Hello, reader friends! We are celebrating the release of Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee with a quick visit and a giveaway!
about the author
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs.
Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about.
Have you always loved books and reading? What about your formative years informed your love for reading and books?
M: My parents were voracious readers. Mom was an elementary school teacher for twenty-five years, so children’s books were plentiful throughout my childhood. The day the Scholastic book order arrived was almost as exciting as Christmas.
Dad loved history and had a collection of WWII books, which were of special interest to him since he’d participated in the war as a turret gunner on a B-17. With books in every room of our home, on just about any topic you can think of, it would have been impossible not to fall in love with the written word.
Every birthday and Christmas my siblings and I could count on receiving books. One of my sweetest memories is of my mother reading Little Women aloud to my sister and me.
B: I hope to pass on my love of reading to our children as well. Faith and story are a powerful legacy combination!
What made you want to write historical fiction? What about that genre do you enjoy?
M: Like my dad, I love history. I wasn’t fond of the subject while in school, because it seemed to be about boring things like dates and facts (which I actually adore now). But give me a story about a real person and what their life was like way back when, and I’m hooked.
As I’ve grown older (and wiser, I hope), I recognize how much we can learn from history. While dates and facts are important, it’s the life lessons we discover from seeing people overcome challenges and hardships, about tests of faith and love, that capture me. Those are the stories I hope to tell through my books.
B: Academic history is not nearly as enjoyable as the stories of history (biographical or fictional).
What inspired you to write Under the Tulip Tree?
M: I discovered the slave narratives seven years ago. Reading the word-for-word interviews of formerly enslaved people was life-changing. When I read the narratives for the first time, I got the same feeling I had as a child listening to my grandmother, a master storyteller, spin tales of life on the farm, of losing babies because there wasn’t a hospital, of living through the Great Depression.
I’m awed by the courage, the will, and the perseverance it took these former slaves to make it through to the other side of the hardships they faced and be able to share their story. Their very lives are inspiration personified.
B: Stories of struggle are sometimes difficult to read but in my opinion, they are essential!
Please tell us about your main characters in Under the Tulip Tree and what kind of challenges they face.
M: Lorena “Rena” Leland knew wealth and privilege before the stock market crashed in 1929, ruining her banker father. Fast forward seven years and Rena is an out-of-work newspaper reporter. When she accepts the position of interviewing former slaves for the FWP, she’ll have to face the preconceptions she carries about slavery and black people.
Frankie Washington has seen much in her 101 years of life, especially during her years as a slave. She’s never told her story to anyone—it’s simply too painful to remember—but when Rena arrives on her doorstep, she knows it’s time to bare her soul.
B: My great-grandmother is nearing her 101st birthday. I wish I could sit at her feet and listen to the story of her life right now.
How much research did you have to do on the time period and setting of Under the Tulip Tree?
M: I live in the Nashville area, so research trips to historical sites were frequent as I wrote the book. Luckily, my husband makes a wonderful field trip buddy and we enjoyed many visits to Fort Negley, various Battle of Nashville sites, plantations, and cemeteries. I also read over one hundred slave narratives as well as listened to the priceless few recordings of formerly enslaved people sharing their stories with FWP writers.
B: That sounds wonderful! I would love to explore some of Nashville’s historical sites in the future!
What is your hope for Under the Tulip Tree?
M: I hope Rena and Frankie’s story encourages readers to seek out people who are different from themselves and get to know their stories. Because, whether it’s being lived out today or 150 years ago, everyone’s story matters.
B: Amen to that! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Michelle!
about the book
Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee
Sixteen-year-old Lorena Leland’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life as a writer are dashed when the stock market crashes in 1929. Seven years into the Great Depression, Rena’s banker father has retreated into the bottle, her sister is married to a lazy charlatan and gambler, and Rena is an unemployed newspaper reporter. Eager for any writing job, Rena accepts a position interviewing former slaves for the Federal Writers’ Project. There, she meets Frankie Washington, a 101-year-old woman whose honest yet tragic past captivates Rena.
As Frankie recounts her life as a slave, Rena is horrified to learn of all the older woman has endured—especially because Rena’s ancestors owned slaves. While Frankie’s story challenges Rena’s preconceptions about slavery, it also connects the two women whose lives are otherwise separated by age, race, and circumstances. But will this bond of respect, admiration, and friendship be broken by a revelation neither woman sees coming?
Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader friend will win a print copy of Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee.
US only | ends 10/1 | giveaway policy
History is always ready to teach us a lesson if we’ll only listen. Don’t you agree, reader friends?!
Be sure to add Under the Tulip Tree by Michelle Shocklee to your tbr!