Author Spotlight: Alicia D. Williams

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming to my blog… Alicia D. Williams! Alicia is the author of Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston, a fascinating and beautiful picture book biography of storyteller extraordinaire, Zora Neale Hurston (illustrated by Jaqueline Alcántara).

Hi Alicia! Your new picture book, Jump at the Sun, is such a vibrant story, in both words and illustrations, about a truly fascinating figure. What inspired you to write about Zora Neale Hurston?

As a storyteller, I love sharing the Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trickster tales with children. They’re in innocent awe, with eyes twinkling and faces full of wonder. They’re drawn into it. That spark of imagination. I’ve even told tales at a nursing home, and the elders got to telling their “lies” and stories from their childhoods. That’s what folktales do. So, asking a storyteller what is inspiring about writing a story about the mother of folklore is like asking—Why do you breathe? Because I have to. She spoke to me, her voice and life. She is inspiration enough. Zora Neale Hurston is too fascinating of a person, her life is too interesting to not already have a picture book biography available. She traveled through the backroads of southern towns—during Jim Crow—to collect folklore, songs, and sayings for us to gleam from today. Think about that. Think of how dangerous that was. Her love for stories is engaging. Her determination for an education is inspiring in itself.

What a wonderful answer – I can think of no better reasons than those! Tell us, what was your research process like and what challenges did you encounter?

I read Zora’s novels and her own autobiography. Because Zora was such a “storyteller” and her narrative jumped all over, it made finding facts and narrowing a timeline a scavenger hunt. She did not make it easy. But I guess that’s the way it had to be. It echoed her life—nothing about it was easy. So, I had to dig deeper and comb through biographies based on her life. And then, the challenges were that there would be conflicting dates in those too. Incorrect information can tank a book. Cross checking and doubling cross checking was my life.

The research doesn’t sound easy, but it certainly paid off! And the story has such a strong, unique “voice”. Did that come naturally to you, or was it something that developed gradually during the revision process?

I would say that most of it came naturally as I patterned the voice as I would have if I’d told the story aloud. Then, I believe Zora helped me along the way. I studied her writing and tried to figure out what words would she drop the endings of and if she were consistent in doing so. I think being immersed in her world, her stories, her voice, helped quite a bit.

How fascinating! What advice would you give to authors who want to write a picture book biography?

Find the person or historical event that tugs at you. Then you’ll be excited to research and write about it. Picture book biographies are a lot of work because you’re dealing with facts. Stay organized and keep all of your resources in a file. I wish someone told me that. Why? Because after you’ve gone through revisions and it has been off with the illustrator, a year or two later you’ll get back and the copy editors will comb thoroughly through the manuscript. You’ll need to verify all of the information all over again. Trust me, you’re going to want to love the person and the story to sustain your excitement after copy edits.

Great advice! Can you tell us about anything you’re working on at the moment, or any new books scheduled for release?

I’ve heard authors say that they question how to write a book, even though they’ve already written one (or more). This is true. Honestly, I’m trying to get my head wrapped around another novel while asking, “How do I do this again?” So, keep your fingers crossed for me, please!

Imposter syndrome is very real, but I have no doubt that your next book (and all of the ones after that) will be just as brilliant as this one!! My fingers are tightly crossed, though, and I’m sure everyone reading this will join me in wishing you all the best for a long, successful writing career! Where can you be found online?

Website: https://www.aliciadwilliams.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoraliciadwilliams/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/storiestolife?lang=en
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authoraliciadwilliams/

Thank you so much for taking the time to appear on my blog and answer these questions!

Thank you!

Jump at the Sun was released on 12 January, 2021 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books. You can get hold of a copy of by clicking one of the links below.

Indiebound|Book Depository | Barnes&Noble| Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Author bio:
Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received the Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris prize finalist, and won the Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Alicia D also debuted a picture book biography, Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston. She shares a passion for storytelling which stems from conducting school residencies as a Master Teaching Artist of arts-integration. Alicia D infuses her love for drama, movement, and storytelling to inspire students to write. She resides in Charlotte, NC.

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