Q&A: 'Enemy Women' Author Paulette Jiles

ByABC News via logo
July 25, 2002, 3:13 PM

July 25 -- As part of Good Morning America's "Read This!" book club series, "The Mostly We Eat" book club from Bernardsville, N.J., recommended Paulette Jiles' Enemy Women to the "12 Oaks Book Club" book club from Atlanta.

Set in the Missouri Ozarks during the Civil War, Enemy Women is the story of a young woman falsely accused of being a Confederate spy a charge that lands her in prison. There she meets her interrogator, Maj. William Neumann, and the two fall in love.

The following exchange with Paulette Jiles is based on questions submitted by Good Morning America viewers.

Q: Were any of the characters in the novel based on people in your family?

We have no records journals, letters or anything else that survived the Civil War in my family on the Jiles side. All I have are their names from the census of 1860 and local records showing my great great grandfather Marquis Giles (at that time, his last name was spelled with a "G") who was a school teacher and a justice of the peace.

I did use the family's first names Marquis, Savannah, Little Mary, John Lee. But Adair's name came from my husband's family.

Q: You chose not to use quotation marks within the text. Why?"

For two reasons. One is that I saw Cormac McCarthy had used it and I very much liked the effect. It gave it a dream-like quality.

It's hard to do. You have to be very careful in your placement of dialogue so that the reader can distinguish dialogue from narrative.

Secondly, I had seen this in British novels when I was a kid. They used a dash instead of quotes many times. I had always liked that. Quotation marks, to me, gave dialogue a fenced-in quality.

Q: The battle scene with the Major was so vivid. What kind of research did you have to do to get that kind of authenticity?

I researched the basic facts of the siege of Spanish Fort and I found a Web site which told me all the units, including the first Indiana heavy artillery.

My husband is a retired colonel of infantry and has seen combat experience. He helped me with military procedure, which I had gotten all mixed up.