Naomi, I wanted to thank you for granting me this interview! It was very kind of you to oblige me. I loved your book and I wanted to ask: firstly, what drew you to the subject?
Slavery in the Antebellum era is something I’ve been captivated by for most of my life. The strength and courage of the slaves amazes me. (I’ve always been one for the underdog.) What they endured breaks my heart. I’ve watched every slavery movie out there and read a lot of the books.
Can you tell us a little about Book 2 in the series? A little sneak peek if you will?
In Book 2, A Guardian of Slaves, a year has passed, and Willow and Whitney have dived into running Livingston Plantation. In Book 2 you will find a more mature Willow living with the realization that her dreams of setting all slaves on her plantation free were childish and foolish, as the law binds her from doing so. However, she finds ways around the law and aids slaves and abolitionists across the country while using Livingston as a front. New mysteries will unfold. A long-awaited reunion will take place, and a wedding. Also, new characters will be introduced that dig deeper into the secrets of Book 1. Secrets that will leave readers gasping. Book 2 also has a little more romance than Book 1.
When you wrote of the atrocities of slavery, how did that affect you? The hell they endured; I am horrified still by the depravity. Reading it, seeing proof of it…it’s just so heart-wrenching. Writing about it must have been hard.
In a lot of books written about this time period, I often found that authors skim over the truth of the horrors the slaves suffered at the hands of their masters. While writing A Slave of the Shadows, I cried a lot and was covered in goose bumps as the words slipped from my fingertips. I wanted to move readers and leave them with a new, profound understanding of what these individuals went through. The novel isn’t for everyone, as it may be hard to digest for some. Even though there is romance in the story, I focused more on the impact I wanted to make, along with the story I wanted to tell about a dark time in American history.
Willow was certainly an interesting heroine; she’s not the usual Southern belle, in that she wants her family’s slaves freed. How did she come to mind?
Willow formed in my mind from the moment I decide my first novel would be a novel about the Antebellum era. Halfway through writing A Slave of the Shadows, I decided I wanted to take a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, for inspiration and research. It was during my first visit to Charleston, when I was walking through one of the plantation houses, that I became confident in my choice to continue with the story I’d started. On the walls of the slave quarters, there was a write-up about these two Southern belles who were against slavery and took a firm stand against it.
Though slavery may have been the way of life in the South during this time, some Southerners didn’t agree with slavery. Also, not all plantations ran the same. Slaves were better off on some plantations than others. At these plantations, owners allowed their slave’s privileges, often teaching their slaves to read and write. For anyone to think all Southerners took part in the system of slavery is false.
In this period, also, not all women were ruled by men and society’s rules about what they should or shouldn’t be. Strong-minded women line the pages of history. I wanted to show that in Willow and Whitney, and even Mary Grace and Mammy. It takes all kinds of people to make up a nation. Humans are amazing, no matter their sex or race.
Did you have to travel to do any research?
When researching, most information can be found in history books or on the web. (I also use a historical fiction specialist.) However, for myself, I find traveling to the actual places where these events took place inspires me. I just recently returned from Charleston for the second time in a year. I stood on a boardwalk in the swamps and videoed the noises and scenery around me to use for scenes in my series.
Visiting the swamps and plantation houses helps me envision the horrors these courageous people went through, the dangers they faced and the risks they took to be free. I came home with a notebook of ideas and plots for Book 3, which I’m currently working on.
Will you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for twenty years and have two teenage children. I just celebrated my fortieth birthday. Yikes! I’m a preacher’s daughter and once lived a life very much controlled by a father like Willow’s. I grew up with the understanding instilled in me that my place as a woman was after a man. Dresses to my ankles were my everyday dress code. Having a voice as a woman was frowned upon, but again like Willow, I wouldn’t be silenced. Though Willow wasn’t based on me, the relationship between her and her father I molded after my father’s and mine.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over ten years. I run the accounting department for my husband’s and my own businesses, and working with numbers is something I enjoy. I’m passionate about most things I do in life. I dream big and am a goal-driven person. My greatest interests are history, traveling the world, and engaging in different cultures.
Do you have any rituals before writing or while you’re writing? Do you need to be in a quiet spot? Or do you listen to music? Is there anything special that you do?
I tend to write in the wee hours of the morning. I have a writing studio in my house that is off-limits to my family. When I sit down to write, I light a candle or turn on my essential oil diffuser. Sometimes I listen to instrumental music, but for the most part, I prefer the quiet. However, when I write scenes that I want to deliver a powerful emotional punch to my readers, I play a few songs with lyrics that pull at my heartstrings. If the scene moves me, I know the reader will also be moved.
What drew you to historical fiction? Have you always been a history buff?
Historical fiction is what I grew up reading. In it, I found a familiarity with my everyday life. I consider myself an old soul and still to this day historical fiction is my preferred genre. From ancient Egypt to Rome, to westerns, to WWI and WWII, I love it all as long as there is a strong, emotionally connecting storyline.
I can’t let you leave without telling us what you are reading right now?
I’m currently reading two classics, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
Thank you so much for your time! It’s a pleasure to have had you!
Naomi lives in Northern Alberta. Her love for travel means her suitcase is always on standby while she awaits her next plane ticket and adventure. Her love for history and the Deep South is driven by the several years she spent as a child living in a Tennessee plantation house. She comes from a family of six sisters. She married her high school sweetheart and has two teenage children and two dogs named Ginger and Snaps.
Creativity and passion are the focus of her life. Apart from writing fiction, her interests include interior design, cooking new recipes, throwing lavish dinner parties, movies, health, and fitness.