“As fascinating as a detective story. . . . An absorbing, intelligent consideration of national and personal identity, beautifully written.”—Lee Smith, author of The Devil’s Dream
“Hudson has invented a new genre, a sort of parting of the authorial curtain to reveal . . . the commonalities that bind both author and reader to someone of another place and time”— Chapel Hill Herald
In Searching for Virginia Dare (creative nonfiction), Marjorie takes readers on a journey across eastern North Carolina and Virginia, seeking stories, scholarship, places, and connections in the web of evidence of the survival of the 1587 English colony set on Roanoke Island during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Diverging from the path of conventional histories, Marjorie invents a mosaic form that invites memory, poetic line, fiction scenes, side trips, and introspection on the nature of family and loss as well as what it means to be an American. The book is a study text for study in creative writing programs from University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill to the University of Alaska–Anchorage.
What set you on the trail of Virginia Dare?
MH: I’d dimly heard of Virginia Dare in literature and history references after I moved to North Carolina, but I really had no idea of the weight and fascination the story would hold for me. The invitation to explore Virginia’s story came in a letter one day from scholar, poet, and fiction writer Emily Herring Wilson, who is known for her work with women’s history and biography. She suggested I write an essay for an anthology about North Carolina women in history, and the name Virginia Dare came up. I realized at once that I knew very little about Dare, and took that as a challenge. Long story short, it turned into a book.
This book contains history, road trip, fiction, and memoir. Why did you decide to include all those things?
MH: I started with history, hit a wall, turned to fiction, then opened up to memoir. It became a kind of natural process in my note-taking, and at one point, I decided to include all the different layers, especially the personal story, because the Virginia Dare story itself has so many emotional ups and downs, and I guessed that others would respond to it that way too. Virginia Dare’s story helped me face some losses in my life and uncovered some family mysteries.
One of my reviewers said the book was a guidebook for writers, because it transparently shows the difficult processes of research – blind alleys, personal struggle, connection with people, getting lost, and grappling for ways to make sense of material during the writing process. I’ve always really liked that!
People continue to come up with new theories about what happened to Virginia Dare, don’t they?
There’s been an absolute Renaissance in research and new literature on the subject. I’m learning new things all the time. The First Colony Foundation has been exploring a new location on the Chowan River, Andrew Lawler has a new book out about the search, Scott Dawson and Mark Horton have a new book with exciting findings on Hatteras Island. I’m still researching the artist who depicted Virginia Dare as a New World Venus. As long as people are interested in the story, there will be new research.