Andrea Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and writing teacher who has written The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of my Home about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she was raised and about her journey to get to know them. She and her husband live and thrive at God’s Whisper Farm at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge. You can read more of her work at her website—http://www.andilit.com.
· Who are your literary influences or inspiration?
I could go on and on here, but I’ll just list a few—Marilynne Robinson, Kathleen Norris, Tracy Kidder, Octavia Butler, A.S. Byatt, JoAnn Beard, and so many more.
· What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
· Why do you write?
Oh goodness, I’ve learned lots of things. I realize I was impatient with getting The Slaves Have Names out. I could have taken more time to edit, to get the cover just right (although I love the cover my husband designed), to get the marketing plan in place a bit more. But I’m usually one to act fast and then deal with the consequences—good or—so this is no different.
I’ve also learned that despite the fact that I KNOW that my book cannot appeal to all people, I am still quite disheartened by bad reviews. So I”m learning to not read those unless I’m in a good head and heart space.
· Where do your characters come from? Since I write largely about the history and legacy of slavery, my characters often are historical people whom I am trying to uncover. Or in the case of the YA novel I’m editing now, most of the characters are loosely based on people I know or have researched. But for one—Moses—he walked into my imagination a fully-formed person; still, though, he is much like I imagine my 3x great-grandfather James Henry Cumbo being.
I have just moved into my new office, which was the summer kitchen here at our 210-year-old Virginia farm. I sit where the cookstove was, and my desk is placed where I imagine the enslaved woman who cooked in this kitchen stood. I have three windows and the original door still hands directly across from my chair. It’s made up of five vertical boards and three wide boards to hold it together. The original latch is still there. It’s a peaceful, rich space, and I treasure it and all the stories it carries in itself.
For me, getting to the page is the hardest. I will exude a tremendous amount of energy to avoid getting started. I haven’t quite figured out why that is yet, but I find that when I actually start, the writing is not that hard. Editing is hard but drafting comes pretty easy for me . . . if I can just get myself to start.
Well, I keep forgetting that starting is hard, so there’s that. I also tend to rush the editing, and that’s never good. I’m trying to rectify those habits of mine. In terms of mistakes in the writing, I still can’t get “its” and “it’s” right as I draft, and the right uses of “lie,” “lay,” “laid,” etc still baffle me. That’s why I hire an editor. 🙂
I want to say that I’d love to sign books at Powell’s or the Strand bookstores, and of course, I would be so honored. But what comes to mind now is a dock overlooking some body of water—maybe a lake here in Virginia—with people sipping something delightful, eating locally-grown and rich snacks, and enjoying an evening together while I signed.