Novelists Jennifer Haupt and Anna Quinn love combining book tours, and their joint readings featured at Beach Books on June 22 was one of many they have collaborated with over the years.
Quinn, who is the author of “The Night Child,” and Haupt who penned “In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills,” first met at a Pacific Northwest Booksellers event. They hit it off and have been tour buddies ever since. “It was simpatico,” Haupt said.
Their book tours have taken them from coast to coast, together and individually. Whenever possible they combine tours, readings and workshops. When schedules align, their husbands accompany them for a weekend vacation.
Quinn’s strength within
Anna Quinn owns the Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington. She is a published poet and essayist and has led writing workshops for more than 26 years.
“The Night Child” is a story of resilience. The novel explores the impact of traumatic childhood experiences and the line between the past and the present. Its main voice is Nora, a high school English teacher, who, as a child, told herself stories as a way to survive. It wasn’t until something disrupts her belief that Nora finds out the story she’d been telling herself might not be the true one.
Suffering her own childhood trauma, Quinn learned to tell herself stories; writing herself out of old stories and into new ones. Quinn also found an escape in music and learned to play the accordion.
“Music changes you viscerally,” she said, and looks for ways to recreate rhythm and passion in her writings. But it wasn’t until she discovered fiction that her whole world opened up.
“It was my mother who took me to the library every week until I could drive then brought us home with piles of books. She taught me how to write very early on,” Quinn said. “The one huge gift she gave me was to say, ‘learn to write yourself into the stories you want to be in.’”
Books shaped her life through observation and at a safe distance, Quinn noted, like Fern who learns to stand up to authority in “Charlotte’s Web,” or Scout who learns to navigate through the adult world in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and like Bone, who finds her inner strength in “Bastard of Carolina.”
Like the characters in these stories, Quinn, too, eventually found the language and her voice.
Haupt finds connection
“In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills” is set against the backdrop of a country grieving 12 years post Rwandan genocide. It follows the intertwining stories of women who discover the connections between forgiveness and grief.
Jennifer Haupt is a well-traveled journalist and essayist. She was a journalist for 20 years and never thought she could write a novel, saying, “It didn’t seem like something I could make a living at; something that was in the cards for me.”
She specialized in writing about women who dealt with their own depression and grief by starting nonprofits for children and women around the world. She didn’t know how to start a nonprofit or how this would help heal one’s grief, but she kept asking. The answers she received were always the same: by helping people discover their voice and helping them deal with their grief was healing for the women who started the nonprofits. “I was just fascinated with that,” Haupt said.
She traveled to Rwanda in 2006, more than a decade after the Rwandan genocide. Her journey into the rural provinces to interview genocide survivors, aid workers and people who were starting nonprofits gave her a sense of connection, sharing similar trauma.
After a visit to the camps at Dachau, Haupt understood how deep their connection was. In Rwanda, it was the decimation of the Tutsi people at the hands of the Hutu government. In Dachau, it was the murder of Haupt’s relatives at the hands of the Nazi regime during the Holocaust.
She also felt connected through her own dealings with depression and the unresolved grief of her sister dying when Haupt was young.
“There was a bridge of compassion I felt between me and the people whose stories and experiences that, of course, I couldn’t compare my experiences with, but I found this whole country was still grieving 12 years after the genocide and it was very much under the surface. I came back from Rwanda wanting to tell these stories but wanting to tell these stories in fiction.”
The novel is about a white, middle-class, privileged woman who bonds with Rwandans and creates a family who is intercultural and intergenerational. It’s the story of five people who are black, white, American and Rwandan, and come together in post genocide Rwanda when the reconciliation trials are just beginning in 2000.