Does this book have a special meaning to you?
Once in a Blood Moon has a special meaning to me because it was inspired by the life of my ancestor: John Fowler was born in 1799 in North Carolina. When he was a little boy, his mother and father moved his family consisting of two brothers and three sisters to South Carolina. His father took ill shortly afterward and died. The mother took the three girls back to North Carolina, but the boys were indentured on separate plantations. The following is from a biographical account writing by W.T. Dugan, printed in the Emporia Kansas Gazette in 1906:
“The third boy (John Fowler, my ancestor) was placed side by side with his dark skinned human brother chattel. He was treated as a common slave….
“He made friends and confidants of his dark skinned fellow laborers…plans were laid, schemes thought up and many whispered conferences in the darkness of the night were held for his freedom that he might rejoin his mother.”
When I read this account, I wanted to write a novel to honor the courage and compassion of the slaves who helped a white boy to escape the slave quarters. It was obvious to me that the protagonist of the story would be a slave. And so, I crafted Alexandra Degambia.
After fifteen years of research, writing, and rewriting, my historical fiction novel, Once in a Blood Moon, became a reality.
Where do you get your storylines?
My storylines are generated by challenging circumstances that require a courageous protagonist who dares to step out of his/her comfort zone to help bring about a positive change. For example: One of my stage plays, To Destroy You is No Loss is based on the life of a Cambodian teenager who used her intelligence and compassion to survive imprisonment by the Khmer Rouge; my screenplay, Five Minutes to Midnight, tells the story of Elissa Montanti, sometimes referred to as “The Saint of Staten Island” because she has often risked her life to help children injured by war (Shock and Awe) or natural disaster (Haiti Earthquake).
Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others? Why?
Once is a Blood Moon was the most challenging work I have ever written because of the deep research required to bring this historical fiction novel to life:
Diction used in Once in a Blood Moon by African Americans and Caucasians, is derived from original sources including journals and the Slave Narratives.
Bagdon, Robert Joseph. “Musical Life in Charleston, South Carolina from 1732 to 1776 as Recorded in Colonial Sources.: Ph.D. diss., University of Miami, 1978.
Banat, Gabriel. The Chevalier de Saint Georges. (New York: Pendragon Press (2006).
Baum, Robert M. Shrines of the Slave Trade: Diola Religion and Society in Precolonial Senegambia, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Berlin, Ira, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York: Vintage Books, 1974).
Bland Jr., Sterling Lacater. African American Slave Narratives. Westport,Connecticut; London: South Carolina Press, 2001.
Blassingame, John W. Slave Testimony. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.
Brockington, Lee G. Plantation Between the Waters. Charleston S.C.: The History Press, 2006.
Dugan, W.T. The Story of a White Slave. Emporia, Kansas: The Emporia Gazette, 1901.
Green, Harlan & Harry Hutchins Jr. (2004) Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston, S.C. 1783-1865. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc, 2004.
Horton, James Oliver & Lois E. Horton. Slavery and the Making of America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Katz, William Loren. Black Indians. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks, January 3, 2012.
Koger, Larry. Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina. University of South Carolina: South Carolina Press, 1995.
Lause, Mark A. “Borderland Visions: Maroons and Outliers in Early American History”: Monthly Review, Vol. 54. No. 4., 2002.
Linford, Scott V. “Stories of Differentiation and Association: Narrative Identity and the Jola Ekonting.” Yearbook for Traditonal Music, January 1, 2016.
Littlefield, Daniel C. Rice and Slaves. Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1981.
Lockley, Timothy James. Maroon Communities in South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
Maillard, Kevin Noble. “Slaves in the Family: Testamentary Freedom and Interracial Deviance” College of Law Faculty—Scholarship. 76. http://surface.syr.edu/lawpub/76., 2012.
Milanich, Jerald. First Encounters Spanish Exploration in the Caribbean and the United States: 1492-1570, 1989.
Myers, Amrita Chakrabarti. Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston. Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, August 1, 2014.
Reynolds, Rita. Wealthy Free Women of Color in Charleston, South Carolina during Slavery, A dissertation: Graduate School of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2007.
Stoudemire, Sterling. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, The University of North Carolina Press, 1979.
Dr. Robert Baum (an interview, May, 2016, Dartmouth College) Associate Professor of Religion and African Studies: Dartmouth College.
Dr. Lee C. Brockington (an interview, July 2004 in Georgetown, S.C.), researcher and writer for the Belle W. Baruch Foundation at the Hobcaw Barony of Georgetown County, South Carolina. Ms. Brockington is a graduate of Columbia College, Instructor at the Coastal Carolina University. Her research regularly appears in newspapers and magazines and on educational television.
Dr. Emory S. Campbell (an interview, July 2004, Sullivan’s Island, S.C.), a native of Hilton Head Island, S.C., Dr. Campbell has been immersed in Gullah traditions and customs all of his life. He is considered to be one of the nation’s foremost experts on Gullah culture and the history of rice cultivation in the United States.
The storyline dictates the genre I write in. Included in my writing credits are a newspaper column (weekly for five years); reframed fairy tales; a science fiction fantasy novel; and bio-pic screenplays.
Was there any specific circumstance that made you want to be a writer?
I read Little Women when I was nine years old. I felt a soul-connection with Jo, and knew from the moment a finished the book that I wanted to be a writer.