I have been looking forward to this day since I was four years old. No, I’m not getting married. Today my novel LIVING HALF FREE is officially released. I am a published author.
Thanks to Al’s encouragement, and prodding from many of my other friends, I have joined the ranks of indie authors. I was able to bring my vision to life — including the hand drawn cover. In the 19th century there was no color photography. While ambrotypes and tintypes were a big advancement, you still needed a painting or some other form of artwork to capture a person’s likeness in color.
It took me four months to write the first draft of LIVING HALF FREE. It took many more months to revise and edit and polish. So many hours went into those months that they all blur together. I kept myself going with countless cups of coffee and bowls of M&Ms.
Writing a novel is a labor of love. Many people give up the idea before finishing the first draft. My protagonist Zachariah wouldn’t let me give up. You know what an ear worm is? A song that gets stuck in your head and drives you crazy. Well, Zachariah was worse than an ear worm. He wouldn’t stop talking. The only way I could get peace was to write down what he was saying.
LIVING HALF FREE is Zachariah’s life story. Zachariah is a mulatto slave. During the antebellum era, he would have been called high yellow or imitation white because his skin is so pale. With this kernel of an idea, I explore the meaning of whiteness.
Despite the parameters of slavery, in the antebellum era, free people of mixed race could have up to one-eighth or one-quarter African ancestry (depending on the state) and be considered legally white. However, despite this legal definition, it did not always happen in practice. A famous example was Thomas Jefferson’s four surviving “natural” children by his mulatto slave Sally Hemings. These children were seven-eighths European in ancestry and thus legally white although they were born into slavery.
Zachariah is in the same precarious position as Sally Hemings’ children with Thomas Jefferson. Despite the whiteness of his skin, he is labeled a slave.
Slavery was more about the power over another individual than it was about the color of a man’s skin. Zachariah gets caught in that power trap numerous times.
What would Zachariah need to escape the chains of slavery? Pass as white. But what would he need to fool and be accepted by the masses? — Money, education, plenty of courage, and strong faith.
When Zachariah, a naïve mulatto slave, is sold to a Kentucky slave trader, and separated from his ma and sister, he realizes the true meaning of not having rights. Singled out for abuse by his new master’s sadistic son, he dreams of only one thing: escape. He thinks he’s found it when he falls in love with a Cherokee woman from a powerful family, under whose direction he learns to pass as white. But it’s not long before he discovers that freedom that’s based on a lie will only get him so far. While struggling to find his place in the world, he also wrestles within his heart to realize his faith. This faith is tested when his slave past catches up with him, and threatens everyone he cares for. He must decide whether slavery is the price he’s willing to pay for his family’s freedom.
HALEY WHITEHALL has a B.A in history and has been studying the Civil War era since the 5th grade. Her writing style is Mark Twain with a little more faith. She likes to write out of the box stories that feature an underdog. LIVING HALF FREE is her debut novel. Released February 29, the ebook can be found at Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Find out more about Haley through her website or connect with her on Twitter @HaleyWhitehall or Facebook.