As planned, I’ve started writing the third draft of The Driver’s Wife. Just finished Chapter 1. It’s fun to weave in the new research I’ve accumulated since the last draft. This draft I will be able to spend more time on fleshing out Isabelle’s point of view and smoothing the rough patches, for the second draft was the first time I worked with her point of view. The rough draft simply consisted of one viewpoint: Ketch’s.
When I started this novel, I actually had no plans for it to be a novel. It came about after finishing Book 3 in the series when I had a particular question I wanted an answer to about Ketch’s future, specifically if he would ever have a relationship with a woman. That may sound like a foregone conclusion to the uninitiated, but if you had read about Ketch in the first three books you would know such a thing was anything but a foregone conclusion. So, in other words, I was mainly writing it to answer my own question. Lo and behold, it soon grew to many pages. Perhaps a novella, I thought. But chapter after chapter flowed by and before I knew it The Driver’s Wife was a full-length novel.
The first draft wasn’t as long as the other novels in the series, but the second draft nearly doubled because I explored Isabelle’s point of view.
Isabelle is my first female African-American character. Actually, she’s a mulatto. During the Middle Passage, her mother was raped by one of the sailors on the slave ship, and Isabelle was the result. Her formative years were spent with her mother on a Barbados sugar plantation. From there, they were transported to the new colony at Charles Town, Carolina, where they worked on a plantation, Isabelle as a house servant and her mother as a cook.
Isabelle is among a group of women that her master sends to Leighlin Plantation in payment of a debt. Ketch is among the men sent to collect the women. The reader meets Isabelle through Ketch’s eyes:
Ketch’s attention wandered over the slaves. Anxiety on most faces, apathy on a couple of others. One young woman—perhaps around eighteen years of age—caught his eye, for her complexion put him in mind of Maria. Though darker than Maria, this girl’s skin tone was lighter than those around her, including an older woman to whom she stayed close, quietly talking, apparently attempting to soothe the woman. Their solicitude for one another and the similarities of their facial features made him assume they were mother and daughter. Perhaps it was that dusky tone that made her stand out from the rest of the women; perhaps it was her obvious concern for her mother; whatever it was Ketch found his attention remaining upon her. He knew the power of his own gaze—over the years he had perfected to great effect a wide range from malevolence to unreadable vacuity—so it did not surprise him, indeed perhaps he had willed it, when the girl looked his way, as if wanting to locate the source of the weighty attention. The moment their gazes met, she quickly looked away but whether from alarm or simply from a practice of not directly meeting a white man’s gaze Ketch could not be sure. Whatever the cause, she did not look his way again and stepped closer to her mother, a hand upon the woman’s arm, the sun beating down upon her colorful headscarf. It was only then that he realized both women had tears on their cheeks.
As I’ve said before in this blog, I find male characters much easier to write than female characters. But, like with Maria, I felt comfortable writing Isabelle’s character. Maybe because she has some of Maria’s traits–strength and resilience. Or maybe because I had already met her through Ketch’s point of view through that first draft. In the second draft, I really enjoyed meeting her anew through her own thoughts and feelings. It also gave me a fresh perspective on Ketch himself.
I’m hoping after this third draft that it will be polished enough for me to start querying agents about it. And who knows? With an African-American protagonist, maybe there’s a place for me and The Driver’s Wife on Oprah’s Book Club. 😉