Today I’m pleased to welcome author Haley Whitehall to the blog, with her book, Living Half Free. The story takes place in the American south during the time of slavery. Whitehall really steeps the story in the history of the time. You feel like you are transported through time!
Interview with Haley Whitehall
What is your favorite dessert?
It is really hot this summer, but it could be the middle of winter and I’d give you the same answer: ice cream. I wish I could eat it every day … there are so many delicious flavors: rocky road, chocolate chip cookie dough, French vanilla with chocolate syrup. It is my guilty pleasure.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I needed to find an outlet for my creativity. I began telling stories when I was four and wrote my first story in the first grade. I love creating characters and bringing them to life. I didn’t go through stages of wanting to be a doctor or a ballerina. I’ve always wanted to be an author and now I am.
What inspired you to write historical fiction?
I love history. I know it is a bit of a romantic ideal but life was simpler in the 19th century, and it was definitely slower paced. I like to relive and escape to that time when doing research. I have a B.A in history and specialized in American History. The more I researched the Antebellum South/ Civil War the more I wanted to learn. I’m not sure why this time period called to me more than others. Being my favorite, it is only natural that I write historical fiction set during this era.
What inspired you to write Living Half Free?
I was reading about the Antebellum South and became fascinated with mulatto slaves who were white enough to pass as white. It didn’t take long for my mind to race with ideas. A few nights later I dreamed about Zachariah and the novel was born.
Can you quickly explain what Living Half Free is about?
When Zachariah, a naïve mulatto slave, is sold to a Kentucky slave trader, and separated from his ma and sister, he realizes the true meaning of not having rights. Singled out for abuse by his new master’s sadistic son, he dreams of only one thing: escape. He thinks he’s found it when he falls in love with a Cherokee woman from a powerful family, under whose direction he learns to pass as white. But it’s not long before he discovers that freedom that’s based on a lie will only get him so far. While struggling to find his place in the world, he also wrestles within his heart to realize his faith. This faith is tested when his slave past catches up with him, and threatens everyone he cares for. He must decide whether slavery is the price he’s willing to pay for his family’s freedom.
Living Half Free is a coming of age love story suitable for New Adults and Adults. It is written in period language and dialect. Based on reader feedback, I am considering writing a traditional romance between Zachariah and Lillian in the future.
Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
Zachariah was the easiest character for me to write. He came to me nearly fully formed. I pictured him, knew his motivations and goals and obstacles. It was eerie. My characters always talk to me but this seemed more. It was like a ghost of this mulatto slave was standing next to me making sure I got everything right.
Lillian was the hardest to write. She is a very complicated woman and seemed secretive. I had to dig deep to discover her secrets and her family’s secrets. She came from a privileged Cherokee family which directed me to research the Cherokee Nation—not a subject with extensive resources. I also had to strike a delicate balance to make her relationship with Zachariah believable and touching.
Here is a short excerpt:
This morning, Lillian’s black hair was pulled back under a green bonnet adorned with yellow flowers. Zachariah took a deep breath, his mouth slightly parted, so he could drink in her beauty. It would get him through the desert of words and sentences until he saw her again.
“I have a surprise for you, Zachary. I am going to show you some of New Orleans.”
A burst of excitement made Zachariah’s thoughts spin. He had to kiss her. He leaned over, their lips perilously close. He inhaled her breath. Shivers rippled down his body. He lusted to feel her skin, taste her skin. At the last second he caught himself, pulled back, and kissed her hand.
“Thank you, Miss.”
A mixture of shock and pleasure registered in Lillian’s eyes. She put her hand on her chest and took a deep breath.
Where is Living Half Free available?
What’s up next for you?
My first historical romance novella Midnight Caller is will be released from Liquid Silver Books 8/12/2013. I am super excited. It is the first novella in the Moonlight Romance series. It takes place right after the Civil War between a black roustabout and a widowed socialite.