Nas: Who is Maria McKenzie?
Maria: I’m an awesome mom, at least that’s what my son says! I also write historical fiction. My newest release is Escape: Book One of The Unchained Trilogy, a family saga. I’m currently at work on part two, Masquerade. Last year, my novel The Governor’s Sons made it to number five on Amazon’s bestselling list of romantic suspense. Before becoming a mom and author, I was a librarian. I graduated from Wittenberg University with a bachelor’s in English, then received a master’s in library science from Atlanta University. I live in Cincinnati with my husband and two boys. I love movies, museums, antiquing, travel and great food. I also enjoy reading romantic suspense, thrillers, biographies, true crime and historical fiction and non-fiction. Running helps keep me sane!
Nas:What inspired you to be a writer?
Maria: When I was younger, I daydreamed all the time, but never aspired to be a writer. I loved reading, but as a quiet person, assumed I could never say enough to fill a book. But speaking and writing are two different things. I later realized that those of us who internalize and day dream usually end up writing! What inspired me to write Unchained, which is actually my first novel (started way back in 1998), was my marriage. One day I started thinking how sad it would have been if I’d met my husband 150 years. We were living in North Carolina at the time, and as an interracial couple a century and a half earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to get married. I imagined a love story, and soon a family saga snowballed from there.
Nas: How did you chose your genre?
Maria: I love history, and to me it’s fun to educate and enlighten through fiction.
Nas:What made you tell this story and why did you write this book?
Maria: As mentioned earlier, my marriage inspired the original story. Although the narrative begins in the past, it concludes in 1998. Steven Jordan is an average white guy, but his identity is thrown into question when his 100 year old grandmother reveals that her grandmother was a black woman, born a slave. Will Steven want to dig up this new root in his family tree, or leave it buried? This saga actually shows how one family faded from black to white. With genome research and programs like NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? and PBS’s Finding Your Roots, this is a fascinating, yet sticky topic to explore!
Nas: How did you come up with the title?
Maria: The title of the trilogy is Unchained. Lori was born a slave, but escapes from slavery. Her granddaughter, Selina, who passes as white, carries the secret of her African American ancestry like a painful chain, bound around her heart. Only when she tells her family the truth can she free herself from the pain of that secret. Escape is part one of the trilogy. While Lori escapes from bondage, her daughter, Lavinia, escapes from living as a “Negro.” In part two, Masquerade, Lavinia becomes a great actress in New York, all the while hiding her true identity. Revelation is part three, and in this story, Lavinia’s daughter, Selina, reveals the truth about her ancestry.
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