JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Maria McKenzie, author of Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy
Lavinia Hargraves lives life as a masquerade. She is a celebrated actress onstage, however, her most challenging role is enacted in real life as she conceals her true identity.
Born in 1872 to Daniel Taylor, a white man and wealthy landowner in southern California, Lavinia’s mother, Lori, is a Negro and former slave.
Lavinia, who appears white, is desperate to hide her Negro ancestry, as well as pursue her dream of becoming the world’s greatest actress, a seemingly impossible endeavor because of her race.
After Lavinia elopes with the much older Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York’s premier theater company, she is provided with all she could ever want: a new life as white, stardom on the stage, and an abundant supply of money.
Soon Lavinia’s seduction by a young and handsome actor sets in motion a devastating turn of events. Dashing millionaire contractor Andrew Standish comes into Lavinia’s life at a time when she needs him most. But to what lengths will Andrew go to uncover Lavinia’s past?
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write “Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy”?
Maria McKenzie: I’m in an interracial marriage, so the topic of mixed race love through history is of particular interest to me.
The first book of The Unchained Trilogy, is “Escape”. That novel opens in1856 and tells the love story of Lavinia’s parents, Daniel, an abolitionist, and Lori, a slave.
I envisioned them finding happiness, but then wondered what would’ve happened if they’d had a child that appeared Caucasian like her father, rejected her mother, and then ran away to live as white. That’s what’s explored in “Masquerade”.
JP: What sets “Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy” apart from other books in the same genre?
MM: “Masquerade” is historical fiction. It’s set apart from that genre because it’s an interracial family saga and also, because the protagonist is a “bad girl”.
Lavinia passes as white, despises her sister, who is kind and good, and hates her mother for being black and a former slave. At seventeen, Lavinia runs off with fifty-four year old Vernon Hargraves, only because of what he can do for her.
Although Vernon truly loves Lavinia, the feeling isn’t mutual on her part. From that storyline, it’s clear to see that Lavinia isn’t the nicest person around. She’s by no means a likeable charcter, but there’s never a dull moment with her!
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to “Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy” getting out to the public?
MM: An interview with you, Joey, is a big promotional plus! Also, blog touring and press releases help. However, I’ve found that writing more books is the best way for readers to find authors.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish “Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy”?
MM: It takes me a year or two to write a novel, depending on the complexity of the plot. When I come up with an idea, I sketch out a brief outline–and I do mean very brief!
I know how a story will start and how it will end. But when I begin writing, I let the characters lead me from point A to point Z.
The Unchained trilogy was my first attempt at writing, so the process that novel involved was a little different.
It actually started out as one book that I began writing in 1998. After having children (1999 and 2001), the manuscript sat in a drawer for several years. When my oldest started preschool, I began spending two hours a day writing while my youngest napped.
I finally finished the novel in 2008, and it ended up being 814 pages. Then it sat in the drawer a few years more until I decided to turn it into a trilogy!
JP: What’s next for Maria McKenzie?
MM: My next novel is “Revelation: Book Three of the Unchained Trilogy”, due out in 2014. Lavinia has a child named Selina in “Masquerade”, and Selina’s story is told in “Revelation”.
For nine decades, Selina carries the secret of her racial ancestry like a painful chain bound around her heart. Her secret causes her to abandon some loved ones, while telling lie upon lie to others.
After I finish this novel, I’ll probably write something light!
“Joey, thank you so much for the interview and for the opportunity to connect with your readers!” ~ Maria McKenzie