Q&A With "Abraham's Well" Author Sharon Ewell Foster
- Tuesday, March 20, 2007
How closely is "Abraham’s Well" based on your life?
As part of the research for "Abraham’s Well," I researched my own family roots. I have shared that in the book, along with some really compelling family photos from the 1800s and early 1900s. One of the characters in the book is my great grandmother, Emma Erwin, who was Cherokee. You can also go to my Web site, indianinmyfamily.com, and you’ll find more photos there and links to more information about "Abraham’s Well" and the other books.
The other issue that is real for me is about overcoming, about being in a difficult situation – an impossible situation – for a long time and about struggling not to surrender to despair. I’ve lost people and places that I loved, and wanted to just sit down in the road and not move another inch. What’s true in the book and what’s true in my own life is that you cannot let fear and hopelessness defeat you and keep you from your destiny. That transcends time, place, and race.
"Abraham’s Well" is the story of a woman and her husband, her family, and their efforts to hold on to their dreams against all odds. It’s the story of a nation’s dreams, and in some ways – our struggles, yours and mine, to hold on to and recover our own buried dreams. It is the story of people who, like Abraham, must hope against hope. People who have to believe, even when all human reason for hope is gone.
How long did "Abraham’s Well" take you to complete? How much research did it take?
I worked on it for over a year, I think. I was researching and writing before Hurricane Katrina, through it, and afterwards. Recreating history, not just dates, is an exciting but tedious journey. I read books, historical newspaper accounts, slave narratives, maps, census records, and tons of other stuff. I interviewed people. Then I worked at putting myself back there, allowing myself to feel it and experience it.
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Armentia is a strong girl, a strong woman, broken by things she could never have imagined. The foundation for her life is taken from her. Nothing is settled, nothing is steady. She talks about people, circumstances, locations, and even war, marching in and out her door. Yet despite everything, when it would be easier to just sit down and give up, something just won’t let her go.
I also love her brother, Abraham. I love him because he guards his family, because he is Armentia’s defender. I find that noble and romantic.
Do you prefer to write contemporary or historical fiction?
I enjoy both. With historical fiction, there is also an added research component, but the payoff is experiencing another world. However, I also try to do that in contemporary fiction – I try to go someplace or learn something I didn’t know before, and I always try to include a small history lesson in my contemporary fiction. In both, I attempt to share my journey with the reader – he or she is invited to come with me to someplace they’ve never been before, or to view familiar things from an unusual perspective.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
I am so grateful to God that He has allowed me to write. This is a dream – a heart’s desire that I wouldn’t even allow myself to dream.
Still, there are some challenges. I don’t have the perfect place to write. I hear other writers talking about their places, but that hasn’t happened for me yet. I’m often writing in challenging places and under challenging circumstances. But that’s how it is.
I always remember what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” The perfect day and perfect circumstances may never come, so I work, gratefully, with what I have.
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