Monday, April 15, 2013

SHARING OUR VOICES- RHIANN WYNN-NOLET

I'd like to welcome Rhiann Wynn-Nolet to the blog today. She recently found her dream agent, Stephanie Lieberman at Janklow & Nesbit Associates. After reading about what inspired her book, I can understand why she was snatched out of the query trenches. Please give her a warm welcome.




First, thank you to Angie for inviting me to participate in Share Our Voices. I’d also like to thank her for being very friendly back when I was floundering in the querying/contest trenches. She had an agent already, so I was immensely flattered that she’d even chat with me.

When asked to speak about how culture and environment inspire my writing, I thought immediately of an instance where truth and my own fiction collided at that very intersection.

New England and I go way back. All the way to the 1630s, when my ancestors arrived from “Old” England. Four years ago I decided to write a book. I knew it would have some connection to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, during which my ancestor Mary Estey was hanged.

Here is a photo of the house where Mary’s sister, Rebecca Nurse lived. She was also hanged.


During my research, I learned that land-hungry English settlers spread out from Boston and Salem to southern Maine, then known as The Eastward. This caused conflict with the Abenaki. Bloodshed and tragic losses followed (for both sides). Traumatized Colonial refugees poured into Salem and the surrounding towns, telling horror stories. Who among the God-fearing Puritans had brought God’s wrath down upon them? Witches, of course.

I now live in southern Maine, where the novel is set.

Here’s a photo I took on a walk near my house. This rock is called Tyler’s Back because it formed the rear wall of Mr. Tyler’s home during the early 1700s. One of the Tylers’ neighbors, Mrs. Batson was killed by the Abenaki. Incidentally, a surprising number of the women and children who were captured by native tribes chose not to return to English Colonial life when they were given the chance.


I decided my MC would be descended from accused witch Margaret Jacobs, whose letters to the court and to her father during her imprisonment survived. They’re both inspirational and heartbreaking. The boy my MC falls for has both Abenaki heritage and an ancestor who was a prominent witch persecutor. Here’s the premise of UNQUIET SOULS—restless spirits may inhabit the bodies of the living, attempting to satisfy thwarted desires for love or vengeance.

To learn more about modern day Abenaki, my family and I went to a pow wow. We were admiring the crafts when the music started. It was a vocal performance with drum accompaniment. After the song ended, my husband said he didn’t understand why he’d gotten all teary, but the song had filled his heart with sadness and longing. I should mention that my husband’s surname was always assumed to be French (his father was born in Quebec).

I don’t know what the name of the song was, but it sounded much like this
Flash forward to a recent family wedding. I was seated by my father-in-law and we began talking genealogy. He told me his father had claimed to have Native American blood. Interesting. Once I got home I hit the internet. Lo and behold, Nolet is a shortened version of Wawanolet, a surname frequently found on reservations around Quebec, where most of the Abenaki ended up.

This is a passage from my book, written two years before the wedding.

As we rumbled over a patch of cobblestones revealed by balding asphalt, she said, “Sometimes I can’t help but think of all the people who’ve passed along these twisting roads before us. I feel their presence, those travelers throughout time. Imagine all the cars, and before them all the horses and wagons, and before them the native tribes. Underneath the pavement lies cobblestone, below that the dirt roads of the original colonial settlement, and buried deeper still are the trails made by moccasins. Each generation adds a new layer, obscuring the past and altering the road slightly—yet we follow the paths made by our predecessors, repeating their journeys without conscious thought.”

Twitter @RhiannWynnNolet

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12 comments:

  1. Well, that does it. I'd already determined I would read your work as soon as it became available, Rhiann. You didn't just confirm it, you cemented it. In fact, is there somewhere I can preorder it right now? Look who's gnar gnar now. Spooky cool stuff. :-)

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    1. LOL. You're too funny. Thanks for popping by.

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  2. Oh what a wonderful backstory to your novel!

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  3. Thank you for coming on the blog, Rhiann. I'm a huge fan of genealogy, and I love learning about different cultures and ancestral ties. I discovered during my own research that I decend from the Nansemond tribe, one of the few remaining tribes of the Powhatan empire in Virginia. Learning about my history has been a wonderful learning experience. It's wonderful to see how your history has had such an influence on your writing.

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    1. I think one of these days I'll do a blog series about how research fuels writing inspiration - and then you'll have to come on my blog and talk about your experiences :)

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  4. Wow, that passage is haunting. It's fascinating how you use your real past in your writing. Can't wait until you find a publisher because I want to read this. Good luck with your submissions.

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! If I never do find a publisher I'll send you the ms ;)

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  5. My town is over two hundred old. There are streets where the cobble peeks out from beneath the worn asphalt; I have bent and brushed gravel from the aged brick while imagining the horse hooves that crossed their ruddy surface. I like to do that, think about the stories of who or what has walked the path before me.

    Loved your passage and your backstory. Understood what your hubby felt--I love drums. They're so evocative.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, and sharing your own love of cobblestones :)

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  6. Your character's passage reminded me of Rome. Have you ever been there? Like all ancient cities, it's layered in ruined architecture and forgotten civilizations. And yet, like the rest of life, it stands on the shoulders of the wisdom that came before. And informs the present, even though we are not aware of its ongoing influence.

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  7. No, I've never been to Rome (Florence, Venice, Verona though...)

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