05-03-2012 09:31 AM - edited 05-08-2012 08:52 AM
Q&A with Rae Meadows
Author of Mercy Train
Debbie - Rae, welcome to the B&N General Fiction book club forum
Rae - Hi, Deb. Thanks so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
First to all of you, this novel was first published in March of 2011 under the title Mother’s & Daughters and is now being release in paperback with this new title, so Rae please tell us why this is.
Mercy Train was my original title for the novel, but the hardcover publisher decided on Mothers and Daughters because they felt it would have broader appeal. In the end, I think that title ended up feeling a bit too general. So I was thrilled when St. Martin's/Griffin, the publisher of the paperback edition, agreed to go with Mercy Train, a title that I think better captures the tenor of the book. I love the new cover as well. I had never heard of a book changing titles, so I feel very lucky that my novel is coming out in a form that is more closely aligned with how I envisioned it.
Please tell us a little about your new title Mercy Train
Mercy Train is a novel of three generations of women—Violet, Iris, and Samantha—whose stories are woven together to span the twentieth century. It’s about love, loss, the secrets we keep from those closest to us, and the legacy of the Orphan Train Movement.
This is your third published novel, tell us about the experience of selling your first novel and are you just as excited now as you were then
I was working as a copywriter when I sold my first novel, and although I didn’t quit my job, I had a newfound sense of possibility and validation. No doubt about it, it was an incredible feeling. And yes, it’s just as exciting to publish this one! Unfortunately novel writing doesn’t get any easier, so each book feels like its own major achievement.
Do you have a background in writing, tell us a little about Rae
I was an Art History major in college, and then I worked for advertising agencies and clothing companies in San Francisco before writing my first story at age twenty-six. From there I took a continuing education class where I met a great teacher and mentor, and then went on to get an MFA. Before having kids I was also a potter, but that pursuit is on hold until there are more hours in a day.
Do you write full time
I’m a full-time mom to a seventeen-month-old and a four-year-old, which means writing gets squeezed in while they are asleep.
Do you belong to a writers group
I don’t currently, though when I lived in Madison, WI—up until a year-and-a-half ago—I belonged to a wonderful group of supportive and insightful women novelists. They were early readers of Mercy Train.
Where do your books sit on the genre shelf and do you like being categorized in a specific genre
I’m not sure I think of myself as writing in a specific genre other than literary fiction, but Mercy Train is part historical, which was new to me. Each novel feels like its own thing, though my next book will be historical fiction again—it takes place during the Dust Bowl of the thirties.
Two of your favorite novels are by favorite authors of mine, Ernest Hemingway and Stuart O’Nan. What do you look for when you choose something to read for yourself
That is a great question and I wish I had a real answer. I like to mix up my reading, old and new, fiction and nonfiction, and my reading list is pretty random. I like the serendipity of reading book to book without a plan. The last bunch of books I read came to me like this. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I was already a big fan of his so I was excited for this one. And it didn’t disappoint. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My husband is an English teacher and I decided to reread this wonderful novel as he taught it to his class. Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman. My sister reviewed this debut and she knew I would like it. I was wowed by the voice of this book. So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore. This is my friend Meg’s wonderful new second novel. American Exodus by Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor, an out-of-print pictorial from the Depression. Research for my next book.
I’m sure the fans would love to meet you in person do you have any B&N events or signings planned
I don’t have any B&N events planned at the moment, but I love meeting readers—it’s really one of the most gratifying things about publishing a novel. A great way to do this is through book clubs. Invite me! If it’s not local, I’ll gladly Skype in. Or if readers have questions or comments, please email me directly (via my website).
Thank you so much for taking the time let us get to know you a little better and good luck with Mercy Train.
Thank you, Deb. And thanks to everyone who reads and loves books!
My review of Mercy Train
Samantha finds herself on a precipice, her role as mother has been her end all but now it’s time to return to her work, but her potter’s wheel remains dust covered as she instead breaks open a seal to mementos discovered from her mother who died two years prior. As she goes through the items both foreign and familiar, she finds things from both her mother Iris and her grandmother Violet which opens a new path of discovery for Sam, a discovery of two women who she should have known deeper, a discovery that could lead to answers of how she copes with life, love and loss, a discovery of why her relationship with her mother was like it was, a discovery of how all of these things could have been molded even before she was born and a mystery she now finds she needs to solve.
Iris is dying of cancer and she’s ready to go. Knowing her daughter is coming to see her off on her final journey is both troubling and comforting because there are things that she’s never revealed, things that she knows she should have told Sam, but then the relationship between she and her own mother was always full of things left unsaid.
Violet finds herself a mostly motherless child on the wild streets of New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Her mother unable to cope with Violet or life itself sends Violet on a train that will change her life. From that ride on the Mercy Train Violet will discover things about herself and the world that both please and worry her, the ride will shape her life and her relationships with others even those who should be closest to her, that ride will shape not only her life but the lives of future generations.
Rae Meadows brought me a poignant look at how the past shapes the future, how nature as well as nurture have as much to do with how we live and look at life as anything does. She brings me a story of three women daughter, mother and grandmother who’s lives reflect that beautifully, she shows how the cycle of secrets change lives and not always for the better and how that cycle can be altered by love and enlightening and looking inside one’s own heart. How one woman can learn from the accomplishments as well as the failures of generations past to better not only her own future but the relationship that will evolve between she and her own daughter. She discloses things historically accurate about the Orphan Trains that traveled with unsuspecting yet hopeful children from NYC to our heartlands.
Mercy Train is a mix of historical and contemporary, literary and women’s fiction with a narrative that took me right inside the pages to the scenes created by the imaginative mind of the author, she acquaints me intimately with her characters and kept me reading through chores and bedtime because I couldn’t not know what happens next. However if you’re looking for that read that answers your every question I’m afraid you won’t get that here as Ms. Meadows leaves certain possibilities open to her audience which of course exhilarates this happy ending lover.
Thank you Ms. Meadows, I can’t wait to see where you take me next.
Here is the original HardCover Titled Mothers and Daughters