JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Maria McKenzie, author of The Governor’s Sons
Providing a different glimpse into the lives of the hired help, The Governor’s Sons is a heart thumping account of forbidden love and political ambition in the deep South, a suspenseful tale of romance, deception, racial tension and ultimately, racial reconciliation within the powerful Kroth family.
During the summer of 1936, Ash Kroth, a young law student from a southern family of wealth and political prestige, falls in love with Kitty Wilkes, a beautiful “Negro” girl.
Nearly thirty years later, as a segregationist governor in the midst of civil rights turmoil, Ash is forced to confront the inevitable consequences of his love for her.
In 1965, Harland Hall, a black Civil Rights leader, moves to the capital city in an effort to quell the racial violence occurring not far from his mother’s home. But what mysterious link does this young man have to the Governor’s past?
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write The Governor’s Sons?
Maria McKenzie: About four years ago I read Essie Mae Washington Williams’s memoir, Dear Senator. She’s Thurmond’s love child by his family’s African-American maid.
Thurmond was twenty-two when he fathered Ms. Williams, and her mother, Carrie Butler, was sixteen. Ms. Williams’s story was sad, yet fascinating at the same time.
Thurmond wanted to do the right thing by providing for his daughter and being a presence in her life (although a limited one). But if the truth about her had ever been discovered by the public, Thurmond’s political career would have been destroyed. Ms. Williams didn’t share her story until after his death.
JP: What sets The Governor’s Sons apart from other books in the same genre?
MM: My book is historical fiction, and most books that take place during this time period (the 1930s) tend to portray African-Americans in the South as poor and uneducated. However, my characters are pursuing college educations and come from educated families.
Although Kitty’s father is an auto mechanic, her mother is a college educated teacher. Another African-American character, Thomas, comes from a family of means in Oklahoma that owns oil wells.
What many don’t realize is that there are several historically black colleges that were established after the Civil War, including Tuskegee Institute (founded in 1881), Fisk (1866), Spellman (1881) Morehouse (1867), Howard University (1867) and Meharry Medical College (1876), just to name a few.
Of course, during the Depression, there were many poor and downtrodden blacks (in addition to plenty of poor and downtrodden whites, for that matter). But educated and successful African-Americans did exist, even with the cards of segregation and limited opportunity stacked against them.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to The Governor’s Sons getting out to the public?
MM: Publicity is the hardest part of the publishing process. Writing the book is easy! Authors are eternally grateful to people like you, Joey, who help us get the word out through your fantastic author interviews!
Book reviews are also great selling tools. Here’s mine at Kirkus:
Customer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are beneficial, as well. I’ve also found that enrolling in the Amazon Prime program and using the free promotions days can increase exposure and future sales. Connecting with book bloggers through Goodreads is also advantageous.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish The Governor’s Sons?
MM: I envision the story, then write a very brief outline. I am NOT a detail person! I know what’ll happen at the beginning and the end, but I’m not sure how I’ll get there. I leave that up to the characters!
I think I worked on The Governor’s Sons for about two years.
JP: What’s next for Maria McKenzie?
MM: I just released a new book, the first in a trilogy. It’s called Escape: Book One of the Unchained Trilogy. Here’s a brief synopsis:
Daniel and Lori love each other, yet to live as one in 1856, they must escape from the unyielding society that imprisons them.
Lori was born a slave in North Carolina, yet by chance was raised alongside Daniel in a wealthy abolitionist household. The sudden death of Daniel’s mother catapults Lori back into bondage.
Relegated to chattel on a rice plantation, Lori lives in constant fear under the tormenting scrutiny of Daniel’s wretched Aunt Lucinda.
After Daniel fails to convince his relatives to free Lori, he is compelled to devise a daring escape. Although a life threatening endeavor for both of them, Lori’s freedom is priceless to Daniel, and he’s willing to pay such a price for her love.
I’m currently working on the second part, entitled Masquerade.
“Joey, thanks so much for interviewing me! I appreciate the opportunity to meet your audience.” ~ Maria McKenzie