Q: Your novel takes place in Atlanta, where you live – how important is setting to you in your writing?
A: I believe setting is extremely important to help set the mood and even the pace of a story.
For me, it was important that this story occurred in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that this city was once the epicenter of the Confederacy’s military operations and also the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement.
To this day, you can still find landmarks and monuments of both eras standing throughout the city. Atlanta has a Black population of over 50 percent and there are still places called Dixie Hills and Plantation Drive as well as John Lewis Parkway.
There are statues of Confederate soldiers right down the street from buildings like the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.
I thought the city of Atlanta, with all its dichotomies, would provide the perfect backdrop for a Black woman’s story of survival and perseverance in the “new South.”
Q: The author Karin Slaughter writes, “All Her Little Secrets is a brilliantly nuanced but powerhouse exploration of race, the legal system, and the crushing pressure of keeping secrets.” What do you think of that description?
A: Well, after I woke up from my fainting spell when I read such an incredible quote, I was ecstatic! I’ve always loved Karin Slaughter’s books. Her writing is so raw yet relatable.
For her to take the time to read and think so highly of my book was like a dream. I am especially humbled because she “got it,” meaning she understood exactly what I was trying to do with this story.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: This book was a totally different beast when I first wrote it. It has gone through more changes and revisions than I can count.
I wrote the first draft of this book back in 2008 but, I only wrote about 70 percent of the book so it didn’t have an ending. I put that draft away for several years, convinced that my writing was not good and that no one would be interested in a story like this.
When I picked up the manuscript again in 2015 and completed it, I had a totally different ending. When I signed with my agent, she convinced me that I should try to write a different ending that would be fresher and more appealing to audiences. I took her advice.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Despite the body count in the book, it really is a story about love, loss and resilience. I hope this book sparks conversation about the solutions needed to ensure that women, and women of color in particular, find equity and fairness when working and living in this country.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb