Let’s welcome Tempe to the interview hotseat! She’s coming straight from author Yvonne Battle-Felton’s novel Remembered. We’ll look at Yvonne’s bio and then meet Tempe. Ready?
Author of Remembered, I am a writer, academic, host, creative producer, and podcaster. Remembered was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2019) and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize (2020). Winner of a Northern Writers Award in fiction (2017), I was commended for children’s writing in the Faber Andlyn BAME (FAB) Prize (2017) and have six titles in Penguin Random House’s The Ladybird Tales of Superheroes and The Ladybird Tales of Crowns and Thrones. I teach creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University where I am a Principal Lecturer and Humanities Business and Enterprise Lead.
Writer of nonfiction and fiction, short stories, novels, children’s adventures, and children’s nonfiction, I love stories in all its forms and aim to create spaces for diverse characters on and off the page, screen, and stage. Host of Write Your Novel with Yvonne Battle-Felton, a write-along podcast series developed with New Writing North, I create and host literary and storytelling events and opportunities.
Betty: How would you describe your childhood?
Tempe: I was a special child. I know other people like to believe that about themselves but for me, it’s the truth. They named a day after me and everything. It’s the De-haunting. It marks my being born and breaking the curse. For years, me and Sister helped Mama around the cabins and helped the other slaves with jobs here and there. As kids, we had the run of the place as long as we stayed away from the House. Seems like anything bad that happened, happened after I stepped foot on that front porch.
Betty: What kind of schooling did you have? Did you enjoy it?
Tempe: You know, sometimes I wish I could have gone to school. But, I was a slave and Walker wouldn’t allow none of his slaves to learn to read or write unless it did him any good. What learning I got was passed on from other people handing it down to me. Kept some of the best stories we ever heard in that book Sister totes around with her. They’re all pressed up together. Some written in words, others wrapped up in memories. It’s the only book I ever had. Only one I ever needed too.
Betty: When did you have your first kiss and with who? How did it go?
Tempe: My first kiss was with Edward. We were sitting near the river, feet dangling over the edge of the bank, toes skimming the water, sinking wishing stones to see which wish sunk first. It had started to rain. Not one of those can’t-make-your-mind-up plop, plop rains that don’t last hardly long enough to make it worth it to run inside but the washtub spilling over, gushing all over the floor type of rain that most people know better than to get stuck in. We were both wet, clothes sticking to our skin but didn’t neither one of us want to be anywhere but right there. It was cold and I was shivering. We huddled close to warm up but wet skin don’t really dry wet skin. So, we shivered together for a while. I’m not going to tell you what I told Mama: that we kissed just to stay warm. So, between you and me, we kissed and it felt so good that we did it quite a few times before we ever got caught.
Betty: What do you think is your greatest achievement? Why?
Tempe: Making sure my baby would never set foot on Walker soil a day in his life. My son was born just after the slaves were set free but Walker didn’t tell us nothing about it. As far as Walker was concerned, my baby would be a slave all his life just like me, my Mama and my Mama’s mama. That’s not what I wanted for my boy. I’d die before I let that happen.
Betty: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Tempe: That has to be the time Edward came to the house looking for extra work and Mama sent him away because we didn’t have anything to pay him with. Sister and me had been sick all day. But, when Mama came in to tell us, I just couldn’t believe it. There she was standing smack in front of the only chance I had to have Edward to myself—this is before the kiss, mind. I hopped up, didn’t even roll my pallet up or anything though according to Mama it didn’t seem like I was as sick as she had thought. I couldn’t help myself, I recited everything that someone as strong, capable and handsome as Edward could fix around the house and wouldn’t you know it, she hadn’t sent Edward home at all. He was out back and heard everything I said!
Betty: If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be and why?
Tempe: That’s a tough question. I don’t regret the way I died but I do wish I could have lived long enough to watch my boy grow up. So, I guess if I could change one thing, we would have run away much sooner. Maybe even before Mama left.
Betty: What’s your greatest fear? Who else knows about it?
Tempe: My greatest fear is that my son won’t know his way back Home. Not home like the streets he lives on but home, where you go back to when you’re dead. See, if my boy doesn’t know where he came from, he won’t know where he’s going. His soul’s liable to end up wandering and lost, aimless and rootless all because he wouldn’t know his past if it walked up to him. So, my greatest fear isn’t just him not knowing who I am. It’s him not knowing who he is. I don’t suspect anyone other than Sister knows it.
Betty: How much of your true self do you share with others?
Tempe: Less than a thimble full. I tell Mama a pinch, Sister a pinch, and Edward a pinch. The rest, I keep for myself. You know why? I learned even without being told (that didn’t stop Mama from telling me) that if someone asks how I feel about being a slave, so and so getting sold away, belonging to Walker, that the truth, my true self, ain’t hardly what they want to hear. They want to hear that they in the right and you—even though it ain’t true—are in the wrong. Mama says that sometimes my feelings sort of flicker across my face and when that happens it makes her scared that Walker will see it and send me away or—and I can’t tell which is worse—keep me for himself. So, even after all this time, I keep my true self—the one who wants to be free, happy, safe, in love—mostly to myself. That’s the only way I can see to keep it safe.
Betty: Are you close to your family? Do you wish your relationship with them was different in any way? If so, how?
Tempe: You know, I didn’t really get to know most of my family until after I died. That’s how I got to really know Mama and even my Father. I had never met him when I was alive. Growing up, Sister and Mama and me have always been close. I know it looks like I give her a hard time, but she’s my little sister and I love her almost more than anything. That’s why I still visit—even if it is only to bring bad news.
Betty: If you could change yourself in some way, what change would you make? Why?
Tempe: It sure would be nice to be alive. Not to be young again but to grow old. I’d love to grow old with Sister—she calls herself Spring now. So, I’d love to grow old with Spring and to live long enough to die of old age.
It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning.
The last place Spring wants to be is in the run-down, segregated hospital surrounded by the groans of sick people and the ghost of her dead sister. But as her son Edward lays dying, she has no other choice.
There are whispers that Edward drove a streetcar into a shop window. Some people think it was an accident, others claim that it was his fault, the police are certain that he was part of a darker agenda. Is he guilty? Can they find the truth?
All Spring knows is that time is running out. She has to tell him the story of how he came to be. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings, and reconstructed memories, she must find a way to get through to him. To shatter the silences that governed her life, she must remember a painful past to lead Edward home.
Buy Links: BlackstonePublishing
Sounds like a haunting tale to be sure. Thanks, Tempe, for stopping in and sharing with us.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.
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