I am happy to welcome author Maria McKenzie to my blog today to tell us something about her writing and her latest work, ESCAPE. Maria and I share a lot in common apart from a first name. We're both around the same age (born in the early sixties), we both love writing and we are both partners in inter-racial marriages. It's quite a sobering thought that where Maria lives, had it been a century and a half back in time, her marriage would have probably been illegal.
Have you always wanted to be an author or is it something that happened to you gradually?
Becoming an author was a gradual process for me. I came up with the idea for Unchained and couldn’t stop writing! That narrative evolved from a simple love story into a complex family saga.
Do you write in any other genres or do you specialize in historical novels?
Right now I only write historicals. The first novel I released last year was The Governor’s Sons. It’s historical, as is The Unchained Trilogy. However, as soon as the last volume of Unchained is completed, I’d like to write a contemporary piece.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
Real life and my imagination. I came up with the idea for Unchained when I thought how sad it would have been if my husband and I had met 150 years earlier. We were living in North Carolina at the time, and being an interracial couple, we wouldn’t have been allowed to marry a century and a half earlier. I was inspired to write The Governor’s Sons after reading Dear Senator, the memoir by Essie Mae Washington Williams. She was segregationist Governor Strom Thurmond’s love child by his family’s African American maid.
Do you have a fixed routine for writing - certain number of hours or a certain number of words per day?
While the kids are at school, I try to squeeze in about three hours a day in between housework.
How do you go about researching your historical background? Do you ever use your family history as many authors do?
The research I do depends on the subject matter. For Escape, the first part of The Unchained Trilogy, I read slave narratives, books on abolitionists, the Underground railroad, rice plantations and Wilmington, North Carolina during the 1800s. I also toured some historic homes and the grounds of what was a rice plantation. To get a good feel for the dialogue of that time period, I read Mary Chesnut’s A Diary From Dixie. Those are just a few of the things I did. The trilogy spans over 140 years and takes place in North Carolina, Ohio, California and New York, so I had to research a lot more, but I loved doing it! I was a librarian for several years.
Do you write for pleasure and for the pleasure of your readers or is there an underlying social message?
I suppose my writing combines pleasure with the underlying social message that love is color blind. If two hearts are meant to be together, they’ll find a way, regardless of circumstance.
Thanks for coming over, Maria. I loved your answers...
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ESCAPE is a romance novel, but it's no escapist fairy tale. The obstacles that Daniel and Lori have to face to be together are daunting to say the least. Lori's a slave and Daniel's a free man with abolitionist leanings. Their fight to be together makes compelling reading although some of the obstacles they face are quite horrifying. Yet the book is a joy to read. What warms the heart is Daniel and Lori's simple love for each other and their strong trust in God. It literally shines through Maria's writing. It's not a fairy tale read, yet it manages to be realistic and hopeful at the same time.
What's horrifying for me to read as a Christian is how many so-called Christian people used the Bible to justify slavery and the abuse of people of African-American origin. It is good to know that there were Christians then who truly believed that there is no discrimination in God's eyes.
Well researched historical novels like this are truly educational; they can teach us much about the mistakes of the past. Even in the world today there are people who dare not fall in love with each other for fear of dreadful and horrible retribution.
A very simple, compelling and historically authentic read.