Qwantu Amaru has been writing since the age of 11. An avid reader, he has always aspired to write suspenseful page turners and socially significant literature like those of his writing influences Richard Wright, Anne Rice, Harper Lee, Walter Mosley, Tananarive Due and Stephen King. Qwantu draws his inspiration from his modest upbringing in small towns and cities across the US. In addition to his first novel, ONE BLOOD, Qwantu has published six volumes of poetry. Qwantu is an active member of the outstanding socially active poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme out of Tallahassee, FL. He has performed spoken word in poetry venues from coast to coast. He is also part owner and one third of The Pantheon Collective, an independent publishing venture dedicated to bringing high quality independent books to the masses while empowering and inspiring other authors to follow their dreams. For more information visit his website http://www.qwantuamaru.com, follow him on twitter @onebloodbook, join his fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/onebloodbook, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Qwantu currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.
Author Interview – Qwantu Amaru
Q1) How did you come up with this idea?
I was originally trying to write a short story but it just kept growing and growing until before I knew it I had a 160,000-word novel on my hands! I knew that I wanted to write a story about my neighborhood in Lake Charles, LA where I grew up and I knew that I wanted to address the interesting racial dynamics I experienced living in Louisiana which was a stark difference to what I had previously experienced in Charleston, WV and Pittsburgh, PA where I was born. I wanted to write something that was different than anything I’d ever read but would not be so different that people couldn’t get into it.
Q2) Please tell us about your current release.
One Blood is my debut novel, a story 12 years in the making. It is a supernatural thriller, set in and throughout Louisiana in the vein of books by Anne Rice, Tananarive Due, and Stephen King. The novel is pretty epic in scope, spanning 200 years of history from 1802-2002. It’s a page-turning rollercoaster that will make you think as much as it makes you jump! One Blood is a character-driven tale that involves a group of diverse characters, all tied together through hidden connections and their mutual torment by a Voodoo curse.
Q3) What inspired you to write this book?
I think debut novels are always written in an effort to understand one’s one life and self, but the catalyst was the combination of a creative writing assignment and a powerful memory of meeting former politician and KKK Grand Wizard David Duke when I was
attending high school in Lake Charles, LA. Novels I’d read by Anne Rice, Stephen King, Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Wilbur Smith, and Tananarive Due also inspired me.
Q4) One Blood has quite an extensive cast…how did you come up with the characters?
I didn’t set out to write a novel with a large cast, but as I got deeper into the tale, characters began appearing and developing on the page. In my first draft many of the characters were mere shadows and bad stereotypes. As I revised, I went very deep into
each person’s psyche and came up with the idea to give each character a dual personality that would come out in the course of the story. Some of the characters (like Lincoln, Randy, and Brandon) ended up being composites of people I’ve met in my life, others (like Panama X, Coral Lafitte, and Jhonnette Deveaux) just came out of necessity to balance the story and create the appropriate amount of drama, suspense, and tension.
Q5) How much research did you have to do for this book?
Since a large part of the book takes place in The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, I had to become very familiar with this prison which I did by reading different prisoner’s accounts, watching documentaries, and interviewing prison officials. Vodun is also a central element in the story so I had to do extensive research on the religion because I wanted to portray Vodun as accurately as possible and not do some bad Hollywood rendition.
Q6) Without giving away the ending, will there be a sequel to One Blood?
I have a desire to write the book the way I should have done it in the first place. That is to say, there are actually 3 full-length novels that form the back story for the events in One Blood, so I definitely am interested in telling those stories. As for a sequel, I don’t think there will be one, but I am planning several spin-off books with some of the surviving characters!
Q7) What exciting story are you working on next?
My 2nd novel can best be described as The Kite Runner meets The DaVinci Code! It is tentatively titled, The Uneasy Sleep of Giants and deals with a son trying to avenge the untimely death of his father, a chemist who may have cured Cancer and been killed for it.
1804. Luc Lafitte, pirate turned founding father, lynches a slave – Isaac, who impregnated his daughter, Melinda. Isaac is Luc’s illegitimate son. Before hanging to his death, Isaac curses his father and all future generations of Lafitte’s who live on their forbearer’s land. Three days after Isaac’s death, Luc Lafitte kills himself at the base of the same tree where Isaac was hung. 1963. Randy Lafitte seeks out a fortune teller on his eighteenth birthday in an effort to resurrect the family curse. Seventy-two hours later Randy’s father is dead. 1973. Randy is serendipitously elected Mayor, after the state’s first black Mayor is apparently assassinated by his wife, Juanita, who escapes and is never apprehended. 1992. Randy’s only son, Kristopher, is gunned down in the middle of gang crossfire, three days after his eighteenth birthday killed at the hands of his only black friend – Lincoln Baker. 2002. Randy, now Governor of Louisiana in his second term, learns his daughter, Karen, has been kidnapped on her eighteenth birthday. The ransom calls for the full pardon of Lincoln Baker. Three days after Karen’s kidnapping, an explosive cocktail of vengeance, manipulation, serendipity, fate, truth, and redemption detonates throughout Louisiana. Randy will stop at nothing to save his daughter and himself, even if it means admitting the curse is real. Even if it means committing greater atrocities. But looks are deceiving. There is something deeper at work here. When the dust settles, the ending is as unexpected as it is illuminating. ONE BLOOD is a story about the power of suggestion and the beliefs that shape our lives. There are secrets sealed in our blood, you see. The best answers, as always, lie within.
1963 New Orleans, LA During the day, New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood was a tribute to architectural and cultural homogeneity. At night, the French Quarter’s multicultural legacy blurred into an unrecognizable labyrinth; especially in the eyes of the drunk and desperate. At the moment, Joseph Lafitte was both. Joseph careened down the dark alley and absentmindedly brushed at the dried blood beneath his nose with his free hand. His tailor-made shirt and pants were drenched with sweat and felt sizes smaller. He was overcome with the sensation that he was running in place, even though he was moving forward at a brisk pace. Because he was paying more attention to what was behind him rather than what was in front of him, Joseph tripped over a carton some careless individual had placed in his path. Upon impact with the concrete his cheek flayed open, but he barely felt the sting as his priceless nickel and gold plated antique Colt Navy Revolver clattered away into the darkness, out of reach. Even now, breathing as harshly as he was, he could hear someone behind him. Somehow they managed to stay just out of the range of his sight, but within earshot. It was the ideal moment for them to pounce, but Joseph would not give in so easily. He pushed himself to his feet, his eyes like twin brooms sweeping the ground for his weapon. He located it near a dilapidated doorway. Clutching it once again, he felt some semblance of self-control return. Until his dead wife called his name. “Joseph? Joseph, where are you?” That was all the motivation he needed. He broke into a full gallop but couldn’t outrun what he’d seen back at the hotel, or what he’d just heard. They are toying with me. Trying to make me doubt my own mind. This was New Orleans after all. A place with a well-documented history of trickery and alchemic manipulation. He must have drank or eaten something laced with some devilish hallucinogen. For all he knew, his own son—Randy—had given it to him. Randy still blamed Joseph for the car wreck that took his mother’s life. Joseph had noted the murderous hue in Randy’s eyes after Rita’s funeral, and even though Joseph explained that it was an accident, he knew Randy would never forgive him. Was this Randy trying to get some sort of revenge? It didn’t matter. Randy was weak—always had been and always would be. As an only child, he grew up to be softer than cotton—Rita’s doing by babying and spoiling the boy. Have I underestimated my son? This thought, along with his first glimpse of light in quite some time, simultaneously assaulted him. Where am I? And why haven’t they caught up to me yet? Maybe they want me to go this way. Joseph glanced down at the revolver that had once been carried by the great Robert E. Lee. He’d show them who had the upper hand; if Randy was behind this, he would soon be joining his mother. Rather than heading toward the light, Joseph turned left down another dark alleyway. The façade of the building was damp to the touch. Other than his troubled footfalls, there was no sound. Who knew a city nearly bursting at the seams with music could be this eerily silent? Joseph used the quiet to collect his thoughts. * * * * * He’d spent that afternoon as he spent most Saturdays, sipping bourbon and talking shop with other New Orleans power brokers inside the private room in Commander’s Palace. He knew something was wrong as soon as Randy appeared at the doorway, motioning to him. “We have to leave New Orleans right now, Father,” Randy said in a hushed tone as Joseph entered the hallway. “What are you talking about, Boy, and why are you whispering?” Joseph replied, a little louder than he needed to. Randy jerked Joseph’s arm in the direction of the exit, his eyes pleading. “Something bad is going to happen if we don’t leave here right away.” “No, Son,” Joseph said. “Something bad is going to happen if you don’t remove yourself from my sight this instant!” And that had been the end of it. Randy left, looking back only once, as if to say, Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you. Joseph returned to his drinks and colleagues. Afterward, he went downtown for a little afternoon rendezvous with a beautiful Creole whore. She came as a recommendation from his regular mistress, Claudette, who was on her cycle, and the girl certainly fit the bill. He made it back to the hotel just as the sun set and settled down for a drink or three after taking a steaming hot shower. In the comfort of his armchair, in the privacy of his suite, his thoughts returned to Randy. It was Randy’s eighteenth birthday and the boy had been acting oddly ever since he’d arrived in New Orleans two days earlier. In truth, he’d been acting strangely much longer than that. Joseph would never forget the revulsion he’d experienced when the maid in their Lake City mansion had shown him the pile of bloody rags at the bottom of Randy’s hamper. That disgust tripled once he found out the source of the blood. One night, Joseph waited until Randy exited the bath. The raw pink and black slashes across Randy’s forearms, thighs, chest, and abdomen were all the evidence he needed. Apparently Randy had taken to cutting himself in the wake of his mother’s death. Randy was barely a teenager and there was only one thing Joseph could think to do to keep from locking the boy up in a sanitarium. He sent him away to a French boarding school and commissioned some distant relatives to keep an eye on him until he graduated. If he survived that long. * * * * * This weekend was supposed to be a celebration of sorts. Randy had returned from France a distinguished young man, and Joseph was ready to bury the hatchet. But what if Randy doesn’t want it buried? What if he wants my entombment and has been patiently waiting all these years to get his revenge? Joseph grabbed hold of a lamppost to steady himself. A statue of a man on a horse loomed over him. His feet had brought him to Jackson Square. Surely, nothing bad can get me here, right? He’d believed the same to be true of his hotel room and that had definitely proven to be false. * * * * * Joseph had been cleaning his prized revolver before sleep overtook him. The sound of the door opening brought him back to consciousness. Even though all the lights were still on, his bleary eyes could barely make out the two figures—a young black male and white female—standing in his doorway. Joseph sat up in his seat. “Who are you? And what the hell are you doing in my room?” His hand quickly found the revolver on the table next to him. The man and woman looked at each other and Joseph heard a deep male voice in his head say, “Don’t worry, Joseph. It will be ova’ soon.” He felt the voice’s vibrations in his teeth and jumped to his feet. The young woman reached out to him and he heard her voice in his mind as well. “Don’t fight us, Joseph. It is so much better if you don’t resist.” Joseph felt wetness below his nose and when his hand came up blood red, he bolted around the woman, out of his room, and out of the hotel. * * * * * Now he stood in the shadow of Andrew Jackson’s immortal statue, exhausted and nearing the end of rationality. A sudden thought occurred to him. Maybe this is all a nightmare. Maybe I’m still sitting in my chair snoring. He latched onto the idea. Hadn’t he heard recently that the best way to wake from a nightmare was to kill yourself? Where did I hear that? Ah yes, now he remembered. The Creole whore had mentioned her grandmother’s secret to waking from a bad dream. What an odd coincidence… Joseph stared down at the revolver as if it were some magic talisman. If this were a dream, it was the most vivid of his life. He could feel the breeze from the Mississippi River, the cold bronze of the statue beneath his hand, his sweaty palm wrapped around the hilt of the gun. And he could hear footsteps nearing. Rita’s voice rang out across the square. “Joseph, I’m here to bring you home.” His mind showed him an image of what Rita must look like after six years underground. He hadn’t cried at her funeral, but petrified tears streaked down his face as he gritted his teeth. I have to wake from this dream! The footsteps were getting louder and closer. He didn’t have much time. To offset his fear and still his shaking hand, he thought of how good it would feel to wake up from this nightmare. He put the gun in his mouth, tasting the salty metallic flavor of the barrel as his mouth filled with saliva. God, this feels real. But he knew it wasn’t. He attempted to gaze at the statue of Andrew Jackson riding high on his horse. The statue was gone. As was the rest of Jackson Square. It had been supplanted by that damnable live oak tree in front of his Lake City mansion. He should have chopped that thing down long ago. Joseph let out an audible sigh of relief. It is a dream after all. “It’s time, Joseph,” Rita whispered in his ear. Knowing what had to be done, Joseph squeezed the trigger.
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