Please welcome Sarah Blake to The Qwillery as part of the 2019 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Naamah will be published on April 9, 2019 by Riverhead Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece that you remember writing?
Sarah: My parents got me a portable word-processing keyboard when I was in middle school and I wrote a long story about a woman named Nerine and there were cliffs involved.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Sarah: I'm a pantser. Though with retelling the story of Noah's ark, I guess I was slightly hybrid for this book.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does being a poet affect (or not) your prose writing?
Sarah: I find it extremely frustrating that I can't sit down and read an entire draft of a novel in one sitting so that I can revise it knowing I've addressed everything that I wanted to.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Sarah: Poetry. Short stories. Television. Movies. Novels. The children's books I read with my son.
TQ: Describe Naamah using only 5 words.
Sarah: Woman Can/Can't Save Everyone
TQ: Tell us something about Naamah that is not found in the book description.
Sarah: In the form of an Egyptian vulture, the Metatron is trying to reach Naamah in her dreams.
TQ: What inspired you to write Naamah? What appealed to you about retelling the story of The Great Flood?
Sarah: I was rereading Genesis for another writing project, and it struck me that Noah's family was on the ark for over a year, uncertain of what the world would be like after the death of everyone they knew. I thought of Naamah stuck on that ark, having to hold it together, for herself and for her family. I needed to know how she would get through that.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Naamah?
Sarah: I researched a lot about animals. And I loved looking at art inspired by the story of the ark. But I was mostly interested in Naamah's interior life.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Naamah.
Sarah: There are many tigers in the story, and I think they've taken on greater meaning because of the tiger's appearance on the cover, but I won't spoil anything for you!
TQ: In Naamah who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Sarah: Naamah was the easiest to write because she was the first one on the ark that I understood. Her sons and daughters-in-law were the most difficult to write because there were so many of them and I wanted them all to come to life even while the book was centered around Naamah.
TQ: Does Naamah touch on any social issues?
TQ: Which question about Naamah do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Sarah: What emotion is most important for you to impart to your reader? Joy.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Naamah.
Sarah: Perhaps in another place, she could look upon her body and know what new thing she is becoming.
TQ: What's next?
Sarah: A novel set in the future!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Sarah: Thank you!
Riverhead Books, April 9, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
“A dreamy and transgressive feminist retelling of the Great Flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife as she wrestles with the mysterious metaphysics of womanhood at the end of the world.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
With the coming of the Great Flood–the mother of all disasters–only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, in a work of astounding invention, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. Here is the woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, silently mourning the lover she left behind. Here is the woman escaping into the unreceded waters, where a seductive angel tempts her to join a strange and haunted world. Here is the woman tormented by dreams and questions of her own–questions of service and self-determination, of history and memory, of the kindness or cruelty of fate.
In fresh and modern language, Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a provocative fable of body, spirit, and resilience.
Sarah Blake is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her writing has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Threepenny Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives near Philadelphia, PA.