Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Q&A with Rae Giana Rashad


Photo by G.M. Jones



Rae Giana Rashad is the author of the new novel The Blueprint. She has worked in the education field, and she lives in the Dallas area.


Q: What inspired you to write The Blueprint, and how did you create your character Solenne?


A: The seeds were planted during a visit to Whitney Plantation in Louisiana. At the Wall of Honor memorial, I read heartbreaking quotes from enslaved people recalling their lives on a plantation. The words from or about women clung to me. 


I wanted to capture the essence of these girls and tell a story that focused on that internal hell of questioning love, identity, and what it means to be free.


Solenne came to me fully formed. Initially, I was surprised that I didn’t see her in a historical setting. I saw her in a warped version of our world, standing on a train platform, contemplating the past and the future until something within pushed her to move forward.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: The Blueprint isn’t historical fiction, but it is historically informed.


My research consisted of rereading narratives written by enslaved people such as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, and 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.  


I listened for the voices and stories of women, whether they were explored in depth in the main narrative or not.


Q: The writer Ashley Audrain said of the book, “The Blueprint is an astounding work, an unflinching portrait of misogyny and racism in a speculative world terrifyingly close to our own.” What do you think of that description?


A: Her words frame The Blueprint as one that confronts challenging narratives while addressing pertinent social themes. Those were my guiding principles while drafting and revising the novel. It is gratifying when a talented writer understands and takes the time to share kind words about your work.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I want readers to use the timelines present in the novel to explore Solenne, a flawed, emotionally complex character.  I hope readers understand intergenerational trauma and how its grasp can inform decisions we make in the present or future.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a gritty, literary speculative novel set near the Red River in Texas. It follows two young women who grapple with the scars of their parents' dysfunctional marriage, each in her own way.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love reading novels with unconventional narrative structures, especially when the purpose is to emphasize the emotional impact or deepen the theme.


In crafting The Blueprint, I embraced the use of dual timelines to explore time and its effect on the characters. Solenne’s earlier timeline is arranged in snapshots—an album of interconnected memories that shaped her. Her later timeline asks and answers whether she will have emotional or physical freedom.


Four interludes from 1800s Louisiana provide a thematic glue that holds the narrative in place.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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