germans who live side by side with Cajuns. That where I planted my characters.

3. Didn't you get involved in a very extensive research project?
Yes, when I discovered the POW experience was much larger than I could have imagined. It had never been documented. (There were 49 POW camps in Louisiana with thousands of captured Germans in them.) I teamed up with History Professor Matt Schott to collect everything we could on that remarkable era, both here and in Germany. Recently, we turned over all our interview tapes, correspondence, other papers, photographs and memorabilia to the ULL archives.

4. Did your novel get published?
No, but I'm still hoping. And it led me into screenwriting which I find really satisfying. I'd always felt Hero's Welcome had great dramatic potential. An earlier version of the novel took first place in the Deep South Writers Conference contest. The feature length screenplay version finished second in a Shot in LA contest at Loyola, New Orleans.

5. What does it take to be a screenwriter?
The ability to think as the camera sees. A certain degree of masochism, because it's just as difficult a market as literary fiction!

6. You submitted work and were accepted in a class taught by Ernest Gaines. What did you learn from him?
To write "clean", and how one small just right detail can speak volumes.

7. What advice would you give?
Two books every sincere writer should read and re-read whether writing fiction or screenplays: Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, and Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey.

8. What are you working on these days?
Marketing. A series of short stories imagining events around minor Biblical characters. My most recent screenplay is set in colonial Louisiana. It's the story of a woman of color, the mistress and great love of a French planter. Unable by law to marry her, he is forced by his family to let her go. With incredible willpower she develops the piece of land he gives her, becoming successful in her own right and swearing never to rest until all her children, too, are free. Truly a liberated woman.


Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have been to your blog. What a wonderful interview.

Erica Vetsch said...

Terrific interview. I'd love to read Hero's Welcome. I've got a few books on German POW's in the US.

AngBreidenbach said...

I hope they do publish your book. We had quite a few Italians held during WWII in Missoula. Some of these folks stayed once the war was over and they were released. There is a rich history in Montana about WWII that I think might be a little less known too. Thanks.