Author Qwantu Amaru has been blazing an amazing indie trail with his IRDA- winning novel One Blood. The page turning stunner (see IR’s 5 star review) mixes a family curse and supernatural plot twists with gangs, murder, and kidnapping. Intrigued? You should be!
Keri English: Congratulations on your IRDA! I see that you have also won TWO International Book Awards, an Indie Excellence Book Award and One Blood was a finalist for Next Generation Indie Book Awards. How great do you feel about these accomplishments?
Qwantu Amaru: I feel validated. It took me 12 years and 6 drafts to get One Blood out, and it is just great that all that time and effort did not go to waste, and in fact is being praised! I’m very thankful to all the reviewers who took the time to read my debut. It’s an honor to receive high praise from such an esteemed group.
KE: Kirkus calls One Blood “A gutsy book that blazes trails, plotted at breakneck speed that won’t let up.” Having enjoyed the book thoroughly, I have to agree. What made you decide to have the book span so many years? It couldn’t have been easy to connect so many characters to each other and have the novel flow so smoothly.
QA: I didn’t start off with the idea that this novel would stretch back as far as the 1800’s, but being that it’s a character-driven saga and that the core of the story lies at the history of the Lafitte clan, it needed to happen to make things clear for the reader. I love multi-character books like The Witching Hour, IT, and The Living Blood, and knew I wanted to try my hand at pulling this off as well. But it wasn’t easy. I ended up writing each character’s story from beginning to end and then I interwove the chapters together. The trickiest part was getting the sequence right.
KE: One Blood reads like it was crafted with a well explored knowledge of Louisiana and its people, beliefs, customs, even spirits. How did you choose the setting of the book?
OA: Well, I grew up in Louisiana from 7th grade through high school in the city of Lake Charles. Louisiana and its history always fascinated me. And supernatural stories just seem to play so much better in Louisiana than other places. There is an undercurrent of mystery and magic that is very seductive and I tried to tap into that.
KE: The tree “Melinda Weeps” in the Lafitte yard is like a gateway to the curse. Why choose the tree?
QA: It was more about the place of Isaac’s death and Melinda’s suicide, as well as Luc Lafitte’s suicide. Trees are very important symbols in Voodoo as they often are used as portals between realms. And I liked the symbolism of the “family tree” as well. Not to mention, roots as another metaphor for how deep and twisted are some family secrets.
KE: How about the aspect of voodoo; I always love to hear stories of people discovering different religions, why voodoo?
QA: Once again, this came about as a result of exploring Malcolm Wright aka Panama X‘s background and journey. Being from Louisiana, you get exposed to the ideas of Voodoo and Hoodoo during Mardi Gras and just this undercurrent of mystery. I wanted to investigate the religion more fully and see if I could depict it in a way that was less fanciful and more true to the actual religion. The research was fascinating!
KE: There is so much family feuding happening, even though not everyone knows they are related to one another. It makes for an intriguing and captivating plot. What inspired so many twists and turns?
QA: That kind of happened naturally. With your first book, you really don’t know what kind of writer you are and where your true strengths lie. But right from the beginning, I noticed that I was pretty good at pace and suspense. The twists and turns really came from the construct of the characters and what they knew, thought they knew, and didn’t know. At the core of the book is a story about the power and danger of blind belief, and each character believes something at the beginning of the book that is shaken to its foundation by the events of the story. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the twists and turns are a result of the structure of the book, my writing style, and the characters themselves.
KE: I read it took you twelve years to finish this version of the book! Tell us about that.
QA: I started writing the book in January 2000 and finished the first draft back in July 2006. Over those first 6 and a half years I was really honing my voice and investigating all the possible aspects of this story. Thus, that first draft was a 164,000 word 600 page unpublishable behemoth! I then crafted 3 drafts over the next 6 years, getting closer and closer to the true heart of the characters and the story itself. All the while, I was getting feedback from early readers, investing in editing, and pitching literary agents. My last draft was written in 2011 from May to September where I felt finally that I had gotten it right!
KE: I found myself pulling for Lincoln most of the time, even though he wasn’t necessarily painted as a good guy. Who is your favorite character and why?
QA: That’s so interesting that you liked Lincoln! But it makes me happy to hear. Lincoln is my favorite character as well, because he was the first character that spoke to me and I invested years figuring him out! And I really like his evolution in the book.
KE: I see that there are plenty of love them or hate them opportunities in the book. Is that intentional and if you had to choose one, which character(s) (if any) would you say was legitimately evil?
QA: It was definitely intentional. I wanted each character to have a base duality of the light and dark sides of their personalities on display. I don’t really think One Blood has a traditional protagonist or antagonist, but that each character is both. The characters have to choose who they want to be by the end of the story. As to your question of who is legitimately evil in the book, I think that Panama X and Randy Lafitte ultimately lose to their worst natures by the end although neither is entirely evil.
KE: Do you identify with any of the characters in the book? Sometimes writers add a little piece of themselves to a character. Do you think you did?
QA: If there is a character in One Blood that is me it would be Brandon Mouton. When I finished the first draft of the book back in 2006 and read through it, I realized that the story of Lincoln and Brandon is a parallel of myself and one of my older brothers. Not in the literal sense but in the way that Brandon looks up to Lincoln only to have his belief crushed at an early age and then having to walk in his brother’s shoes to fully understand (and forgive) him.
KE: If you could give Randy Lafitte a piece of advice, what would it be?
QA: Randy’s main issue is his uncontrollable ambition. I would advise him that he needs to focus on what really matters, his wife and daughter, and that influence and power comes at a cost which is often too high to pay.
KE: You have made quite a name for yourself in the indie community. Do you plan to stay indie? What do you think you would do if you got a big offer from a major publisher?
QA: Thank you for saying that! I definitely plan to stay indie in the sense that I will always have control over my marketing, social media presence, digital sales, cover design, etc, because I think I can do those things better than a major publisher. But I wouldn’t mind the platform boost that could come with selling the international print rights for One Blood!
KE: If stranded on a deserted island, which three things would you need to have with you?
QA: Hmm. A one terabyte iPod with at least 6 years of music on it. A Kindle with all of my favorite books. And a laptop with an endless battery so I can keep writing!
KE: What’s next for you? Do you have another book in the works?
QA: I am currently finishing the first book in a series called From Unknown Author to Breakout Bestseller in 6 Steps, as well as continuing work on my 2nd novel, The Uneasy Sleep of Giants, coming FALL 2013 (if the world is still here that is!)
Purchase One Blood from Amazon