Bethany C. Morrow is an Indie Bestselling author who writes for adult and young adult audiences, in genres ranging from speculative literary to contemporary fantasy to historical.
Interviewed by the lively and charming TikToker Teresa Jack, Bethany C. Morrow is here to share with us, titbits of black and queer history, talk about representation, and hopefully solve some of the world’s problems along the way.
Q: What lead you to become a storyteller?
A: It’s so beautiful when people have these moments that are really distinct, that they can remember realizing that “I want to be a writer”. I did not have that moment. I have been writing ever since I have been journaling and I literally started doing that when I was seven years old. So this is just who I am, this is just what I do, and I never had a moment where I didn’t know I was a writer. So what I went through was in junior high, having a teacher who also happened to be a professional writer introduced me to the fact that there’s actually an industry for this. There are actually ways to do this correctly, there’s a business aspect of it so that was really more impactful for me because I had sort of been thinking, and I still do, that this is who I am, this is what I do, this is where my power is, and I guess I just thought that everybody would just figure it out ’cause I’ve always had a lot of support. I’ve always had a lot of people in my life, adults and my parents and teachers, who identified it as well, so it didn’t seem like it was a mystery to anybody. learning that there is actually an industry though and that there is a way to say queried agent and there is a way to get traditionally published, all of that was a huge education but in terms of the writing and who I am and my identity as a writer that’s just who I am.
Q: I want to talk about your research process I would love to hear the story behind you digging this up and sharing it with us.
A: When Emily of ‘Fable and Friends’ asked me to do a Little Women remix, I immediately knew that it was going to be at a free people colony and I knew it was going to be the free people colony of Roanoke Island and then I had to try to remember how I knew that it existed because that’s all the information I had. I knew it existed, I didn’t know where I knew it from, I hadn’t learned it in school and I didn’t know any specifics so I immediately started on google, like, ‘was there a free people colony at Roanoke Island? Why do I know this?’ And I came upon Patricia Seaclick’s?? non-fiction work, her scholarship called Time Full of Trial which was about the entire lifespan of the free people colony at Roanoke Island. Being a Black American means that you have this oral curriculum that goes alongside your traditional education because traditional education is a curated mythology that totally leaves everybody out. And so it was one of those things that I just gleaned through osmosis and I didn’t even remember who would have told it to me. But finding her book, a) it was like this great conformation that the nebulous knowledge that’s passed down in Black American families is true because one of the things that people try to do is to delegitimize that oral tradition and make it seem like the only thing you can trust is what’s written down even though we know that what’s written down is curated. It was also super devastating because this is a real place with a rich and impactful history and we were not taught this. And then you think about the fact that you, tomorrow, could go and visit a former plantation site they have been preserved right? You can’t go visit this free people colony, there’s nothing to visit. So what does it mean, what is the intentionality of what was preserved and what wasn’t, and how it’d have changed the American imagination if we all knew that free people colonies had existed and therefore had been sabotaged.
Q: With this book did you want to set the record straight? Were there specific things that you wanted people to know?
A: No. I mean we are taught to attach this idea of agenda to the people who are contradicting the norm but we don’t apply that same skepticism to the norm and that’s the problem. There’s absolutely an agenda that goes into the history that has been curated and is being presented. I don’t have to have an agenda to go like “Well here’s something that’s true.”. That’s what this is. Like, here is a place that really existed. I knew it existed but I didn’t know how it existed. It’s important to me that you know it exists. It’s about the reality of what it would’ve been like for a previously enslaved and now a self-emancipated family of black women. What would their lives have been like? It’s important to me that if we assume that people who set the record straight have an agenda, let’s at least apply that same amount of skepticism to the record.
Q: What do you hope that your audience takes away from this book?
A: I hope they take away a furtive sort of hope, I hope that in reading something set in the time period it was set in, realistically portraying people with ambitions and love and passion and intimacies and connections and desires and things, I hope, especially because we are in such a turbulent era right now and a lot of times you’re thinking ‘how do we just keep going? How do we just keep waking up and doing this? I hope that it really is encouraging and edifying that way, that we do. We do keep going, we do keep hoping, we do keep wanting, we do keep striving no matter who we are or where we are and I hope that it gives people a realistic glimmer of encouragement in the middle of very difficult circumstances.
For the full interview, click here.