My guest today is Andra Watkins, author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, which debuted March 1, 2014. Her book is a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809.
A native of Tennessee, Andra has called Charleston, South Carolina, her home for 23 years.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis. When did you start writing and what got you into suspense with a paranormal, historical edge?
Thank you. I’ve always been a history geek. Every time I closed a biography or historical narrative, I’d wonder what the subject might have done if he or she had more life to live. This especially happened with people like Meriwether Lewis, who died mysteriously at the young age of 35. Instead of writing about his life, I wanted to weave a story that gave him a new adventure, that answered my own nagging questions about what he might have done.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?
All writing is a struggle to birth a story, with all the connotations inherent to gestation, labor, delivery and releasing a child into the world. It’s agony. And ecstasy. Because I have no training as a creative writer, it took me longer to find my voice, to figure out how to structure a story. I’m lucky that my characters are very talkative. They insist I get them right.
What was your inspiration for To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis?
I had a project in Nashville, and I realized Meriwether Lewis was buried not far south of there. I’d been fascinated with him and Clark since I first read about them in fifth grade history. I meandered down the Natchez Trace to visit his grave, and that’s when everything started to swirl around in my head. I came up with the character of nine-year-old Emmaline, the daughter of a musician and a New Orleans madame, and they took the story from there.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I wrote this book for readers to get lost in, to think they have it all figured out only to yank them in a different direction, and to make them remember someone who deserves their memory. This book is for the reader who wants to turn pages, and it’s also for the reader who appreciates layers and complexity. Any reader can get as much as they want from their investment of three or four hours of reading time.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Absolutely. To make familiar people like Meriwether Lewis jump off the page, I read pretty much everything he ever wrote. I devoured multiple versions of his death and even studied characterizations of him by those who knew him.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
We have heated arguments. It’s always really embarrassing when my husband walks in on one of those. Ha. I’ve also found a long walk helpful. Getting away from my desk usually makes my brain form connections. I almost always come back from a walk with something new to try. I’m hoping that will happen a lot when I walk the entire Natchez Trace to launch the book. From March 1 – April 3, 2014, I am walking the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. I’m staying in the modern-day equivalent of stands and taking readers into the world of my novel.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
My website is andrawatkins.com. I post a mishmash of stuff about my life, with the occasional tease of a character I’m working on. It’s a place where readers can come and talk to me and to each other. I really encourage community and always welcome more readers.
Where is your book available?
To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions, at Barnes & Noble for Nook, and at Kobo and iBook.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00IA0MWMQ]