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A True Story of Love, Loss, and Redemption - an Author Interview with Suzette D. Harrison

Book Blurb

New Hampshire, 1796. “My name is Ona Judge, and I escaped from the household of the President of the United States. I was the favored maid of George and Martha Washington, but they deemed me a slave and thought me property, and I hear ten dollars is offered as reward for my capture. Now I must write the truth that I have lived, and tell my story…”

Chincoteague, Virginia, present day. Rain soaks Tessa Scott as she runs from her car to the old, vine-covered property she has been called to survey. She’s too busy to accept a new job, but doing this favor for the grandmother of her childhood sweetheart delays a painful decision she must make about a future with her controlling boyfriend.

But when Tessa finds a tattered journal carefully hidden inside the house’s ancient fireplace, the tragic story of how Ona was ripped from her mother’s arms to live and work in the palatial Mount Vernon, and the heart-shattering betrayal that led her to risk her life and run, has Tessa spellbound. Could discovering this forgotten scandal at the heart of her nation’s history force her to confront her own story? As she races to reach the final page, will anything prepare her for the desperate moment when Ona’s captors find her again? Will it inspire Tessa to take ownership of her own life and set herself free?

A completely heartbreaking tale of love, loss and redemption, based on an astonishing true story from the founding of America. Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Marie Benedict and America’s First Daughter.

Author Interview

1. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help

you become a better writer?

I’ve been blessed to not only meet, but to develop friendship and sisterhood with some amazing fellow authors. They write romance, contemporary, and historical fiction; and they’re highly dedicated to the craft. I won’t mention names for fear of forgetting someone. However, I will make special mention of romance author, Suzette Riddick. We have the same name and affectionately call each other “Twin.” Like clockwork, Suzette and I have a monthly conference call. We laugh, cry, pray, talk each other off the ledge. We chat life and our industry. We share resources and support one another. Books brought us together. Sisterhood and friendship sustain our bond.

2. Can you give us a quick review of a favourite book by one of your

author friends?

Finding Hope by Mbinguni is a heart-wrenching coming of age tale that follows the life of 7-year old Hannah “Mouse” ‘Maynard. The book begins with a singular, life-altering tragedy that sets Mouse and her father on a course of fleeing the past by town-hopping. Throughout the journey, Mouse encounters a colorful, interesting, and beloved cast of characters that impact her sense of self and her outcomes. It’s African-American historical fiction set in the 20th century, brimming with depth and readability. It is a brilliantly written debut novel and I’m so proud of Mbinguni for daring to share it with the world.

3. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I learned so much from the editing process about structure, plot, pacing, and character development. To this day, with each subsequent book I write I try to incorporate the lessons learned from my editors. I use those lessons to build a better foundation as an author.

4. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

The best money I’ve ever spent as an author was on my laptop. It’s like a mobile office in a pocket. I love its portability, and being able to sit in the backyard and write, or take it to the library and other places for a change of scenery when writing.

5. What was an early experience where you learned that language

had power?

It wasn an unpleasant and traumatic experience, the details of which I choose to omit. I was maybe twelve years old at the time, but I remember using my voice in such a strong and powerful way that further damage was avoided. That showed me my language is to be reckoned with!

6. What’s the best way to market your books?

One of the best ways to market books is word of mouth. Satisfied customers tell other customers. I also enjoy sharing on social media, and I have a dedicated street team who assist me as well. I love one-on-one discussions with book reviewers and promoters. But one of my all-time favorite ways to share my work is engaging with book clubs. I absolutely love connecting with readers in this way and sharing our thoughts in an up-close and personal environment. During Covid this has meant connecting virtually via video conference, but the interactions have been just as sweet!

7. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend

researching before beginning a book?

We no longer have to scour library reference materials for hours on end, thanks to the internet. The internet has put research at our fingertips. I like to read multiple articles on a subject and then compare them. I create folders and bookmark articles found on the internet. I also make spreadsheets and timelines to keep information straight and organized. The amount of time spent in research prior to starting a novel varies from project to project. But I won’t begin until I feel I have a solid and strong foundation.

8. What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

Fiction allows artistic license and liberty, but when it comes to writing historical figures accuracy is key. Whether or not the character you’re writing about was an actual person, you still must immerse yourself in the time period of your work. Read articles or other books involving that era. Watch a documentary. Divorce yourself of modern day sensibilities and dive into the cosmos of your character. If your historical figure was an actual person, research, research, research!

9. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or

good ones?

Years ago when I re-emerged onto the literary scene after a lengthy hiatus, I religiously read my book reviews. The good were, of course, uplifting. The negative, not so much. Human nature is a fickle thing. We’ll bypass twenty positive comments just to focus and fixate on one criticism. When I found myself giving too much time, energy, and attention to the critical and negative, I had to take a step back, grow thick skin, and put on some objective. Every reader is entitled to his/her opinion. If something helpful is offered and I can grow or better my craft through a critique, wonderful. If a reader is simply spewing hater-aid, I’m not drinking it. I choose to protect my craft and my spirit.

05. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Many authors say self-isolation is difficult, that it’s hard being alone. I agree. But I’m also an introverted person, so the solitude doesn’t necessarily bother me. What I find difficult is the editing. After pouring your blood onto those pages, you’re exhausted! At least I often am. Engaging in those many layers and rounds of editing, for me, are difficult only because by then I am truly tired.

Author Bio:

Suzette D. Harrison, a native Californian and the middle of three daughters, grew up in a home where reading was required, not requested. Her literary "career" began in junior high school with the publishing of her poetry. While Suzette pays homage to Alex Haley, Gloria Naylor, Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, and Toni Morrison as legends who inspired her creativity, it was Dr. Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings that unleashed her writing. The award-winning author of Taffy is a wife and mother of two teens, and she holds a culinary degree in pastry and baking. Mrs. Harrison is currently cooking up her next between batches of cupcakes.


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