Characters have the ability to make or break any story. The main one in Jessica McCann's All Different Kinds of Free is rich, vibrant, sassy and a woman you want to read about page after page. It's the way McCann brings Margaret alive on the page that prompted me to choose her chapter as the winner for December.
I grew up in the metro Phoenix area and am happy to still call it home. I've been writing for as long as I can remember and landed my first paying job as a writer my senior year of high school.
The novel was inspired by a true story. It is a fictional biography of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color who was kidnapped in 1837 with her free children and sold into slavery. She fought hard to regain her freedom, and she endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most pivotal Supreme Court cases in America’s history, Prigg v. Pennsylvania. When I first read the court case summary, my curiosity was piqued because it only mentioned Margaret once. That struck me as so odd, since it all began with her, and I was curious to know how her story turned out. So I dug around a bit. But the more I looked, the less I found -- some obscure footnotes in law journals, conflicting news accounts from the time. It really bothered me that her part of the story was little more than a footnote in history, especially since there were thousands of other women just like her -- wives, mothers -- who suffered a similar fate during that dark period in America's history. So I decided to tell Margaret's story in novel form, and All Different Kinds of Free was born.
Historical fiction has been my favorite genre since before I even knew the definition. The dry facts and statistics of "history" bored me in school. It has always been the stories hidden within history that captures my interest. I like to say that historians write about dead people, but historical novelists write to give them new life.
Taking care of my family keeps me busy and is the most-prized non-book related aspect of my life. When I'm not writing or reading, I try to stay physically active. Yoga, swimming and hiking are my favorite ways of keeping physically fit and mentally grounded.
It's interesting that you ask where I would live, if I could live anywhere. My husband and I have often talked about that in our more than 20 years together; and we always seem to come right back home to Phoenix. It's a vibrant city with so many entertainment options and just a few hours' drive to remote desert camping or snowy mountains. We do love to travel, though. If I were to dream, I'd love to take one month a year to live in different states, in cities big and small, just to explore and soak up the different lifestyles and atmospheres.
Whoa, only three? My bookshelves are crowded with books that have left a lasting impression on me. One that I've reread many times is John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men;" it's a slim book, expertly written with memorable characters, and it reveals something new to me each time I pick it up. Another fabulous book is "The Invisible Mountain" by Carolina de Robertis. It's a sweeping epic of three generations of strong woman, set in Paraguay and Argentina from 1900 to 2000. I read it a couple years ago, and I still often find myself thinking about the characters. Among the more recent releases that I enjoyed immensely are "The Snow Child" (Eowyn Ivey), "The Light Between Oceans" (M.L. Stedman) and "The Lost Wife" (Alyson Richman). OK, I cheated, that's five. So many good books, so little time.
7. If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be and why?
It's probably cliché and a common pick, but I would have loved to spend time with Mark Twain, a fabulous storyteller and a man who pulled no punches.
8. Post where you can be found—website, blog, twitter, facebook, etc.
To purchase All Different Kinds of Free on Amazon, click HERE.
DECEMBER CHAPTER ONE FINALISTS
Jessica McHugh: Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things
Lori Ann Lesko: Our Daughters
Marilyn Holdsworth: The Beautiful American
Think you have a fabulous first chapter? Enter the January 2013 contest HERE.
Best of luck to everyone.