Monday, August 25, 2008

David Ebershoff

From a Q & A with David Ebershoff about his novel, The 19th Wife:

How did you first encounter the story of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and what drew you to her story?

I first heard about Ann Eliza Young seven years ago while editing a book for the Modern Library. I had hired a scholar — a specialist in 19th century women’s history — to write a set of endnotes for a classic we were reissuing. History geek that I am, one afternoon I was gabbing with her about all sorts of 19th-century arcana when she mentioned the 19th Wife. I told her I’d never heard of her and she gave a me brief introduction. Needless to say, my writer’s ears stood up.

At the time I was working on another novel, one that I would ultimately put aside to write The 19th Wife. And so for a few years, while my attention was elsewhere, that nickname — the 19th Wife — continued to ring in my head. The 19th Wife? Who was that? What does it even mean to be a 19th wife? After a few years I started looking into that question. As I read more about Ann Eliza Young, I recognized how remarkable she was: intelligent, outspoken, declarative, contradictory, somewhat unreliable, a tad melodramatic, very beautiful (and a little bit vain) — she possessed a number of traits that can make a character in a novel unpredictable, and therefore interesting. I found myself torn between the novel I was working on and a nearly overwhelming desire to throw myself into the world of Ann Eliza and polygamy. Then one night I woke up — literally sat up in bed — and I knew I had to write this book. Just one problem: What book was I going to write? How would I tell her story? And how to make it relevant to today? It took a long, unsettling year of research before I could begin actually writing.
Read the entire Q & A.

Visit David Ebershoff's website.

The Page 69 Test: The 19th Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue