Q&A: Kathi Macias (The Moses Quilt)
Kathi Macias, author of The Moses Quilt (New Hope Publishers), answers seven questions about writing, her new book, and what fans can look forward to with her latest project, The Quilt Series.
Q: With this new series, you are using non-fiction characters to tell fictional stories. Can you tell us why you chose this direction and what was your inspiration?
Though I’ve never been a quilter, I’ve always been fascinated with the stories behind them. When I first discussed the possibility of doing a quilt series with Andrea Mullins at New Hope, she asked if I knew about the Gee’s Bend Quilters. I told her I didn’t but immediately went online to check them out. I was blown away with the story of that little community and the quilts they make together there, most especially the stories the quilts tell. I began to think of women in history that might make good background stories for contemporary issues-related novels. I wanted the women to be faith-filled and courageous, and I wanted to show how the choices they made in their lives, based on that faith and courage, still affect people today. Harriet Tubman was the first one to come to mind, followed by Elizabeth Blackwell (first woman doctor in America) and Fanny Crosby (the “Queen of Gospel”).
Q: The first book in this series, The Moses Quilt, is about Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad. As a Caucasian, were you intimidated writing about such an important piece of African American history?
I most certainly was! Though I’ve written about interracial relationships/issues before, this was the first time I’d tackled something based on the life a historical figure, particularly one so revered. Harriet Tubman is one of the most admired women in American history, and I wanted to do her justice. I’m so grateful to people like Thelma Wells, Bonnie Calhoun, and my editor, Joyce Dinkins, who helped me view/tell the story through Harriet’s eyes, rather than my own.
Q: What kind of research did you conduct for this particular novel?
Primarily I did both online and book research to learn everything I could about Harriet Tubman. I thought, going in, that I already knew about her life, but I quickly discovered that there was so much more than what I’d heard in school so many years ago. I found out that not only was Harriet extremely active with helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad (she led hundreds out, including her elderly parents, and never lost one in the process), but she also served as a spy and a nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War, and was active in the Women’s Suffrage movement afterward. This heroic woman was born a slave, penniless and with no hope of an education; when she died, flags were flown at half-mast in her honor. She has risen to the top of my personal heroes list!
Q: What can fans look forward to with this new series?
I believe they will enjoy the back-and-forth between contemporary fiction and historical nonfiction, as the stories interweave, not only on the written page but in the hearts of the characters. Book two, The Doctor’s Christmas Quilt, releases in October 2013. It is a contemporary novel, dealing with the issue of abortion and told against the backdrop of the life of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. The final book in the series, The Singing Quilt, which releases in Spring 2014, deals with a young woman who struggles with a physical disability; the background character is Fanny Crosby, who was blind.
Q: Why did you feel it was important to tell this story and the ones that will follow?
As I said, I am issues-oriented in much of my writing, and I also believe that though times have changed, human nature hasn’t. Issues we deal with today are not as unique as we might think. People of strong faith and courage had struggles too, and if our hearts are open, we can learn from their choices and apply them in our own life. I also feel strongly that people today need to preserve the memories of those who went before us, but in order to do that we must continue to tell their stories. To blend historical figures of the past with characters in contemporary novels was the best of both worlds for me. I hope my readers enjoy that blend as much as I did!
Q: When you aren't writing, what are you up to?
I tend to take a lot of “postman’s holidays,” meaning that when I’m not writing my own books I’m probably reading someone else’s. I’ve always been an avid reader, and if given the choice between reading and doing something else, reading wins every time. I do, however, have other interests, such as traveling (I plan to do more of that now that my husband is in the process of retiring), spending time with our extended family, and watching football. (Seriously!) I also love playing word games on my Kindle. I find it challenging but relaxing at the same time.
Q: What's your all-time favorite novel?
That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. It had a huge impact on the type of books I write today.