Your debut novel Black Water Rising was nominated for a number of prestigious awards including an Edgar, the Orange Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the NAACP Image Award to name a few. Given that Black Water Rising received such widespread praise, did you feel a certain amount of pressure when you started to write The Cutting Season and how did you deal with it.
I felt tremendous pressure, and also a kind of irrational anger that these wonderful blessings (the acclaim, nominations) were being turned into weapons by my dastardly inner critic, who is always looking for fault. The antidote was the fact that I dearly loved The Cutting Season and was determined to see it through no matter how much pain it caused me – and the fact that I have a very good therapist in the States who keeps my head on straight. She makes me feel, above all else, brave.
The Cutting Season is equally as ambitious as Black Water Rising as in the fact that you shift in both time and space between history and present day. You also deal with such sub-themes as the impact and implications of immigration in the South. What drew you to write about this period and did writing The Cutting Season change your views about it?
The novel deals with the present day (2009) and the time around Reconstruction in America, the years just after the civil war and the emancipation of slaves. What I loved most about exploring this period is that I feel that black Americans have certainly heard plenty of stories about what it was like to be enslaved. I wanted to explore the notion of what it was like to be set free. In this new millennium, with Obama in the White House, I think we have more to gain from stories that explore what it is to be free than we do from stories that rehash the familiar script of what it means to be enslaved.
One of the themes of the book is the way in which African Americans deal or I should say are reluctant to deal with their heritage, which is rooted, in slavery. Was this something that stemmed from your own personal views?
I remember when I was in primary school and the subject of slavery first came up, I felt so ashamed, like every eye in the room was on me (I was bussed to school and was frequently the only black person in the classroom). I was ashamed that everyone would now know that I came from slaves. Now that I’ve gotten older, I have made an emotional reconciliation with my history. I am at peace with where I come from. I feel both gratitude for the labour of the slaves who came before me, and also a tremendous sense of pride for how African-Americans have come.
Did you intend for The Cutting Season to be an insightful look at society especially that of the South and race post Obama America?
I definitely meant the book to be rooted in the time and culture of the post-Obama years. As a mother of a bi-racial child, I feel personally invested in finding the balance between honouring where we’ve been while holding out hope for where we’re going.
The USA have an election coming up in November, bearing in mind some of the statements coming from some of the politicians what are your views about the current state of US politics?
I think we’re presently witnessing an imbalanced fight. The current Republican party is very weak, given that it still wears, in its DNA, the marks of the party of Barry Goldwater, which came into being as a reaction against the liberalism and the move toward civil rights of the 1960s. It can’t survive in its current form. The party is dated and not a fit for the multi-cultural nation it wants to lead.
Do you consider yourself political?
In terms of being engaged by the issues, yes. Running for office, no.
What are you working on now and will we by any chance see the return of Jay Porter?
That is exactly what I’m working on next. I’m heading back to Houston and to Jay. ;)
More information about Attica Locke and her books can be found on her website – http://www.atticalocke.com