17 July 2011

Guest Blog: Eileen Clymer Schwab

Today, we're welcoming historical novelist, Eileen Clymer Schwab, as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, available now. Please leave a comment for your chance to win a free copy of the book! Here's the blurb:

Shadow of a Quarter Moon is the suspenseful and moving story of Jacy Lane, the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina horse breeder in 1839. After Jacy's father is killed in a suspicious accident, Claudia (the woman Jacy knows as Mother) reveals a secret that shatters her world. Jacy is not the well-bred woman she believes herself to be, but rather she is the light-skinned offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave.

The shocking revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world. If her secret is revealed, she will be cast out of "white" society. But as she tentatively gets to know her true mother and brother, as well as a protective slave named Rafe, Jacy begins to see life in the South with fresh eyes. To secure their wealth, Claudia tries to manipulate Jacy into marriage with a well-positioned but lecherous suitor. Claudia threatens to sell Jacy's newfound family, forcing her to make a decision that will take her on a treacherous and life-altering journey.

Early in your novel, SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, a unique twist is revealed. Can you give us a brief introduction to your main character, Jacy Lane?

In SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON, an unimaginable secret changes the course of Jacy’s life… not once, but twice. First, when it is hidden from her, and then when it is revealed. As the daughter of a plantation owner, Jacy has been raised in privilege until she discovers that she is the offspring of a dalliance between her father and a slave.

How does this shocking discovery impact the story?

The revelation destroys Jacy's sense of who she is and where she belongs in the world, especially when she learns her biological mother and brother are still slaves on the property. Amid the shock and complexities of her mixed heritage, Jacy is simply a woman longing for love, happiness, and a sense of wholeness; however, the 1800s are not a simple time. Jacy begins a treacherous journey that is fraught with danger and life-altering choices and soon discovers that what she chases is as elusive as the secret network she seeks for help.

America’s Underground Railroad is present to varying degrees in SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON and your previous novel, PROMISE BRIDGE. What draws you to this difficult time?

Any turbulent period in history is fodder for great books and memorable characters. The heroes are more heroic and the villains more villainous because they are woven from truths. The years of slavery in the United States are no different, yet it is a time that we often avoid revisiting because of the horror and shame it stirs in our moral conscience. However, in keeping the door closed on this period, we miss the chance to celebrate and marvel at the incredible acts of courage and daring deeds that were the genesis of social change in our country. The secret network known as the Underground Railroad is the perfect example of the best of America in the worst of America, and it serves as a vehicle of transformation for my main character, Jacy.

Writing a novel against an historic backdrop requires a great deal of research. What did you do to accurately portray place and character?

For me, research is a process of discovery – not just of historical facts, but also of tendencies, beliefs, undertones, and nuances of the time. Through this process, I become better acquainted with my characters and the world around them. I wanted to touch and see as much as I could, beginning at the library, as well as visiting places like the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and other historic sites found within our National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. So often the surprises discovered in research shift plotlines or shape characters in unexpected ways. For example, while doing some research in North Carolina, I came across Dismal Swamp. As a writer, I could not overlook a name so vivid and descriptive, and I knew it would be mentioned in my story. At the time, I had no idea that the bleak sounding region was so rich and storied in Underground Railroad history, or that it would play such a significant role in my novel.

What do you hope readers will carry away from this novel?

As an author, my hope is that readers find SHADOW to be a journey worth taking. It was an honor to look back and give voice to a generation deserving of acknowledgment, tribute, and literary life. 

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Thank you, Eileen. Remember, leave your comment now for your chance at a free copy of SHADOW OF A QUARTER MOON.