At this point in life, I find myself realizing that I’ve had some of my friends for decades, and Amanda Callendrier is one of those friends. We met in graduate school in Cleveland, two southern women in a very northern city, and despite the fact that Amanda has impeccable fashion and I have, well, utilitarian-meets-bohemian fashion, which isn’t really fashion, we have been friends ever since. Now, she lives in the French Alps, and writes books, and raises goats, and she’s got a new blog – blue bathrobe – which you should really check out. Today, she tagged me into a blog tour, and because I love her, I said yes.
When I hear the word “upon” I think only “fairy tale” or “put” as in “put upon,” so I’m going to annoy the correct but awkward sentence construction and go with the southern, “What are you puttin’ your mind to these days?”
I am, I believe, just one chapter away from finishing a draft of my first novel, which is about a teenage girl who mysteriously ends up in a cemetery and sees the ghost of an enslaved man named Moses. The book comes out of my deep interest in studying the history of slavery in the U.S. and in getting to know the individuals who were enslaved during that horrible practice. I really want to understand these people as people, not as numbers or archetypes, but as individuals, and so in this book I take a new approach at learning this history and knowing these incredible people.
Today, I’m fairly certain every word is drivel and that I should just delete the file. But revision – I hold out hope for revision.
How does your work differ from others in the genre?
I’m not exactly sure how to answer this question since the idea of “genre” involves a certain set of expectations for the way a book is LIKE the other books in that genre, but I suppose I haven’t read that many young adult novels that involve rural history, the history and legacy of slavery, and ghosts. (Feel free to enlighten me to all the books I now need to read in the comments.)
Also, I’m trying to avoid the tendency of so many young adult novels with female protagonists to devolve into romances. I love a good romance, but I think it’s important to recognize that women are more than our relationships to romantic partners. Also, I’d love for my book to be accessible to young men as well as young women. So we’ll see if I pull that off.
Why do you write what you write?
I came to the history of slavery as most people come to anything they write – through life experience. My family moved to a Virginia plantation when I was 14. Growing up on a place that was built by enslaved people, walking the same roads they walked, touching stones they touched, standing by their graves shaped who I am in a profound way, and then to come to understand that no one was talking about these people, no one actually knew anything about them . . . well, the question “Who were these strong, perseverant people?” is now the central to my work.
How does your writing process work?
It depends on what I’m working on. If I’m writing creative nonfiction, I do a lot of research first – digging through archival records, collecting oral histories, trying to put together timelines for the lives of individuals and organizing family trees. Then, I sit down and use that information to write – usually a thousand words at a time.
For the novel, I’m just sitting down every morning at 5am, looking back over what I wrote yesterday, and getting the words down. I’ll research and revise after I finish the first draft. I’ll let you know how that works for me.
Now, time to pass along the tag. I’m tagging in the amazing members of our Online Writing Community who blog – Michelle Woodman, Sharry Miller, Jennifer Seay, JoAnne Silvia, and Suzanne Terry. Be sure to go check out their blogs and give them some lovin’.