Interview with Author K. Williams
What inspired you to write this story about the American Civil War?
Facing my final term of undergraduate study, I had wanted a project, an independent study that would tie things together better between my English major and History minor. A friend of mine had talked about this great professor she had, Dr. Richard Kendall, at the University at Albany where we both studied. Dr. Kendall was the quintessential history professor, sport coat and sweater vest. Something in his appearance reflected the antiquities into which he delved. This is not to say that he looked dusty and abused. If you took a photo of Dr. Kendall and made it look like a tin-type, he’d somehow manage to fit right in. Just as World War II tends to be my preferred period, the Civil War too, you’ll also find things about me that are Victorian or Big Band. So, onto an appointment at the good Dr.’s office I went. I proposed that we do an independent study in the following term, tying together my studies. I had thought long and hard over what, finding out what his interests were and if they meshed with my own, which they did: American Civil War. My proposal was therefore to explore the times, what it was like from gender perspectives, race issues, political issues and to include some research into the maneuvers of the military.
What was your biggest challenge when writing Blue Honor?
This was my first book and it has been the hardest thing I ever wrote to this day. The research was easy. The hard part was learning to craft the narrative well. We take it for granted in elementary English that this grammar stuff is ever going to come back to haunt in a way that it matters. Truthfully, does any of the school stuff strike you as all that important until you well out of school and it’s too late? Further unfortunate is how a lot of teachers are not very good with grammar themselves. I vaguely remember lectures on predicates and nouns and verbs and all that. However, when I really focused on writing, there were terms being thrown at me that I didn’t really know the meaning of them. I had heard them before but a blank stood in my head where their meaning should have been. We grow up using English and it becomes second nature out of necessity in way that is really quite passive. A lot of the foibles of beginning writing stem from unclear lessons in grammar, maybe we were out that day/week. Maybe we just were so tired we couldn’t concentrate. Whatever it was, it was a tough gig to get past. I cannot stress enough how going through college and continuing to strive, then attending graduate school, how that really honed my skills. Working with a great editor will also help. Eventually, the little things that they correct will be automatic to you as you passively adopt them. The bigger things will take more practice, but I believe that with each book, I’ve learned something that has made me a stronger writer.
What do you admire about your heroine, Emily Conrad?
I admire her desire to become a doctor in the face of extreme adversity. That she recognizes her own ability, and doesn’t let convention shut her down. Though she’s enabled by a father who agrees that women should be equals (and maybe he only does to a degree, and with other things he’s quite conservative), Emily’s wouldn’t be caged anyway. Her spirit is willful, though it appears shy and reluctant, wanting to test the water before it dives into the pool. She’s methodical about the steps she takes, thinking a great deal all the time about consequences versus her picture of what she strives to become. Yet, she’s human. She longs to love and be loved, to be swept off her feet. She loves freely and though she can be a bit ham-fisted with friends, is always well meaning.
What frustrates you about Emily?
Her youth. That she’s trapped by the concerns of a young woman while simultaneously enjoying a mind of a gifted person. I think my frustration is her frustration…for the things that limit her, some of which she allows: her mother’s constant pecking and preening, feeling she needs to measure up to the other women, not seeing that she’s pretty amazing.
What do you do when you get writer’s block?
I quickly realize there is something I’m missing. Trust your brain. It’s a powerful computer/processor–so it knows when something isn’t adding up before you do. Let the wheels grind. This downtime is processing time, and whatever is missing, whatever it is you need, will be soon coming. Do some activities that have to do with your topic, read some more research on the period, watch a documentary, go to a museum. You can do off topic stuff too, something that might sort of inform the writing–like listen to a new band, or go look at some art. That’s what I do. Just let it happen, it’s processing time.
What gets you in the mood to write?
Sometimes, absolutely nothing! I will procrastinate and keep procrastinating, then some deadline crops up. I don’t mind reading and researching, but making me sit down to actually begin–that can be the worst. Those first paragraphs are always the hardest. I just give myself the room to have these fits, because maybe, like with writer’s block, something is missing from the equation yet. Eventually I wear down and get into it.
Who are your favorite authors?
I read just about anything, so I tend not to think of books in terms of authors. During the writing of my second book, I really rather fell into Graham Greene. I read This Gun For Hire and his style and the story just blew me away. I want to read more by him. I grew up on Tolkien and a whole lot of classics.
If you could go back in time and live in any era, what would you choose?
World War II. I love the fashion. But the Victorian Era has some exquisite features itself. That’s hard to decide, until I think of medical advances. I’d much rather be in a WWII era hospital if I was sick than in a Victorian one!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Movies. Swedish Fish. Mostly Swedish Fish. I cannot get enough of the red ones. I’m obsessed with them and have a dish on my desk at all times with a supply. I need SF Anonymous.
What’s next for you?
I’m releasing my newest work this month, the first in a science fiction/fantasy called the The Trailokya Trilogy. Book one, The Shadow Soul is unlike anything I have ever written and I hope that it will be received well by audiences. A lot of effort went into forming the world of the books and years of research and life. There are three books in total, so they will be released annually. I have a sequel to OP-DEC in the works. In the fall, the research for a new historical work will begin. I’m also mulling over a follow up to Blue: Blue Haven, which will focus on the next generation from Blue Honor.
Blue Honor tracks four tightly twining families during the American Civil War. Each member is asked to sacrifice more than their share to see friends and loved ones through the terrible times. The only certainty they have is that nothing will be the same.
Emily Conrad is the bookish daughter of a wealthy dairy family from Vermont. Her indulgent father has educated her and bred ideas that aren’t acceptable to her more urbane mother, who thinks Emily needs to settle down with her longtime friend and town philanderer Evan Howell. The outbreak of war frees Emily from these expectations for a time, but a stranger soon arrives after the guns begin to blaze, threatening her plans more than societal conventions ever could.
Devoted to the young woman who healed her wounds, Henrietta has become part of the Conrad family, hoping that she may one day see her husband and son again. As a runaway slave, she’s been lucky enough to find this slice of peace in Vermont, but the return of Evan Howell and the man he brings with him portends great change that might see her locked back in irons, if not executed for what she’s done.
Evan isn’t as bad as his reputation has made him out to be. He knows his chum Emily will make the best doctor Vermont has ever seen, and he knows he’s not the man to marry her. With a little manipulation, he convinces his commanding officer, Lieutenant Joseph Maynard, to take leave with him and see the beauty of the north. He just doesn’t let on it’s not hillsides and streams he’s setting the man up for.
Joseph has both power and privilege as the son of a Baltimore lawyer, but neither can guarantee him the things he wants in life. His commission in the army is likely to lead to death, a sacrifice he was willing to make to end slavery in the States—that was until he saw Emily Conrad. Torn between duty and desire, Joseph struggles to stay standing for that which he once held strong convictions. War weary, they all march on to duty…
Find Blue Honor
About K. Williams:
Born in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she continues to reside, K.Williams embarked on a now twenty year career in writing. After a childhood, which consisted of voracious reading and hours of film watching, it was a natural progression to study and work in the arts.
K attended the State University of New York at Morrisville, majoring in the Biological Sciences, and then continued with English and Historical studies at the University at Albany (home of the New York State Writer’s Institute) gaining her Bachelor’s Degree. While attending UA, K interned with the 13th Moon Feminist Literary Magazine, bridging her interests in social movements and art.
Currently, K has completed the MALS program for Film Studies and Screenwriting at Empire State College (SUNY), and is the 2013-2014 recipient of the Foner Fellowship in Arts and Social Justice. K continues to write and is working on the novels of the Trailokya Trilogy, a work that deals with topics in Domestic Violence and crosses the controversial waters of organized religion and secularism. A sequel to OP-DEC is in the research phase, while the adaptation is being shopped to interested film companies. Excerpts of these and more writings can be found at: www.bluehonor.com.
***Images and text were provided by Booktrope Publishing.***
***Disclosure that I also work for Booktrope Publishing.***