father& son

Character Flaw

After my father died, I was terrified of one day being left an orphan. I’m sure that fear influenced my depiction of Charlie Mears, the narrator of Forsaken. For the past few winter terms at Elon University I taught a course boldly entitled, “Write an American Best Seller.” I would tell students the name was […]

Walter Plecker

Bureau of Vital Statistics

The work of Dr. Walter Plecker’s Bureau of Vital Statistics would culminate in Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which remained on the books until it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Plecker is depicted in the novel, Forsaken. Born into a slave-owning family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia just days before […]

MLH

To Mary Leigh with the Blue Eyes

“The fiction of good storytellers can get at some of the barren heartache and injustice behind those old Jim Crow stories as well as the brand new Jim Crow stories of massacres and ‘legal homicides’ showing up in our newspapers at the beginning of another century, the twenty-first. Travel back a hundred years or so […]

Dahlia “Sam Huston” by Joydeep. Native to Mexico, the plants were discovered by Europeans in the sixteenth century. The Aztecs used their hollow stems for water pipes.

Dahlias

Narrative choices often are conscious—a character needs to say this or the plot needs that. And sometimes they’re not. Dahlias were my mother’s favorite flower. She always planted two rows of them by our farm gate. When the school bus dropped me off, I’d stand for a moment, watching the white dust from the road […]

Sirens_Odysseus

The Sirens’ Song

A goal I set for the novel Forsaken was to have it be as accurate historically as I could make it. This became an obsession. I’d caution anyone interested in writing historical fiction against the sirens’ song of research. There’s so much information! As writers, we want to listen to what history has to say. […]