I’m thrilled to introduce our readers to Rita Woods, author of the debut novel REMEMBRANCE. Rita is a physician and medical director who always felt a pull toward writing. I’m always especially inspired by stories like hers of people who have full lives and careers and then finally write their books. And, not only had Rita released her novel, it has also earned heaps of critical praise. The Boston Globe calls REMEMBRANCE “stunning” and “breathtaking,” and NPR calls it an “ambitious and absorbing novel.” Read on to learn all about Rita and for a chance to win the novel.
Born and raised in Detroit, I left home for college returning only for short visits, though I love the city. I moved around a bit: Purdue for undergrad, Howard University for medical school and Creighton University for residency, before ending up in Chicago to start my medical practice.
I had always wanted to be a writer but at the insistence of my educator parents found myself working a ‘real job’. Though I never completely stopped writing, it wasn’t until my sons started school that I started exploring writing as a serious option once again. Remembrance debuted in January of 2020
Currently the medical director of a medical center that serves one of the largest trades Locals in the nation, I live in the suburbs of Chicago. Married and the mother of two sons and raising a perfect granddaughter, I still keep medical residents’ hours as I work on my next book about a midwife in Detroit’s Black Bottom.
The road to publication is twisty at best–tell us about some of your twists.
Remembrance was actually written seven or eight years ago. When it 1st was being submitted to the publishing houses, we (my agent Jo Volpe and I), repeatedly got the feedback that while the Acquisition team loved the book, Marketing couldn’t figure out where it belonged: Woman’s fiction? Black Literature? Historical fiction? Fantasy?
I can’t tell you how many times we heard: We love this book but just aren’t sure what to do with it. Remembrance was passed on several times, purely as a marketing decision. Ultimately, we decided to pull it from consideration. In the meantime, I continued to write. Another novel got close to publication, but also didn’t quite make it. Then 2 years ago, seemingly out of the blue, I get a call from Jo. Unbeknownst to me, she had begun to submit Remembrance again, and this time, the previous concerns appeared to have disappeared and I signed with Tor/Forge.
What time of day do you love best?
I love the hours between 2 a.m. to sunrise. The world is quiet and seems a bit magical. In the city, it is never completely dark and the light reflects off the streets, sounds echo differently under the streetlights. I love the way the stoplights keep changing despite the deserted streets, watching clerks through the windows of the 24 hrs grocers and gas stations; the deliveries of newspapers and bread that only occur just before dawn. In the country you can see the stars and the mist rising off the grass; hear the owls and coyotes.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I was a voracious reader as a kid. I read absolutely everything I could. I adored Little Women. I must have read that a dozen times. I read Nancy Drew and Tuck Everlasting but I was also drawn to much darker novels that were probably not as appropriate: Rebecca, Marjorie Morningstar, Native Son, Black Boy.
Tell us about some of the authors who inspire you.
There are so many writers that I admire Bernadine Evaristo, Tayari Jones, Marlon James, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor. But I am obsessed with J.K. Rowling, not only for her story of perseverance, but for her political and social activism.
What does literary success look like to you?
In my wildest dreams, literary success looks like a small writing cottage overlooking the sea, making just enough money to support myself with my writing.
About the novel:
Remembrance is the story of four women, each with a special kind of power, each struggling with pain and loss. It is told across three centuries and two countries, beginning in Haiti at the dawn of the Haitian Revolution, through New Orleans and Ohio on the eve of the Civil War and spanning into the 21st century where a mysterious woman, ancient and mute, is abandoned at a nursing home in Cleveland. The story centers around Mother Abigail, a Voodoo priestess, who uses her powers to shift space and matter to create Remembrance, a stop on the Underground Railroad invisible to the outside world.
But as Mother Abigail has aged, her powers are waning and with them, her ability to hold Remembrance together and protect her people.
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