Interview: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared or will appear in The Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, African American Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, Richard Wright Newsletter, and SLI: Studies in Literary Imagination. She is a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award. A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Dolen splits her time between Seattle and Washington, DC.

Enjoy this interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I was born and raised in Memphis, TN. I have been writing seriously for about 13 years now.

Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?

Wench tells the story of four enslaved women who are the sexual paramours of their masters. They meet at a summer resort in 1850s Ohio and begin to contemplate escape when the spirited Mawu arrives. She pushes them to think about running and leaving behind their plantations. Yet the decision is a difficult one, especially for my protagonist Lizzie who believes she loves her master and that he loves her. The novel examines the complicated dynamic between a female slave and her white male master.

My only real hope is that readers will like the story and be entertained by it.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

I am working on a second novel right now. I also have some short stories that I hope to place soon. They need a home!

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I found Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude to be absolutely fascinating. Oh, what I would give to have a cup of coffee with that man and peer inside his mind!!

Favorite authors?

Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Randall Kenan, Edward P. Jones

Book you’re currently reading?

Eugenia Kim’s The Calligrapher’s Daughter.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

Coffee, coffee, coffee.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Yes, it happens. I really think it’s just a matter of getting the juices flowing again. I like to look out the window and daydream. If I am really stumped, I will stop writing and pick up a book. Reading has always been the most stimulating mental activity for me.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

A successful writer is one who has accomplished his/her goals. Everyone has different goals. I had a cousin who wrote tons of poems and never published a single one. She used to send them to me before she passed away at thirty-seven years old. I believe she was successful. Those poems were her anchors.

Advice for other writers?

Keep at it.

Where can we learn more about you?

You can learn a lot more about the book at my website You can also follow me on Twitter at My blog is at Or become a Facebook fan!!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I may be coming to a city near you! Check out and type in my name “Dolen Perkins-Valdez” to find details of my book events.

WENCH makes a great book club choice. I might be able to visit with your book club!!

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1 Comment on "Interview: Dolen Perkins-Valdez"

  1. A beautifully written story about a tragic time in our country. Valdez shows the courage and strength slave women needed to endure such a horific injustices in their lives.


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