Author Tuesday returns! Today I’ve got a favorite human, writer and friend named Andi Cumbo-Floyd I can’t wait for you to meet. Andi is a writer’s writer who inspires me in the many different forms her writing takes; from non-fiction to fiction, writing to writers, general audiences and young adults alike, she is an inspiration to many. Read her heart behind her new book, Silence at the Locks, and leave a comment below to win a copy of the new release!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I’m a writer, editor, historian, and farmer who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with my husband, young son, six goats, three cats, four dogs, and plus/minus 40 chickens. I write primarily about the history and legacy of slavery here in Virginia – be that in fiction or nonfiction – and I also write books for writers about writing. (How’s that for meta?!)
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Silence at the Lock tells the story of Mary Steele, a young white woman who can see ghosts. One day, she mysteriously appears at a historical site near her home and meets the ghost of Sarah, a young, black woman who was killed while trying to stop the lynching of her mother. As Mary begins to learn Sarah’s story, it becomes clear that the aftermath of these murders is still playing out in very powerful ways in their small town.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Well, this is the third book in this series with Mary Steele, and all of them are inspired by places in a town called Buena Vista, where my father-in-law and husband grew up. The plots and characters are all fictional, but the places are very real. Buena Vista is one of those mountain towns that is rich in story if not rich in cash. The people have long roots in those hollows and hillsides, and hearing my father-in-law and husband talk about the town – the nicknames people had there, glory day! – told me that I needed to write about this place.
This book’s spark came when I visited a historic canal lock beside the Maury River. The lock and canal system had been built in the 19thcentury as a way to transport goods over the Appalachian Mountains, and I grew up near another section of the system a bit further east. While my family was visiting the lock one day, I had this image of a black woman’s feet hanging from a tree near the lock stones . . . and Silence at the Lock came to me.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words, and also, how have you been changed by writing the book? First and foremost, I hope readers will come to understand – or deepen their understanding – of how lynching continues to be a very present experience in the lives of many people in our communities. I have friends whose grandparents were lynched, and we have stories of lynching happening today. . . so I hope this story helps people see that this isn’t some “ancient” history that we need to simply forget about.
Also, I hope my white readers will see hope in Mary – a young woman – and understand that they too can act to fight racism. And that they will not be alone in that fight, as hard as it can be.
This book made me realize how deeply I am committed to telling the stories of African American history – both in fiction and nonfiction – not as some good work I do but because these stories are so rich, so important, and so crucial to the lives of Americans. I hope I get to tell these amazing stories for my entire life.
We oftentimes talk about “coloring outside the lines” on this blog: so, how do you hope your book will help readers color outside the lines? Honestly, I hope people begin to see history – particularly the history of oppression – as ongoing and very real in the lived experience of people. I’d like for us to stop thinking of history as something walled-off, lined-out as “back then.” That’s my dream.
Well, my friends, there you go: if you want to win a copy of Andi’s new book, be sure to leave a comment below. Giveaway ends Friday, May 17th. Good luck!
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