Today I have author, Charles Suddeth, at my pad. He's here to tell us about himself and about his newly-released middle-grade book Stone Man and the Trail of Tears.
Hi, Charles. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I have published poetry, picture books, middle reader’s books, young adult thrillers, and adult mysteries in English, Cherokee, and Turkish. I am active in SCBWI and Green River Writers. I lead a monthly SCBWI meeting in Louisville, and I teach for the Jefferson County Schools.
I started writing poetry and short stories when I was 11, and I haven’t stopped. A few years ago, I decided that I shouldn’t keep the stories for myself. I joined 2 writing groups: Green River Writers and SCBWI. They helped me hone my writing.
Wow! Sounds like you are a busy guy!
Where did you get your idea for Stone Man?
My great-great-grandfather, Bill Pennington was born about 1830 in a Cherokee village, in Kentucky. His family moved north of the Ohio River during the Trail of Tears to a rural area just north of Charlestown, Indiana, 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky where a mixture of whites and Meti (French/Shawnee mixed-bloods) lived.
It sounds like your family experienced first-hand what it was like on the Trail of Tears.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your book?
Most of all, I want readers to have fun–this is an adventure. I also want them to have an introduction to Cherokee culture and to know how the Trail of Tears tore apart people's lives. And I want them to appreciate that people everywhere are much the same.
I think your book accomplishes that.
Did you have to do any research before writing the book? If so, tell us about it.
I have been doing Cherokee research for a long time–after an uncle told me of my Cherokee heritage. The Museum of the Cherokee in Cherokee, North Carolina used to publish a journal, and several issues were devoted to those who escaped the trail of tears. Although I am not fluent, I can speak some Cherokee–it helps me to understand the characters' thinking.
What is your writing process like?
I do not outline–I prefer that my stories flow. I do know their destination, but not always their route getting there. I use critique groups and writing retreats to help my revisions.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you work when you feel inspired?
I do not write by schedules. I am not an early riser, so I work in the afternoon and evenings. Inspiration helps, but if inspiration doesn't find you, hunt inspiration down. I like to do a short meditation before I write or revise to keep my mind focused.
Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?
I read a lot (I am not sure why I own a TV). My favorite authors were John Steinbeck and Michael Crichton–both are gone. Currently, I read a lot of thrillers and books on DNA research, both fiction and non-fiction. I do not have favorite living authors.
Are you working on anything new?
I am working on a historical novel, Run from the Devil. It is loosely based on the life of Cato Watts–legendarily the first slave, first musician, and first man hanged in colonialLouisville history.
It sounds like it'll be a fascinating read!
Where can readers purchase your book?
Here's my review of Stone Man and the Trail of Tears:
Those familiar with US history know of the Trail of Tears. It is a sad chapter in which Cherokee Indians were hunted by US soldiers and forced off of their land. Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is the fictitious story of a young Cherokee boy, Tsatsi, and his family who lived during that time. When his village is attacked, Tsatsi and his sister, Sali, flee and are separated from their family. Things get worse when Sali becomes ill and is kidnapped by Stone Man, a legendary giant who instills fear in the hearts of the Cherokee people. Fortunately, Stone Man is not what he seems. He helps the children on their perilous journey to find a new home.
Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is a fascinating story that has bits of history and culture woven throughout. Readers will learn a little about the Trail of Tears as well as interesting things like which acorns are best to eat and what plants can help reduce fevers. At the end, there is a glossary with Cherokee words and definitions. Recommended for readers in grade 4 and up. 5 stars