How closely is The Spirit of Sweetgrass based on your life?
The Spirit of Sweetgrass is not based on my life, but on my imagination and observations of human behavior. I did, however, once drive behind a man and his dog on a motorcycle, and it scared me to death!
How long did The Spirit of Sweetgrass take you to complete?
The first draft took five months to complete. But I eventually wrote a second version which I combined with the first to make the final manuscript.
What is the symbolism for the title The Spirit of Sweetgrass?
Sweetgrass basket making is a Gullah family tradition passed down through generations, and still going on today in the Lowcountry. The act of making sweetgrass baskets—combining ordinary things to make something extraordinary—is exactly what the book is about. It’s what family is all about. And it’s this connection to past and to ancestors that fuels the plot of The Spirit of Sweetgrass.
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Essie Mae is my favorite character, hands down. She became so real to me in the writing of this book that I actually longed to hug her! I’ll never be the same after telling her story.
How much research did The Spirit of Sweetgrass take?
I began my research on the computer since I was home-bound due to pregnancy and having two small children. I did, however, venture out to Boone Hall Plantation to learn how to make baskets from a local sweetgrass basket weaver. I needed to know what it felt like to make a basket in order to do the book justice. After the book was written, I worked closely with the Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and a scholar at College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American Studies to make sure my characters, the Gullah language, and Mount Pleasant African-American vernacular was authentic. Through my research, I’ve met and befriended some of the most remarkable women.
How many titles will be in this series?
This is a stand-alone title—for now, at least—although I do have in my reserves a “sister” book featuring some of the characters from The Spirit of Sweetgrass.
What is your Favorite verse from the Bible?
Ephesians 3:21-22; "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Its how my church ends every service, and I’m constantly reminded that God is at work in my life. He truly can do more that we could ever ask or imagine!