|Autumn Leaves Publishing|
As I have seen in one Autumnal face."
-- John Donne
As an Alabama native, I felt the pervading injustice of racial prejudice within my bone marrow, wincing at insensitive actions and comments I observed around me, sometimes by my own family. I had an epiphany at an early age when I accompanied my mother on a drive to take my beloved, black nanny home -- and I viewed, for the first time, the poverty that was the Birmingham ghetto. After seeing where my nanny lived, I cried myself to sleep; I was seven years old.
Other, life-changing childhood experiences stuck with me, too. When I decided to write a story about the indestructible soul of female friendship, I found that my formative years had forged an undeniable truth, one I found lodged within my heart ... that EVERYONE, without exception, is tied to the land and to each other, across the world and beyond. At first, I aimed my story toward young adults, a natural fit for the sassy first-person voice of Pug. It quickly became apparent that this book is a cross-over, appealing to teens, as well as a mainstream audience.
Within southern backwoods, it’s commonly believed that if you talk to your neighbor long enough, it’s just a matter of time before you discover you’re related to that person. Unless, of course, you happen to have the “wrong” skin tone. As white southerners, my family hid our Cherokee heritage (I’m one-quarter Cherokee) for many years, until my cousins and I got wind of the secret and, considering it “cool,” tracked down our Native American lineage.
During the research phase of “Pug,” I spoke to many old folks ... more than 50 ... using a borrowed, 4-wheel drive to make it to some isolated places ... (and as southern decorum imparts, politely ate queer-looking, strange-tasting, fried food provided by my hosts) ... bringing new meaning to “suffering for one’s art.”
Whenever I return to my home state, I wriggle my toes in the dark, rich earth as soon as possible. I reconnect. Writing this book has reconnected me with something far greater, linking me to a gossamer mystery akin to cellular memory. Indeed, weird, unexplainable, synchronistic coincidences have created and bound this work in ways that are hard to fathom.
My experiences merely confirmed in "real life" what the character Pug also learns, a lesson taught by Pug's adopted Cherokee grandmother: "Our life's purpose is to remember who we are. Life's meaning is to become that. We are not just animals. We are not just spirit. We are something more."