Drunk on Ink Q & A with Rebecca Entel and ‘Fingerprints of Previous Owners’
Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018
Rebecca Entel’s first novel is Fingerprints of Previous Owners (Unnamed Press, 2017). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Guernica, Joyland Magazine, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Cleaver Magazine, The Madison Review, and elsewhere. Rebecca is an Associate Professor at Cornell College, where she teaches multicultural American literature, Caribbean literature, creative writing, and the literature of social justice. She grew up in Cleveland and currently lives in Iowa City.
About Fingerprints of Previous Owners. At a Caribbean resort built atop a former slave plantation, Myrna works as a maid by day; by night she trespasses on the resort’s overgrown inland property, secretly excavating the plantation ruins the locals refuse to acknowledge. Myrna’s mother has stopped speaking and her friends are focused on surviving the present, but Myrna is drawn to Cruffey Island’s violent past. A wealthy African-American tourist arrives with new information about the history of the slave-owner’s estate, and tensions finally erupt between the resort and the local island community. Suffused with the sun-drenched beauty of the Caribbean, Fingerprints of Previous Owners is a powerful novel of hope and recovery in the wake of devastating trauma. In her soulful and timely debut, Entel explores what it means to colonize and be colonized, to trespass and be trespassed upon, to be wounded and to heal.
Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?
Rebecca Entel: Beverly Cleary was a major force in my childhood. Once I finished all the Ramona books, I started writing my own.
To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?
Chai. Wine. Repeat.
A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?
Anything by Toni Morrison.
Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
War and Peace. It’s still staring me down from the shelf.
A favorite quote from your book ?
“So many stars out the sky looked spangled with broken glass, like pieces of what had been a life.”
Your favorite book to film?
The Wizard of Oz
Favorite Indie Book Stores?
Indie bookstores are some of my favorite places! I live in Iowa City, where Prairie Lights is the heart of downtown. I sometimes forget how special it is to live somewhere where the bookstore is always full of people.
The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?
How to get really skilled at making time for writing.
Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?
The writing never gets easier – it’s always new – but I have gotten better at trusting the process. I’ll have to let you know about the publishing/marketing angle, but I think that’ll be different each time, too.
Dog, Cat, Or?
Dog (preferably wiener)
A favorite book cover?
I really love the cover of Lily King’s Euphoria and the edition of Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America that looks like a sheet of notebook paper.
A favorite song?
I’ll never get tired of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.”
Last impulse book buy and why?
Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding’s Nasty Women anthology. It’d been on my to-read list, and I picked it up while I was traveling.
Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.