Author Suzette D. Harrison is placing a contemporary spin on her historical fiction roots with the release of her latest book, The Girl at the Back of the Bus. I recently spoke with her about this buzzed-about story.
Tell me about your latest book.
The Girl at the Back of the Bus is a multi-generational, dual timeline novel that follows the lives of two women from one family and their challenges and triumphs in the face of racism. That felt like a mouthful, so let’s break it down a bit. The story opens in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 5, 1955, with 16-year-old Mattie Banks fearfully trying to escape a personal predicament that could ruin her life and her reputation. She stumbles onto a bus that evening only for fate to intervene. Within minutes of sitting at the rear, Mattie finds herself a witness to history when a fellow rider, Mrs. Rosa Parks, bravely refuses to relinquish her seat. This inciting incident makes an indelible impression on young Mattie and gives her the courage to seek a different solution. That first chapter closes only for the reader to be whisked to current day Atlanta and into the life of Ashlee Turner, a young, promising lawyer facing career disappointments and who happens to be Mattie’s granddaughter. And so, the book continues to alternate our heroines and their stories, chapter by chapter. Yet, the varying points of view and experiences intersect and connect, providing a riveting look at one family’s struggles and triumphs in two different generations and from the perspective of two very different women.
What inspired you to write it?
My main protagonist Mattie Banks inspired me. There was something so raw and real about her situation and experience. I felt as if Mattie appeared as a spokeswoman for the time period in which she lived; as if an unsung heroine whose life deserved more than shadows or indifference. She effortlessly pulled me into her truth and narrative with such warmth and welcome that I couldn’t resist.
When did you fall in love with the written word?
I can still remember being three or four years old and standing between my mother’s legs with a pencil in hand as she taught me to write my name. That was the beginning of my love affair with the power of writing. I began writing poetry in kindergarten. I’ve been writing ever since.
What’s the best part of being an author?
One of the best and unexpected gifts that have come from being an author are the human connections it has offered. I love connecting with readers, hearing their perspectives on my work and even building lasting relationships. As an author I’ve also been blessed to develop some amazing relationships with beautiful authors who are kindred spirits. We talk, text, go out for lunch that turns into dinner, encourage and celebrate one another. These are the jewels of authorship.
What’s the hardest part of being an author?
I’m an introvert and homebody by nature, so I enjoy solitude. But sometimes writing can feel very isolating so I do my best to connect with sources outside of myself. Family. Friends. Those magnificent author-sisters previously mentioned. Another challenge that comes to mind is writing blind, meaning creatives never know how their work will be received. We can only give our best and let the Universe align our gift offerings so that they meet our readers’ needs.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the first book of my new cozy mystery series in which our heroine, who happens to be an excellent baker, drives across country on vacation only to find herself acting as an unwitting sleuth in order to prove her innocence when a small town’s ornery old battle-ax is murdered. The suspected murder weapon? A simple slice of pound cake. It’s comical. Witty. Fun. And delicious.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Chandra, as allows, it’s been a pleasure sharing time with you and the BFA family. Thank you! And readers, please, come visit and connect with me. To all, many blessings!
To learn more about author Suzette D. Harrison, visit her website or connect with her on the following platforms:
Facebook – Salon Suzette: http://bit.ly/salonsuzette
Use the Black Fiction Addiction affiliate link to purchase your copy of The Girl at the Back of the Bus.