Clutch: Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for our readers. Your novel has created quite a buzz in the literary community. Although you are in the nursing field, your educational background is English. Was nursing always your intended career choice or you have other plans initially?
I’ve always wanted to write. I started out writing poetry at a very young age and never stopped. As a child I never dreamed of becoming a nurse, but I have been in the field for nearly thirty years. It is rewarding, and I have seen many changes over the years, from technology to medicines and more. I thought I would be a teacher or a social worker, but I never pursued either. I think I am good at what I do, and nursing has been good to me. It allowed me a flexible schedule and the finances to return to school for my degree in English.
Clutch: What inspired The Darkest Child and why did you decide to allow the story to be told from Tangy Mae Quinn’s point of view?
The Darkest Child came about because I wanted to explore what might have happened to abused children in the rural south before child protection laws were enforced. Jim crow was in effect and poverty among African Americans was prevalent during the era that the story takes place. It was not unusual to find “color-struck” individuals like Tangy’s mother. The story was told from Tangy Mae’s point of view simply because none of the other characters had her hopes, dreams, view of the world, or hunger for education. I have imagined the story from Mushy’s and Tarabelle’s point of view, and I can see many ways that it would not have worked.
Clutch: Tell us, did you anticipate your debut novel, The Darkest Child, would become the highly acclaimed, award winning book it has become?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that The Darkest Child would do as well as it has done, and I never thought about an award until I was given the BCALA First Novelist Award. I felt honored to receive the award.
Clutch: Having received the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), are you inspired to pen future novels?
I have read many reviews of the novel. There are readers who want to know more about this family and the outcome of the children. I am inspired by that, and I hope to write many more novels.
Clutch: What were your personal goals for your novel and in what way did you want it to affect readers?
First and foremost, my goal was to get my work published. I wanted to stir emotions and give readers something to think about. I do believe that I accomplished all of those things.
Clutch: Tell us a little about The Darkest Child?
The Darkest Child started out as a rhyming poem that evolved into my first work of fiction. The premise never changed, only the rhymes. As mentioned before, I wanted to explore. The characters took over, and by the time I finished I had 835 pages. Thanks to the staff at Soho Press for editing it down to a reasonable length. The story takes place in Georgia and begins in 1958 with a mentally disturbed mother of nine who is about to give birth to her tenth child.
Clutch: What advice would you offer aspiring writers?
My advice to aspiring writers is to read. Whether fiction or non-fiction, reading makes you aware of the rhythm and pace of stories, and it builds vocabulary. I think all of these are essential tools of good writing.
Clutch: Do you have any intentions of penning any future novels?
Right now I am stuck in mud in another Georgia town (in the novel). If I am ever able to dig my way out, I hope to have another novel completed soon.