One of the hopes I have for this blog is to point to, highlight, and, if I can, scream about some of the things I’m reading. Today’s interview is a third example of me telling you about books I’ve read through author interviews; the first is here and the second is here. I want to commend to you Glorious.
I asked Ms. Bernice McFadden if she would like to be interviewed and she graciously accepted. I’m glad to bring my questions and her answers about Glorious, introducing you to this story and her work as a novelist. The interview follows the back cover copy for Glorious:
Glorious is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights era. Blending fact and fiction, Glorious is the sotry of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and ultimately revival offers a candid a true portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.
It is a novel informed by the question that is the title of Langston Hughes’s famous poem: What happens to a dream deferred? Based on years of research, this heart-wrenching fictional account is given added resonance by factual events coupled with real and imagined larger-than-life characters. Glorious is an audacious exploration into the nature of self-hatred, love, possession, ego, betrayal, and, finally, redemption.
Now, the interview.
- You wrote a great story, pulling from people of the past. What’s the role of history in Glorious? Do you think that you’ve used history as a character in your work? When I write fiction that includes historical reference, I do so simply to inform my reader – black and white – of Black peoples role in history, because we as a people have been erased from said history. I do believe that history becomes a character in and of itself in my books.
- There is a sense that you are telling several people’s stories. For example, several writers from the Harlem Renaissance are featured. Are there writers from that period who, if you will, 1) shaped the story with you and 2) who inspire your work? I have been inspired by every factual character who appears in Glorious. Without their participation the story would not have been authentic and thus, would not have rang true with the readers.
- Easter is the main character in Glorious. She carries into the story hope, certainty, perseverance, and strength. How did you develop her character? How did you listen to her voice? I allow my characters to tell their own stories. I do not force their hands and so I allow them to share with me and the world what they choose to share.
- Sexuality, affection, and love play prominent roles in Glorious. I would say the same for Sugar and This Bitter Earth. For me, the love and intimacy I read in your pages add a natural and normal quality to the relationships in the stories. My sense as a reader is that scenes like those you write give us a view of sexuality and love. How do you think your work—this current one or the body of your work—helps readers image and see examples of love? My depictions of love and sex are raw. Meaning, that I do not dress those emotions/actions up in order to make the reader comfortable. It is what it is – and that is exactly what I want the reader to walk away with – not some glamorized, Hollywood version of love and sex.
- Give us a glimpse of how you found the publisher for Glorious. I queried Akashic Books in the Spring of 2010 and they quickly responded, requesting a copy of the manuscript. I bumped into the publisher (Johnny Temple) at the Harlem Book Fair in July 2010. He told me that he still had not read the ms – but that one of his associates had, and loved it! In August 2010 I received and email from Johnny conveying his admiration for the work and his desire to publish it. The rest..as you know.. is Glorious literary history!
- Your blog and your novels always include a highlight, emphasis, or reminder about communicators from before. What other writers would you like to point readers to? What titles should readers have on our shelves? I am blessed to know a bevy of incredible writers! Donna Hill, Deberry and Grant, Bonnie Glover, Tina McElroy Ansa, Carleen Brice, Lori Thorps, Elizabeth Nunez and Stacey Patton- are some writers that readers should support and add to their collections!
- What do writers who aspire to publish fiction need to know that they don’t? Aspiring writers need to know that they will have to wear two hats. That of the creator and the marketing/publicity professional.
- If I read you correctly, cultural memory is important to you. What do you mean by cultural memory and why is it significant? My slogan is: I write to breathe life back into memory. I say this because we (Af-Am’s) have been stricken from numerous pages of history books. In school are children are taught that our history begins with slavery. It’s an abomination! It is of the utmost importance to know where we come from. Undertsanding our origins will place us firmley on a successful journey towards enlightement and success. If you believe you’ve come from nothing – it’s most likely you will become nothing. We come from greatness and we need to be aware of that!
- What’s the last novel you read, and what’s the one you’re looking to read? What else is in your to-be-read pile? I had the immense pleasure of reading Anna-in-Between by Elizabeth Nunez. I am very much looking forward to reading Perfect Peace, by Daniel Black.
- How can my blog readers stay connected to you? I am active on FB and my handle on Twitter is: queenazsa. Interested individuals can visit my cyber-home at: www.bernicemcfadden.com
Finally, I am giving away a new copy of Glorious! All you need to do is post a comment, either recommending a book or posting the title of the last book you read by Sunday, 11:59PM, CST. I will randomly select a winner on Monday. Check in after that because I’ll announce who’s won and ask you to email me your mailing address.