Yup. The Morrow Girls Series is inspired by my family, which is very matriarchal. My great-grandmother had 9 kids, 7 of them girls. Her sons died before my time so as I was growing up the family elders were all women—strong-willed women with diverse personalities. Not to say that the men weren’t around but there is something special that happens when a family has a line of matriarchs. So, the series is a nod to that. It follows 3 generations of Morrow women (and girls) as they survive a variety of injustices. The funny thing about family dynamics is that there are always repercussions. Nothing ever happens to just one person, or even one generation. Each generation has to wrap its head around what the previous generation(s) had to deal with. The first book in the series, Bravebird, centers on Belinda Morrow as she deals with an abusive husband. The following books will trace the ripple effects of the abuse through her daughters and granddaughters while adding other issues on top of it.
How long did it take you to write your Bravebird?
Hard to say. I starting writing it in 2009 and finished the first draft in 2010. Worked on it off and on until I got an editor in 2012. Then finished the final version in 2013. I generally hop around between writing projects, especially since I’m writing a series. So, I’ll write up to a certain point in one book and then switch over to another until I’m inspired to go back to the first. It feels like Bravebird has been in the making for a long time because I’ve been living with the characters for more than five years now.
Were there other novels that inspired you while you were writing Bravebird?
Not while I was writing, no. I didn’t want the story to be corrupted so I didn’t read anything while I was in writing mode. I actually didn’t give any thought to genre classification (or the rules) until after I decided to publish it. In the beginning, I was just writing it. I hadn’t intended to publish it. It was just a story that I felt was living inside me and I needed to get it out into the open.
But back to your question. I’ve learned several things about life from some of my favorite books and those lessons have made it into Bravebird. What I said earlier about the next generations dealing with the past—that I got from Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is my absolute favorite book. Reading it was like having a religious experience because I saw what I’d always known but couldn’t put my finger on before then. The relationship between the lead and her living daughter…I knew it. I’d lived it. I’m still living it.
Ehh. I think it means fiction that deals with issues of a multicultural society or people who are not white. I generally refer to Bravebird as African American fiction instead of multicultural fiction, just because that genre is more widely recognized. But I’m not sure there’s more than a sliver of daylight between the two.
What made you decide to submit Bravebird to this competition?
I asked my publicist for a list of reputable awards. The IPPY was on the list. I still can’t believe I won…
What was the first thing you did when you found out you took the gold?
Lol. I screamed. Literally. I was in shock for about a minute or thirty seconds or however long it took for my mom to come running into my bedroom. She thought something was wrong. I said, “I won.” And she said “Let me see.” She read the email, congratulated me, and then I went screaming through the apartment. My daughter thought it was a game. (She’ll be two this summer.) So, she screamed and giggled with me. Then I went back to being in shock, repeating over and over “I don’t believe it.”
Why did you start Bravebird Publishing?
Great question! Because I didn’t need to start a publishing company simply to self-publish. I started Bravebird Publishing because I believe there are a lot of stories that need to be told and I couldn’t possibly write them all. Each story is meant to be told by a specific writer—Bravebird was that story for me. It was in my blood. But there are a million other stories that I’d love to tell that aren’t in my blood. Stories that won’t and can’t be written by me but I can publish them just the same. So, basically Bravebird Publishing is my love letter to women. It’s where I embrace female authors and help them to tell the stories that are coursing through their veins—stories that will enlighten, entertain, and empower other women.
*See the rest of the IPPY winners here