Guest Post from David Fuller, Author of Sweetsmoke
David Fuller is the author of the novel Sweetsmoke. He will be at Vroman's on Tuesday, September 16 at 7 pm. Set during the Civil War, Sweetsmoke is the story of Cassius Howard, a carpenter and slave, who risks everything to uncover the truth behind the murder of a freed black woman, Emoline, a beloved soul who taught him to read and once saved him. Pat Conroy describes Sweet Smoke as “a fascinating and gripping novel about the Civil War…part mystery, part love story, and a harrowing portrait of slavery that reads with the immense power of the slave narratives.” Mr. Fuller writes about how he conceived of the novel and its main character, Cassius:
"Sweetsmoke has endured a long journey, with 8 years of research behind me before I started writing the novel. I am not a historian; I am a storyteller. The research I did was in support of that specific area of the country, Virginia, at that specific time, 1862. I set out to avoid the minefield of writing about the noble slave versus the evil planter. My research had told a trickier, more nuanced story. The peculiar institution of slavery was appalling, degrading and morally reprehensible. Within that reality, I learned about human beings and their foibles and their ironies, people who proved to be just as foolish, intelligent, kind, vicious, worthy and disgusting as any you might meet today. With Sweetsmoke, I wanted to show how all the people lived under the umbrella of slavery, to show how politics raged in the slave quarters as well as in the big house, to show how people created families not just among their own but across racial lines. The relationship at the heart of the novel is the strange, almost father-son, relationship between the white planter and master of Sweetsmoke Plantation, Hoke Howard, and his slave, Cassius.
After having written over 50 screenplays, I have never before written a character like Cassius. He was, and is, unique in my world. He was a man who lived in a time of complete oppression, yet he was definitively not a victim by personality. I have never been comfortable writing from the point of view of a victim. As Cassius was anything but a victim, I could write his story and relate to him. I could see his world through his eyes.
Please come by Vroman’s next Tuesday and say hello. I’d love to talk with you about these stories and others that concerned writing the novel."