Interview with CD Harper, author of And Face the Unknown


Title: And Face the Unknown
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: CD Harper
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 232
Language: English
ISBN - 978-1-47594-754-0

As Levy clings to a tree high above a river and tries to catch his breath, he doesn’t know what to do next. He has been a slave for Mr. Willoughby since he was little boy, and now things are changing. Unsure of what year it is, Levy escapes the jaws of slavery on the cotton plantation. He is a runaway slave without a plan. As soon as he sees a boat floating in the river, Levy knows what he must do. With Mr. Willoughby on his tail, Levy boards the boat and hides behind the big wheel. As he somehow eludes capture, he begins a journey with a colored captain at the helm who works for none other than Levy’s former owner. As the captain takes Levy under his wing and they travel down the river, Levy finally learns what it’s like to be a free man with choices and the ability to make decisions for himself. But danger lurks around every curve, and Levy soon finds that his journey to independence will not come without challenges. In the second installment of this historical tale, a Lincoln-freed Colored risks everything in order to realize the sweet taste of liberty and justice for all.

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Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Levy, a slave on the plantation of Owen Willoughby, had no idea that slavery is over, illegal according to the federal government located in the North. But he still slaves day in, day out; morning, noon, or night; sunshine, rain or whatever the weather for Mr. Owen Willoughby.  Every moment of Levy’s life is controlled, determined, managed by Mr. Owen Willoughby. But when Mr. Willoughby attempts to whip him with his belt, Levy bolts and runs. He believes no man, slave or not, should stand and allow another man to whip him with his belt!

But escaping has never entered Levy’s mind, until he discovers there is no place to run, no place to hide and he finds himself at the river’s edge, the point of no return. Escaping is his only alternative. So he does! And thus the journey begins!

Like many who had left the plantations, he joined the droves of ex-slaves looking for pathways, trails, streams, rivers, roads, anything headed north in search of that elusive promise in President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Most had no idea what the document really said and probably couldn’t have read it if they had. That didn’t matter! What mattered was the opportunity to start that journey in search of President Lincoln’s promise of freedom.

Why did I write it? It is an example of the richness in literary opportunities that are available during this time period. It also speaks to the importance of slavery and its impact on the American character.

There are so many rich experiences in American slavery that are waiting to be explored as fictional opportunities. These stories are experiences most Americans aren’t aware of. The richness in characters and stories opens up a more inclusive and expansive view of the people of that time, both slaves and slave owners, male and female.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

Creating an imaginary world and placing in that world people who might appear quite different from what one might assume, based on early history books and movies, such as Gone With The Wind and Birth Of A Nation. There was also the realization that books challenging the old way of looking at slavery probably will not garner much support from the literary world. There was also having the courage to stay true to my vision.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, this is the second novel of a trilogy. I am working on the last part of the trilogy now. There titles are: COVENANT, AND FACE THE UNKNOWN (both have been published), and LOOKING Far AND WIDE, WAY INTO THE DISTANCE (tentative). I also have an idea for a novel about slavery in the North.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing in the 1950’s (School integration and when does a boy become a man.) when I found myself facing a changing world that required more effort and a very different understanding. My writing is always an effort to explore and explain (To myself first.) the world around me, to understand its contradictions and its inability to reconcile its notions about humanity and the world outside of that humanity.

What is your greatest strength as an author?

Writing is always a process of discovery and development! As a writer I hope never to lose that!

 Did writing this book teach you anything?

Yes! American slavery is an excellent teaching tool. Slavery allows me to explore and realize the depth of the contradictions and complexities in humanity, especially when it reveals the rationalizations and assumptions needed to justify its existence.  



CD Harper is a retired professor and arts administrator who holds degrees from the University of Illinois and St. Louis University. His first novel, Covenant, began the story that now continues in And Face the Unknown, the second installment of an intended trilogy. He and his wife reside in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.
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