Space Coast Writer’s Guild Interview

Here is my interview with Diana Narciso of the Space Coast Writer’s Guild:
Where did you get the idea for Reparation?

I grew up on a farm in a very rural area of northern Florida at a time when segregation, in the South, was the law of the land. As a child, I accepted the rules that were given to me and didn’t really question them. It was not until I was in junior high and the Civil Rights Movement was becoming national news that I realized that “separate but equal” did not mean that at all. As I watched black people on TV being kicked and beaten and having police dogs and fire hoses turned on them just for marching peacefully for their rights, I was sickened by what was happening and ashamed of my fellow Southerners. I never saw any violence first hand or even heard about any happening in my local community and county (Madison County), but the general attitude of my parents and other adults around me was that all the trouble was being caused by Northern agitators, that “our” colored people (except they didn’t use the term “colored”) were happy with the way things were and didn’t want change. As a Southerner, I’ve always felt guilty that those of us who were horrified by the violence didn’t speak up more and didn’t do more to let the world know that we weren’t all racists. So the novel is my apology for long-ago failures and an attempt in the present to make reparation for the past.


How long did it take you to write it?

Writing the novel took about six years total—about five years writing and workshopping it with my writing critique group chapter by chapter, and then another year of revising and getting it into final shape. Then the publishing process took another year, from submission to final product.


Are you an outliner, or what they call a “pantster” who dares the wild unknowns without much organization, or somewhere in between?

I’m definitely not an outliner. When I started writing, I knew only that Kate (the protagonist) was going to run into Delia while she (Kate) was back home for an extended visit to take care of her mother, and that the encounter was going to trigger memories for Kate. Something had happened that Kate felt guilty for, but at the time I had no idea what it was, and I knew the novel was going to be about Kate trying to atone somehow for whatever had happened in the past. At the beginning it was going to be a story of these two women and of Kate repairing whatever rift was between them, but I had no idea it was going to turn into a suspense novel where the women would put themselves in danger as they seek out evidence to prosecute someone for a crime. That’s generally what I start out with—just a basic idea, and then I let the story develop as I write, taking me in whatever direction it wants to go. Sometimes I go off on tangents that don’t lead anywhere, and then I have to rein the story in, so writing, for me, involves lots of revision.


What were you hoping the reader would take away from Reparation?

I hope readers will have a better understanding of what segregation was like in the South back in the 1940s and ‘50s and of how firmly entrenched that culture was, of how children assimilated it from birth. I also hope readers will root for Kate and Delia to finally find answers about a terrible act of violence committed forty-five years earlier and see that the villain, Lonnie P. Ramsey, is brought to justice.


Are you working on anything new?

Yes, I’m always writing. All of my novels revolve around one large extended family, so the same characters appear in different books at different stages of their lives. The novel I’m working on now has Kate’s aunt as its protagonist, and although Kate does not play any real role in the story, it takes place during the summer of Kate’s wedding, and the wedding is what brings the family together so that other events can play out.


If you could give struggling authors any advice, what would it be?

Keep writing. Join a critique group, and don’t be afraid to take constructive criticism. Revise, revise, revise. Take classes or read books about the writing craft, and read the type of books you’d like to write. Like any other complex skill, writing requires knowledge and practice, practice, practice.


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