Saturday, June 1, 2024

Q&A with Leo Daughtry




Leo Daughtry is the author of the new novel Talmadge Farm. An attorney, he served for 28 years in the North Carolina state legislature.


Q: What inspired you to write Talmadge Farm, and how did you create your cast of characters?

A: The Baby Boomer generation brought about a great transition in our country. I’m a little older than the Baby Boomers so I remember what life was like in the ‘40s and ‘50s, when segregation was rampant in the South and television and rock-n-roll didn’t exist yet.


I grew up on a tobacco farm, and the kids of the sharecroppers on the farm were some of my best friends. But it wasn’t a life they wanted, and sharecropping as a whole began to die out as young people began to look for a life off the farm. I thought this period of time from 1957 to 1967 was one that deserved some conversation and attention.

The cast of characters were based on my own experience growing up on a tobacco farm in Sampson County, North Carolina.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the novel says, in part, “At the heart of the novel is a thoughtful meditation on the inexorability of change, and what happens when justice results in a redistribution of success.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think it’s a good characterization of the story. The ‘50s and ‘60s were a tumultuous time, with major changes taking place in both the farming industry and the banking industry.


It was also a time when the balance of power began to shift as new opportunities became available for women and people of color.


In the novel, Jake, a Black teenager, runs away to Philadelphia and eventually goes to medical school. His sister goes to secretarial school and gets a job at the clerk of court. These opportunities did not exist for young Black people just a few years prior.


So we have some characters who embrace and benefit from changing times and some – like Gordon Talmadge – who are unable and unwilling to adapt.

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?

A: I had a rough outline of the novel before I started. Certain plot points – the smokehouse attack, Jake going to Philadelphia, Will’s encounter with the sheriff, Gordon losing the bank and Gordon’s lung cancer diagnosis – were predetermined. The rest of the story came together in the writing process.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?

A: I hope they like the characters, and I hope they gain an understanding of some of the changes that happened during this time period, such as the demise of sharecropping and how the Research Triangle Park became a reality and made a significant difference to North Carolina and to our country.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: We’re gearing up for the release of the novel! It’s been a labor of love for several years now, and I’m really excited about connecting with readers and learning their thoughts about the characters and the events that take place in the novel.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I’ve always been a big reader throughout my whole life. I enjoy talking to friends about books and we often make recommendations to one another about books we like.


I enjoy a variety of genres. I’ve read a number of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s presidential biographies. For a while, I was into books about World War I. Then I moved onto David Baldacci mysteries. I love how books can both transport us to new worlds and provide deep insight into subjects we may be unfamiliar with.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment