Rachel Urquhart's forthcoming debut novel is The Visionist.
From a Q & A at Urquhart's website:
What inspired you to write The Visionist?Visit Rachel Urquhart's website.
Though I have spent much of my life living in a converted Shaker meeting house (bought by my grandfather in the 1930s), I knew only the most obvious facts about the sect before I began researching my book. I thought of the Shakers as holier-than-thou do-gooders and wrote The Visionist almost in spite of the pegs lining my bedroom walls and the huge Shaker sideboard in my family’s kitchen, not because of them. What really got me interested in the group—after 40 years of indifference—was reading about the “Era of Manifestations,” a 10-year-long Shaker revival period that took place in the mid-1800s and was characterized almost entirely by the hallucinatory behavior of a select but widespread group of teenage girls. The Shakers called them “Visionists,” hence the title of my book. Equally interesting to me were the prayers and songs written during the revival. They are dark and obsessive, especially on such subjects as carnality; the brutal severing of family ties; and, of course, the devil. All together, the cult-like package made the Shakers a lot more interesting than I’d given them credit for; indeed, it made them irresistible.
What makes the Shakers and their community such fertile territory for fiction?
The exploration of any group living in near-total isolation from the rest of the world can make for a potentially interesting story. The Shakers are particularly intriguing because they asked so much of their believers. The Shakers made it impossible for...[read on]