On April 28, 2019, in an austere gallery in Davidson College’s most central building, international best-selling author Charles Frazier joined a group of Davidson, NC citizens for a chat about his latest book, Varina – a poignant fictional account of the life of Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis. It was an honor to get to meet him and hear his thoughts on the novel and writing in general.
On Being a Writer
For Frazier, creating his best-selling novels is not a short or organized process. He describes himself as rarely organized and explains that his process takes between four and five years. Two years of allowing himself to write what he calls disorganized ramblings and then two or more years to organize those ramblings and put them together with the skill and talent that we have come to know and admire.
The reason he writes historical fiction predominately is that he likes imagining the stories behind historical facts. It all started while he listened to family stories; he realized that he could see a path to a story so clearly. He also explained that he loves research and finds it a way to combine the skills he learned in college with his creative pursuitsto research and finds it a way to combine the skills he learned in college with his creative pursuits.
On Varina, his Latest Novel
The structure of the novel, a point of pride for Frazier, is Varina, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, telling her story to Jimmy, a young African American male that legend says she saved from being beaten on the street, and then went on to educate him and raise him alongside her own children. The novel is not chronological, but instead follows a path wherever Varina’s memories take her.
Frazier acknowledges that the many pivotal current events occurring in the South during the time he was writing the novel did influence the book in subtle ways. He referred explicitly to a conversation in the book between Varina and Sarah Dorsey that took place in a swamp where the two reflect on the events going on in Jefferson Davis’ life as well as the history of their own long relationship.
The most dramatic section of the afternoon, though, was one that brought the room to utter silence – Frazier quoting from the novel,
He remembers saying to V, Someday you’ll be forgiven for all this, yes?
-No, she said
And there I end this article as well.
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