Monday, February 12, 2024

TBR: The Blueprint: A Novel by Rae Giana Rashad

TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe. 


Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?


The Blueprint follows Solenne, who is coming of age in an alternate, oppressive Texas. She becomes entangled with a white government official, and she navigates those experiences using the stories of her ancestor who was an enslaved concubine in 19th century Louisiana. The Blueprint is rooted in history, but it’s literary speculative fiction, in the vein of Atwood.


Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why?


I truly loved writing Solenne. Inspired by the lives of enslaved girls in the Antebellum South, she emerged fully formed after initial research. Fine tuning her into a living, breathing person took work. In early drafts, I worried that it would be too difficult for readers to root for or identify with a flawed Black girl, which led to a passive, dishonest, shell of a character. Once I honored my vision, Solenne’s voice developed into something I loved.


And which character gave you the most trouble, and why?


Writing Bastien, my antagonist, posed unique challenges. He’s a recombination of historical figures, men from slave narratives, and real-life narcissists. Striking a balance in creating negative space—embracing the unsaid and untold to leave room for readers to question him—without veering into a redemptive arc was a delicate task.


Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


I have a bit of a unicorn story in that after writing for five years, I found my agent, revised with her, and sold the manuscript within five months. I made the mistake of thinking things would continue to be smooth sailing. However, a month post-Harper acquisition, the HarperCollins strike hit. After the strike ended, my editor, my champion I hoped to work with for many more books, moved to a different publisher. I was an orphan. Losing the editor who loved and fought for your manuscript is devastating and terrifying.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


Write honestly, even when it reveals ugliness.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


I was fully prepared to write this as historical fiction after my initial research. But when Solenne’s character came to me, I was surprised to see her, not in the Antebellum South, but standing on a train platform in a world that looked like our own, desperate for emotional and physical freedom. I went with it. Emotional resonance was my primary goal. Setting the story in a world that looks like our own removes distance between the characters and contemporary readers.  


What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?


A blueprint is a set of ideas or a set of beliefs. In The Blueprint, two very different characters interact. Like their ancestors, both want things that can’t coexist. Both look to history to inform their actions.  The Blueprint is an acknowledgment that history designs the present.










DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.