Welcome to Author Wednesday. Please give a warm welcome to one of my favorite authors, Christina Carson. Her novels are gems filled with wisdom and love. She’s here today to talk about her latest endeavor, Where it Began.
Where It Began: Book One of the Accidents of Birth Trilogy.
Breaking the Cardinal Rule
Patricia has been kind enough to interview me once before for Suffer the Little Children, once again for Dying to Know, and now a third time with my latest release, the first book in the Accidents of Birth Trilogy entitled, Where It Began.
I’d always been taught that a writer should stick to what they know, especially in matters of gender, culture, and race. I’d always been in complete agreement with that. Part of my commitment to the notion arises from simple logic, the rest because my favorite voice is first person. Thus, I’ve never felt adequate to have even a male protagonist in my novels because genders are universes unto themselves. However, on the day I met Imogene Ware, that commitment fell away, and though I may never feel need to do it again; Miss Imogene wooed me across the line, sweetly, humorously, and without a blink of judgment.
The Accidents of Birth trilogy is a story in three parts, all of which take place primarily in the last half of the twentieth century. The theme running through all three books centers on the fact that though we may hold tightly to many aspects of our lives out of our dire need for control, the one thing that is total happenstance, yet the most critical issue of all, is where and to whom we are born. Miss Imogene was a black woman living in the century’s-old freed-slave enclave called Small Town and born to a woman of deeply primal spiritual connections. Katie Gayle Sutton, a child prodigy, was born into a white family of adequate means, the father from New Jersey, her mother southern backwoods and fundamental, both living with their four talented daughters in rural Ellensburg, Mississippi. I tell you all this because this is where I became a fallen writer. It was not my intention to have a black protagonist. All along, I thought the child Katie Gayle was taking that role. So in explanation, if you’re curious, here’s the back story of my fall from grace.
It was a low point in my life. I had suffered my greatest fear, and it had changed nothing for the better. Unlike an alcoholic who hits bottom and then begins to rise, I just sat there in the mire of my life as desperate as I’d ever felt. I was in the middle of another novel and all of a sudden the idea of accidents of birth came floating into my consciousness. I brought up an empty screen on the monitor and sat staring. I realized in that moment that what I yearned for was a love I’d felt only once in my life, which was offered to me by two black orderlies when I was in hospital as a child. I was so stunned by their inclusiveness, their honesty and tenderness that I’ve never forgotten those moments over all these years.
As the beauty of that memory wrapped around me, I began to write with the intention of creating a character fashioned after those two people from the past, so I could be with them again until I found my way home. I wrote chapter one, and it just fell onto the page. I hadn’t intended the character I was creating to be the protagonist, as I feared all the ways in which my intentions could be misunderstood. The audacity of crossing race lines is usually attributed to a sense of outrageous hubris rather than what was driving me. I sat with the uninviting consequence of treading in unknown territory and all the discord that could arouse. But in chapter two, there she was, Ms. Imogene Ware, and she stepped up to the mike and took over the story.
I fell in love with her the moment she began to speak, fascinated by her, and I knew this was who I was hoping to find and spend time with. She didn’t allow me to reduce her part to a supporting role. She was the protagonist, and I just had to trust she knew what she was doing. My job became to record her experience and allow her to heal me in the process.
I don’t know who might take umbrage with this trilogy; if they need to, they will. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the likes of this beautiful lady when he referred to people of his race who served a slower but powerful route to freedom by seducing with kindness. I have lost count of the black women I’ve been privileged to know who stand in that place like Miss Imogene, offering a hard honesty and a sweet love born out of hardship and suffering. If there was any way I could help you to know them too, this is my best chance to seduce you with their kindness. For I am a writer and my books grow out of a yearning to share with people a more encompassing perspective, greater possibility and deeper love. And as I sit here finishing this interview, I can hear Miss Imogene encouraging me one more time with what she so often said, “You be fine, child, you be juss fine.”
Summary of Book One: Where It Began
Having accompanied her mother to the Sutton household since Imogene was 10 years old, she thinks she has learned the job sufficient to carry on when her mother is taken ill and dies. What she didn’t notice in those years of training, however, was that not only must she keep house, but also withstand the tides of the emotional storms that wash through the Sutton family. This first book covers ten years (1956-1966) of Miss Imogene’s initiation into life without her mother and into domestic circumstances she never imagined, all the while watching the world outside the Sutton household being rocked by racial unrest that is now touching even her isolated corner of rural Mississippi.
About Christina Carson: I am 68 years old and have worn many caps and walked many roads. I started in research as a scientist even before graduation, then taught in nursing for a number of years, owned a masonry contracting business with a mate and worked at that and building houses. I went on to farm. I am a creature of the land and love animals. That life was a dream until it ended. I then went on to become a stock broker, which I hated, and then the aimless period began with intense doubt and chaos. I was there for years making it up as I went along and spending a great deal of time afraid and despairing.
I will forever consider Canada my home, but I returned to the states in 1996 after 30 years in Canada to marry a man I met in Vancouver where I lived for five years. He and I are perfectly suited to one another in intent, direction and integrity and as for the rest, we play that by ear.
Click on titles below for Christina’s books:
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Many thanks, Pat.