From the first moments I became acquainted with historical fiction author Jessica McCann, I have been impressed with her incredible authenticity. She is a true voice in a world where people throw around gratitude and compliments so liberally that they tend to lose their value. I admire her as a woman of integrity and a consummate professional, but read her fiction and you’ll understand why I’m honored to post this interview. You will be transformed in your thinking. She raises your expectations of yourself and of others. And somehow, just when you should be most disappointed in humanity, you will find instead, that you feel hopeful.
All Different Kinds of Free, released in April 2011 by Bell Bridge Books, was inspired by a true story. It is about Margaret Morgan, who was kidnapped in 1837, along with her free children, and sold into slavery. Although she fought hard to regain her freedom, Margaret endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most important yet least-known Supreme Court cases of the era, Prigg v. Pennsylvania.
Text books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.
All Different Kinds of Free won the 2009 Freedom in Fiction Prize. As a novel-in-progress, the work also was a semi-finalist in the 2004 Dana Awards and the 2005 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us and for your beautiful work, Jessica. Welcome!
What is your favorite quality in a person? Integrity. My definition of that means striving to always do the right thing, not necessarily the easy thing.
What is your least? Self-pity. I have very little patience for someone who wallows in their misfortune. Time is much better spent being grateful for the good in life, because there is always good to be found, no matter how bad things get. When I slip and start feeling sorry for myself, I remind myself there is always someone out there suffering more than me.
As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer? I didn’t dream of it, necessarily. I just always was a writer, really without even knowing it. I was the kid whose heart raced with delight when the teacher would announce a research report or essay homework, while my classmates moaned and broke out in a collective cold sweat. Now we’re all grown up, and I do freelance writing for all the people who still moan and agonize over writing projects!
Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams? Without a doubt, my husband has been the biggest influence on my success as a writer. We’ve been together for my entire adult life, and in all that time he’s been my biggest fan, my loudest cheerleader. He puts up with me blurting outcome predictions of our favorite TV shows, and he listens to my musings about people and motives when we watch the nightly news. His patent response is often, “You should be writing this stuff down!” Thanks to his encouragement, I am!
What is your greatest love? My family and all that encompasses — hosting family gatherings, going on camping trips, driving the kids to the mall, walking the dogs, sitting together on the couch watching TV, knowing we’re there for each other through thick and thin.
What is your greatest fear? That the people I love and admire and appreciate might not know it. About five years ago, we had a tragedy in our community, in which a man we knew through our children’s school murdered his young sons and took his own life. To this day, I can’t reconcile how the man I knew could have committed such a horrible act. Did he know how much I valued his friendship, how much I admired him? We can’t always prevent terrible things like this from happening in the world. But can reach out to those around us, every day, and let them know how important they are and how thankful we are to have them in our lives.
What is your favorite place? As a child, it was the Phoenix Zoo. I spent many, many hours there, walking the trails, observing the animals, connecting with something “wild” even though I lived in the city. That helped foster my love of nature and wildlife. As an adult, whenever I feel the need to connect with something bigger than myself, when I need inspiration, I still gravitate to the outdoors.
If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be? Write for yourself first. If you don’t love what you’re doing and what you’re creating, no one else will either. Write for your reader next. If your writing is something you want to share with others, then you must read it through their eyes and have the fortitude to revise and rewrite when necessary.