Welcome, Qwantu. Please tell us about your current release.
One Blood is my debut novel, a story 12 years in the making. It is a supernatural thriller, set in and throughout Louisiana in the vein of books by Anne Rice, Tananarive Due, and Stephen King. The novel is pretty epic in scope, spanning 200 years of history from 1802-2002. It’s a page-turning rollercoaster that will make you think as much as it makes you jump! One Blood is a character-driven tale that involves a group of diverse characters, all tied together through hidden connections and their mutual torment by a Voodoo curse.
How did you come up with the idea for One Blood?
I was originally trying to write a short story but it just kept growing and growing until before I knew it I had a 160,000-word novel on my hands! I knew that I wanted to write a story about my neighborhood in Lake Charles, LA where I grew up and I knew that I wanted to address the interesting racial dynamics I experienced living in Louisiana which was a stark difference to what I had previously experienced in Charleston, WV and Pittsburgh, PA where I was born. I wanted to write something that was different than anything I’d ever read but would not be so different that people couldn’t get into it.
What inspired you to write this book?
I think debut novels are always written in an effort to understand one’s one life and self, but the catalyst was the combination of a creative writing assignment and a powerful memory of meeting former politician and KKK Grand Wizard David Duke when I was attending high school in Lake Charles, LA. Novels I’d read by Anne Rice, Stephen King, Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Wilbur Smith, and Tananarive Due also inspired me.
One Blood has quite an extensive cast…how did you come up with the characters?
I didn’t set out to write a novel with a large cast, but as I got deeper into the tale, characters began appearing and developing on the page. In my first draft many of the characters were mere shadows and bad stereotypes. As I revised, I went very deep into each person’s psyche and came up with the idea to give each character a dual personality that would come out in the course of the story. Some of the characters (like Lincoln, Randy, and Brandon) ended up being composites of people I’ve met in my life, others (like Panama X, Coral Lafitte, and Jhonnette Deveaux) just came out of necessity to balance the story and create the appropriate amount of drama, suspense, and tension.
How much research did you have to do for this book?
Since a large part of the book takes place in The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, I had to become very familiar with this prison which I did by reading different prisoner’s accounts, watching documentaries, and interviewing prison officials. Vodun is also a central element in the story so I had to do extensive research on the religion because I wanted to portray Vodun as accurately as possible and not do some bad Hollywood rendition.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
Quite a bit of my life experience is in One Blood. I grew up in Louisiana in a small city called Lake Charles during the late 80′s and 90′s so I know the setting intimately. The family dynamics at play in the book are similar to my family as well in that my family is known for keeping secrets and not all of them are so warm and fuzzy when they get out into the open. I really created the relationship between Lincoln and Brandon based on my relationship with one of my older brothers who I really looked up to and who ultimately disappointed me greatly until I realized that I’ve never had to walk in his shoes, One Blood allowed me that opportunity. The high school (St. Louis) is based on my high-school in Lake Charles and Simmons Park is an amalgamation of two parks that were near my house. There was a guy that I went to school with and his father was a State Senator and that informed the dynamic between Randy and Kristopher Lafitte. Randy Lafitte was based on ex KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. I met him in 1992 during The Contraband Day’s Festival in Lake Charles. He was campaigning for election and spoke to a white friend of mine and completely ignored me which was my first experience with racism. All these experiences and more went into One Blood.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
This is a great question. At its heart, One Blood is a book about the danger of belief. We believe things so blindly that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where that belief is challenged and we react badly. I would like readers to question more and follow less. Find their own paths and if they must believe in anything, believe in themselves.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
I wish I’d written To Kill a Monckingbird. I just love that book and it has such resonance even today. Aharper Lee didn’t publish many books after, but she made a huge dent with that one. I will always be chasing that goal.
Without giving away the ending, will there be a sequel to One Blood?
I have a desire to write the book the way I should have done it in the first place. That is to say, there are actually 3 full-length novels that form the back story for the events in One Blood, so I definitely am interested in telling those stories. As for a sequel, I don’t think there will be one, but I am planning several spin-off books with some of the surviving characters!
What exciting story are you working on next?
My 2nd novel can best be described as The Kite Runner meets The DaVinci Code! It is titled, The Uneasy Sleep of Giants and deals with a son trying to avenge the untimely death of his father, a chemist who may have cured Cancer and been killed for it.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Find out more about Qwantu Amaru on his website http://www.qwantuamaru.com
Buy the e-book: http://amzn.to/s2CA4s
Buy the hard copy: http://amzn.to/weYjOI
Click here to read an: Excerpt From “One Blood” by Qwantu Amaru