This month we grabbed 5 minutes with Yvonne Battle-Felton, author of Women’s Prize Longlisted novel, Remembered which is out now in paperback
Yvonne was born in Pennsylvania and raised in New Jersey. She moved to Maryland and is currently living in Lancaster with her family. Yvonne holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and Creative Industries at Sheffield Hallam University. Yvonne is a co-founder and Director of North West Literary Arts. Her debut novel, Remembered, won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2017. It was published in 2019 by Dialogue Books and is longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019.
Give us your elevator pitch for Remembered.
It’s 1910 Philadelphia. While the streets of Philadelphia demand justice, Edward, a black man convicted without trial or jury for a crime he may or may not have committed, lays dying in the segregated section of a Germantown hospital. Edward is keeping secrets. He isn’t the only one. His mother Spring and Tempe, her dead sister, must tell him the story of his life, their family, and the secrets they both keep, in order to lead Edward home.
Describe yourself in five words
Imaginative, hopeful, driven, romantic, talkative.
What surprised you most about the publishing experience?
Probably everything. I didn’t realize how many people are within each publishing team and how supportive the publishing house is. I think what surprised me the most though was that even if the publisher or an editor loves your book, they can’t really make an offer unless everyone else loves it too.
What inspired the book?
Remembered started with questions. I wanted to know what might have happened to families after the Emancipation. I wanted to read stories about families reuniting, people healing from the trauma, groups building communities. I wanted love stories and happy endings. While I was researching here in the UK, back home it seemed like black people were being beaten by police at an astonishing rate. The narrative didn’t change even though technology and witnesses contradicted it. Still, there were few (if any) convictions. Writing became my form of advocacy. It became really important to remember that we are still living the legacy of slavery.
Have you got any tips for aspiring writers?
Stories begin as drafts. Give yourself permission and freedom to write drafts that are 100% what you want to write and read. The draft doesn’t have to connect all of the dots. Revisions can do that. Just write. If you get stuck in a scene, write through it or write around it. It will still be there when you come back to it
Where do you write?
I’m not precious about where I write. I write at the kitchen table, in my bed, nestled into the couch. I’m also getting quite good at writing on the train. I used to think I couldn’t be creative in public spaces because I write out loud. Riding the train has taught me that really, no one cares what I’m doing or what I’m not doing. Probably the third time I heard someone on the say “between you and me” as if they were in their office or living room and not on the phone while riding a crowded train, it clicked that the only person inconvenienced by my not writing on the train or in other public spaces was me.
Do you have a favourite book? If so, what is it? If not, is there a genre or style you prefer?
My favorite book, although I’ve tried re-reading it as an adult and can no longer enjoy it in that way, is A Wrinkle in Time. It’s the memory of reading it as a kid and feeling that sense of wonder and magic that I hold on to. Favorite books I actually re-read are In Cold Blood and Beloved.
Our social media analytics show that our followers love pets! If you have a pet we’d love you to share a picture and a line about them
We have two cats so I can’t share a picture of just one without feeling like I’m playing favorites. Cali likes to help when I’m typing. I’m pretty sure she thinks my laptop is hers.
April is inquisitive. If there’s an open door or a space to explore, that’s where she’ll be.
Tell us about your writing journey . . .
When I was a kid I wanted to be a writer because I was infatuated with endings and with creating and controlling characters. I mean, I also wanted to be a French fry because I loved French fries and figured if I was one, I would have an endless supply. Neither option seemed particularly impossible to me then. At some point, I changed my mind about both of them. Writing was the one thing I kept returning to. I started writing as a kid. I stopped for a few years as I lost parts of myself in other roles. When I returned to college (US), I rediscovered the joy of doing things I like to do. Following the path of re-discovering and pursuing my dreams led me back to writing.
Thanks for joining us, Yvonne! To hear more from Yvonne, follow her on Twitter at @YBattleFelton.