Do you want revenge or do you want your land back?”
Winfield, Iowa. 1918. Colonel Wallace Carson, the ruler of a vast agricultural empire, asks Ann Hardy, his ten year old granddaughter and eventual heir, to promise she will safeguard The Northeast Quarter, the choice piece of land from which the empire was founded. Ann readily accepts – little knowing what awaits her. When The Colonel is killed unexpectedly the same afternoon, the world around Ann and her family begins to fall apart.
Against the background of America sliding from a post-war boom into The Great Depression, The Northeast Quarter tells the story of Ann’s struggle to keep a promise no matter what. She witnesses the remarriage of her grandmother to Royce Chamberlin, the seemingly humble banker who institutes a reign of terror over the household and proceeds to corrupt the entire town.
Over the next ten years, she matches wits with Chamberlin, enduring betrayal, banishment and even physical violence. She grows from a precocious child into a tough-minded young woman – watching, observing her enemy and waiting for the moment to make her move.
And when the moment comes in July 1929, life in Winfield will never be the same.
Ann saw that Royce’s eyes were on her and not Jack. The battle lines had been drawn long ago. This demonstration was for her benefit, and Jack was the pawn. Royce was planning to get him drunk.
“I want to spend time with my family,” Jack said.
“You can do that later,” Royce countered, “I insist.”
“I’m real sorry to hear that, Royce. But my daughter’s home.”
Ann saw her father smiling back at Royce. He was hesitant but standing his ground, and he was even returning the half smile. Ann felt a spark of encouragement because someone on her side was finally standing up to Royce.
Interview with S.M. Harris
Q: Tell us a little bit more about The Northeast Quarter.
A: The story is about a young girl’s effort to keep a promise to her grandfather, no matter what. On July 4th, 1918 Colonel Wallace Carson, the ruler of a vast agricultural (corn) empire asks his granddaughter Ann to promise that, when she is of age, she will safeguard The Northeast Quarter, the choice piece of land from which the empire was founded. Ann readily accepts, little knowing what awaits her. The Colonel is killed shortly. Ann witnesses the remarriage of her grandmother to Royce Chamberlin, the seemingly humble banker who institutes a reign of terror over the household and proceeds to corrupt the entire town. Over the next 10 years Ann matches wits with Chamberlin, waiting to make her move and reclaim her inheritance.
Q: Share your main character and what they are like.
A: Ann Hardy is small in stature, with auburn hair. She is tougher than she seems. Some have described her as an early feminist. Her strengths are that she endures alot hardship and grief. Her weakness is that she has a temper, which she must always keep in check. For example, when a lawyer asks “Do you want revenge or do you want your land back?” Ann replies,” I know what I want to answer, but I also know what I’m going to answer. I want the land.”
Q: Since you’re a playwright turned novelist what writing challenges did this particular work pose for you?
A: I had a challenge keeping my descriptions from reading like stage directions. Another was to vary the locations for the actions. In a play, the characters would gather in specific locations and either verbally hack away at each other or bare their souls. In novel form, I could expand the action and open up the story.
Q: Do you have any advice for new authors?
A: Don’t wait so long to get started!!!!
Stuart M. Harris began writing for the theater professionally in 1991 when he was invited by the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York to attend a summer conference. The experience led the native Californian to move to New York to become a playwright. Several of his plays have been produced Off Broadway and around the country, among them. Oona Field produced by Diverse City Theater Company and Colleen Ireland, about a 90-year-old retirement home resident and her great granddaughter, that played in New York, Spokane and other cities, including Hamilton, OH, where it won ‘Best Play’ at The Fitton Center One-Act Playwriting Contest. A follow-up to Colleen was Spindrift Way, the first of ten more plays in the series. The Northeast Quarter began as a full-length play developed by the Works in Progress Theatre Lab at Manhattan Theatre Club Studios. Harris put playwriting on hold in order to weave the story of generations of Iowan farmers into his new historical novel. He lives in Brooklyn.