Filled with emotional and historical details, Jessica McCann's All Different Kinds of Free (Bell Bridge Books, 2011) is a chance to learn about the person and the court case that helped spark our country's Civil War. Today Jessica stops by to share some behind-the-scenes details.
By the way, Jessica would like to send two copies of the print version and four copies of the ebook to a total of six lucky winners. Contest details are at the end of this post. Did you miss last week's book review? It's available at http://michellefayard.blogspot.com/2011/08/all-different-kinds-of-free-review-and.html. And now for the interview ...
What first compelled you to tell Margaret Morgan's story?
The novel was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court case Prigg vs. Pennsylvania, 1842. I first read about it when I was doing freelance copyediting on a book for MIT about Supreme Court justices. The case appealed the conviction of a bounty hunter charged with kidnapping Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color who was alleged to be an escaped slave.
My curiosity was piqued because the section mentioned Margaret only once. That struck me as so odd, since the whole ordeal began with her kidnapping, 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 our nation's history.
This book feels so authentic. How did you go about conducting the necessary research? And since so few people have heard about this case, did it make the research process more difficult?
By the time I was wrapping up the manuscript and doing final-touch research a couple years ago, nearly everything I needed was online, accessible within minutes thanks to a few keyword searches.
How much of the book is based on research and how much on compassionate intuition?
It's probably equal parts of both. While the research provided the framework of the book, I filled in the blanks based on what my mind, my heart and my gut were telling me as each scene as it unfolded.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The hardest part, aside from the challenges with research, was justifying the time to write it. Every minute you spend writing is a minute you spend away from the ones you love, your paying work and your many responsibilities as a wife, mother, pet owner, homeowner and so on. Allowing myself to make time for novel writing was a huge psychological hurdle for several years.
What message in your book do you hope will most resonate with your readers?
Never give up and never lose hope, no matter what.
What marketing have you found works best for your genre?
The book release was only a few months ago, and so I'm still working to learn the answer to that question. It's too soon to have received any hard numbers or reports. Anecdotally, I believe being active on Goodreads and Twitter has been very helpful in meeting fellow readers and writers who are excited about my book and eager to help spread the word about it with thoughtful, positive reviews.
What do you like best about your publisher, Bell Bridge Books?
They are super supportive of all my ideas—and I have a lot of them! Whether it has been regarding copyedits, cover design or promotions, I don't think they've ever said no to any of my ideas or requests.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I can't really pinpoint what my toughest criticism has been as an author. After more than 20 years of freelancing, I've developed pretty thick skin when it comes to feedback and critiques. (I'd say skin thick as whale blubber, though I'm not sure I like the mental image that creates ...)
As for the best, I love getting e-mails and comments from people who say they have told their mom or best friend to read my book. Knowing that someone enjoyed it enough to share it with someone they care about is the sweetest compliment.
Can you share a little about your current work with us? Will you be writing more historical fiction?
I love reading and writing historical fiction, and I hope to write many more novels in my lifetime. My current work in progress is about the black blizzards of the 1930s American Dust Bowl. Many Americans fled the region, uprooted their families in search of a better life. But many families dug in, refused to leave, refused to let the dust beat them. I want to write about the latter.
What do you do when you aren't writing?
I keep pretty busy with family activities and obligations. There isn't time for much else. I do try to keep physically active with yoga, swimming and walking my dogs several times a week, which helps me maintain my sanity when things get really hectic.
What is something about you or your writing that might surprise your readers?
People always seem to be surprised when they find out I didn't go to college. There are many ways to learn how to write and to expand your mind. You just have to look for them.
Visit Jessica at www.jessicamccann.com, http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/AllDifferentKindsOfFree and https://twitter.com/#!/JMcCannWriter.
All Different Kinds of Free is available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
WIN A COPY OF ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF FREE
Would you like to have your own copy of this modern-day classic? Here's how you can enter for up to eight chances to win one of two copies of the print version or one of four copies of the ebook—epub, PDF or mobi format—for a total of six copies to be given away:
+1 Become a new follower. (+2 If you're already a follower.)
+1 Subscribe to Bird's-eye View. (+2 If you're already a subscriber.)
+1 Tweet this contest.
+1 Follow my tweets.
+1 Post this on your Facebook wall.
+1 Like my Facebook fan page.
Then comment on this post with your point total and e-mail address! The contest will be open until midnight Sept. 3, and the winner will be announced the week of Sept. 4. Good luck!