Eventually a novelist will be asked, “Is your novel autobiographical?”
The answer – for me – is “yes” and “no.”
But I understand the curiosity.
People are curious about the lives of others.
And people are curious about the connection between life and art.
In my case, my novels spring from fragments of my own experience.
Just as your grandmother’s lace doily can take you back into her lilac-scented living room, so can a memory take you forward into a novel.
SPITE FENCES, my novel of justice and redemption in the Jim Crow South, springs from such a memory.
I was probably about seven or eight years old. In those days, we didn’t have shopping malls or Internet clothing sites, so my mother, each fall, would take me downtown on the bus to a department store to buy me a new pair of school shoes.
On this particular fall day, I was thirsty, so I went to the water fountain for a drink.
I’m not sure why I went to the ‘COLORED’ fountain. Perhaps the water would be pink? Or purple? Or perhaps I didn’t notice the sign at all.
But swiftly my mother moved me to the other fountain, the fountain labeled ‘WHITE.’
At the time, I wasn’t aware of how profoundly that scene would remain in my memory.
But it was my earliest experience with Jim Crow.
And – autobiographically and artistically – it worked its way into a novel.
Read SPITE FENCES and learn the way Georgia’s Jim Crow laws motivate Maggie Pugh, my young heroine, to fight for justice.
Then write and tell me what you think.