Sunday, August 25, 2013

THE FREEDOM THIEF: Interview by Ben McKenna

Good morning! Today I am being interviewed by my main character, Ben McKenna. Since his story won't be out until November, I'll tell you a little about the book. Ben is a thirteen year-old boy living on his grandmother's plantation with his parents and two older brothers. The time is pre-Civil War and the setting is in Kentucky. Ben's best friend is Josiah, a ten year-old crippled slave. Ben hates slavery, and when he learns his father is set to sell Josiah, Ben knows the only way to save him is for him to escape. With a little help from his grandmother, a secret Abolitionist, and some subterfuge of his own, Ben arranges the escape of Josiah and his parents, Bess and Jesse. The rest of the novel focuses on their journey into an unknown world of danger and deceit.

Time to go, see you later!

BEN: Oh, hi, Missus Sadil. Come on in and set a spell.

MIKKI: Thanks, Ben, I’ll do just that. By the way, you can call me Mikki.

BEN:  Oh, uh, I don’t think I should. Ma says it’s not respectful to be familiar with people you don’t know very well.

MIKKI: Ben, I think we know each other very well, so I’m sure your ma wouldn’t mind. I understand you want to ask me some questions?

BEN:  Yeah, I do. But first, I reckon I’ve got some things to say about this story you threw me into. You sure did come up with some troublesome imaginaries for me, like that awful tunnel.

I swear I thought we’d never get out of that place alive. And that swamp? When you made me dive down into all that dirty water? What in tarnation were you thinking on?

MIKKI: (laughs). Oh, sorry. I’m not laughing at you, but the look on your face right now is priceless! Ben, you should know I would never have let the storyline get out of hand. You were always safe.

BEN: (frowns). Maybe you’re right. But I didn’t know that at the time, and neither did Josiah, or Bess and Jesse. Say, what made you make a kid like me take such a risk, any how? You didn’t even give me a plan for helping Josiah and his parents escape, you just let me do it on my own. Seems like that weren’t too smart, Missus Mikki.

MIKKI: Whoa, wait just a minute, young man. I DID intend for you to make a plan for that escape, but you got on your high horse and said you had to leave that very night. There wasn’t a thing I could do to change your mind. So, you’re right, you left without a plan. You even almost forgot to take that old compass. Then you would have been in big trouble, Mister McKenna!

BEN: (crossly) Well, I don’t see as how you had to make that Mister Pembrook come so early. Couldn’t you’ve kept him away on one of them business trips he was so fond of telling about?

MIKKI: Oh, I suppose I could have. But then the tension wouldn’t have been so high, now would it? And conflict is the name of the game, right? Besides, I had to test you, to see if you really were the kid I thought you were.

BEN: (sighing) That’s just what I mean. I’m a kid. So what’s a kid like me doing something like that…getting three slaves to escape? How come I couldn’a had some help?

MIKKI: A kid like you? Ben, you’re just the kind of kid I could do something like this with. You’re smart, you’re resilient, but most of all, you have the strength of your convictions concerning slavery. I knew you could manage that escape all by yourself. You didn’t need anyone to help you.

BEN: That’s something else I reckon I don’t understand much. How come I don’t believe in slavery when my pa and ma do, and the boys, too? I mean, Pa is downright strict in trying to make me into another slave owner when I get older, and Ma keeps saying as how we’d never be able to run the plantation without slaves. Even Andrew and James believe slavery is right.

MIKKI:  Well, Ben, it’s like this. When your pa moved the family from Kentucky to New York, you grew up in the schools where you were taught that slavery is a sin. It’s kind of like you were imprinted at a young age to believe slavery is wrong. Then when y’all moved back to your grandmother’s plantation, you brought all those teachings with you, and you never lost them, no matter what your family said. Of course, having a close relationship with Grammy, the secret Abolitionist of the family, helped make your own convictions even stronger.

BEN: I’ve been pondering on something for some time. How did I come about? Am I just something you imagined up out of nowhere?

MIKKI: (smiles) Well, no, not exactly. I kind of “borrowed” you from…well, from someone who was in my life a long time ago. He was my older brother, and he had very strong opinions of his own. I remember him sometimes being in trouble with our parents because his convictions didn’t always agree with theirs. He was a remarkable young man, and you resemble him in many ways.

BEN: Huh. Do you think he would of done what I did?

MIKKI: (laughing) Oh, yes, Ben, he would have done exactly what you did. And with just as much a lack of planning as you had, too.

BEN: (scowls a bit) Yeah, well, you know, I must have hurt Ma and Pa some bad, going around all their teachings and just taking off with Josiah and his parents like that. And Grammy! I might not ever get to see Grammy again, and I reckon I love her somewhat fierce.

MIKKI: (with a sigh) Yes, I know, Ben. I’m sorry about that. But someone had to get Josiah and his parents away from the plantation, and who else was going to do it but you?

BEN: It was an awful long journey, and lots of scary places we got to. Riding in the bottom of that farm wagon, hiding in the woods, and then all that time you made us spend in the Andrews farm! And escaping in the daylight, when all those people saw us! I just knew we weren’t going to make it.

MIKKI: But you did, didn’t you? You never let up, Ben, you never gave up or let Josiah or Bess or Jesse give up. That’s the important part of the story. You started out as a thirteen year-old boy, and you ended up a fourteen year-old young man. The qualities that made you come through that long journey from boy to manhood will be with you forever.

BEN: (nodding slowly) I guess so. I’ve changed a lot, I know that now. The people along the way, like Charity and the Jeffersons and Robby…I reckon they all helped to get me growed up, a little bit here and a little bit there. But every time I thought we were getting ahead, we got thrown back. That weren’t too nice, Missus Mikki.

MIKKI: ( looking puzzled) Why, whatever do you mean, Benjamim? Now, surely you didn’t think everything was going to be smooth as molasses after you left the Jeffersons, did you?

BEN: I reckon not, but riding in that death coach and being found again by Phineas and his gang was scary, and then those soldiers at the Union Fort …when I thought they were gonna capture is, now that was downright worrisome.

 MIKKI: Hmm…’downright worrisome’ huh? The thing is, you worked your way out of both of those situations, just like all the others you and the slaves encounter on your journey. You didn’t need any help, you just did what you had to do.

BEN: ( is silent, looking thoughtful)

MIKKI: You see, I gave you certain qualities, Ben, but it was up to you to develop them in a way that would enable you to go from half-way scared little boy to responsible young man, and you did just that. I admire you, Ben, because no matter how scared you were, how much you missed your family, or even how frustrated you became as each situation seemed more and more overpowering, you never gave up. You never faltered in your belief that you could, and would, get your slave friends to freedom. That’s why you came alive in this story. It’s your story, Ben, I just happened to be the one to tell it.

BEN: Huh. Well, I thank you for that. (Smiles shyly) I, uh, I reckon I have one more question.

I would really like to see Charity again. Are you maybe thinking on that?

MIKKI: (smiles slyly) You know, that’s a pretty good idea. It’s just that, well, Charity is a long way from where you ended up. I would have to write a whole new story, now, wouldn’t I? And that takes a long time. Besides, how do I know what you are going to do between now and, uh, sometime in the future? On the other hand, I guess it’s possible your journey isn’t over yet. So, let’s just say…we’ll see, Ben, we’ll see.

BEN: (grins)  Yes, ma’am,  Missus Mikki, we’ll see. Thanks for stopping by. I reckon I’ll be seeing you again some time…like maybe next year?

MIKKI: (stops as she is walking out the door, turns around) Now, Ben…you do know about Gabriela, don’t you? The sixteen year-old girl who is hearing children’s voices telling to find their killer? You don’t really want me to leave her hanging out there at Dead Man’s Crossing all by herself, do you? Just so you can see Charity again?

BEN: ( looking chastised…but only for a moment) No, ma’am, I wouldn’t cotton to that. I know Gabriela will find the killer, all right. But see, I got some inside information, and I know you’ve been making some plans about the Civil War, and me, and Union spies, and Charity, all rolled up in one! I reckon we’ll be seeing each other again, like…maybe next year. You take care, now, Missus Mikki.

MIKKI: (shaking her head as she finally leaves) We’ll see, Ben, we’ll see.







1 comment:

J.Q. Rose said...

I love historical fiction. This sounds like a great story. Congrats on your new release!