The Running Themes in A Decent Woman

As a novelist, I often enjoy allowing the themes in my stories to develop organically. The themes of religion and spiritism, among others, run through A Decent Woman. My main protagonist, Ana Belén, an Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, was raised in the Yoruba tradition, which is not the same as voodoo or practicing black magic. Ana speaks to the spirits of her ancestors and to the orishas, the gods and goddesses of her Nigerian ancestors, as she prays the Catholic rosary and honors the Blessed Mother of God.

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (2) (1)Serafina, a devout Catholic and one of Ana’s midwifery clients, becomes her best friend later in life. Both women are baptized Catholics and although they share a great devotion to the Virgin Mary, Ana continues to practice the Yoruba tradition, so as to cover all bases in protecting herself and her clients, which was common.

I spent many years of my childhood in Puerto Rico–my religious and spiritual life was a mix of religion, spirituality, with a good dose of superstition thrown in for good measure. All through my childhood, I attended Catholic schools and went to Mass every week. As a teen, I visited a psychic after my first boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident, and I still pray the rosary in the car when I travel. I check my monthly horoscope, as well…perhaps like Ana, I’m still trying to cover all my bases.

An excerpt from A Decent Woman –

“One day I found the cowrie shells on my bed. I didn’t know who’d returned them or why. I hid the shells in my room and went to the kitchen to prepare the priest’s lunch. As I was serving the almuerzo, I heard yelling. I was given a few minutes to gather my belongings and was escorted off the property by the same young priest who’d found my things. I was accused of practicing witchcraft. He crossed himself, barely blessed me, and shut the rectory gate in my face.”

Serafina furrowed her brow and shook her head. “That’s so cruel. You were so young. What did you do?”

“I was young. Thankfully, it was early enough in the day for me to find a safe place to sleep before the sun went down. At first, I was confused; I had no idea the Church considered our Yoruba traditions black magic,” she said. “It is the religion of my ancestors.

“But, you do believe in God y la Virgen?” asked Serafina, watching her closely.

“Yes, of course. I believe in God, the Virgin Mary, and all the Saints. We slaves had different names for them. My Yoruba traditions are now mixed with Catholicism from so many years in Porto Rico, and I pray to them all,” said Ana. “You know, I still remember the church bells ringing the day I was thrown out. I crossed the church grounds and looked up at the sky, watching the clouds around the church steeple. The white steeple looked gray that day, and suddenly, hundreds of palomas flew around the tower. So many doves, I could barely see the sky. I followed them across the street to the park to figure out my next step, and one dove landed on the marble bench where I sat. I thought it was the Holy Spirit!”

“Maybe it was, Doña Ana! You never know!”

“I doubt it, child,” Ana grinned. “It was a sign of something, but I didn’t know what. I sat on that bench all day long, paralyzed with fear. And that’s where I slept, right in front of the church where surely God would protect me. The next day, I met Doña Milagro, who taught me everything I know about being a midwife.”

Another excerpt from A Decent Woman –

“You’re giving me your turn?” Emilia nodded. Ana made the sign of the cross before pushing aside the heavy, black velvet curtain. She sat in the chair closest to the entrance and looked around the medium’s reading room. The only source of light emanated from a single candle on the small table in front of her that also held an ashtray, a small stack of mismatched sheets of paper, a stump of a pencil, and a bowl of water. To the right, Ana saw a small bookcase stuffed full of old, dusty books with titles she couldn’t read without sufficient light. The room was probably crawling with spiders, she thought. She looked down, expecting to see a huge insect crawling up her leg, and then she stomped on the floor to deter any bugs.

“Hurry, Fela,” Ana said, smoothing her dress, and smelled the musty smell of cigar smoke. Behind Fela’s chair stood a two-tiered altar that held a multitude of religious statues, icons, candles, and vases. Most statues had white faces, some had black faces and hands, and most of them had either rosary beads or scapulars hanging from the necks. Ana couldn’t help but giggle at the statue with the over-sized pair of spectacles. Numerous vases of all sizes held freshly-cut lilies, wilted bunches of flowers, and stiff, dried flowers standing in stagnant water. The heavy scent of patchouli and frankincense reminded Ana of a church. But this church was of a different world—the world of spirits.”

Author Interview with JD Byrne

Me 2Today, The Writing Life is pleased to interview fantasy and science fiction author, JD Byrne.

JD Byrne was born and raised around Charleston, West Virginia, before spending seven years in Morgantown getting degrees in history and law from West Virginia University.  He has practiced law for more than 15 years, writing briefs where he has to stick to real facts and real law.  In his fiction, he gets to make up the facts, take or leave the law, and let his imagination run wild.  He lives outside Charleston with his wife, a one-eyed dog, and a black cat.

The Last Ereph and Other Stories is his first book.

Ereph Cover (KDP) (1) What is your book’s genre/category?

The stories in The Last Ereph . . . are fantasy and science fiction, with a couple that probably snuggle up close with horror.  The science fiction stories are all set in times close to our own, while the fantasy ones tend to take place in very strange locations.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Last Ereph and Other Stories, as the title suggests, is a short story collection.  There are ten stories without any common theme, aside from the fact that I wrote them.  Here are some specifics about a few of those stories.

“To Watch the Storms” was inspired by a thunderstorm that rolled through Richmond, Virginia, where I was staying at a hotel, getting ready to go to court. Even the average summer thunderstorm can hold untold wonders, if you’re patient enough to see them.

“The Dragon of the Bailey” is about a dragon who is being held captive, and who seizes help when it comes to him from an unlikely source.  I wrote it after I read about the ravens kept in the Tower of London.  Legend says so long as they stay there the kingdom will thrive, but they clip their wings so they can’t fly away.  Seems like a stacked deck, to me.

“The Mask” is a flash fiction story about a creepy-looking artifact that turns out to be more than it appears.

“Jury Duty” is the only story that ties somewhat into my legal life.  It’s about a guy who gets called for jury duty, finds a stumbling block, and runs with it.  He gets dragged into court, required to be there, then finds out he isn’t modern enough to be a part of the trial.  It was fun to be able to play around with a courtroom setting, given my day job.

In “the Missing Legion” a hunter in pursuit of big game stumbles into a ritual he was not supposed to see.  This is set in the world of The Water Road, a fantasy trilogy I’m working on.  Book one should be out early in 2016.

Finally, “The Last Ereph” is about a thief in a distant land. After stealing a precious gem, he seeks sanctuary and finds a treasure of an entirely different sort.

How did you come up with the title?

The title of the book is the title of the final story, the title track if you will. It’s an older story, one that I started writing between sets at a music festival in North Carolina. I thought it was a good encapsulation of what I do. Also, it allowed me to put a made up word – “ereph” – on the book cover, which I hope will resonate with readers of fantasy and the like, make them want to find out what it means.

Several of the other story titles come from songs, although most people probably have never heard them – “To Watch the Storms” (Steve Hackett), “Memory of Water” (Marillion), and “Elephant Talk” (King Crimson).

What is the reason you wrote this book?

Short stories are where I started writing seriously, since they are, in a way, easier to manage than novels.  I slid over into working on longer things (some of which will be coming out soon), but always had these stories that I wanted to share with readers.  When I decided to jump into independent publishing, that was a great chance to go back to them, revisit a few, and send them out to the world.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I think my favorite part is when things don’t go as planned.  I try to lay things out fairly well before I start something, so I’m not flying completely by the seat of my pants.  Nonetheless, times come when I find I need to add a new character or a new scene to get something accomplished.  Those moments, when I’m really creating on the fly, are really fun. I had that happen with a story that should come out next year.  I needed someone for the main character to interact with in a particular scene and wound up creating this completely new character that I fell in love with.  She might get a spin off!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Getting started, I think.  It’s one thing to plan, it’s one thing to think about all you want to do with a project, but it’s really another to sit down and start writing.  Once I get started, I tend to get on a roll, but sometimes the initial phase of spilling (virtual) ink onto the page can be daunting. It’s a cliché, but there is something daunting about the blank page.  Once something has started, it’s easy to sit down, pick up where you left off, and keep going. There’s a momentum that develops.  But when you’re just starting there’s nothing like that to ease you into it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

With the caveat that favorite doesn’t necessarily mean I wind up writing anything like them, one of my first favorites was Douglas Adams.  My brother introduced me to him.  I had no idea that science fiction could be so funny, yet still get at deep truths about what makes humans tick.

More recently, I’ve come to love Neil Gaiman (to whom I was introduced by my wife).  The worlds he creates, even in his short fiction, are so rich and alive.  I also appreciate his desire and ability to skip across genres without any real care about whether readers follow him. Other favorites are John Scalzi (for his non-Old Mans War stuff), Margaret Atwood (glad she’s finally come around on admitting that she’s written science fiction),  Kurt Vonnegut (what needs to be said?), and George RR Martin (made me rethink what epic fantasy could be).

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Outside of any author of any book I’ve ever read, I’ve always drawn a lot of inspiration from music.  I admire musicians like Frank Zappa or Brian Eno, who have been determined to do their own thing, critical and popular reception be damned, and wind up breaking through anyway. I also draw a lot of inspiration and have a lot of respect, for musicians I’ve listened to for years who aren’t big names, and can only do what they do because they love doing it (such as 3rDegree, echolyn, Thinking Plague, and The Tangent).  As an independent author, that determination rings very true.

Favorite place to write?

I don’t really have one.  I can’t write legible longhand to save my life (ask my coworkers!), so I generally have to do it at a computer.  I do most of my work on the computer in my studio, which also serves as the hub of a music production setup. So I write surrounded by synthesizers.  It’s kind of surreal, at times.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Before I met my wife I was not an animal person.  Never had pets, had even developed a dislike of dogs from days delivering newspapers.  But she had a dog and two cats and that was that.  I’ve gone so far the other direction that on our recent trip to Cambodia, I took more pictures of critters than of people!

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Since this is my first book and I published it independently, the entire process has been a learning experience.  I’d never really played around with issues like layout or cover design before.  I think my biggest surprise was how many little issues come up along the way, from the proper running order for the stories, to getting all the formatting details right across the various platforms.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I think the biggest thing that helped me was making the decision to do it myself and stick with it.  Before that I felt like I was in this kind of literary limbo, producing this material that wasn’t going to have a home anywhere.  Now if feels like I can see the end of the process for each project and that helps keep things moving.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Do it yourself! No, actually, do your research and think long and hard about how you want to publish, and what you want to get out of publishing.  In the end, the most important parts for me were keeping control of the material and being able to set and keep my own deadlines.  But every writer is different and what works for me might not work for others.  Listen, learn, think.  Always good advice, I hope.

Website?

My website is www.jdbyrne.net  There you can find my blog, info on The Last Ereph . . . (and future books), and links to my homes on Facebook, Twitter, Librarything, and Goodreads.

Where can we find your book?

The Last Ereph . . . is available online in paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon and in eBook format from Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Inktera.  It’s also available at select independent bookstores, like Empire Books & News.

What’s next for you?

Up next is a novel that I’m finishing called Moore Hollow.  It’s about a disgraced English journalist who is sent to the West Virginia coal fields to investigate reports that a politician back in the early 20th Century raised the dead so they could vote for him.  It plays off a bit of West Virginia’s reputation for less than savory politics and “dead people voting” in some spots. I hope to have it out by the fall.

Beyond that, I have a three-volume fantasy series, The Water Road, that is about an uprising of an oppressed people and the ramifications of that.  I hope to have it out, at least the first two volumes, by 2016.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m giving away a free copy of The Last Ereph and Other Stories in paperback or ebook forms.  For paperback, visit Goodreads and enter the giveaway, running March 27 to March 30.  For ebooks (Kindle, ePub, or PDF) visit Librarything and enter the giveaway, running until April 6.

Thanks for visiting today, JD. Best of luck with the books!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Character Interview: Ana Opaku Belén from Eleanor Parker Sapia’s historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN

Beyond the Books

character interviewWe’re thrilled to have here today Ana Opaku Belén from Eleanor Parker Sapia’s historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN. Ana is a forty-year-old, Afro-Cuban midwife currently living in 1900 Barrio Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico.

It is a pleasure to have Señorita Belén with us today at Beyond the Books!

Thank you so for this interview, Ana.  Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed, or would you like to set anything straight with your readers? 

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014 (2) (1)When A DECENT WOMAN begins, I am a 40-year-old, Afro-Cuban midwife who was born into slavery on a sugar plantation in Cuba. At 20, my parents hid me in the bowels of a steamer ship and I arrived in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico in the middle of the night. I had no family or friends on the island, and yes, a dark secret is the reason I…

View original post 1,560 more words

Book Blast: A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia w/Giveaway

Unshelfish

Join author Eleanor Parker Sapia as her historical novel, A Decent Woman, is featured around the blogosphere from March 16-April 6, and enter the giveaway! Up for grabs is an Autographed copy of A Decent Woman, two eBooks of A Decent Woman, and a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

01_A Decent Woman_CoverPublication Date: February 20, 2015
Booktrope
Formats: eBook, Paperback
270 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana BelÈn Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre VicÈnte, and young DoctÛr HÈctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two…

View original post 1,190 more words

Sometimes a visit to crazy town is necessary.

Earlier this week, nearly twenty days after my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman was published, I set about creating a to-do list that included, answering emails, writing articles for ezines, replying to author interview questions, and trying to keep up on social media sites I’m part of. The list of what I needed to accomplish post-publication seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to feel new, strange emotions–I was a bit disoriented, and felt flustered and overwhelmed. The book I’d worked on for five years was no longer in my hands–it was in readers’ hands. All I could do was stand on the sidelines and watch my protagonists, Ana and Serafina, take over–it’s their story. At this point, my book, the story, must stand alone. I just happened to write it. But, of course, I got in my own way.

When A Decent Woman first came out, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and joy, much like a parent when their firstborn goes off to school. I was grateful to Booktrope Publishing for taking a chance on an historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife, who lives and works in Puerto Rico, and thankful to my publishing team, who were a dream to work with on this project. I was thrilled and grateful when readers left wonderful comments and reviews. I was humbled and felt dizzy. Much like my experiences when my adult kids left the nest, who are doing wonderful things in the world, by the way, I knew post-publication that it was time to get a life.

I realized I had to write another book, but how? I couldn’t concentrate, and in the first ten days, I obsessively checked Amazon, looking for new reviews so I could thank the kind reader (if I knew them). Checking my rankings on Amazon was a daily ritual, which I didn’t know how to do until my marketing guru, Anne told me where to look. Then, I realized being a best selling author is an hourly thing, and I soon gave that up. I now look weekly and hope that stops. During the first ten days, I found it difficult to have ‘normal’ conversations, and discovered it was extremely difficult not to mention my debut novel to the mailman, the guy at the post office as I mailed out copies of my book, and to the guy behind the deli counter, who loves historical fiction. I went a bit nutty reminding my very kind and tolerant family members and friends not to forget to post an honest review for A Decent Woman on Amazon. Sheesh.

I was sick of me, and this isn’t me. Although I know how important social media is, and how very important reviews are to an author, I lived alone for five years, writing and rewriting a story that  loved. In the pre-publication days when I was writing, I wouldn’t speak to a soul for days on end, save for a quick phone call, emails and texts to family and friends to catch up and let them know I was alive. I did talk with my cat and my Chihuahua, Sophie, who as it turns out, is an extremely good listener if you don’t mind her licking your face. I knew how to do all that. I just didn’t know how to be humble and a social animal, when all I wanted to do was write more books. Life is all about balance, and I wasn’t feeling particularly balanced right after publication.

So, I wrote an email to my friend and writing mentor to many writers, including myself, the master storyteller, Jack Remick. Sensing that I was experiencing, as he calls it, “Firstitis”, he kindly wrote back with a diagnosis that was spot on. He gave me the definition of this curable illness and the cure–get back to writing. Immediately. He was absolutely right. It was sage and timely advice from an incredibly talented writer and a composed, generous man to a discombobulated, but well meaning, new author.

Thank you, Jack. The craziness has diminished. I’m getting down to the business at hand–writing my second book–and I’m at peace. I should have written sooner, but I learned valuable lessons, and I’ve always learned the hard way.

Ana Belén, you are on your own, my love. I’m onto The Island of Goats, my second historical novel set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain. I’m getting to know my characters, Alta Gracia and India Meath, and accessing my experiences on the medieval route of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James, in Spain, which I walked with my then-teenage children.

But, I’ll see Ana and Serafina again when I get to writing the sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Sometimes, you must visit crazy town to find peace and sanity again.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

 

What Would the World Look Like If We Did Nothing?

cropped-writing-at-the-river-015.jpgThis month we celebrate Women’s History Month, and today we celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s an important day to highlight and celebrate, but it’s also a day to remember the hundreds of thousands of our sisters around the world who have been silenced with ridicule, by verbal and physical abuse, and downright censorship on this day. It’s just another day for them—a day of hiding, suffering, and of waning hope.

This morning, I shared tweets and posts on Facebook, celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD), and as the morning went on, I read articles on IWD written by women from around the world, I felt a profound sense of sadness. While I recognize the importance of highlighting the demand for equality, and I support it 100% as a woman, a daughter, sister, and as a mother of a young adult woman, I am reminded of the missing and tortured women of Tijuana, the hundreds of girls still missing in Nigeria, the disruptions of women’s day celebrations in Peking, the stoning of women in the Middle East, and the list that goes tragically on and on. Let’s not forget them on this day.

Closer to home, I am reminded of families we serve dinners to at our local shelters, and how I felt when I first discovered that dozens of the families and single women we served live in the woods on the outskirts of my town with young children. I remember the frightened faces of young women who’d entered the US illegally with young children and babies in their bellies, hoping for assistance, a kind, respectful word, and a nonjudgmental smile when they walked through the doors of the Department of Health.

I think of the women I worked with as a refugee case worker in Belgium, the counseling clients we served in our Brussels counseling center for free, and the 27 women I worked with as a Family Support Worker of a non-profit organization in Northern Virginia. I am holding them close to my heart this morning, as well as the amazing women I worked with, who continue to serve as social workers, case managers, Family Support Workers, WIC staff, nurses, and staff members at different social service offices and organizations in Fairfax County, Virginia.  I like to believe we had a common goal—to ease the lives of women and their children who were suffering. It is hard work, and I thank them all for their huge hearts and commitment.

Before I left my job at Northern Virginia Family Services, I thanked my co-workers for their tireless work and wished them well. One co-worker replied, “We do our best, but it’s only a drop in a huge bucket of needs.” It’s true, yet imagine if we did nothing. I shudder to think of the state of our world if we stood back, watched, and did nothing to help our brothers and sisters.

We must do better at home and abroad for women, for equality, and in educating young children that we are not islands–we are all brothers and sisters.

And to the women of the past, our ancestors, the women who forged the path for me and for millions of women around the world, I say thank you. To the awesome women in my family, alive and now passed on, thank you for your teachings and lessons. To my daughter, who works with young adults who’ve experienced their first psychotic episode, thank you for doing such important work. I love you. To the men and women who have mentored me, advised and encouraged me on my path, my thanks to you.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Author Interview with Sarahn Henderson, Birth in the Tradition

Sarahn Headshot_By Maiyahn (1)

I couldn’t be happier to introduce you to my new friend, the midwife, educator, and writer, Sarahn Henderson. Two months before my historical novel, A Decent Woman went to layout, I was browsing the internet about caul births, and I stumbled upon Sarahn’s website. This was synchronicity at its best! I immediately contacted Sarahn, who was gracious enough to read an advanced reader copy of A Decent Woman. Sarahn gave my novel the first midwifery ‘seal of approval’. I will always be grateful to this beautiful, talented lady, and can’t wait to meet her in person.

Sarahn Henderson is the principal midwife at Birth in the Tradition. She is the mother of five adult children who were born at home. Since 1980, and to her credit, Sarahn has assisted and midwifed hundreds of families into parenthood. Her role models were the Granny Midwives, respectfully called Grand Midwives today. Sarahn has also apprenticed over a dozen women who chose to study or practice midwifery. Her vision is that homebirth will become nationally recognized as a safe alternative to hospital births (for the low risk mother), and that midwifery will become a licensed profession in the US maternal healthcare system. Sarahn is the author of Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy and she is a performance artist.

Welcome, Sarahn!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is an inspirational coffee table photo book of Giwayen Mata; an all female African dance, drum and vocal ensemble!

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Speak Sistah Speak, Preserving a Legacy is a mélange of eloquent quotes, golden nuggets and voices of inspiration by the women of Giwayen Mata and other “Elephant Women”.  Additionally, it pictorially reflects the twenty years of Giwayen Mata’s growth and continuation.

How did you come up with the title?

Speak Sistah Speak is a Giwayen Mata Performance piece.

Speak_Sistah_Speak_CVR_FINAL (1)

In addition to being the title of GIWAYEN MATA’S book, Speak Sistah Speak is also the name of one of the performance pieces in Giwayen Mata’s repertoire. In this piece, Giwayen Mata’s artistic director, Omelika Kuumba, has addressed the ridicules, laughter and scorned faces from those who disapproved of her and other women stepping out to speak with their hands as female drummers. The title was used here again because being at the forefront, defending this change in attitude about women drummers is our charge and appropriately sums up Giwayen Mata’s 20 years. The preserving a legacy part of the title speaks to Giwayen Mata’s purpose to preserve the stories, language and history of Africa and the African Diaspora through song, dance and rhythms.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

This compilation of stories and words of wisdom are intended to inspire and encourage those who need examples of perseverance to help them achieve their goals. This book is about determination and perseverance. Giwayen Mata continues to trail blaze a new frontier for women drummers.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the sharing of my imaginative thoughts in literal form. Writing is an artistic expression that allows me to create tapestries of words that entertain and inform. Writing is my gift, which I am continuously developing.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Putting my thoughts “perfectly” into words is the most challenging aspect of writing for me. When I find myself rewriting what I’ve already written just to make it read better, the process extends longer than I’d like. Knowing that my words will touch someone in the process allows me to stick to the challenge.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I don’t have one favorite author. I tend to be attracted to historical fiction literature. So authors who write a good story with interesting characters and events with historical context, can most times captivate me and hold my attention.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I would have to say that Eleanor Parker Sapia and her novel A Decent Woman have been new sources of inspiration and influence for me. Besides being a performing artist, I am also an African American Midwife. I have been intending to publish my midwifery memoirs for years. Eleanor Parker’s book closely resembles my personal experiences in the US. After reading her story, I could tell that it is time for me to write my own. My clients, family and friends are continuously encouraging me to do so.

Favorite place to write?

Since I cannot say on the front porch of my cabin over looking the Smoky Mountains of Georgia or on the patio of my beach home listening to the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I have to confess that my favorite place to write is on my bed with my laptop on my lap desk! My room is my “She Cave” where I retreat to gather my thoughts. The lamp which hangs over my head provides me with the light I use to burn the midnight oil.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m shy! People don’t believe it because I perform and am well known in my community. But get me in a crowd with people I don’t know, I am quite the opposite of the social butterfly.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Writing and publishing is a process. Going the self publishing route requires doing your own editing, research and marketing.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Speak Sistah Speak is my first published book. After researching different publishing options, I followed the advice from the first person who put me on the road of self publishing. As a novice, this process has felt safe and has allowed me to have control of what I know and of what I need to know for further works.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Write! Be courageous. Don’t be afraid. Don’t procrastinate. If you have a story to tell, write it. Whether you are interested in self publishing or using a publishing company, there are plenty of resources on the web.

Website?

www.giwayenmata.com

Where can we find your book?

Speak Sistah Speak can be found at:

http://www.giwayenmata.org/store/specialty-items/speak-sistah-speak-preserving-a-legacy/  or

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Speak%2C+Sistah+Speak!!%3A+Preserving+a+Legacy

What’s next for you?

The Memoirs of an African American Midwife by Sarahn Henderson!!

Thank you for a wonderful interview and for the kind words, Sarahn! I am blessed to have you in my life and wish you all the best with Speak Sistah Speak and your memoir! Please keep me posted and visit us again! x

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M