WANA Wednesday: An Interview with Maria McKenzie, plus ROW80 Update

I have a special treat this week for WANA Wednesday. Today, I’m interviewing indie author and In Real Life writing pal Maria McKenzie. Her first book, The Governor’s Sons, was blow-me-away awesome! I have her new book, Escape, on my smartphone waiting to be read!

And now, here’s Maria:

JMP: Have you been published by a big publisher? Small press/epub? Independently? Please share your publishing experience. What made you decide to take this publishing path?

MM: I chose to independently publish my books. About two years ago, I tried to get traditionally published, but after multiple rejections I decided to try independent publishing, and I have no regrets. I knew other writers who were venturing there, but I think what pushed me over the edge was what agents and publishers were starting to ask for. One e-publisher asked that you submit your own artwork, and some agents were requesting publicity plans. Since more and more is required of new authors, I figured I’d do everything myself!

JMP: I don’t blame you! Those were all big factors in my decision, too. Now that you’ve tasted the control and flexibility that comes with indie publishing, are you still pursuing a traditional publishing contract, or perhaps an agent?

MM: No, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever try again. Right now I have complete control of all my projects, and I can write what I want.

JMP: Boy do I hear that. Big publishing is really risk-adverse to anything that’s a bit different, or doesn’t fit neatly into an established genre – which is definitely how I saw The Governor’s Sons. What do you do (or have you done) for a day job? Has this informed or inspired your writing in any way?

MM: I was a librarian for thirteen years. I resigned when I had my first child back in 1999.  I really enjoyed being a reference librarian and digging up facts, and I love history. Now I write historical fiction, and half the fun for me is in the research!

JMP: One thing I loved about your books is how I felt like I was there! It’s obvious how your former day job and love of research has served you well. What about other inspirations – have there been any particular events, places, things you’ve seen/heard/read that inspired the overall premise of a book, its events, or any of the characters?

MM: My first book, The Governor’s Sons, which I published last year, was inspired by Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s memoir, Dear Senator. Williams is the love child of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond and his family’s African American maid. Her story really touched me and made me think, what would have happened if a southern governor fathered a son by a black woman, and that son grew up to become a civil rights leader.

JMP: Dear Senator sounds like a fascinating read, and has been on my non-fiction TBR list since I read about itWhat inspired your latest book?

MM: My latest novel, Escape, was inspired by my own marriage. Not long after I got married, I thought about how sad it would have been if my husband and I had known each other 150 years earlier. We were an interracial couple living in North Carolina at the time, and a century and a half earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to marry.

JMP: I thought about that with the relationship in The Governor’s Sons, too. Living in a post-Civil Rights society, it’s hard for me to imagine – but sadly true. Tell us more about your current or upcoming release.

MM: Escape: Part One of the Unchained Trilogy is my latest release, and here’s a brief synopsis:

Daniel and Lori love each other, yet to live as one in 1856, they must escape from the unyielding society that imprisons them.

Lori was born a slave in North Carolina, yet by chance was raised alongside Daniel in a wealthy abolitionist household. The sudden death of Daniel’s mother catapults Lori back into bondage.

Relegated to chattel on a rice plantation, Lori lives in constant fear under the tormenting scrutiny of Daniel’s wretched Aunt Lucinda.

After Daniel fails to convince his relatives to free Lori, he is compelled to devise a daring escape. Although a life threatening endeavor for both of them, Lori’s freedom is priceless to Daniel, and he’s willing to pay such a price for her love.

People have asked about the trilogy and the significance of the titles, so here’s that information in a nutshell:  The title of the trilogy is Unchained.  Lori was born a slave, but escapes from slavery.  Her granddaughter, Selina, who passes as white, carries the secret of her African American ancestry like a painful chain, bound around her heart. Only when she tells her family the truth can she free herself from the pain of that secret. Escape is part one of the trilogy. While Lori escapes from bondage, her daughter, Lavinia, escapes from living as a “Negro.”  In part two, Masquerade, Lavinia becomes a great actress in New York, all the while hiding her true identity.  Revelation is part three, and in this story, Lavinia’s daughter, Selina, reveals the truth about her ancestry. For what to expect in each part of the trilogy, visit the novel page on my website.

JMP: Maria, thanks so much! I can’t wait to read Escape, and I know I’ll be looking forward to the next book as soon as I finish it! Your blog has some fascinating stories about famous historical people – including some in entertainment – that no one knew were of African ancestry.

What about you? Have you ever read historical fiction featuring interracial romance? Do you find it hard to imagine a time when interracial marriages were prohibited in many places? Do you have any questions or comments for Maria? We’d love to hear from you!

Maria’s books are both available on Amazon as eBooks, and in print.

Quick ROW80 Update: I haven’t received the print proof for Home for the Holidays yet. I did get a chance to mark revisions for Chapter 4 of Hangar 18. So far so good!

What is WANA? It stands for We Are Not Alone, a guide to blogging, social media and networking for authors by Kristen Lamb. It’s writers helping writers, whether or not we’ve taken the course, and proving that we really are not alone!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

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