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New Release from Bookouture's Suzette D. Harrison - "The Dust Bowl Orphans"

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.

Book Blurb:

The dust cloud rolls in from nowhere, stinging our eyes and muddling our senses. I reach for my baby sister and pull her small body close to me. When the sky clears, we are alone on an empty road with no clue which way to go…

Oklahoma, 1935. Fifteen-year-old Faith Wilson takes her little sister Hope’s hand. In worn-down shoes, they walk through the choking heat of the Dust Bowl towards a new life in California. But when a storm blows in, the girls are separated from their parents. How will they survive in a place where just the color of their skin puts them in terrible danger?

Starving and forced to sleep on the streets, Faith thinks a room in a small boarding house will keep her sister safe. But the glare in the landlady’s eye as Faith leaves in search of their parents has her wondering if she’s made a dangerous mistake. Who is this woman, and what does she want with sweet little Hope? Trapped, will the sisters ever find their way back to their family?

California, present day. Reeling from her divorce and grieving the child she lost, Zoe Edwards feels completely alone in the world. Throwing herself into work cataloguing old photos for an exhibition, she sees an image of a teenage girl who looks exactly like her, and a shiver grips her. Could this girl be a long-lost relation, someone to finally explain the holes in Zoe’s family history? Diving into the secrets in her past, Zoe unravels this young girl’s heartbreaking story of bravery and sacrifice. But will anything prepare her for the truth about who she is…?

A devastating, completely captivating story of family torn apart, fighting to be reunited. Fans of Orphan Train, Before We Were Yours and Where the Crawdads Sing will never forget this powerful story of survival.

Book Buy Link:

Author Interview:

Tell us the best writing tip you can think of, something that helps you.

I quiet myself with prayer and meditation prior to writing so that my muse and inspiration can flow through and to me.

What are common traps for aspiring writers? Advice for young writers starting out.

Self-doubt is a beast. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the trap of doubting your gift, or the value of the story within you. You’ll wind up in a state of paralysis. Trust that the Creator who gifted you the gift of writing knows how to bring it forward.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

That’s a bit like name-dropping, but you asked so here it goes: Anita Davis, Dera Williams, La Rhonda Crosby, Mbinguni, Sheryl Lister, Suzette Riddick, and Tiffany Quarles Sanders to name a few. These sister-friends help ground, encourage, and inspire me. They talk me off the ledge and cheer me on, as well as keep me accountable.

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

The best money I ever spent as a writer was investing in a laptop. Before, I used a desktop and found myself limited to writing in one space. A laptop provided mobility; particularly, when traveling.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I was in my early twenties when I personally experienced the power of language and literature. I re-read Dr. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings during a pivotal time of crisis in my life and it, literally, set me free.

What’s the best way to market your books?

Social media. Make connections. Friends and family. Be direct, but not annoyingly aggressive. Cross-promote with other authors. Develop relationships with book promoters. And don’t forgot those book clubs!

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

My research includes utilization of online sources as well as books. The length of time I spend researching directly correlates to the story I’m writing, and whether or not I’m incorporating real persons, or merely fictional characters I create. It can vary from weeks to months.

Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

I’m not a fan of military novels. I remember reading Guy Johnson’s Standing at the Scratch Line, which opens on a World War I battle scene. I remember wanting to close the book and check-out mentally, but decided to proceed. I’m so glad I did! Standing at the Scratch Line has become one of my favourite novels. More importantly, it features my all-time favourite hero, King Tremaine. Guy Johnson taught me how to write an African-American heroine with unapologetic power and strength.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

Keep it accurate. Don’t falsify information about a historical person in the name of poetic license. Honor the individual by learning as much as possible about them; do the research. Put the time in. Do you need permission from estates or descendants to include the person(s) in your book? If so, get it!

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

In my early years as a writer, I read reviews religiously. The good were inspiring and uplifting; the less than lovely, quite disheartening. However, I actually recall learning something quite valuable from a negative review. Now, I try to remind myself that every reader has a right to an opinion. I also try to sit and allow the good reviews to saturate my mind to provide internal fuel and fire.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

With the outbreak of COVID and the global pandemic, working from home has taken over my writing space. Prior to the pandemic, I liked switched up my writing space by writing at my local library, my neighborhood clubhouse or even Starbucks. Now, those options aren’t available; and it’s often difficult to concentrate with everything that’s happening in the world.

Tell us about your novel/novels/or series and why you wrote about this topic?

My most recent novel The Dust Bowl Orphans will be released in February 2022. It is a dual timeline, multi-generational story of one family and the impact the Dust Bowl has on them. Unlike John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and it’s focus on the plight of Caucasian Americans, The Dust Bowl Orphans shines a light on African-Americans and our experiences during this natural phenomenon. It adds us to the narrative. I wrote it, in part, as a tribute to my great grandparents who left Oklahoma during that time period and migrated elsewhere in search of better opportunities.

What was your hardest scene to write?

I dislike violence. More than once in the novel, my protagonist Faith Wilson is faced with situations that are less than savory, and even a threat to her wellbeing. Yet, I wrote them because they are authentic to her experience. Those instances, also, lend themselves to her growth and triumph.

Tell us your favourite quote and how the quote tells us something about you.

My personal mantra is “As long as there is life within me, there is opportunity.” It speaks to resilience, the ability to dream and pursue those things that are seemingly beyond reach; and to never stop trying.

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