Friday, June 23, 2023

Q&A with Tracey D. Buchanan


Photo by J. Dodson



Tracey D. Buchanan is the author of the new historical novel Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace. She lives in Paducah, Kentucky.


Q: What inspired you to write Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace, and how did you create your character Mrs. Minerva Place?


A: I had written a series of historical fiction character portraits based on people who are buried in our town’s most historic cemetery. The City of Paducah hired me to write these as dramatic monologues that would be performed by actors in period clothing at the characters’ gravesites. The performances—there were several over a few years—drew all ages. It was a fun way to communicate my hometown’s history.


I ended up with about 30 of these pieces and one day when I was “straightening” computer files, I ran across them. I didn’t want them to just sit, unread, in my computer; I wanted them to have a reading audience. So I began toying with them to see if I could use them as the backbone of a book.


That’s where Mrs. Minerva Place entered. I needed a “guide” to introduce these characters. Minerva’s name came to me first. Minerva Place is actually a street in the neighborhood where I grew up. I thought it would be a fun nod to my hometown.


Minerva came to me with a sassy attitude and a clear voice. She is standoffish, smart, judgmental, and will ever endeavor to do the right thing. She is also sensitive, kind, afraid, and determined. Right out of the gate, she leans heavily on sarcasm to protect herself from being hurt.


I love her.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Two of Oak Grove Cemetery’s “roads” are named Mercy and Peace and they meet at a corner. The words are integral themes of the book, too. Minerva’s journey takes her toward both.


Q: The novel is set in Paducah, Kentucky, in the 1950s. How important is setting to you in your writing, and how did you research the book?


A: Setting is very important, as is the time period. In the early ‘50s Paducah was booming. The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant was constructed in 1952 to produce enriched uranium, initially for the nation’s nuclear weapons program, and drew many new residents. That’s the reason two important characters who change Minerva’s life move to Paducah.


The “innocence” of that time period gives the book a sweetness and the place, a not-well-known corner of western Kentucky, gives Minerva shelter from a broader world she’s not willing to explore.


Q: The writer Jacqueline Sheehan said of you and the book, “This author hits the sweet spot of humor and tragedy where anything, even love, is possible.” What do you think of that description, and what do you see as the role of humor in the novel?


A: I think that’s a lovely description and I so appreciate the kind words because that, indeed, is what I was trying to do—balance heartache and humor. Humor is very important to revealing who Minerva is, so that she doesn’t come across as unlikeable. At least, I think she’s immensely likeable—and funny! She kept me chuckling the whole time she was showing me who she was.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve written two more novels. One is out on submission to agents and the other is stubbornly working its way through revisions. I’m excited about both of them. I’m also considering writing sequels to Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace. I think Minerva has much more to say.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m so grateful to be a writer who has the support of a terrific husband. Even though his engineering mind can’t always categorize me, he hangs on and enjoys (mostly, I think) the ride like a champ.


I am thrilled that people are going to get to read more about those characters who were trapped in my computer files, learn a little about my wonderful hometown (we’re a UNESCO Creative City, by the way!), and, most of all, get to meet Minerva.


Thank you so much for the opportunity to share some insights about this book with more people. I appreciate your thoughtful questions.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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