20 July 2014

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Piper Huguley on THE PREACHER'S PROMISE

This week, we're pleased to welcome author Piper Huguley with her latest novel, THE PREACHER'S PROMISE. The author will offer a free copy of The Preacher's Promise to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

1866 – Oberlin, Ohio
Devastated by her father’s death days after her triumphant graduation from Oberlin College, Amanda Stewart is all alone in the world. Her father’s unscrupulous business partner offers her an indecent proposal to earn a living. Instead, to fulfill a promise she made to her father, she resolves to start a school to educate and uplift their race.  Sorting through her father’s papers, she discovers he had carried on a mysterious correspondence with a plantation in Milford, Georgia. She determines to start her teaching work with the formerly enslaved. However, when she arrives, the mayor tells her to leave. 

Virgil Smithson, Milford’s mayor, blacksmith and sometimes preacher man with a gift for fiery oratory, doesn’t want anything to do with a snobby schoolteacher from up North. On top of everything else, the schoolteacher lady has a will hard enough to match the iron he forges. He must organize his fellow formerly enslaved citizens into a new town and raise his young daughter alone. Still, his troubled past haunts him. He cannot forget the promise he made to his daughter’s mother as she died—that their child would learn to read and write.  If only he didn’t have secrets that the new schoolteacher seems determined to uncover.

To keep THE PREACHER’S PROMISE, Amanda and Virgil must put aside their enmity, unite for the sake of a newly-created community in a troubling age, and do things they never imagined. In the aftermath of the flood that was the Civil War, God set his bow upon the earth to show love and understanding for humankind. To reflect God’s promise, these combatants must put aside their differences and come together--somehow.

**Q&A with Piper Huguley**

Why did you decide to write about a college?

As many people know, I am a professor.  As a student, I attended large flagship schools.  I had no affinity with the history of the schools that I attended.  Even when the University of Pittsburgh turned 250 while I was there, it was meaningless to me.  However, when I began to teach at smaller schools and taught at an HBCU(Historically Black Colleges and Universities), I was required to attend a ceremony called “Founder’s Day.”  I had never been to such an occasion before where students performed in skits, showing the way the school came to be.  I never bore witness to such a phenomenon before.  After sitting through these required ceremonies for a few years, I began to think of how a similar school might have started.  To my way of thinking, as a complete history nerd, if I didn’t know these histories, most other people didn’t know them either.

This was confirmed for me when I attended a scholarly romance conference in Belgium where other attendees were appalled that Historically Black Colleges and Universities still existed in the United States. They took their existence as evidence of the continued racism of people in the United States. That’s when the idea to explain the origins of HBCUs started to come together for me in my mind.  The introduction of the new genre “New Adult” seemed to confirm that the public might not mind stories about a college as much.
I started working on the first book in 2012.  I called it The President Wants a Wife, which was a contemporary. I started to think about what was on the campus and why it was there. Milford College had certain traditions that had to be explained.  So, I thought to myself, I’ll just write up a quick history of the college, so I know…ha!  Ultimately, it will take me a few years to go through that history, but I’m enjoying it.  I hope others will as well.

Why write about the Reconstruction Era?

I’m a bit of a political junkie and whenever I would hear pundits talk about an African American being elected to congress from somewhere, they would always say something like “That’s the first time an African American has been elected to that seat since Reconstruction.” for a while, I would wonder what that meant. Once I started doing research, I found out that a number of these schools were formed at a particular “high point” during Reconstruction, where African Americans were actually in political power. This “high point” lasted for about five years and came to an end.  When the “high point” came to an end, it seems that those who gained power in the subsequent era saw to it that the gains of the Reconstruction period, and all of its potential outcomes were buried in history.  So people believe it has a sad outcome.  I have a different point of view, however.  The political power may have ended, but the dream of using education to improve lives had just gotten started.  People protected that fire over time.  That’s what the Milford College series is all about. 

But they lost their power.  Isn’t that sad?

It is so interesting to me how people want to keep telling stories from the Southern side of things after the Civil War.  Or keep telling Western. So weknow who lost the War and that technology and a different way of life came to the West that ended those times.  Why can’t Reconstruction stories be told? It was a rare era of attempts at  racial cooperation, a time of hope and inspiration.  To me, it’s a lot like present day.  Just as the formerly enslaved had to shift their way of thinking and being in the world, technology is doing the same thing for everyone today.  Yet, contemporaries are the hottest thing out there.  Why can’t stories about the Reconstruction era work in the same way?

Are the characters in the Milford College series based on real people?

Some are.  I’ve written about this on my blog (http://piperhuguley.com).  There are so many stories of real life people out there who were heroes. They insisted on creating and maintaining schools. Really, I’m almost half ashamed that my narratives are historical fiction and romance. They deserve the historical treatment as well, and are just beginning to get their due in non-fiction. Overall, in terms of history, we don’t discuss the “ordinary” people nearly enough.  I hope to put that to rights with my work—just a little bit. 

Learn more about Piper G Huguley, the author of the "Home to Milford College" series. The series traces the love stories at a small "Teachers and Preachers" college in Georgia over time, beginning with the love story of the founders. Book one in the series, The Preacher's Promise, was a semi-finalist in Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write contest, and a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. The prequel novella, The Lawyer's Luck, and The Preacher's Promise will be independently published in July 2014. The Mayor's Mission will be independently published in the fall of 2014.

Huguley is also the author of "Migrations of the Heart," a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is a Golden Heart finalist in 2014. Book four in the series, A Champion's Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.

Piper Huguley blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Twitter: @writerpiper
Facebook: Piper Huguley