Author Terri J. Haynes has been able to combine some of her favorite things in her latest release. I recently spoke with her about Passages of Hope.
Tell me about your latest book.
Passages of Hope is the story of two Black women separated by time but both dealing with difficult situations. Gracie McNeil is a young Black woman who has had a difficult time in life. She has just inherited her beloved grandmother’s house—a house she is renovating to fulfill her dream of opening a yarn store. But when she discovers a secret room, she realizes that the house may be an important part of history.
Olivia Kingston is a seamstress and an Underground Railroad stationmaster in 1855. She and her doctor husband, Douglas, have no children but dedicate their lives to helping the free Black community of Bella Vista. One night she takes in two passengers who change her life.
Why did you decide to write it?
Since middle school, I have been amazed by the Underground Railroad. The fact that people risked their lives to reach freedom. The lengths they went to give their families the same freedom. It was a testament to strength and bravery to flee to freedom. This story allowed me to imagine what it might be like to find out that your home is a part of history and to explore the workings of the Underground Railroad.
I can honestly say that after researching the role that free Blacks played in providing resources and shelter for people fleeing the bondage of slavery, I respect it even more. I felt like it was an untold portion of the story of the Underground Railroad. We have had plenty of stories about the plight of the formerly enslaved traversing dangerous situations. It was exciting to tell the story of Free Blacks that welcomed them with open arms.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
That’s a tough question. I loved all the characters in the book.
I love Gracie and Olivia for different reasons, but I love them both. Gracie is tough, but I like the way she doesn’t believe she is. Olivia is fearless but careful. I also enjoyed making them both work fiber, one a seamstress and the other a knitter and crocheter.
Of course, I love the grandmothers, Marian and Ms. Lila. And how could I not love sweet Clarence? I really enjoyed writing a nerd love interest.
What was the hardest part about writing the story?
Research. Not because I dislike research. I love it. But, reading some of the stories of how people escaped to freedom. How they had to leave their spouses or children behind. The cruelty of slave-holders and the reality that people owned people, and if I had been more in another time, someone would have owned me. That was always hard to process. That there were people who looked like me and just wanted to be free.
If you were to write a book about your life, what would be the title and why?
Okay, the first answer that came to my head was God Got Jokes. Like, “You for real want me to do that, God?” That’s the subtitle. LOL. I often feel like I’m on a grand adventure with God, and I really have no idea where it is going. But it is clear that He has a plan, so I go along with it. Sometimes kicking and screaming but I do eventually go.
But if I had to pick a “serious” title, it would be A Masterpiece Created for Good Works from the scripture Ephesians 2:10. That is one of my favorite scriptures, and I can say that God has consistently led me to walk in the good work He wants me to do.
What is something readers would be surprised to know about you?
That I was born with a clubbed foot, and my mother was told that I would never walk. I spent the first three years of my life in corrective braces and casts to straighten my leg. My mother told me that I started walking while wearing special shoes that barred my feet together. I guess I had to walk so I could get on with my good works.
Tell me about a book that changed your life and why.
I am an avid reader so many books have impacted me (the Bible is always on this list), so I’ll pick two recent ones. The first is called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. And I want to warn anyone who wants to pick it up: IT IS TRIGGERING. The content warning is that it contains stories of abuse and assault as it is a book on how your body responds to trauma. But it was so eye-opening to how we physically respond to trauma and what we can do to help it. It was a therapy session in a book. But once again I warn, it is not for the faint at heart.
The second is Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith. This book is about seven different ways to rest and has a test you can take to find out what areas you are the most rest deficient in. I took the test knowing that I needed more physical rest because I suffer from mild insomnia. But oh boy, that test exposed me. I found out that I had several areas I needed rest. I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and the author’s voice was so soothing.
What’s next for you?
A super-secret project that should be ready around March of next year. Stay tuned.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
This book is extra special to me because it combines several areas of my life. History, family, and fiber art! I learned to knit when I was 11 years old and learned to crochet when I was 22. I love both. I love taking a ball of yarn and turning it into something fantastic like a sweater. It’s also interesting that I own a hand-dyed yarn company, and I never imagined that I would get to play with color for a living.
Also, I am on the board of directors for a nonprofit called Project Knitwell. The mission of this organization is to teach therapeutic knitting to people in high-stress situations. I know the power of knitting and crocheting. It got me through my husband’s deployment in Afghanistan and my big sister’s cancer treatment. I loved that I could include knitting and crochet in the book. I’ve already had someone tell me that they picked their crocheting back up while reading this book, and that makes me so happy.
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To learn more about Terri J. Haynes, owner and chief dyer of AT Haynes House Yarns, visit her websites or connect with her on social media.
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