Yesterday, I was honored to be tagged by Jennifer Luitweiler for The Next Big Thing (TNBT), where I get to tell you all about my writing work in progress.
Here are the rules:
1. Answer the ten TNBT questions listed below about your current WIP.
2. Tag five other writers and link to their blogs so everyone can read their answers.
1. What is the title of your book/WIP?
The working title, which will probably be the final title, is You Will Not Be Forgotten. Subtitles might be, “Getting to Know the Stories of Enslaved People.” What do you think?
2. Where did the idea for the WIP come from?
Gradually over my college years and in the decade that followed, I came to realize that some of the people I had gone to high school with were probably descended from people who had been enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. I was amazed and a little appalled that I had never thought about that idea before, and I was even more stupefied that I had lived for years on this plantation and knew so little about the people who had, quite literally, built it. I decided to try to find out these stories and look for the descendants of the people to whom I am endebted for the place I call home.
3. What genre would your WIP fall under?
This book is a memoir; it’s my story. That said, it also has, of course, a great deal of history and genealogy work in it.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, I love this question. I’d love to have Morgan Freeman play Primus Randall, and Whoopi Goldberg could play Betsy Randall. Alfre Woodard to play Lucy Nicholas. Perhaps, Michael Clarke Duncan to play George Skipwith and Thandie Newton as his daughter Lucy Skipwith. Don Cheadle could play Peyton Skipwith and Angela Bassett as his wife Lydia. I would also cast Terrence Howard as Jesse Nicholas, the stone mason, and Denzel Washington would play Richard, the man sold off the plantation. Cato would be played by Sidney Poitier, and Mos Def would play Berthier. I’d be played by Laura Linney, and Ed Harris would play the overseer. The General would be played by Ian McKellen. OH YEAH, who wants to buy the movie rights?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?
You Will Not Be Forgotten tells the stories of the people who were enslaved on a central Virginia plantation and of my process of getting to know these people.
6. Is your WIP published or represented?
Not yet, but I’ll be shopping the manuscript to agents this fall.
7. How long did it take you to write?
Because of the extensive research involved, the process of writing the first draft took almost 18 months. I am in the final stages of revision now.
8. What other WIPs within your genre would you compare it to?
As far as I know, I don’t know any other book quite like this, but I would compare it to a book like Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball. Books that address the stories of enslaved people in a similar way are A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor or Israel on the Appomattox by Melvin Patrick Ely. I based my narrative style and point of view on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
9. Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?
Rebecca Skloot was the biggest inspiration. Her ability to recognize her own part in the story of Henrietta Lacks’ life and legacy encouraged me to see that the only way I could write this book was from my perspective – after all, it’s the only one I can truly claim.
10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in your WIP.
A lot of books that deal with the topic of slavery address the institution and it’s massive failures, but very few address the people who were part of this institution. The reason for this is, often, simply that there is not very much information available about these people. My book hopes to rectify that. I have done extensive research into the lives of the people who were enslaved on these plantations, and I have made connections and friendships with some of these people’s descendants. These are the stories of people, not an analysis of the institution itself.
What questions do you have about my book? Anything you’re curious about?