by Neal Thompson on November 04, 2013
Over drinks at Seattle’s Brave Horse Tavern, Shacochis described his encounter in Haiti years ago with the “haunting” and “unpleasant” woman who became the inspiration for the main character in his new novel, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, which was an Amazon Best Book of the Month pick in September.
The National Book Award-winning author met the woman–“blonde, young, infuriating,” as he calls her in the opening line of the book–while covering the US occupation of Haiti for Harper’s Magazine. She claimed to be a photojournalist and asked Shacochis to give her a tour of a voodoo temple; during the drive there, she said she’d lost her soul. “I knew her for less than 36 hours, and I forgot her name within days,” he said. “But what happened in that temple disturbed me so much it haunted me for five years.
“I just never forgot her.”
It turns out that opening scene, and the character of Jackie Scott (aka Renee Gardner aka Dottie Chambers), are clues that The Woman Who Lost Her Soul is filled with autobiographical scenes. It’s also a big, meaty, sweeping beast of a book–a “doorstop,” as Shacochis put it.
We also discussed, over screwdrivers and beers, the “mourning period” that occurs after spending ten years writing a book.